Category Archives: MUSIC REVIEWS (GIGS)


Unlike my first drive in torrential rain to Hawick for an Underground Army gig, the weather was much drier this time; although there was some drama when I passed a car that looked very close to catching fire (smoke was billowing from under its bonnet, but as there seemed to be plenty people already in attendance I opted to drive on rather than add to the congestion). After thoroughly enjoying an evening in The Station Bar back in October last year with No Thrills, Splinter, Spat and The Zips on the bill, I was very much looking forward to another equally exciting night.

The line-up might have been different but the night followed a similar pattern; dedicated and willing local volunteers pooling talents and resources to ensure that people could appreciate something a bit different from the usual live music that seems to predominate in the Scottish Borders. Folk music and tribute acts are certainly just as dedicated to providing a great audience experience, and undoubtedly have a valid place; but for those who want to experience something a bit ‘rawer’ and ‘edgier’, the Underground Army have provided a wonderful alternative. Four bands played in the upstairs room on the last day of February; Thee Overdose travelled up from Cumbria and were billed as ‘old school punk rock ‘n’roll’, The Dreggs came from Fife to provide their brand of ‘punk rock’, local band The Zenith Complex added something different to the mix with their ‘heavy rock’, whilst another local band Spat closed with another dose of ‘punk rock’.

Thee Overdose’s bass player Jason managed to encapsulate the mood of the evening with his Exploited t-shirt – “f**k the system” on the front and “punk’s not dead” emblazoned across his back. It may have been a sleeveless t-shirt but he compensated with two full tattooed sleeves. In contrast, guitarist Mike struck an equally memorable presence with his combats, cropped hair and impressive beard. They played an energetic set, so energetic in fact that Jason managed to break his bottom string and had to complete the set courtesy of a loan bass from Spat.

Whilst Thee Overdose might have a heritage (even if not not the original line-up) dating back to 1997, The Dreggs were fresh and performing live for perhaps just a fifth time – although guitarist Rik and drummer Sean had played with Splinter during my last visit to The Station. With vocalist Lynne, they performed an engaging set with powerfully delivered vocals – a couple of excellent X Ray Spex covers went a long way towards underscoring some of their influences. Spat’s Haley joined with both of the first two bands to augment the vocals, once with Thee Overdose and again with The Dreggs on ‘Identity’ accompanied by Cozzy with his ‘bone’; trombone that is. Although not in evidence on the night, I have to say that my graphics background really appreciates the logo that The Dreggs have opted for – think of a large chain of bakery outlets!

The Zenith Complex provided a slight digression from the overt punk onslaught as they performed a number of longer numbers, certainly living up to their ‘heavy rock billing’. Andy’s guitar work was expertly accompanied by Laura’s bass, whilst Todd’s driving drumming was most definitely enhanced by the awesome sound provided by the most amazing battered and broken large cymbal! The Dreggs may have included a self-deprecating number, ‘Nae C**t Love’s The Drummer’, but I have to say that I have a definite soft spot for the drummers’ contributions – nothing during this evening led me to change this opinion.

The whole evening was marked by a truly happy and friendly atmosphere. The audience were clearly enjoying themselves – the punk sensibility was quite obvious from the selection of t-shirts, doc martens and tartan bondage trousers. Willing volunteers manned the merchandise stall, whilst others were clearly happy to joke about, with much friendly banter in evidence, along with the swapping of headgear. Between sets, the room became quite quiet due to the rush to step outside to enjoy some ‘fresh air’, but everyone returned promptly for the start of the next set.

Finally, it was time for Spat to take control of the speakers, and they certainly didn’t disappoint. I found it very encouraging to see and hear the basic guitar, bass and drums line-up being augmented by the inclusion of a trombone, and Cozzy absolutely has the personality to ensure that his contributions added to the overall effect. In addition to the trombone, Tazz on bass and Ryan on drums provided a solid foundation for Hay and Ainz to add their tight pairing of guitars. Hay clearly relishes the limelight and was thoroughly enjoying herself throughout the set. The ‘fun factor’ was enhanced by the inclusion of a cover of ‘Nellie The Elephant’ in the style of The Toy Dolls, before closing the set just after the midnight curfew with their excellent ‘Snobs’ complete with its infectious “oi, oi, oi” chorus. I’m already looking forward to my next visit to catch Spat play live, sadly I’ll have to miss their planned gig in Paisley at the start of April – marathon to run in Brighton!

For a further flavour of the evening check out the excellent set of PHOTOS by Patrick Rafferty and great VIDEO by The Zenith Complex.


Friday 18th October found me travelling across the Scottish Borders, through a very dark evening complete with driving rain – my destination being The Station Bar where I was eagerly anticipating an evening of punk excitement. The occasion was the launch of local band Spat’s EP, ‘Down And Outs’, a truly great offering that contains a varied range of exciting songs – with no attempts to conform to current populist trends.

