Festival Season is Over. . .

Thats the festival season over for another year for me.   I was quite late in getting to festivals, mainly because I was normally more interested in going on holiday around the summer months and so missed out on them.    Over the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to be able to visit some of Scotland’s best offerings as part of my job in music.

I’ve came to know Belladrum quite well – The Tartan Heart Festival in the glorious highlands of Scotland.   A nice family vibe with plenty to see and do, a real feast for the senses all around with some great bands through the years.    We’ve also been lucky enough to be able to give some live opportunities to some of the young artists we work with on the music project.

We’ve also become regular visitors to The Great Escape in Brighton, another wonderful festival that is actually overwhelming with the amount of talent and bands on offer everyday, I’ve saw some incredible bands and music industry panels at this festival.   An absolute gem.

This year I managed to secure some tickets to take the family (Joan, Amélie, Leo, Nina and Myself) to Electric Fields in Drumlanrig Castle Estate down in Dumfries.   This felt like a much smaller affair but with some excellent acts and a real cool family vibe and we met some absolutely lovely folks there enjoying the festivities.   I hope to go back next year.

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Belladrum

Our annual trip to Belladrum – The Tartan Heart Festival as its affectionately known to all who travel up to Beauly, just outside Inverness.    This year we had real difficulty securing accommodation within our budget, and so jokingly suggested hiring a camper van.   As it turned out, it was the best option and we decided on a Rollerteam 694 which was perfect.

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One of the great parts of my working life is that I get the pleasure to work with and meet some very talented young musicians, singer songwriters, performers and people who are keen to be involved in the music industry in some capacity.    This year I had the pleasure to invite some of the acts to play at Belladrum.   I could imagine being 16 years old and being on the receiving end of that email and being asked to play my first festival.   It was great to offer this opportunity to these talented young folks.

We set off from Ayrshire, and took to the road on a beautifully sunny day and as we approached Pitlochry we had a stop with some coffee and switched drivers.   I took the spell into the highlands as we headed through Inverness into the site where we picked up our production passes.    An evening of cards, and beers as we listened to the end of the set by the Proclaimers.

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Over the weekend we managed to catch so many acts, all of the Music Plus acts included Hollie Atkinson, Alice Bentley, Michiel Turner, Jemma Tweedie, Beautiful Expectations, Chainsaw Tea Party, Something Someone, The Elephant Sessions, Josephine Sillars, Aylee and many more.   We caught Prides, Fatherson, Man of Moon, KLOË, King Creosote, The Mirror Trap, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas, Neon Waltz, Honeyblood, Hector Bizerk, Findlay Napier, and Model Aeroplanes.

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Leaving the site on the evening of the Saturday after the mighty show by Fatherson was a wise and calculated decision and allowed us to get all the way down through Aviemore to spend the evening on the banks of Loch Morlich before heading home in the morning to return the motorhome.

Commonwealth Games and Other Short Stories.

Its been quite a while since posting anything really, well except the frequent 140 character tweet, random Facebook post or mildly humorous youtube clip, so I thought it was about time I did a proper catch up.   This is really for me to mark time, and simply take stock, but its cool if you’re interested too.

So, I’ve just returned from taking Amélie (now two and a half years old) for a wee walk around our neighbourhood and now enjoying the smell and taste of a 12 year old Highland Park complimented by warm string sounds on the fantastic new album ‘Lights in the Sky’ by Peter Gregson.   Its a good time to post something.

// Commonwealth Games

Firstly, the Commonwealth Games have now left the wonderfully proud city of Glasgow.   What an excellent time we had.   We were lucky enough to catch the rhythmic gymnastics on day one, and then see my good friend and colleague Louise Mather compete for Team Scotland in the weightlifting.   Over the two weeks of the games being hosted here, we managed to get out to see loads of great events during the festival that surrounded the sporting events.    We visited the newly refurbished Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow Green, and some events further out in the city.   Some of the best bits were; Remember Remember, Rachel Sermanni, James Grant, Commonwealth Youth Dance Festival, James Yorkston, Errors, and Admiral Fallow.   And all for free.

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// Music Plus

Many of my closest friends and even family members often ask me that dreaded question everyone who works in music is terrified of, “So, what is it that you actually do?”

Over the last year, I’ve been more involved in the national music mentoring project that I work on as a coordinator.   Through hiring someone else to take on most of the admin side of the project, it has allowed me more time to do some of the actual mentoring, and throughout the year I’ve come to realise that its that part of the job that I love the most.   Hearing the music and ambitions of young people becoming something.   Offering advise and a helping hand.   Listening to problems and difficulties whether music related or not.   Its been a great time of learning for me as well as the talented young people I work with.   I have the unique opportunity in my job to programme some excellent events and workshops and have the privilege to have met and worked with some wonderful people throughout the last few years of doing it.

“So, what is it that you actually do?”, Did I not answer it?

