ALTERED SKY / WHERE’S GEORGE? / STONE SOUL TAVERN @ RBL, DUNS – 19/08/2011

GENERATE RADIO FUNDRAISER – Friday 19th August 2011

From the determined and searing opening chords of ‘Children Of The Revolution’ it was fairly clear that this evening was set to impress. The first of three live bands were Stone Soul Tavern, although they opened with a cover they immediately progressed to their own compositions. No hint of the earlier panic when it had become clear that Toby’s guitar was in a car on its way to Edinburgh – thanks to a bit of mutual support from other local musicians a replacement was sourced and it didn’t seem to effect the performance. Stone Soul Tavern presented a varied set of complex numbers which demonstrated the breadth of talent brought to the stage by each band member; Joe Sanders on guitar and vocals is a highly animated and mobile focal point, Toby Young provides solid extra depth on his guitar, Kirtsy Ellison’s voice continues to impress me as it carries hints of Souixie Souix and Patti Smith, but I certainly don’t get the impression of somebody simply trying to mimic these icons from previous years, Jade Carnall looks so calm and stately as she lays down the bass line whilst Stuart Clements provides a steady underpinning on the drums. I suspect that one of the reasons for the band’s tight and extremely competent performance is down to their experience of playing in other bands which give them additional opportunities to play live and become used to a variety of styles.

I had been keenly anticipating the second band, Where’s George really impressed me when I got to hear the results of their day in the recording studio where they came away with an EP of original compositions. I think that the ‘The Search Begins’ is an excellent showcase of the band’s diversity and talent and all five tracks from it were featured in the evening’s set along with a couple of new songs and covers. For one of the new tracks the band had to (quote from Penny Osborne) “reshoogle the drummer as she becomes a guitarist” which gave Millie Stokes the chance to demonstrate her multi-instrumental talents before returning to the drums for a stunning virtuoso performance during another new number. When I had seen them previously they had closed their set with an interesting cover of The Small Faces ‘Tin Soldier’, this time, however, they had swapped things around so that it became the penultimate number before closing with ‘Silence The Gun’ an excellent song with a pleasing number of nuances and a truly stunning bass line. The bass player was Jade Carnall, the same jade that had played bass with Stone Soul Tavern previously, so by the end of the set she had been playing virtually continuously for around one and a half hours – yet at the end of it all she still looked cool as a cucumber!

Generate radio had been lucky enough to have managed to get Altered Sky to travel down to headline. Whilst most of the band had arrived in time for a sound check and a meal in town before the gig, guitarist Neil Ramsay, had had to drive down separately after a day’s work. I feel that it was such a privilege to have been given the opportunity to see this highly talented band playing live in Duns, particularly as some of them had to make their way back to Glasgow afterwards! With previous experience of seeing them live I knew what to expect, I just wonder how big an effect their presence had on the locals who hadn’t? They exploded into action with ‘I Know You Know’, one of the tracks from their new EP ‘In This World’. Stone Soul Tavern and Where’s George had both given really good accounts of themselves and continue to show promise. Altered Sky formed less than two years ago but have made the most of their live playing experience in city venues throughout Central Scotland which has clearly helped to fast-track their ability to work an audience. The powerhouse that is lead singer Ana Nowosielska, also helps a lot and she very quickly did her best to engulf the crowd, most of whom had now gathered in front of the stage. If I have one criticism of the venue, it is the tables and chairs set around the dance-floor, something that I believe provides an extra barrier for bands to overcome at band nights such as this – when there are enough seats for everybody it takes an extra special effort to encourage people to their feet. The crowd were clearly impressed and were soon dancing animatedly.

Another track from the EP followed, ‘Say It Again’ and then an excellent cover of Paramore’s new single ‘Monster’. ‘Beauty Is The Beast’ continued to give Ana the opportunity to work the crowd before slowing things down with ‘Shining White Star’ – she suggested everybody sat down with her as she sung, and they did. Seeing the crowd sat on the floor took me right back to the early 70s when large audiences would spend complete concerts sat, often cross-legged, throughout the whole performance! The laid-back chilled atmosphere only lasted for the one song and then it was back on their feet as the band moved on to play a track from a previous release, ‘Left Behind’ is certainly one number not to be left behind and fully deserves its inclusion in the set. The next song was another from the recent release, ‘This World’ is a perfect showcase for Amy Blair’s staggeringly powerful driving drumming – all the while Ross Archibald’ bass helps tie everything together as the dual guitars of Neil and Rich Passe add interest and depth to the performance. I realised that Amy was wearing a t-shirt with a design and band name on it, ‘A Day To Remember’ – very appropriate as I am sure that Altered Sky had helped to make Friday the 19th August 2011, very much a day to remember for all who had been able to get to the gig. All too soon it was time for the last two songs, ‘Memory’s Skyscaper’ and single ‘Apple Tree’.

Despite it being a single fundraiser evening billed as three bands and a DJ, it looked clear that many who had come to see the bands were leaving after Altered Sky had finished whilst a fairly discrete separate group were getting ready to enter as DJ Tron set up in readiness for his set to bring the evening to a close. No offence to DJ Tron, but I’m afraid that I was one of those who headed home – probably something that comes with age – I felt that the younger crowd who were making their way in would be perfectly capable of having a great time without me ‘hanging around’!

As the radio station approaches the end of its first year of continuous broadcasting, with £19,000 worth of grants banked, the AGM scheduled for Monday and an invitation to the Scottish New Music Awards in Glasgow at the start of September (Generate Radio has been nominated in the Radio Station of the Year category), this fundraiser simply served to underscore the tremendous success that Kyle and Oscar have achieved over the previous twelve months. I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate them and all others who have helped them along the way for their success and wish them every success in the future. It has been an absolute pleasure and privilege to have been able to help in a small way.

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