As the opening act got things started around thirty minutes after the billed starting time I wondered if there might be a knock on effect at the other end. Any such concerns were quickly dispelled as I found myself thinking about bands such as Sham 69 – having travelled up from Cumbria, No Thrills managed to trash the myth that ‘punks can’t play their instruments’; their set was very extremely tight and presented a great combination of skillful metal guitar played by a cowboy boot wearing giant alongside a rockabilly styled bass player, supported by a tiny powerhouse of a drummer; all fronted by a combat short and boot wearing singer with short red mohawk hair whose Ian Dury style moves kept the audience enthralled. If I had one criticism, it would be that the sound had been turned up beyond what the room could sustain; the instrumentals remained crisp and clear but the vocals had less clarity. Having said that, the intent behind the lyrics remained crystal clear. This was something that I reflected upon when driving home after the gig whilst thoroughly enjoying Natacha Atlas signing in Arabic (which I definitely don’t understand)!

The second band up were the reason I was there, local band Spat had impressed me from my first hearing – following the departure of Angie, this was to be their first performance with new bass player, and they were also joined by a trombone player who fitted in perfectly. I was very impressed by their ability to inject tremendous enthusiasm into their music. Each song was delivered well, and the idiosyncratic addition of the trombone added greatly to the overall effect. The band quite clearly relished their moment in front of the audience and it was a pleasure to see the smiles on their faces as they gave it their all! Having a personal mention during the introduction to my ‘track of the month’ ‘Robot’ certainly added to my appreciation of their set!

Splinter came, in parts, from Glasgow and Fife and added yet another dimension to the evening – very political and angry, they rattled through a number of quick fire songs, many ‘for the government’ as introduced by front man Dek. The bass player particularly caught my eye, he either had extremely long arms or was somehow enabled to pull off an exceptionally distinctive low-slung playing stance.

To close, The Zips kicked off – a crisp, sharp and tight sound, very reminiscent of The Clash! Their drummer may not win any prizes for delicate subtlety, but he more than made up for that with out and out brutality – no way was anybody in the room going to ignore the drumming! Further to my earlier concerns, the band were requested to cease playing shortly after midnight, around half way into their set. They went ahead and played one more song but wound up after that. Speaking to singer Johnzip afterwards he recognised the need to stick to local arrangements in order not to alienate neighbours so that future band nights might be allowed to continue thereby denying a local audience further opportunities to experience such electrifying music.

All credit must be given the Hawick ‘Underground Army’ for their dedication in striving to bring such excellent bands into the Scottish Borders. I look forward to seeing more of a similar style and standard in the future.


Following some recent clear and sunny weather, I was expecting some stormy weather as I drove towards Galashiels, the ominous looming clouds that appeared to be gathering ahead seemed to reinforce my thoughts, but I was actually looking ahead to Sandi Thom including ‘Stormy Weather’, a track from her latest album, in her set. This had provided a powerful rocking opening to her set when I had previously seen her in action last November in Glasgow’s King Tut’s.

This time I had a much shorter distance to travel. As I was parking up outside the venue, work was under way to continue decorating the town with black and white for the forthcoming ‘Braw Lads Gathering’. Inside the hall, the stage backdrop continued the black and white theme. The night had been organised by the locally based ‘Reiver Promotions’ in an attempt to try to provide something a bit special in an area where people normally have to travel to the cities to experience more established acts perform. I have previously experienced other attempts to do the same which failed to succeed due to not being able to entice enough people to come along and wished this one to be a success. There was an encouraging looking queue outside and the hall looked to be rapidly approaching half full when I arrived just after the doors opened. Later on I reckoned the hall to be possibly 95% full. The audience spanned generations from some who looked almost pre-teens to others who made me feel that, for a change, I wasn’t the oldest there.

The opening act had been chosen as a result of an on-line vote which gave a number of mainly local bands a chance to bid for the place. The eventual winners were the very local, Galashiels based, five-piece Torino. Reflecting the ‘Braw Lads’ colours, the band took to the stage dressed mainly in black. Despite being a local band I hadn’t heard them previously so didn’t know what to expect. What I experienced from the start was extremely competent, well produced insistent rock played by the lead singer, two guitars, bass and drum combination. At times I found myself thinking about Muse, although I certainly won’t make any strong comparisons as they struck me as a band keen to forge their own distinct sound as opposed to simply aping other better known ones. They all looked seriously intent on delivering their songs, and despite a couple of minor initial sound hiccups, maintained a tight performance throughout. Their set included tracks from EPs ‘The Newton’s Law’ and ‘The Cable Telegraph’ along with two new songs, ‘The Grudge’ and the intriguingly titled ‘More Fun Than A Clown On Fire’.

When Torino’s equipment had been removed from the stage, it was not replaced by other amplifiers and speakers, nor did another drum kit appear; clearly I was about to experience a different side to Sandi than that which had been showcased in Glasgow. Sandi was announced and came on stage alone to sit centre stage and take out her harmonica. Her opening number was ‘Help Me’, also the opening track on ‘Flesh And Blood’, but what a revelation it was as it was simply delivered accapella with occasional harmonica passages. Following this extremely impressive start, she continued on her own by accompanying herself on guitar – and I got to experience some ‘Stormy Weather’, again quite different to what I had been used to, both on the album and previously live. Two more solo numbers followed before she was joined on stage by her band, Mike, Scott and Allan. The band added another guitar, a keyboard providing a piano sound, and the percussion was a sit on cajon with little else.

Throughout the set, Sandi kept the audience informed and entertained between songs with her anecdotes which gave an insight into how her musical career had developed from an early age, including time spent travelling to gigs in the back of a fish van which resulted in her spending four years having “an absolute ball and smelling of cod”! The acoustic set included wonderfully moving versions of Guns ‘n Roses’ ‘November Rain’ and Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Landslide’ which added further layers to her thoughtful range of original songs.

