The North-East’s music scene gets a (encouraging-rather-than-aggressive) kick up the arse this weekend (November 24th/25th) as a ridiculous number of talented musicians descend upon The Tunnels (or is it just ‘Tunnels’? the ‘The’ could be superfluous if you want to be awkward.)
Basically, this might be the most important thing to happen to the local scene since ‘Guitar Wifey’ moved in. For half the price of a Killers ticket, you get to see 20 acts, all organised by the always dependable Aberdeen Gig Promotions. Mathematically speaking, it’s something of a bargain. There’s also a pretty admirable mix of established veterans, exciting outfits ready for the next step, and generally less well-known local artists ready to capitalise on their opportunity to share a bill with some more experienced, well-loved faces. There’s a proper diversity in genre too. Everything’s being chucked into this – acoustic singer-songwriters, folk, pop, rock, indie, electro. No Celtic-rhumba-jazz-fusion, or Christian-folk-metal, unfortunately, but hey – maybe next year.
So, who exactly is playing? I’ll resist going for any literary curveballs, and just stick with running through it in chronological order. Saturday begins with a couple of acoustic singer-songwriters – the musical equivalent of a warm up and light stretch. Or, in my case, pre-drinking. The hype train behind local wunderkind Cara Mitchell will aim to gain momentum, as she brings her new E.P Have You Ever Wondered to Tunnels once again. You need to hear her voice, if you haven’t already. There’s also Foxes frontman and all-round culture enthusiast (he acts as well don’cha know) Nigel Thomas. Give his solo stuff a listen (pick it up FOR FREE here) and there’s a definite sense that he loves the freedom he has doing it himself – he has fun, you have fun, everyone’s happy. Apparently it was recorded in his bedroom, for heaven’s sake. A comfortable, conducive atmosphere for pouring one’s heart out? Or an excuse to not have to get dressed in the morning? You decide.
Once Nigel’s been shooed off, enthusiastic Dundonian rockers The Mirror Trap will look to blow everyone’s wee minds. Their Facebook biography might be the best thing I’ve ever read, and the passion so readily displayed there comes across in their live performances. Their strength mostly relies on their lyrics – don’t worry, they’ve got riffs, but it’s the underlying sense of unsettlement behind ‘My Alabama’ that truly sets it apart from the pile marked “landfill indie”. Then there’s Tacado, who after winning a Facebook poll to earn a slot on the bill, will have to perform well or else democracy itself will suffer (in case The X Factor hasn’t killed everyone’s faith in it already). They’ll be completely different to anything on before them. They’re difficult to consign to a genre, but safe to say they’ll make you want to dance even though it’s only the afternoon. They really are a band that’ll want to use this thing as a springboard.
This Silent Forest really epitomise that genre that has almost been appropriated exclusively by Scottish bands – that kind of melodic, lilting but emotional indie rock that soars in all the right places. There are echoes of everyone from Idlewild to The Twilight Sad. They’ll aim to prove they’re impressive in their own right on Saturday.
Hugely popular local alt-rock group Forest Fires don’t really need an introduction to most Aberdonian gig-goers. ‘Recovery’ and ‘Trial And Error’ are massive indie anthems, and if recent track ‘Avalanche’ is anything to go by they’re maturing into a slightly heavier but still melodically-inclined rock group. They’re also an incendiary live prospect (yup, that’s right, incendiary, let that one sink in). For some reason, you can get most of their music for free, here. Don’t expect the same generosity when their new E.P. comes out early next year (quote: “It’ll be out January. So it’ll probably be out February.” Pfffft, musicians.)
The phenomenally titled Tango In The Attic have a solid reputation for putting on a great live show. As well as being the best thing to come out of Glenrothes since Dougray Scott, they’re one of the most innovative bands of the weekend. Look out for seamless transitions between thrashing indie, smooth pop and spiky electro.
Alliteration enthusiasts Brown Bear & the Bandits kind of sound like The View decided the best thing for their careers would be to make a Mumford & Sons cover album. But with less banjos. And though that might be the worst description of anything ever, that’s genuinely the gist of their cheeky, dirty folk-pop. Matt Hickman (lead vocals) just sounds like a bit of a rascal. The young SAMA-winning three-piece will be trying to consolidate some North-East momentum.
French Wives are perhaps one of the most hotly anticipated bands of the weekend. They’ll be doing the penultimate set on the Saturday, so look for them to absorb all the momentum from those who came before them and just unleash it all back, like some sort of suave, sonically pleasing hyper-beam (yes, that’s a Pokémon reference, for anyone too old/too young). Their album Dream of the Inbetween was released in May, and it’s loaded with string-laden indie-pop anthems. Like Feeder, when they were good. ‘Younger’ is truly epic and ‘Me vs Me’ just oozes charm. If they can make all this translate in the cold, dark depths of Tunnels then they might be a contender for highlight of the weekend.
