‘SHAKEFEST’ – A TRUE INSPIRATION
Something rather special and wonderful happened in Duns on Saturday evening, 11th August 2012. It was the realisation of a dream that first began to form earlier in the year.
At thirty six years of age, Greenlaw resident Alan Fairbairn was stunned to receive a diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease in the early spring. After the initial tsunami of emotions had eased, he adopted a defiant attitude – he was not going to withdraw from the world and give in to the condition, he preferred to take control of as many aspects of it as he could and try to ensure that he maintained a positive attitude.
He was determined that he wanted to do something to help raise awareness about Young Onset Parkinson’s, and to raise money for the local Parkinson’s Group at the same time. Being an active participant in local football, his first thoughts concerned a football event. This developed and the possibility of organising some live music to run alongside this was added to his plans. In time things became more detailed and he organised two separate events; a five-a-side football tournament and a band night. Sadly, the extremely wet weather meant that the football scheduled for July had to be cancelled in order to protect the new Greenlaw pitch from severe damage ahead of the new season. The band night, however, continued to grow in every way. To highlight one of the most obvious symptoms experienced by many with Parkinson’s, Alan decided to name the event ‘ShakeFest’, and soon many people were willingly supporting him to help ensure a successful night. After all the planning and preparation, the 11th of August dawned and people began to head for Duns that evening; some coming from as far as Brighton.
Colleen Henderson-Heywood, another local resident with Parkinson’s, who has been so inspirationally supportive of many others, got the evening’s proceedings started with a very moving speech during which she recalled the day of her diagnosis ten years previously, and stressed how important it is for people to have support available in the hours and days immediately following such a challenging diagnosis. She applauded Alan on his ‘go kick ass’ attitude, something which she passionately advocates. After Colleen’s short scene setting speech, Alan’s partner Ashley Robertson got behind the microphone to add her voice of support, with a public affirmation of how proud she and their daughters were of how he had coped with, and moved on from, the diagnosis. Colleen then introduced the first band; and all too soon the six bands and one solo artist had entertained the audience and the evening was over! Thankfully, however, it was simply an example of ‘time flying when whilst enjoying oneself’. Earlier in the week, veteran actor Bob Hoskins had announced his retirement following being diagnosed with Parkinsons’ last autumn. Some media coverage of this included reports that around 127,000 people in Britain (one person in every 500) suffer from the condition and stated that it mainly affects the over-50s. Thanks to Alan’s sterling efforts, many people in the Berwickshire and surrounding areas are now aware that it is definitely not just over-50s whose lives can be affected by a diagnosis.
In addition to this awareness-raising exercise, at the time of writing it looks as if a sum in excess of £2,500 has also been raised, the bulk of which will be donated to the local Parkinsons’ Group here in the Scottish Borders at the Borders General Hospital, with the rest going to associated projects. If any readers wish to add their support, it is still possible to donate to ‘ShakeFest’ via http://www.justgiving.co.uk/shakefest .
The playing order for the evening wasn’t an indication of any hierarchy of importance; from a pragmatic point of view bands had to play sequentially. Each band played exceptionally well, and each sounded distinctly different, there was never any feeling of, ‘oh here’s another of the same’. Undoubtedly the excellent sound system played an important part in ensuring the music sounded great – many thanks to Scott Spence, Ian Ballantyne, Steven Percy and Scott Brodie for their efforts in this regard.
Overall the atmosphere of the evening was just plain wonderful, a varied and interesting range of acts on stage, professional sound and lighting, courteous and helpful bar and table staff. There were no signs of any obvious glitches, the hall quickly filled up and everybody seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves and each others’ company. In total around two hundred people attended. Such events do need to have responsible door staff, but there was never any hint that their presence would ever be required for anything other than providing a friendly welcome. Speaking with a couple of them they confirmed my suspicions that this evening was going ahead without the slightest hint of aggravation. Clearly Alan had succeeded in staging an event that people were generally happy to attend in order to help offer moral and financial support to him on a personal level and for Parkinsons’ awareness on a more public level. At the end of the evening it was so good to see Alan take to the stage to sum up the evening, he did mention a number of people specifically; as with so many similar events, when so many get involved in trying to ensure success, it is inevitable that some who helped may not be named when public acknowledgements are made but Alan is keen to make it known that he is sincerely grateful to all who helped to make this event such a success.
First to play were five piece Missing Myla, who had travelled down from Dunfermline. They describe themselves as a ‘pop punk’ band, and have only been playing together for less than a year. Comprising Danny Christie (lead vocals), Liam Young (guitar), Thomas ‘Tomo’ Davies (guitar), Ciaran Cosgrove (bass) and new member Chris Scott (drums), they gave a spirited performance of mainly original numbers. They played with youthful energy and enthusiasm and looked very much at home on the well-prepared stage. They coped easily with a faulty guitar lead and impressed many; one comment that I heard a number of times reflected that this band were not simply given an opening slot to make up numbers, ‘they were great’! Among their original songs there were a couple of covers, including their special treatment of a Rihanna song.
Sugar We’re Going Down, 10 Minutes Ago, Time Well Spent, The Dilemma, We Found Love and Passing Places (Rain).
