Posts Tagged ‘ayr’

Being that the album isn’t officially released until 18th February and considering how much effort, money and deliberation has gone into the finished work, it seems only appropriate that any seminal listen of the debut Rose Parade record be as careful, private and thorough as possible. Despite most of the songs having been publically available in live or demo form over the past couple of years, this moment is sure to be a milestone in the burgeoning Ayrshire independent music scene and deserves to be treated as such.

Consequently, one finds oneself digging out one’s highest quality pair of headphones and sitting down on a dreary Scottish Sunday afternoon to absorb the eponymous work from start to finish, the only distraction being occasional pensive sips from a mug of steaming coffee.

And one is not disappointed…

rp

Midnight Wine provides an absorbing and atmospheric opener, allowing approximately twenty seconds of gentle wavering feedback and plucked strings to guide the listener gently towards a window to the mind of the Rose Parade quartet, before an unrepentant trifecta of assured chords, jolly glockenspiel and stomping kick drum ushers in a distinctive and instantly congenial vocal, thereby hauling said listener through said window and permitting no option of escape until the boys have had their say.

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Now, when you have an album that flows from start to finish, as one complete and considered work – which, let’s face it, is the mark of a quality offering – it’s generally desirable to set an enduring tone, for the entire piece, with the first lines and Midnight Wine’s contribution is no exception…

“Summertime has got me crazy, sitting laying in the sun.

I took my love and we got crazy but now I’m sitting by, by my loaded gun.”

In just a few bars, the listener is handed a perfect summation of the Rose Parade modus operandi – the opening line conveying happy and contented connotations of an easy life made up of long, hot, lazy days tying in with the pleasant and cheerful foot-tapping rhythms forming the calm and measured surface of the sound, juxtaposed with a nod to an unsettled mind and abrupt ruminations on violence which point to the darker depths of the band’s occasionally murky, often longing and nostalgic, lyrical content.

As the song progresses, the continuation of this lyrical theme melds with a timeless quiet-loud aesthetic and a guitar tone harking back to the golden era of the rock scene. As well as providing a succinct outline of intent, track one succeeds in emanating what is sure to be a cross-generational appeal and giving subtle rise to the notion – in the mind of anyone within earshot – that picking up a guitar might just be the perfect idea.

On the subject of Rose Parade’s cross-generational appeal, it is impossible not to notice the similarity of the track titles A Better Pill to Swallow and The Dark Side of the Sun to those belonging to The Jam and Pink Floyd, respectively. At first glance, this is easy to interpret as either coincidence or an acknowledgement of the influence of iconic bands of the past on their own sound. However, after hearing the album several times over and feeling the resultant assurance of this band’s prowess and bright future, this nod to the work of such iconic bands begins to feel more like a subtle acknowledgement and confirmation of their own confidence that this is the first major step on an exciting and fruitful upwards trajectory.

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A song-by-song analysis would only serve to cheapen the first-listen experience for others, so prudence suggests that the way forward is to examine some of the more obvious standouts and then look at the work as a whole.

The majesty of the album opener aside, looking to The Sea of Lights and Grace will exhibit material destined to, someday, warrant a slew of main stage festival appearances. Grace, in particular, feels like the track people will point the unconverted to in future, as they relate the story of the time they saw Rose Parade perform in the kitchen of an Ayr flat, long before their success.

Appearing just past the halfway mark, the instrumental Friday Night Fight provides a welcome pause for reflection, while keeping the pace going as it leads towards the captivating pairing of upbeat rhythm and doleful lyrics that is Sue.

Violent Tides and closing offering The Dark Side of the Sun serving to showcase the more sparsely introspective end of the material, the latter’s claustrophobic vibe, equal parts beauty and menace, warning that “time won’t heal too deep of a wound” and closing on the cryptically chilling refrain of “totally honest, totally honest.”