Sandi seeks to engage local acts in her shows and the selection of Torino as support act was supplemented by a very well received appearance by young local girl Rebecca McCue who joined Sandi to sing her seminal hit ‘I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker With Flowers In My Hair’. I had the privilege of chatting to Rebecca ahead of this special opportunity for her, she was understandably a bit nervous but at the same time displayed an impressive amount of confidence. When she did appear on stage she showed no real outward sign of nerves and delivered a wonderful and strong vocal performance to accompany Sandi. I feel sure that Rebecca will have happy memories of the night, to help encourage her as she seeks to progress her own musical skills.

All indications are that the night was a tremendous success, with many in the audience enthusiastically discussing the performances afterwards. My principal memory will be Sandi’s powerful, emotive and engaging vocal performance, sympathetically supported by her guitar, harmonica and band. I wish Bill Jeffrey of ‘Reiver Promotions’ equal success with future attempts to bring such excellent music to the Scottish Borders. Roll on the next one.

PLUM – STOW TOWN HALL – 11th May 2013

Having left London at 7am in the morning to drive back to Scotland, I arrived in the Borders’ Village of Stow just before 8pm after a brief stop to rest and change. I had known in advance that Kat Healy had been announced as a support act; after chatting to one of the organisers, Chris, I then found that Plum had arrived earlier in the day to lead workshop sessions with a group of local young people. These young people, both primary and secondary school students, had spent the afternoon discovering how to use musical instruments in conjunction with found objects along with a loop pedal to produce music, and would be performing a new piece later, ahead of Plum’s performance.
The small hall with its impressive vaulted wooden ceiling quickly filled up, with many young people amongst the audience. The stage stood ready and waiting with guitars, keyboard, laptop, and other assorted pieces of electronic equipment. As the evening progressed more tables and chairs were brought in and set out as the audience buzz increased in anticipation of what was to come.
Ahead of the music, I caught up with Plum and recorded a brief interview. I also chatted with Chris and discovered that the local ‘SoundOut’ group had organised a self-funded music festival in the town the previous summer, and, thanks to a generous grant from a local wind farm, were busy planning and preparing for a second more adventurous one this summer. This evening represented their first venture as ‘contractors’ bringing ‘hired’ acts to the town. I did a rough head count and reckoned that there were around eighty in the hall which felt about right for the venue and throughout the night, a pleasant and relaxing atmosphere persisted.
Having travelled from Inverness, Kat prefaced her set with a lovely relaxed introduction in which she commented on the rural location, having had to negotiate unfenced roads with sheep and young lambs to avoid, and then discovering that the nearest pub was in the next town. Kat was an unknown quantity for me and, given Plum’s electronic pedigree, was slightly unexpected as she delivered a lovely ‘folky’ set with a presence and vocal style that had me recalling Emmylou Harris, particularly on her ‘Wrecking Ball’ album. For some songs she was accompanied by Stanley Odd’s Thilo Pfander on keyboard.
Following Kat’s set, more chairs were brought out, this time for the group of young people who were about to perform. These young people sat in a horseshoe in front of the stage and began by passing a microphone around to enable each to add their individual pieces to the loop. In addition to traditional instruments, guitar and fiddle, items found in the hall’s kitchen featured along with vocal sounds. As the layered sample loop developed, the young people seemed very much at ease and to be enjoying their opportunity to demonstrate their newly found skills. In addition to being an excellent experience for those who had participated in the workshop and performed on the night, I imagine that the performance would have inspired many of the other young people in the audience.
With little set up to be changed on stage it was soon time for Plum to get started. Since I had seen her previously last Halloween in Edinburgh her talents had been recognised at the Scottish Alternative Music Awards where she won the ‘Best Electronic Artist’ category and I was keenly anticipating another excellent performance. For a hall that hadn’t been designed with amplified music in mind the sound quality was extremely good and I was able to enjoy her set without significant distortion. Three digital projectors helped to add atmosphere with video footage being projected onto the wall behind the stage, adding to the other lighting. Plum was very much at ease as she manipulated the various pieces of equipment, augmenting with acoustic and bass guitars as required. Along with a good selection of previously released tracks she included a taste of what to expect from her new album. Making the most of the opportunities offered by digital recording and distribution she will be releasing this album in two parts starting in the autumn – something that I will certainly be watching out for.
Creating a performance based on looping samples and building up a nuanced and captivating backing for her lyrics is a different skill set to that required to master more traditional instruments, but I believe that it is equally valid when the results are as excellent as those produced by Plum. The set in Stow was equally as exciting and impressive as when I had first seen her in Sneaky Pete’s, however, the experience was very different which was all down to the lovely family-friendly atmosphere provided by the organisers at SoundOut who appear to be extremely passionate about enabling their community to be able to experience great live music. The latter part of the set included a number of dub-step oriented tracks which were particularly well received and had many people up dancing. Although she has been recognised as an electronic artist and incorporates elements such as dub-step in her act, she does not produce long and repetitive tracks, I believe that her principal skill is her ability to create a wide range of sounds and approaches in her work, and helps to prove that genre classifications can be quite misleading. I will continue to seek to avoid genre label pre-conceptions in order to identify other new and exciting artists such as Plum.