Second on the bill were local trio Where’s George? Although I have had the pleasure of seeing them play a number of times previously, this was to be my first experience of their modified line-up since the departure of bassist Jade Carnall. Penny Osborne (lead vocals and guitar) and Amelia Stokes (drums, vocals and guitar) were joined by last minute stand-in Johnny Turner (bass), as their new bass player Chris Robinson was unavailable. Jonny coped admirably and I was very pleased to note just how much Penny and Amelia’s playing continues to gain in power and delivery. They bill themselves as playing rock, but that is such a wide-ranging term that it doesn’t really indicate what to expect. For such young musicians they cite many influences from the 1960s and they do at time echo the sound of these years, however, they have a very distinct and idiosyncratic style that makes them stand out as unique and interesting. Penny’s voice sounds more mature beyond her years, her guitar playing gains in confidence, and Amelia’s, at times tribal, drumming belies her slight stature. As with the previous band, they did include a couple of well chosen covers, although ‘Dancing In The Dark’ is most definitely not a cover, it’s all their own work.
Blame The Defenders, Stationary Scenario, My Sharona, Dancing In The Dark, Big Life, Bohemian Like You, Underground, Hello Is Only A Greeting, Some Like It Live.
Third band to take to the stage were another five piece, local guys Morfsnud (think about it), who delivered their own variation on the rock theme. I’ve already mentioned the excellent sound system, I feel that I should also praise the sound of the drums which were equally worthy of note. The band are Kev Brack (lead vocal, guitar), Danny McLeod (guitar), John Wilson (guitar), Stuart Lindsay (bass) and Duncan Brown (drums). Kev is an excellent showman and clearly relishes this role, although he restricted himself to staying on the stage, when I have previously seen him taking a trip into the audience. They provided a very tight, driving performance, and I still see touches of Iggy Pop about Kev’s stage manner. Sadly this might have been a swansong performance – but other bands have been known to re-surface time after time, so I’ll just have to wait and wonder!
The Last Line, Don’t Suffer Fools, Look Into Her Eyes, Eatin’ At Me, Strange Floor, All Of My Days.
A break from the driving rock came when Ian Thompson performed a solo set with his voice and acoustic guitar. This was yet another powerful performance, from somebody who clearly invests a lot of emotion into his singing. For illustrative purposes I will mention a resemblance to Roy Harper although his songs are very much his own – it’s not every gig that you hear a song about ‘Catchphrase’s’ Roy Walker, but I don’t think that song title is what made me think about the ‘Sophisticated Beggar’ (Roy Harper).
Silent Majority, Money Machine, Roy Walker, She Said, This Time, Wee Music, Round There.
After the acoustic interlude the rocking began again with Berwick based Le Woodsmen who describe themselves as a no-frills, no nonsense acoustic folk band with a twist of lemon who only care about the music. When I saw them perform previously I had likened them to The Imagineers, but again, any similarities are fairly general and they do project a distinct on stage presence that convinces that they very much have their own ideas. The acoustic guitar featured prominently, again ensuring yet another different aural experience for the audience to savour.
Nick Holmes (lead guitar), Brendan McDonald (bass), Mark Reid (vocals and guitar), Gary Weatherhead (drums).
Now It’s Midnight, Going To War, Ida, Cowboy, Long Way Down, Stuck Like Glue, Blood On Your Hands.
Then it was time for the penultimate band, The Warehouse Announcement who are also Berwick based and had come directly from playing there earlier. Their FaceBook page promotes them as a rock / funk / grunge / pop band that plays ‘ball grabbing rock ‘n’ roll’! Paul Sinclair (vocals), Scott Courtney (guitar), Michael Goldsworthy (guitar), Robert Laidlaw (drums / vocals) and Steven Walker (bass) took no prisoners during their audio assault! Paul may not have the hair or tie-dyed t-shirt, but his stage presence has strong overtones of Joe Cocker’s. They probably provided the ‘biggest’ sound of the evening and I found it very easy to imagine them playing in a much larger stadium sized arena. Set list:
M-Cont, Mascara Mistress, Quarantine, Green, Adolescent, Blind We Collide, Be Safe, Sound of Duns, Red Light.
Finally it was almost all over and local Duns band Easter Street were all set up any ready to rock. Taking their name from a street less than half a mile away from the venue, they are three extremely talented individuals, Derek Huffman (guitar and vocals), Murray Warnock (bass) and Daniel Dishington (drums) who play very tight riffs and rhythms to accompany Derek’s creative lyrics and passionate singing. They added yet more textures to the evening’s sound tapestry, and Derek was yet another singer who puts 110% into his singing. Although I have drawn a few comparisons within this review, I really have to stress that every single act were doing their absolute best to be themselves rather than simply seeking to ape other successful ones, Easter Street were no exception. Having the privilege to see dedicated artists such as this, in such relatively intimate venues is a wonderful antidote to the ‘shiny’ big money’ TV ‘talent’ shows, and provides great encouragement for other young musicians to encourage them to aspire to get up and do the same.
Never Learned How To Dance, About It, We Were Born In Stars, Suitcase, Check Yourself, Soul For Sale, Fault Line, Parents’ Attic, Dance Off / More Time, Burn Your Bridges, My Walls.