To go back to the idea of an album working as a whole, the achievement of this admirable feat can be seen in the way track one tails off effortlessly into the opening of Awake Tonight and even the later inclusion of the glockenspiel is vaguely – yet knowingly – reminiscent of the opening offering. As the album progresses, subtle lyrical throwbacks to previous tracks combine with the group’s own signature melody and consistently accomplished guitar and vocal work to ensure the continuation of this seamless eleven track journey.

There are moments which evoke long nights of lonely reflection, choruses which provoke sing-along moments while getting ready for a night on the tiles with the mates and tunes that perfectly soundtrack an exhausted but cheerful Sunday teatime, looking back over a weekend well spent.

Rose Parade’s debut is the sound of Scottish Indie rock and roll ticking all the right boxes.

It would be wrong to do them the injustice of spending too long comparing their sound to that of more established acts. With that in mind, let’s just say that their pop sensibilities should appeal to consumers of the more mainstream branches of rock and indie – there are actually, as much as this is a potential bone of contention, echoes of Be Here Now-era Oasis, which are certainly not unwelcome and are subtle enough not to be derivative – while the wistfully introspective lyrical moments and incorporation of quirkier elements into their sound should serve as a draw for the more involved or refined music fan.

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As far as criticisms go, for this offering very few are possible. That said, there are consequences of creating such a thematic and whole-sounding debut record which so perfectly encapsulates the sound previously plied on the live circuit.

From an outsider’s perspective, it is difficult to see where the band will go from here. As much as what is displayed in this first record is a most impressive achievement, it would be a tragic waste of Rose Parade’s talent and innovation if they didn’t now seek to push their sound in a new direction. How well this goes, only time will tell.

For now, however, the band should be riding high on a wave of success of their own making.

Such a triumphant debut must be celebrated and there could be no better way of doing this than to play the shit out of it at every live opportunity.

Rose Parade is officially released on 18/02/13 through the band’s website, iTunes, Amazon and Play.com.

The band will play an album launch show in Glasgow’s 13th Note on 01/02/13.

Rose Parade on Facebook

Rose Parade on Soundcloud

When last Bellow Below graced these pages, ample amusement was derived from the, at the time constant, misspelling of their moniker.

Now, two days after the release of their Hooks EP – and resultant resounding echo of wild praise – Bellow Below are worlds away from the relative obscurity that once left them at the mercy of semi-literate promoters and blasé pub chalksmiths. With the quartet’s current profile – aided by the tangible evidence of their prowess provided by the aforementioned release, a growing reputation for shows doused in volume and passion and a stalwart live following – and confidence, billing them inaccurately would be tantamount to career suicide for anyone remotely invested in the local music scene.

A quick pre-show word with Su Casa owner Lucas Barraud yields the revelation that the band are not here to fulfil a request from the coffee shop but, in fact, as a result of their opting to book the venue themselves. Given Su Casa’s status as a chilled out, cosy and almost exclusively acoustic venue, this seems a distinctly odd choice and appears to give potential rise to a drastic mismatching of artist and setting. It seems that all assembled may be in for what bassist Darren, when quizzed, jovially describes as “Diet Bellow Below.”

Nonetheless, such reservations are part and parcel of the review process and more often than not – possibly due to the same phenomenon that deems the nights out not eagerly anticipated as the most enjoyable – results in a very pleasant surprise.

For the moment comforted, carryouts are sparked, the BYOB policy is raucously praised and the surroundings begin to settle into relaxed focus. Intimate to the point of being cramped, the living room-sized venue is rammed to the gunnels and, although this lends the event a pleasing vibe of unity and kinship, the unwieldy number of seats and tiny ‘stage’ area make it clear that little movement is to be expected from the performers.

Guitarist and vocalist Jamie, whose foremost stage position seems to deign him tonight’s frontman, kicks off proceedings with the words “We’re Bellow Below and we’re usually pretty loud,” suggesting that he shares the same sense of disorientation in this setting as the more dedicated of the band’s followers in the audience.