Five in the morning with a banana moon in the clear sky and I set off. Over thirteen hours later, and around three hundred and fifty miles south, I was in the venue, having just met somebody who had travelled even further – Anke’s journey from Germany made a trip from the Scottish border seem as if I had just gone next door! The venue was IndigO2 inside the Dome at North Greenwich and I was back for a second helping of live music courtesy of Feedme Music with six bands on the bill including the main reason for my journey, Kenelis.

First on were three piece Kings And Rogues. Nick Drew led on guitar and vocals, ably backed by a tight rhythm duo of Gary Summers on bass / backing vocals and Wayne Summers on drums. Kenelis aside, I had travelled down to the Dome on faith, having never heard any of the other five bands before. I had been impressed by the previous showcase and by all other acts that Alli Hodge of Feedme Music had brought to my attention in the interim. Kings And Rogues did not disappoint and, despite being the opening act, took to the stage with driving confidence. There were clearly a number of fans that had attended to give support and their loyalty was rewarded by an expertly delivered set of around thirty minutes. Sound systems don’t make gigs but poor ones certainly spoil them; with a system as good as the one here it would definitely be down to the band to spoil things and Kings And Rogues avoided doing that by a country mile and more. The guitar was confident and compelling, the vocals were clear as crystal, the bass tight and crisp, and the drumming like a steamhammer in overdrive. The set comprised an interesting selection of songs in a style clearly influenced by the likes of Dave Grohl and Billy Corgan. One down, five to go – if this was an indicator of things to come I knew I was in for a great night.

Next up was Anaam; Arup, Kan, Shaon and Ricky immediately took things to a much heavier place. Being unfettered by instruments, lead singer Arup left the audience in no doubt about his showmanship credentials as he made full use of the expansive stage. This was another band who have clearly worked hard to perfect their act, and enjoy being on stage; again I was unable to fault their performance. Anybody familiar with my ramblings will be aware that I don’t hold much store in genre classification, but I am willing to admit that I would be inclined to assign the term metal as one to use when describing Anaam. My problem with genres stems from those who claim that they will only listen to one genre and appear to like any artist to which the label seems to apply regardless of ability. I prefer to take things as I hear, and decide whether or not I like it – I most definitely liked this band. I could definitely get used to a Feedme Music diet!

When band number three came on stage and the lead singer began to speak, it felt a bit familiar; they may be billed as being from London, but I’m fairly positive that John Wyse had definite traces of a Scottish accent (west coast?) or maybe age is beginning to take its toll on me. As with Arup previously, John was very definitely a showman who was so clearly at home on stage. The rest of the band comprise Julian Martin-Samos and Ryan Hunt on guitars,Steven Hepburn on bass and Kerry Thompson on drums. Where the two previous bands clearly relished and deserved the opportunity to play in this venue, I couldn’t help visualising Silverbox in some much larger arena, their whole presence and confidence just seemed to demand that. I suppose that this comment simply serves to underscore the diverse nature of the term ‘rock band’; so far the first three had demonstrated their discreet and individual overall sound and stage presence, and I knew that Kenelis would bring a different slant come their turn. John’s confident delivery reached out and engulfed the audience, and the shirt coming off clearly went down well with many, I’m sure!

Half way through already when Darren Robinson and Milky both on vocals and guitar, Charlie Robinson on guitar, J2 on bass and Mike Daines on drums took to the stage but Billy was nowhere to be seen (just couldn’t resist that cheesy reference to the band’s name, Where’s Billy?) They helped to inject some more metal into the mix. Like all the bands on the bill, they seemed to have managed to get a good number of fans to attend and they were obviously thrilled by the high energy set. Their on-line profile describes them as not seeking to create a new genre (there’s that ‘g’ word again) nor are they particularly aiming to adhere to any existing one – I applaud this approach as it indicates a band seeking to make their own individual mark. I was particularly interested in hearing this band so that I could compare them to local band Where’s George? Interesting to hear, but apart from both apparently looking for somebody (I’m not prepared to make any gender assumptions), there is little chance that they are likely to be in direct competition – both excellent, but in completely different ways. Kenelis had yet to take to the stage and I was already in no doubt that my journey had been more than justified.

So now was the time – a year previously I had been entranced by Kenelis, fronted by the charismatic Mel Sanson; now, a year on, Mel was the only constant as all previous band members had gone their own ways for a variety of reasons. Mel has now recruited a new line up with Kai Smith on guitar, Tristan Hall on bass and Ryan Holt on drums. Mel has also developed her own guitar skills and now plays more herself whilst on stage. Although slight in physical stature, Mel has a massive personality and so easily dominated the stage when she took to it – OK, I admit it, I might be biased! Kicking off with the impassioned call against unjustified hateful attitudes, ‘Sick’, I knew I was going to be bowled over. Having recently helped secure support for two charities, Diversity Role Models and Stonewall, as part of The L Project whose single ‘It Does Get Better’ made it to number eleven in the UK charts without any mainstream radio exposure, Mel is a woman who stands by her beliefs. Listening to her latest songs, that were played here, it is clear that she feels there is still a lot of injustice that still requires to be tackled head on. She is a compassionate and committed person, but quite obviously still angry about some things, and is being positive about seeking to use her music to help raise awareness. The power and passion of Mel’s stage presence as she moved around like a tornado was mesmerising; it didn’t, however, stop me from sparing some time to appreciate how well Kai, Tristan and Ryan had taken up the batten handed on by previous band members Andy 1, Andy 2, James and Oli, a hard act to follow. If I have any complaint about the night, it applies to all acts, but especially Kenelis – the sets were too short! Having said that, I know that pragmatically, Alli and Feedme Music had no real option when trying to ensure that all six bands each got a fair hearing. It was also so good to hear that a new recording is in the pipeline. I’m not even going to attempt to write about Kenelis’ music, as far as I’m concerned music is more about listening than reading so if you feel enthused by my endorsement all I will say is to get yourself on-line and listen / download, if you like excellent, hard-hitting and honest rock music, I challenge you to dislike Kenelis!

