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“Pretend you’re happy when you’re blue, it isn’t very hard to do”

It’s fair to say I wasn’t sure what to expect from Indietracks. Sure, I’d seen Jeannie Finlay’s excellent documentary and heard all the stories from my fellow Indiefjorders but I hadn’t experienced it for myself so you never really know, do you? I had a touch of the Norwegian blues since my return from Scandinavia. It had been the most amazing adventure in a spectacularly beautiful part of the world and it took me a while to get over it. The happiness of the welcome from locals and visitors was only matched by the sadness of the departure. Hopefully I’d return one day.

The journey to Indietracks in Derbyshire was very different from the multi-vehicular trip to Bjørke. The logistics of trying to negotiate public transport options between Derby train station (the nearest mainline station), Swanwick Junction (home to Indietracks) and my chosen accommodation at the other Premier Inn in Alfreton* proved to be overwhelmingly complex. With petrol costs from Fife to Alfreton on a par with the train-bus combo, the Astra was loaded up and I headed for The South.

(*Whilst in Alfreton, well on the outskirts, it’s actually called, rather confusingly, Premier Inn Mansfield)

Breaking up what should’ve been a five-hour (ish) journey with a stop at the motorway services at Tebay, the drive to England seemed straightforward. Refreshed with black coffee (my new Norwegian habit still intact) and gin and rosemary cake, I ventured onwards to Scotch Corner. Only I didn’t get very far before, on the A66, I ground to a shuddering halt and a slow, crawl towards the A1 ensued. A combination of road works and the start of the Friday rush hour – both of which I had failed to contemplate – put paid to me arriving on time. I naively thought 3pm would be doable. What was I thinking? Idiot.

More encounters with the rush hour near Sheffield and Chesterfield (or thereabouts) brought on a shortening temper but, two hours later than scheduled, I finally arrived at the hotel. Any chance of unpacking to the do-do do-do doodly-doot of the Countdown theme with a cup of Premier Inn’s finest sacheted coffee went out the window somewhere in Yorkshire. I rushed a quick shower, a change of t-shirt (after much consideration the blue Spiller Records one got the nod) and I headed off to the other Premier Inn (10-15 minutes away depending on traffic) to pick up Steve and Matt (fellow Indiefjorders) and their mate Rob.

The gates opened at 5pm on the Friday at Indietracks and we made it there for around 6pm, an hour before the first band was due on stage. I parked up at Butterley station and we took the short train journey to Swanwick Junction.

As regulars at Indietracks over the years I sought Steve and Matt’s expert guidance as to where everything was and what was the done thing (Steve had been every year since 2014 and this was Matt’s second visit. This was the 11th year of Indietracks). I had naively wondered if there was a site map. They kept their mocking to a minimum as it dawned on me the site was actually rather small. Compact and bijou you might say. Everything centred around an archetypal English village green, albeit one with a slope. The main Outdoor Stage was at the bottom, the Merchandise Tent and handful of food vans looking down from the top, the church across the road and the Indoor Stage (re-fashioned from its regular use as an engine shed) a short two-minute walk back past the station. There was also a train in use as a buffet car and a steamroller.

Despite the shower I still felt a bit icky and I was tired and a bit grumpy. Traffic will do that to the most reasonable of people. The nagging doubt that this definitely wouldn’t be as good as Indiefjord and I would therefore definitely not enjoy it didn’t help. How could it follow Indiefjord? It didn’t stand a chance. The depressive downward spiral of Murphy’s Law lingered.

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There were only three bands on the Friday night but the rain (and inevitable puddles and mud) had meant they would open the weekend from the Indoor Stage rather than outdoors as originally planned. Thankfully the first band on were old friends from two weeks ago and this lightened my mood somewhat. Kid Canaveral, utilising their squad rotation system, brought back Scott behind the drums, replacing Audrey whose (Wo)Man of the Match performance in Norway brought many plaudits (the drum kit is recovering well in hospital). Rose still wasn’t available for selection so Randolph’s Leap ‘s Vicky Cole came off the bench to play bass. Michael returned on keyboards.

A blistering set ensued. So much so that Michael’s keyboard stand collapsed mid-song. Ever the trooper, after a small moment of bemusement, he got down and continued to play it as it lay on the stage floor. TeenCanteen weren’t around to reprise their backing vocals role for You Only Went Out To Get Drunk Last Night, as they were enduring their own road to hell with traffic issues on their drive up from the previous night’s gig in Brighton. So, after a quick visit to the merchandise tent to shift some product, press some flesh and sticker anyone who wasn’t moving with a Lost Map logo, Kid Canaveral were gone. God speed to the Isle of Eigg for Howlin’ Fling!