// Two Men on a Boat

Another piece of work I am proud of taking part in was the recent album by Findlay Napier and Chris Sherburn.   I was asked by Findlay if I would be able to design the artwork for the album, and the theme was all based around a boat, well the album is called ‘Two Men on a Boat’, so I used the photography they had from the recording sessions and turned it around for them.   I was proud to see the final result, and the album is great too.

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// A Beard?

Yes, I had given into the trend and decided to grow a beard.  A belter you might say.   It didn’t go down as well as expected with family and friends, Joni didn’t mind it, Amélie liked it i think, and I loved it.  So its off just now for the summer holiday to Kefalos in Kos we are preparing for, but I’m sure it will be back in time for winter.   It turns out I shave more when I have a beard too, mainly to keep it tidy and be absolutely sure that people understand that its a BEARD, and i’ve not just been lazy with my shaving routine.

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Lastly, I’m still keeping up with cycling to work everyday, its a 15 mile commute (return) so it keeps me fit and saves me a fortune on bus fares.   I also love the way cycling makes me feel, I have more energy, I can go at my own pace, I feel the sun on my face and the rain on my back.   Also, over the last few months I’ve been exceptionally lucky.   I’ve won a track pump from the Glasgow Bike Station, and a Tokyo Bike.   Both are very handy.

Well, nearly lastly. .  We’ve also started listening to vinyl at home.  I can highly recommend it, it keeps you in the same room and forces you to listen and not watch TV or skip tracks on your CD or iPod.    I’ve also began reading a great book on the early days of soul called ‘Sweet Soul Music’ by Peter Guralnick.   We’ve also been really enjoying the TV series of Fargo.

Oh, and I’m voting YES in the Independence Referendum.

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 Until we meet again. . .

Carnival

Nothing makes you feel happier than the sound of a carnival parade and the beating of drums and the bouncing brass that often accompanies it. This was the reason for my Sunday afternoon trip into the west end of Glasgow to see the festival parade, which once took place along Byres Road (and I hope it one day will again).

For the last couple of years, the ‘authorities’ have decided to tuck the parade into Kelvingrove Park, a bad idea in my opinion as it feels less like the way it used to and more like its better now that “its out the way of traffic”. It could be said that the reason it was so good in previous years was due to the fact that it stopped traffic and felt completely different from normal Sunday’s in this busy street. All the businesses would be outside selling their wears, restaurants having al fresco tables, and even carousel rides and street entertainers. Now it feels like just a ‘party in the park’.

My main reason for posting this blog is that the day was in some ways a complete contrast. By this I mean. . .

Sitting in the pub garden at the foot of Byres Road waiting for a good friend of mine to arrive, I had a pint of St. Mungo’s ale – which if you haven’t tried – you really should. While I was waiting I heard the beating of drums and the unmistakable sound of flutes playing those bitter melodies that are steeped in hatred and ignorance. Yes it was an Orange March, Glasgow’s finest, Scotland’s Shame!

Have a listen to it here. .

I couldn’t help noticing that not one of the players were at all happy or smiling as they beat the drums even louder and louder as they passed the Catholic Church of Saint Simon’s in Partick. Anyway this was more obvious to me as I watched the main parade I had come to see, where all the players were so excited and happy to be there, you could hear the difference in the sound and feel it in the air, it was positive!

Have a listen here. .

Who could live in a house like this?

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What does your house sound like?

Its funny how responding positively to a twitter post of 140 characters can become a catalyst for such an exciting and unique opportunity.

I read about a series of field recordings going on around Glasgow for the experimental music festival that takes place once a year titled INSTAL, this was a preview festival which was creatively titled UNINSTAL.   I was interested when they announced that they were looking for houses to record and to use in a live performance, I answered their request instantly offering my home as a place they were invited to visit and record (without telling my wife obviously).  I received an email explaining that they had decided to come and visit me in November for the festival (this was in March) because I was a musician they had another idea they wanted to use for the full festival.   They kept to their promise and last week I spent a Saturday afternoon with two very interesting French sound artists, Jean Luc Guionnet and Eric la Casa.

They arrived around 3pm with boxes and bags of equipment and under careful instruction and very precise timings I was invited to play various instruments around the rooms of my house and they moved around the house with various microphone setups both inside the house and outside in the garden.  I was then asked to speak into various microphones and dictaphones about what I had played and why I had chosen to play the instrument in the chosen room of my house.

The experience was completely incredible, it was exciting, terrifying, fun and quite awkward at some quiet moments where we never really had much to discuss except the fact that we never knew anything about each other but we were all interested in sound in some way.

Basically what we were left at the end of the afternoon as we approached 7pm was a sonic portrait of my house which contains an beautifully orchestrated accidental mixture of: music, doors opening and closing, taps running, boilers, footsteps, airplanes, cars and buses etc. .




Please take some time out and enjoy the sound of my house, and take a look at the pictures to experience it to the full.   This is likely to return to Glasgow as a performance in the very near future, I’ll keep you posted!