All too soon, there was only one act left; enter Born Mad, another three piece, Tommy Smith on guitar and vocals, Matt Johnson on bass and Moke Lliyd on drums. Yet another professional rock outfit that seemed so natural on the stage as they belted out a selection of songs that were on a par with all the other evening’s acts, interpreted with an appreciative hint of retro / blues about them. They helped me to recall classic guitar focussed power trios from my youth such as Taste and Cream.

As far as I’m concerned the venue was absolutely perfect for these bands. It gave them an opportunity to showcase their talents in inspirational surroundings whilst retaining the intimacy of close contact with the audience that accompanies smaller venues. It was also so good to be able to chat to various band members around the bar area. Mel was a particular star in this regard as she dedicated herself to a wonderful ‘meet and greet’ session following her performance. From those that I met and spoke with, it is so evident that her respect for her fans is absolutely reciprocated by the those who make the effort to follow her.


After rush hour delays in Edinburgh, and howling winds and drifting snow on Greenlaw Moor, I was glad of a very warm welcome when I arrived in Reston, Berwickshire. I had visited Fiona and Mike’s house before when Lisbee Stainton included it in her ‘Living Room Tour’ in the winter of 2011; this time an exhibition of work by local artists was provided alongside another musical performance. To raise money for 2013 ‘Comic Relief’, the event had been arranged for the Friday following ‘Red Nose Day’ to ensure that key people were able to attend and perform.

Music was provided by Where’s George?, members Amelia Stokes, Penny Osborne and Chris Robinson, accompanied by Alexandra Prentice. Whilst a wonderful selection of artworks were available for both viewing and purchase. The art was provided thanks to the following, all local except for John Heywood, who lives in Edinburgh and exhibits widely ( RSA, Morningside Gallery, Barcelona etc.):

John Heywood – prints –
Lita Murray – Reston
Vicki Hardie – Grantshouse
David Lochhead – Cranshaws
Catriona Anderson – Cranshaws
Sharon Simpson – glass (and bespoke gemstone) – Oldhamstocks
Colleen Henderson Heywood – HeartArt,

With a very healthy attendance and so much to view, a decision was taken to leave the artworks on display over the weekend to allow people to return at their leisure. After an initial opportunity to meet and chat, the focus moved to the ‘music room’ where we were treated to an enchanting acoustic performance. My previous experience of the band has been when they have been playing electric instruments with Amelia mainly on drums. It was very interesting to experience another aspect of their musical expertise, as Amelia and Penny shared vocals and guitars. Chris alternated between guitar and cajon – I had only recently come across the Peruvian box drum (cajon) when interviewing London duo Jules Phoenix & Remy F, and was fascinated to see and hear one in ‘person’. Alexandra’s atmospheric violin playing added extra depth to the masterful yet relaxed performance. Following my interview with Jules & Remy I sourced plans for the construction of a cajon and am now even more determined to make one.

Sadly the drifting snow in the hills had spooked me and as a result I opted to play safe and leave early. Perhaps if I hadn’t got stuck in snowdrifts for the first time earlier in the week I might have been more prepared to take a chance on staying! As a result I didn’t take up the opportunity to sample to extremely appetising catering that had been provided, and also missed the second half of the performance.

In addition to general donations via the ‘standard’ ‘Comic Relief’ bucket, all artists gave a 20% commission to Comic Relief, and as I write this, it is so good to report that £448.32 has so far been raised for the charity with over £1000 worth of art having been sold. As somebody who only called in and spent a relatively brief time there, everything seemed to go so smoothly in a very relaxed atmosphere. My previous experiences suggest that such an event didn’t simply happen – it is extremely encouraging that some people were prepared to expend a tremendous effort to ensure such a well organised smoothly run evening.

In particular huge thanks must be extended to Fiona and Mike for providing the venue and supper, and to Lita Murray, Lynn Harris and Janet Anderson for their help, for both setting out the exhibition in advance, and being on hand during the night. Thanks also to the aforementioned artists, both graphic and musical who helped to provide the focus of the event. Finally, thanks to Mel Watkinson, Brockholes Farm, Grantshouse, who kindly lent the handmade cajon for the evening. Mel makes musical instruments and furniture from recycled material –


At the same time as many were heading to Austin, Texas for SXSW, it was more a case of WXNW for me as I travelled across Scotland to Glasgow to see one determined young lady who has her heart set on taking her distinctive brand of music across The Atlantic. It was also to be my first chance for a face to face meeting with Scosha, somebody whom I have previously been privileged to interview by phone/Skype on a number of occasions.