Thankfully, from the beginning of the set, the output proves typically impressive, if slightly quieter than usual and punctuated by much less energetic gesticulations.

A moment of unwitting profundity will, in fact, come between songs, when Jamie will whimsically intimate that he feels “like Kurt Cobain except less suicidal,” delivering a musing that suggests an unsettling similiarty between this removal of Bellow Below from the sort of surroundings in which they are most comfortable and Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance. Given how effortlessly and impressively this transition is handled this evening, such a comparison is far from inappropriate.

Image courtesy of Julie Dunabie

The guys pick their way, deftly, through a technically impressive and entirely instrumental opener which segues – via Jamie’s quip “Thank you! We are drums and Bellow Below!” which serves as an appropriate paean to Joseph’s ferociously tight sticksmanship – into their first single Southern Opal, a majestic swirl of ethereal guitarwork, complex time signatures and wistful, Scots-tinged vocals that sets the drinks flowing merrily and enhances the close-quarters nature of tonight’s musical exchange.

As the evening progresses, a positive set highlight – and undeniably significant contributor to the Bellow Below sound – is Jamie and Richard’s fulfilment of dual vocal duties, into which both guitarists throw themselves with gleeful abandon. Jamie, in particular, looks like he is having the time of his life as he barks out his contributions, occasionally leaning away, backwards, from the microphone and descending into a cacophony of manic shouts which lend the material a certain je ne sais quoi positively lapped up by the subsection of the band’s following more inclined towards the heavier, less compromising end of the musical scale.

In keeping with the boys’ renowned penchant for complexity, there are parts where intricate pedal fuckery and impeccably timed bursts of amplified mirth see proceedings take a turn towards the Mars Volta, by way of The Pixies’ Black Francis.

Over a year ago, when this bunch were just beginning to make a name for themselves, this review posited the idea that they should “continue to embrace their wide array of varying influences and strive to showcase this diversity in their own musical output … The only hurdle left to overcome is to further develop their sound, until it is distinctively theirs.” Well, tonight can be safely seen as infallible evidence that they have managed to do exactly this and both the Hooks EP and lead single Southern Opal serve both to showcase what could now fairly be described as the Bellow Below sound and to cement their reputation as formidable alt-rock Glasgow stalwarts.

As a breathless voice heralds the onset of their last song, there is the sudden striking realisation that the evening has comprised no gimmicks, dramatics or moments of outright show-offery. However, equally poignant is the settling awareness that such things aren’t what Bellow Below have ever been about.

From the outset, they’ve been concerned with mastery of a craft towards which each member is unswervingly passionate, all the while waiting patiently for the payoff they know they deserve, and tonight has been a simple hometown show that slyly tips a hat to the tacit understanding that said payoff has now arrived.

Bellow Below on Facebook

Hooks teaser on YouTube

It’s a welcome, but rare, deviation from the norm when artists take the time to create a bit of a spectacle and build a bit of warranted buzz around themselves. It’s even rarer when the target audience for such a spectacle is a wisely selected local scene, rather than a stab in the dark attempt at reaching too wide a market at too early a stage.

Taking some shrewd inspiration from the likes of WU LYF and Nine Inch Nails circa Year Zero, an anonymous collective of (presumably local) musicians have set about the incognito distribution of a couple of concise tasters of music, artwork and – the most substantial of the materials, thus far – a composition that could conceivably be
viewed to serve as a sort of manifesto.

The impeccably intelligent aspect of this is the fact that absolutely no one knows who is involved in the collaboration (or that it even is a collaboration) and, as a result, everyone currently aware of its existence is immeasurably intrigued.

Such calculated planning and ambition shows real initiative and the wilful sidestepping of the oft-quested path to instant wide recognition points to eyes steadfastly trained on the long game.