Still not feeling on top form (and having taken advice) I gave Chorusgirl a miss (sorry) and went in search of food. The gin and rosemary cake seemed such a long time ago. All bets were off in relation to keeping up my recent weight loss and a double cheeseburger was the order of the day.

Suitably refueled, an early visit to the merchandise tent was in order. I figured that if I was to get any t-shirt for the ‘fuller figure’ I’d best get them now, before the weekend rush. The official light blue Indietracks t-shirt looked rather nice but as I prepared to hand over the cash I was informed by a laminate-endorsed gentleman standing beside me that there was only one 2XL t-shirt left and he had reserved it! Seriously? This didn’t help my mood. I took my business elsewhere and settled instead for a green Elefant Records.

Maybe it’s my age, maybe it was my mood but I didn’t particularly enjoy headliners Martha. I decided to put it down to me rather than them. They were certainly popular and the engine shed was jumping but they weren’t for me. Let’s leave it at that.

While the guys decided to stay on for the Early Doors disco (yes, those crazy guys from Norway again), the campsite entertainment of choice, I made my excuses and returned to my hotel. Not before taking a wrong turn somewhere and ending up in an Alfreton housing estate. It seems rather inconveniently, that one of the streets there shares a post code with my digs!

Another early morning alarm thanks to my impatient body clock saw me rise early on Saturday. I was refreshed and ready for a better day. Rather than hang around my hotel or attack the all-you-can-eat breakfast of the neighbouring Brewer’s Fayre, I decided to start the day more positively. A quick bit of research found the local leisure centre had lane swimming early between 9 and 10. It’s not very rock ‘n’ roll but it was just what the doctor ordered. Forty lengths later, terminated early with a touch of cramp, I felt recharged and ready to face the day, albeit delicately scented with chlorine.

As with most Indietrackers I had a vague plan of what I wanted to see. Being a man who knows what he likes, I imagine my band bucket list was a lot shorter than other revellers. However, when the finalised stage times were announced my heart sank. The Perfect English Weather – a side project for Wendy and Simon of The Popguns – were playing the steam train at exactly the same time as TeenCanteen were on the indoor stage on Saturday. Also, The Orchids and The Just Joans, who were scheduled back to back on the Outdoor Stage on the Sunday afternoon were going head-to-head with the Indietracks quiz in the marquee. What to do? It’s like trying to pick your favourite child.

Not having my finger on the pulse of new music as much as I did in the 80s or 90s – 1900s not 1800s – I tend to see new bands by accident, whether in support slots or in festivals like this one. Agent blå blew me away in Bjørke and I had hoped for similar enlightenment in Derbyshire.

When the train pulled into Swanwick I was amused by the sound of a small boy repeatedly saying “penis” over and over again, much to his dad’s nervous embarrassment. Only when approached by four girls alighting the train behind the family, asking the boy if he wanted a picture with them, did the boy lose his cockiness. They were the band Peaness! As I crossed the bridge spanning the platforms behind the family I said to the dad “I hope he doesn’t find out there’s a planet called Uranus”.

I liked the Pillow Queens on the Indoor Stage, if only for the honesty of singing in their normal accents. None of this trying to sound American nonsense. Thanks a million girls. I enjoyed them so much that I stayed for the whole set and missed almost all of The Pooches on the Outdoor Stage. I’d seen them at Pop South in Glasgow with The Orchids and was impressed with their tunes, if not their dress sense.

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Three o’clock on Saturday saw one of my personal highlights. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t enjoy TeenCanteen. They were great in Norway, despite Carla’s heavy cold, and now, with a fully fit Carla, they were on top form. (Stat: This was the 22nd time I’d seen the various incarnations of TeenCanteen, including Carla’s solo shows, surpassing my previous record of 21 attendances at gigs by 90s Sheffield band One Thousand Violins). They continued their recent habit of closing their set of glitzy glam girl group pop with a mash-up of TLC’s Waterfalls and All Saints’ I Know Where It’s At. Truly glorious.

A quick chat with TeenCanteen and it was off to see a bit of Peaness on the Outdoor Stage. I wondered if the wee boy was at the front of the stage. Maybe he was trying to get a seat in the Church for Crywank (the worst band name in history).