The opening act was yet another young lady who I met briefly in the bar before hand as she was circulating to meet and greet. Gabby, East London born but now established in Glasgow, played a great solo set accompanied by her guitar. Whilst there was a slight bias towards slower songs with intelligent and thoughtful lyrics, she did play a couple of more upbeat ones too. For somebody so youthful, she impressed with her strong characterful voice and confident delivery. Perhaps it is just something that comes with solo singer/songwriters, but her songs definitely had a rather timeless appeal to them and I can easily imagine listening to her during any era of my life. Gabby’s performance and demeanour is yet further confirmation for me of the wealth of emerging talent driven by a growing number of determined young female artists.

After Gabby’s gentle opening set, the band gathered on the stage prior to Scosha’s understated arrival on the stage with no real hint of what was about to happen. Perhaps it was the increase in audience numbers, perhaps some heating had been switched on – whatever the cause, things rapidly warmed up as she began her set. Being familiar with her music it was so good to be able to experience these songs live. Her studio recordings are well produced and clearly showcase her talents and potential both as a singer and a writer, why she isn’t receiving more airplay and recognition really does seem odd. The added edge provided by the live performance proved that her songs are just as much at home in a live environment as in recordings. The band were very tight as they provided the powerfully driving instrumental groundwork for her impassioned and compelling vocals. She may have won the ‘Pop Recording Of The Year’ category at last year’s Scottish New Music Awards but don’t be fooled, the electrifying performance presented here was so much more than simple, routine, bland pop. This was good honest high energy rock at its best, with an exciting and engaging stage presence. There was the foot on the monitor pose struck by guitarist Blair Hatton, the close interaction between Scosha and bass player Steven Adamson, the cool concentration of Robbie Noble on keyboards, and I could easily imagine bandana clad ‘Shoogal’ MacDougall drumming in some roadhouse during an episode of ‘Sons Of Anarchy’! All told, it was an absolutely belting performance presented with real class; and one that sadly ended far too quickly as is always the case when acts are restricted by venue timings.

Included along with familiar songs was an airing, first time with full band, of new song ‘Sh*t U Talk’. This was prefaced by an animated introduction where Scosha explained the origins of the song, and when it was finished she declared it to have been a particularly therapeutic preformance. Since coming across her last September I have been extremely impressed by her determination to pursue her musical dream. She invests so much in her lyrics, they are refreshingly honest and real when compared to much of the inane fare that gets so much radio play by syndicated commercial stations. A glance at some of her song titles appears to offer a fairly accurate summary of her attitude. It’s ‘Not Enough’ but ‘I’m OK’ as “I” ‘Pray For Time’ to ‘Let Go’ and “I’m doing my” utmost ‘Breakin’ Out’; to quote ‘Let Go’ she’s got her “armour” and her “sword”, and she’s taking no prisoners. The incorporation of parts of Rihanna’s ‘We Found Love’ into the set hints at some of her musical influences that includes the likes of Kelly Clarkson and P!nk. I firmly believe she could stand shoulder to shoulder with such acts given the right support from within the music industry.

Once the set ended she seemed so naturally at home meeting and chatting to members of the audience; the willingness of artists to acknowledge fans and mix with those who have come to enjoy their performances is simply another reason why I so much prefer smaller venues. I would, however, absolutely jump at the chance to attend a much bigger venue such as the SECC or O2 Arena if I was able to see Scosha performing where she belongs. Until that day arrives I will continue to savour her growing repertoire of songs and wish her all the best in her quest for greater recognition whilst encouraging others to give her a listen.

As she finished circulating amongst the crowd, the final act of the evening started his set – another London connection – this time a native Glaswegian who had recently returned from a stint living and working in the south. Joseph Miller with his keyboard offered an opportunity to wind down after Scosha’s high energy performance. Sadly I didn’t get to hear much of his set but what I did hear certainly didn’t put me off checking him out further; a friend who accompanied me to the venue told me later that he had appreciated Joseph’s set and found it to be both engaging and accomplished. It was clear that Joseph was truly relishing his opportunity to play at the legendary Glasgow venue.


Serendipity would be an ideal word to apply to my weekend – things had worked out to allow me to travel the three hundred and fifty odd miles south to be in London when Kenelis were launching their new EP ‘Move’ – and as if that wasn’t good enough, shortly before I left home I discovered that Scottish band The Stagger Rats would be in London that same weekend. Their first appearance at ‘The Islington’ coincided with my date with Kenelis, then they were due for a stripped acoustic set at ‘The Hospital Club’, but I would be able to stay to attend the Saturday night show at ‘The Dublin Castle’ in Camden.

I arrived in Camden and soon caught up with the band, managing to record an interview with them in their tour bus, cleverly disguised as a white van. Then I was inside the venue and appreciating the end of a set by Gaptooth, a young lady doing her bit with assorted electronics to provide her support ‘band’. I enjoyed what I heard and noted some echoes of ‘Gary Numan’ in the music that accompanied her clear and thoughtful lyrics. This brief experience was yet another wonderfully unexpected element to add to the weekend’s mix. Her single ‘Ladykillers’ was released on the Monday following the gig and I will certainly look out for more from her in the future.