A further stroke of genius can be seen in the way the materials have been distributed. At present, the select few people with any knowledge of this musical X File are themselves involved in the local scene and all correspondence has been conducted via unsolicited emails from addresses that appear to give no tangible clues as to the identity of their administrator. Sixteen Sixteen Six, for our part, only became aware of it via the loose lips of a decidedly up and coming act who have recently signed to a label set to feature quite heavily in these pages in future. Otherwise, up to this point, the tracks and artwork remain elusive outwith a certain circle of musicians.

Also decidedly admirable is the service that will be provided to the other artists caught in the crossfire of the hype that is sure to follow these first whispers. It seems inevitable that the chosen recipients of this anonymous act’s initial sparse output will see an increase in publicity for their own musical endeavours and, being that the only people currently in the know are musicians, something with this much potential for hype could go a long way to countering the recent blow Facebook have dealt against potential traffic levels of artists’ pages. When your band knows something hardly anyone else does, it follows that a lot more people are going to wilfully include your page in their news feed, in anticipation of further updates.

It would be easy to write this whole thing off as a misguided, flash in the pan sort of scheme. However, those with a bit of faith and a propensity for curiosity will doubtless agree that this is exactly the sort of innovative thinking that is needed every now and then to shake things up a bit. As local scenes don’t have astronomical promotional budgets, bypassing the regular channels requires clever networking and dedication and these are qualities that will undoubtedly take any aspiring musician far.

When this is considered, the identity of the person behind their ingenious marketing campaign becomes as pertinent as that of the musicians themselves. If the responsibility for this is their own, it is undeniably impressive. However, it seems more probable that such an effort is the result of the combination of various people with various skillsets and a glance at some of the leaked artwork would suggest the same.

Being that we have heard one of the tracks – albeit via a smartphone – it would be remiss of us not to appraise the musical aptitude and inspiration that succeed in streaming forth throughout the composition’s short duration. However, as much as their evident skill does serve as an endorsement for the orchestrators of this melodic conspiracy, the real catalyst for the seemingly imminent explosion of excitement is their cloak and dagger approach to what should be a fairly run of the mill first step for a new act – getting the first samples of their music out there.

Where artists making no effort to publicise themselves can sometimes show a firm faith in their own abilities, the conscious decision to meticulously conceal your identity at the beginning of your career is something else entirely. It is an act that exemplifies utterly unshakable and self-assured conviction that you are capable of blowing everything else around you out of the water, as soon as you decide it’s time.

So, what do we know so far?

A new musical force exists on the Ayrshire/Glasgow scene, a cross-section of local musicians are in possession of snippets of tracks, sparse communication has taken place via anonymous email addresses and the name of the files (30072012) appears to point to the 30th July as some sort of significant date.

This piece can be taken as a confident prediction that, come that date, the local scene will be awash with rumour and the hard drives of anyone with even a passing interest in unsigned music will play host to a file named 30072012.

Until then, eyes peeled!

Libertine – One who acts without moral restraint; a dissolute person. One who defies established religious precepts; a freethinker.

Today Scottish and Newcastle Pub Company closed the doors on a venue that has become popular with Ayr’s musicians. During its short lifespan, The Libertine had become a sort of home away from home for a close-knit group of local bands and artists.

The venue had already failed as a business venture once when the most recent staff took charge of it but, evidently, they thought that their ‘Libertine vision’ could succeed where the previous one had fallen flat. Sadly, it would appear that this was not the case.

It is, however, a testament to the popularity and significance of the venue that the regulars and performers have embarked upon a campaign to attempt to undo the second demise of what had come to be their social and creative hub. Petitions, free gigs and peaceful protests have abounded, capturing the attention of the local media and the hearts and minds of Ayr’s music lovers.

With that in mind, this feature is not to be taken as another facet of the rescue campaign. The aim here is simply to take a retrospective look at the positives and negatives of the venue and the way it was operated the second time around.

So, what was good about The Libertine?