Katie Sutherland, or as you may know her, ‘yon quine fae Pearl & The Puppets’, has the duty of headlining Saturday night. Probably best known for the playfully happiness-inducing ‘Because I Do’, she and her band will look to give a memorable set to top off a memorable night. Her more recent solo stuff certainly doesn’t indicate a departure from the jaunty acoustic-pop of the aforementioned track, but there’s maybe an element of maturity that, understandably wasn’t there 2 or 3 years ago. It’s a lovely progression, and one that gives great hope for a polished, beautiful set on Saturday. The best comparison is perhaps to Feist – not only is there a vocal resemblance but she also took a successful if slightly twee base of interest and used it to draw people into her, where they just couldn’t get out. That’s definitely a good thing by the way.
Sunday promises just as many potential eargasms, if you’re not too tired. Megan Blyth kicks things off with some hangover-friendly acoustic stuff. Aberdeen has plenty great ‘girls with guitars’ (look up Leanne Smith, Margaret Finlayson, Rambler, Leighann Esslemont and of course you know about Cara Mitchell), it’s something of a challenge just getting noticed. This is a great opportunity for Megan to get her foot in the door. Her songs are heartfelt and she’s got an interesting tone that one senses hasn’t nearly been fully explored yet. Turn up early to find out how she’s doing with that.
Cats In Capes will take to the stage, to build some afternoon momentum with their laid-back indie (not a sentence I thought I’d ever have to write, that). They’re a band very much on the up. But the tracks they’ve got so far suggest plenty confidence and a sort of versatility that few young bands could pull off so effortlessly. They’re followed by AGP favourites The Winter Tradition. They describe themselves as ‘pop-rock’ but, depending on your definition of the genre, they might be selling themselves a little short. There’s great musicality about them, and – particularly live – their soundscapes and atmosphere are just as impressive as any catchy chorus they might come out with.
The Mouse That Ate The Cat have one of the most hotly anticipated sets of the weekend. There was dismay of almost Shakespearean proportions when The Dykeenies formally split this year – I like to think of it as people of a certain age’s ‘Take That incident’ – but frontman Brian Henderson is back, along with former Drive-by Argument chappy Colin Keenan. What does this new project sound like? Well you’ll have to go along to the gig to find out (I’m good at this promotion lark). I can tell you that it’s just as catchy as anything either of them have done before, but it’s obvious that they’re broadening their horizons a little. That vague enough for you?
Much hyped English rockers Angry vs The Bear have a pretty sleek brand of edgy pop going for them. Of course it would be naïve to define them by this alone, but the fact they’re fronted by a GIRL (!) should mean they’re at least providing something different. There must be something about bears that appeals to a musician. A third, if slightly more morbid group appears this weekend in the form of Penguins Kill Polar Bears. The local favourites are back in the game with their trademark almost post-rock wall of sound. They’re the kind of band that usually sound great in a venue like Tunnels, and many people are expecting them to do really well on Sunday.
Stirling indie-poppers Miniature Dinosaurs are probably one of Scotland’s greatest hopes for true commercial success at the moment. They recently released their Turn It On E.P, and critics and fans have been secreting fluids over it at an alarming rate. They’ve got a strange but definite kind of charisma, and the tunes to back it up. ‘Lemonade’ is sensational theatrical indie-pop. Also, they’re driving 10 straight hours to get up to The Deen in time for the gig, to raise funds for Scottish Autism. How cute are they? Seriously though, it would be amazing to get as much raised for that amazing cause as possible. We don’t want to have to phone Bono. Donate here.
Duke are quite surely becoming a favourite within the local music scene. Reminiscient of (sorry) Biffy Clyro, they have their own fresh-faced energy to go with the adventurous rhythms, soaring choruses and searing riffage. They stay the right side of the pop-rock/alt-rock line at all times, and they’ve identified where that line is alarmingly quickly. They should be good. Just don’t shout ‘Mon the Duke!’, or anything similarly upsetting.
The Fire And I are regarded as a pretty formidable live prospect. They’ve basically pilfered all the best aspects of pop, punk, alternative and post-hardcore to craft this riotous collection of hooks and heavy riffs. Tunnels is in for a noisy night. The Fire And I are basically made for this sort of venue: dirty (in a good way), stabbing, but still inherently musical rock music. With any luck they might treat the crowd to some material from their unreleased (and probably as yet unfinished) second album.
So, after 19 artists that couldn’t get more varied, it’s up to Fatherson to headline the whole shebang. Poor things. It’s pretty handy then, that Fatherson are rather good. The Killie quartet/occasional quintet are pretty well loved, and were something of a no-brainer in terms of picking a headliner. They’ve got that lovely Scottish lilt. They’ve got choruses – good choruses. Emotive lyrics: check. In short, they’ve got everything necessary to provide a cathartic finale to a bloody huge weekend. This shit’s better than Twilight. To be honest, if you don’t have much of an interest in local music, or don’t think you’d like it, go to this and find out for sure. You’ll find something you like. Probably a few things. It’ll change your life. Ok, it probably won’t change your life, but it’ll be the most important weekend Tunnels, Aberdeen Gig Promotions and quite a few bands have experienced in a long while.
Here’s what you need to know:
It’s Saturday and Sunday the 24th and 25th of November.
It’s 3pm-11pm both days.
Tickets cost £12.50 each day, or £22 for both. Get tickets from One Up or the AGP website.
Have a look at the Facebook event page, and click ‘Attending’. Yes, you do actually have to attend as well.