Then The Stagger Rats had completed their set up and were into full flow with ‘I’m In Love’. Callum Easter’s Hammond organ provided a considerable contrast to Gaptooth’s Korg, Apple Mac etc. The very sharply dressed Daniel Paylor must surely have surprised any audience members who hadn’t heard him before with an unexpectedly deep voice priojecting from his small frame as he played guitar and sang centre stage. Craig Mcmullen provided a further guitar layer along with his hat, whilst Terry McDermott and Kai Wallace kept everything tight on bass and drums respectively. A few minor tech issues didn’t really interfere, even a need to swap bass guitars was quickly dealt with and allowed the set to continue, ensuring the audience were treated to a great selection of songs sampling the new album ‘Scorpio Leisure’ along with a couple of others. The second song ‘Maybe When I Get A Bit Older’ kept things upbeat with their distinctive and tight instrumentation – crisp guitars, bound together with the full organ sound on a foundation solidly laid by bass and drums. Next the single, ‘Sleeping Off Ecstasy’, slowed things down a few notches and allowed the band’s versatility to be further showcased. ‘My Marie’, almost like a spirtitual, and ‘Hubba Bubba’ quickly followed leading towards another pair from the album; the slightly frantic ‘Red Hands’ being a further demonstration of their ability to play tight, well arranged rock that doesn’t take itself too seriously, and then the absolutely delightful ‘Fuzzy Fuzzy’ with its retro feel and extremely memorable chorus that always makes me feel so good. One of the attractions of The Stagger Rats is that they appear to be very comfortable to develop their own style with scant regard to the latest passing trends – good, honest, idiosyncratic and well executed are all definitely terms that I would happily apply to their performance. I can imagine that anybody with an open mind and a love of unpretentious rock music would be very happy to find a copy of ‘Scorpio Leisure’ in their Christmas stocking when the 25th arrives.

With Christmas lights and decorations throughout the city, the closing selection was a further nod towards the festive mood, but not necessarily the most traditional of Christmas songs. The selection of a song from The Sensational Alex Harvey Band’s ‘Framed’ album was truly inspired. As Callum introduced it I overheard somebody behind me, state in a strong London accent, that he couldn’t understand a word that had been said – I had to turn and note that it had made perfect sense to me, but then again I’m just very familiar with the Edinburgh / Scottish East Coast accent! ‘There’s No Lights On The Christmas Tree Mother, They’re Burning Big Louie Tonight’, was a wonderful fun a way to end the set. Certainly I would have loved them to have played more, but with a further two bands due on stage I had to content myself with having been lucky enough to have been there for the excellent performance. Sadly, with weekend engineering works due to close my overland route back to South East London, and a drive back north the following morning, I was unable to stay around to see Belter and Joy Revision.


KENELIS ‘MOVE’ EP LAUNCH, THE 100 CLUB, 7th December 2012

I woke up fairly certain that the anthemic hook from ‘Don’t You Kill My Rock’ had been reverberating around my head throughout the night, it was certainly still very prominent as I began to get ready for the day after the night before. That night had started with a delightful selection of Lebanese dishes before arriving at the legendary 100 Club in London’s Oxford Street. I was there to see the awesome Kenelis live for a third time, this time for the launch of the latest recording – ‘MOVE’ a four track offering that showcases the best of Mel Sanson’s latest work.

After a brief browse of the crammed photo gallery of previous acts to play in the venue, and recording interviews with Mel and JOANovARC it wasn’t long before the first act were getting started. Words From Willis are an energetic four-piece, from High Wycombe, offered an interesting showcase for Steph Willis’ intelligent writing. Leading with vocals and acoustic guitar, Steph was very ably backed up by Nij on guitar, Mike on bass and Tim on drums. The venue’s crystal clear sound system ensured that Steph’s lyrics were readily appreciated as they were delivered via a strong voice toned with echoes of P!nk. After the first couple of songs I worried that each had too similar feel and rhythm to them; however, that concern was unfounded as the set progressed. Although I hinted at some similarities to P!nk’s voice, that does not in any way suggest that the music was in any way any attempt to replicate as some clone act. The instrumentation was tight, honest and unpretentious rock music with Steph’s clearly enunciated lyrics as the icing on top. All too soon, I had enjoyed a selection of eight songs, including those from their EP ‘Superhero’. ‘In Dreaming’ stood out as perhaps the strongest, but I always hesitate to be too specific after only one hearing. I will now be seeking to listen again to the EP and any other tracks that I can locate on-line as I do believe the band has great potential.

Second to grace the stage were the four-piece female rock powerhouse known as JOANovARC, the first all-female band to feature on the X-Box 360’s ‘Rockband’. From London, the band features sisters Sam and Shelley, Sam providing vocals whilst alternating between guitar and bass, with Shelley leading on guitar and providing backing vocals. The other half of the band comprises Laura who also shares vocal, guitar and bass duties, and Debbie on drums. I had previously come across them via Cuillin FM’s ‘Highland Uproar Challenge’ around a year ago with a song called ‘Peace Of Mind’ which led me to appreciate their excellent video produced and edited by Rachel Price of BBC Bristol. I was also familiar with ‘Say Sayonara’, one of the songs featured in the X-Box package. Good as both these songs are, they were blown into touch by the entrancing live presence. The played so well together and kept the audience entertained as they powered their way through a varied repertoire of eight songs. This was another impressive set by a band clearly extremely comfortable on the stage as they demonstrated their skills. There were shades of Motorhead and many other classic rock acts, yet they still managed to stamp their own individuality on their performance. Another observation that I must make relates to drummer Debbie, her face was such an absolute joy to see; here was somebody so clearly happy to be behind the drum kit providing a rhythmically perfect backdrop to the others. If it were possible to bottle her infectious enthusiasm and sheer joy I’m sure it could be sold for a fortune. Maybe that would be worth a pitch on ‘Dragons’ Den’!