For one thing, The Libertine staff were clearly committed to ensuring the place lived up to the expectations set by its name. Fairly shabby and makeshift in appearance, this was a place with a definite ‘anything goes’ vibe. The downstairs pub had a chaotic layout and music that tended toward the deafening; The upstairs venue had tatty posters of rock icons and a floor that visibly shook during performances. One or two ever-present regulars with questionable personal hygiene and behaviour called into question the existence of any sort of discretion when it came to ejecting or barring the unruly; The barstaff were so friendly and chilled out that any given night in the place felt like an unsanctioned lock-in.

Basically, whereas other spots of The Libertine’s ilk merely toy with the ideas of hedonism and organised chaos, The Libertine was closer than most to being the real deal.

Another huge plus was the scope The Libertine provided local musicians for creativity. Granted, only a select group of artists seemed to be truly taken under the venue’s wing but this appeared to be a direct result of their status as loyal customers, which is fair enough. These musicians were given frequent opportunities to organise and play gigs, filling the rest of the bill with whoever they pleased, and an open mic night took place every Wednesday (organised and hosted by Luther Hall, of Ayr’s own Sigma Logic) which allowed for the continued harvesting of fresh talent. As if this wasn’t enough, the upstairs performance area was available as a free practice space for local musicians on nights when no gigs were scheduled.

All of this goes to show that this was an establishment which was commited to making itself an integral part of the local music community.

It seems as though it should have been perfect. So, what went wrong?

The exact same things as the first time around!

The two problems that originally killed this fantastic idea were the inconvenient location of the venue and the lack of incentive to disregard this first issue.

In a relatively small town, where most everything music-related takes place in or just off of one street, The Libertine was placed just a little far out of convenient reach. When the target audience for a new venue is young musicians and music enthusiasts, it is essential that said establishment is placed within their existing social circuit.

Why expect them to go out of their way to come to you?

Unless, that is, you are smart enough to draw them in with the universal currency of the young and sociable… cheap booze and entry!

Unfortunately, as well as being awkwardly located, Libertine lacked any promotions capable of drawing in a regular clientele large enough to get the place off the ground. A savvy business mind would have looked to how the student-oriented pubs and clubs of Glasgow draw in loyal customers.

Why were there entry fees for the opening night and the early gigs!?

Where were the £1 drinks!?

Why did no one think to create a loyalty card!?

No initial concession was granted to potential customers and, as a result, the majority of these potential customers were lost from the outset.

Without a doubt, those who did make The Libertine their local fell in love with the place. It’s just a shame that no one involved took the risk of sacrificing a little more of the initial profit, in order to reel in and convert the masses.

To anyone accomplished at spotting a pattern, it would seem highly probable that someone else will try, once again, to succeed where others have failed with this venture. However, taking into account this problem of undesirable location, it may be prudent not to think of The Libertine as the building it previously inhabited but, instead, as a set of ideals which can be cultivated anywhere. In other words, take the positive aspects of the previous incarnations and develop them in a new, more convenient, location.

Certainly, every amateur music scene needs its Libertine and the potential remains for the third attempt to yield a thriving (and profitable) cultural and creative hub. It just needs to be located, as stated earlier, within the current circuit.

So… to the numerous groups of entrepreneurial friends all over Ayrshire talking about “taking it over and doing it right” …

Take heed!

Countless open mic nights take place in Ayrshire throughout every week. They all play host to talented performers and most have garnered a fair reputation. Talk to those involved in the local live music circuit and you’ll hear positive things about every one of them.

Such market saturation is always going to create a breeding ground for healthy competition. Naturally, the purveyors of each of these occasions are going to want their night to be the most talked about and revered.

For a night to achieve this status, there are several criteria which have to be met: A loyal following, dedication, a charismatic public face and a unique aspect that sets the evening apart from the rest.

With this in mind, let’s look at the extent to which the Su Casa Acoustic Night is managing to fulfil these requirements and, in turn, ascertain whether or not it’s worthy of five of your hard earned pounds each week.