Another excellent observation would be the slick changeovers between acts which meant only minimal waits, ensuring that the mood was maintained. After a second brief set-up break, Mel and her band were getting started. In addition to Mel’s vocals and guitar, Jack provided guitar, Tristan bass and Matt was in charge of the drums. I have to admit a certain bias here when I report that Mel absolutely owned the stage; with her ‘big’ hair, colourful eye make-up and distinctive boots to add to the stunning music, she is a true star performer. First off was the song that had remained in my head through the night, ‘Don’t You Kill My Rock’. A selection of older favourites followed – ‘Sick’, ‘Jealous’, ‘Paperskin’ and ‘We Could Die Any Minute’ – despite them being very familiar to me it was so good to appreciate them as impassioned and urgent live deliveries. Jack’s guitar was flawless, whilst Tristan’s bass (another five string bass as with JOANovARC) seamlessly melded with Matt’s mesmerising, at times tribal, drum work, to provide a rock-solid foundation for Mel’s insistent and captivating presence.

The set came to a close with the remaining three songs from the EP – ‘GFY’, ‘Open Your Eyes’ and finally ‘Moving To Brighton’. The last based on Mel’s move to live in Brighton which has clearly been a highly inspirational event leading to the recording of this EP. The soaring and melodic guitar work at points in this song simply have to be heard to be fully appreciated. Punk – included, garage – included, rock – included; at the end of day, however, I’m not too worried about trying to classify Kenelis as to me, they are quite simply KENELIS, a wonderfully unique band that I am so glad to have stumbled across! Mel is such a wonderfully warm and pleasant person in person yet her songs enable her to express a different side to her with regard to how she views some of the situations that life has presented for her. Following an energetic cover as encore, which I’m afraid my ageing brain allowed me to recognise but not recall what it was but luckily my daughter was on hand to confirm Nirvana’s ‘Territorial Pissings; all too soon the night was over. Thankfully a great many excellent memories have been imprinted inside my head and I will remember my first visit to The 100 Club for a long time to come whilst looking forward to the next opportunity to catch Kenelis live again.


It was a joy to witness the spectacular Milky Way in the crystal clear night sky as I stood at the side of a busy A1 with traffic speeding by. It was also a pleasant change not to have to drive myself across Scotland, and on schedule a ‘flying pixie’ pulled over to let me in. After an event free journey we arrived at the legendary ‘King Tut’s’ in Glasgow. Just over a year previously I had been present when Sandi Thom picked up her awards at the inaugural ‘Scottish New Music Awards’; now I was with a colleague meeting her ahead of her gig. Once the interview was concluded we witnessed the bulk of support act Carrie Mac’s set. At times solo, at others accompanied by a keyboard player, Carrie delivered an impressive and confident performance. She was clearly enjoying herself on stage as she entranced the audience with her soulful and emotive voice. With only limited previous experience of hearing her I was very impressed by her mature and engaging performance. Her mesmerising chilled version of ‘A Little Respect’, a single release from earlier this year, was a true joy to experience.

I found myself chatting to a Canadian couple, currently living in Aberdeen, who were eagerly awaiting the performance; they told me that they last live act they saw had been Lady GaGa, so quite a change for them to be in such an intimate venue. As the audience rearranged itself during the break we managed to get to the front as we waited for Sandi and her band to begin – catching up with another couple who had also travelled from the south east of Scotland. Even from my very small ‘straw poll’ it was clear that the the evening had attracted people to travel from afar for their entertainment.

Then the lights went down and AC/DC’s ‘Back In Black’ started to boom out – signalling that something was about to happen! First the band, guitar, bass, drum, keyboard and backing singer took to the stage, then Sandi and the show was under way. ‘Stormy Weather’ might have been the title of the song but this was one ‘storm’ I’m certain that everybody was thoroughly enjoying. Back in the mid ‘noughties’ she may have wished that she was a punk rocker with flowers in her hair, but her current output, as evidenced in Glasgow, is quite blues orientated, but very much delivered with her own personal stamp – no generic re-cycling here.

The packed audience listened intently and showed their enthusiastic approval during breaks, some even engaging her in a dialogue which she obviously appreciated. The general atmosphere was wonderfully supportive and friendly. The band provided a richly textured backing to Sandi’s lead, and they too were clearly relishing their time on stage. It’s so good to be so close up to be able to see artists maintaining intent eye contact with each other in order to ensure a tight delivery. With the tour following the recent release of her latest album, much of the set comprised songs from it, and previous release ‘Merchants And Thieves’, but she did incorporate a few others including her seminal ‘I Wish I Was A Punk Rocker (With Flowers In My Hair)’, a song with local guest hip-hop duo Shy & DRS, and a truly heartfelt version of ‘I Need Your Love So Bad’ delivered from the floor right in front of the audience, before closing with the title track from ‘Flesh And Blood’ followed by ‘Runaway Train’ as an encore.

All too soon we were navigating our way back onto the M8, and after managing to avoid being side-swiped by a rogue taxi we were ‘winging’ our way back to the east coast.