The owners, Lucas and Ben, clearly realised from the outset that a loyal following is built and maintained almost exclusively through good people skills and positive public perception. If Su Casa can make its guests feel welcome, they’ll keep coming back and if they enjoy themselves, they’ll tell their friends about it. With this in mind, Su Casa’s creators appear to have decided to ensure that each person who attends their acoustic night receives a warm greeting from one or both of them. After a bit of friendly banter to get the positive vibes flowing, you are given a stamp and offered glasses for any beverages you may have brought with you.

Once upstairs, you’re left to your own devices for the most part, allowing the feeling that Su Casa Thursdays are about you doing what you want to do. True to the translation of the name (“your house”), all in attendance are allowed to feel at home. The only time the owners really intervene in the evening’s proceedings is halfway through the evening, when they dish out slices of pizza to the utmost delight of everyone present.

When you’re leaving the venue, one of the guys will once again be on hand to personally bid you goodnight and let you know what’s happening next Thursday.

Add to this the proprietors’ eagerness to immerse themselves in the local community, having manned a stall at the Burns an a’ that festival, their attendance at other local music gigs and willingness to display posters and flyers for such events and it’s clear they’re working hard to gain a loyal following.

What about the question of dedication and commitment then?

Well, because Su Casa is primarily a coffee house and this acoustic night is about a passion for supporting local music, Ben and Lucas have decided not to make a monetary return from it. Your entry fee covers all of their outlays, but their profit will be the profile boost for the business itself, thus linking back to the idea of positive public perception.

Any such positive press is undoubtedly a pleasing prospect for the owners, given the sheer amount of hard graft that has gone into creating Su Casa. They have essentially managed to turn what was originally a fairly small local bakery into a modern coffee house and arts venue with a genuinely warm and welcoming atmosphere. Their DIY ethos is visible in the decor itself, with an as-yet-to-be-completed handpainted mural of a tree (aptly illustrating the place’s potential for further growth) on one wall and LPs and pictures of local musicians adorning the others.

As you can see, dedication and commitment are also covered.

The public face for the acoustic night is none other than Ayr’s own Jamie McGeechan, a.k.a Little Fire, who was cemented as the evening’s weekly host back in its early days. Since then, Little Fire’s music career and popularity have exploded and the benefits of this are two-fold. For one thing, his presence as host and regular performer is enough to draw a crowd in itself and, in addition to this, his high level of involvement and wealth of contacts in the Ayrshire music scene allow him to handpick a fantastic variety of performers. Charismatic public face? Sorted!

There are also several elements that combine to make the evening unique. First of all, inkeeping with the idea of the efforts not being for monetary profit, a policy is in operation which permits attendees the freedom to bring along their own wine, beer or cider. This is obviously an enticing prospect for those who find Friday and Saturday nights out hard enough to pay for, without throwing a bar bill for Thursday into the mix.

Su Casa also puts a spin on the traditional format of the open mic night in that, while anyone is welcome to play, acts must sign up in advance. This does, of course, beg the question whether this truly is an open mic night, but it is not without its advantages. As well as ensuring the enthusiasm and commitment of performers, it also means there is a dialogue running between owners, host and local musicians throughout the week and not just for the duration of the event itself. This, it could be argued, goes to show the positive influence Su Casa has on the local music community.

Finally, there is the insistence that all songs performed are the original work of the artist playing. This cements Su Casa as a hive of creativity and ensures the audience experience something a little different than the same tired cover versions heard in so many other places.

So, there you go! On paper, it looks as though Su Casa is on track for that much coveted status we spoke of earlier. However, the only real way to decide is to try it out for yourself and see how the vibe sits with you. So, if you fancy it, a fiver’s entry fee affords you an evening of music, pizza, friendly vibes and a tipple of your own choosing. What better way to start your weekend?

Official Website

Elgato on Facebook (For live video performances from Su Casa)

Little Fire on Facebook