I didn’t know the music of anyone else who was due to play and despite glimpses of Hayman Kupa Band, Joanne Gruesome, Lucky Soul and Frankie Cosmos I spent much of the time wandering round catching up with the handful of people I knew. I returned to the Merchandise Tent in forgiving mood and picked up an Indietracks tote bag for my wife, a t-shirt for my daughter and a fridge magnet. I also picked up The Popguns mighty fine Sugar Kisses album, as well as the Matinee Idols compilation. By the time I’d done all that and made short work of a rather excellent Grande Burrito I was ready for Outdoor Stage headliners The Wedding Present.

The rain just about held off as they launched into hit after hit. I mean, some were proper Top 40 hits and others were just much-loved favourites. It was as near to a Greatest Hits as you could get. A magnificent end to the day.

Having stayed up late in the hotel watching Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull until the early hours I didn’t wake in time for another swim so I decided to venture to the local outlet shopping centre. I asked the internet and it told me that the East Midlands Designer Outlet opened at 10am. Except it didn’t. Every shop had a sign outside saying that due to Sunday Trading Laws they didn’t open until 11am! A wasted journey.

Model Village kicked proceedings on the Outdoor Stage and they reminded me a lot of 10,000 Maniacs, which is definitely a good thing.

While Saturday had been a reasonably nice day, the rain of Friday returned on Sunday and with some force. Thankfully the skies cleared and there was even a glimpse of the sunshine during The Orchids’ set on the Outdoor Stage. I first saw them at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in 1993 and this would be the 12th time I’d seen them live (5th equal on my gig list with The Smiths and Aztec Camera/Roddy Frame, fact fans). Except this time I would have a rather special view.

The band, possibly in a moment of alcohol-fuelled foolishness, decided it might be a good idea for me, Paul (drummer Chris’ brother) and Joe (long-term friend/roadie) to join them on stage for the closing tune, Bringing You The Love, one which had never been played live before. This was Boys’ Own stuff. To be on stage with one of my favourite bands, albeit in the shadows, was unbelievable. I just hoped I didn’t cock it up.

I was to play maracas, while Paul, who was rather more musically adept than me, would be on bongos and tambourine. (Joe declined to join us on account of a stinking hangover). It turned out we were on for the whole set. I’d asked friends to document this momentous day in musical history with photographic evidence lest no-one believed me. It’s fair to say I was no Bez and, yes, I lost the rhythm from time to time, when I got distracted but, do you know what, I had an amazing time and I can’t thank the band enough for inviting me to join them. During Caveman Paul and I even ventured centre stage and had a good old jump around. Growing old disgracefully is the only way to go.

It’s fair to say it took my a while to come down from such a high. I hung around with friends Laurence and Eve, who’d also been in Norway, and we quaffed some ice cream while watching The Just Joans. While The Orchids had managed to avoid any rain The Just Joans weren’t so lucky, with the heavens opening towards the end of their set. We ran for cover.

Steve and Matt, as Bellend Sebastian, finished second in the quiz, by a measly point. It didn’t help when I told them Dusty Springfield’s real name was Mary O’Brien, one of the vital points they’d missed out on. (If I hadn’t been shaking my maracas on stage it could’ve been so different). It turned out that a Twitter acquaintance by the name of Ailsa, who I knew to be a quizzer of note, had won with her team for the second year running. If they win again next year I expect they get to keep the quizmasters!

The Tuts had been another band who had passed me by over the years. Where have I been? Bedecked in wedding dresses the trio put on a cracking show with great tunes and a budget-blowing amount of balloons adorning the set. A cover of Wannabe and an improvised version of British Bulldogs (the crowd parting like the red sea) at the band’s behest before crashing back into each other were among the set highlights.

I wasn’t fussed for Sunday night headliner Cate LeBon (no offence, I just didn’t know any of her stuff) and I headed for the train back to Butterley. I joined Orchids James and John, as well as Joe, on the platform and we mused about local hero Alvin Stardust whose picture had adorned the wall of a local pub they had frequented that day. While not born here Alvin (born Bernard Jewry and also known professionally as Shane Fenton) grew up in Mansfield and is the only person from the town to have a UK number 1 hit. We were also shocked to find out he was no longer with us, having passed away three years earlier. As well as his 70s hits (and 80s comeback hits) he was also the star of a Green Cross Code advert and had been married to actress Lisa Goddard. He also had the most magnificent sideburns since Emmerdale Farm‘s curmudgeonly pub landlord Amos Brearley. They could’ve been made by Axminster they were so luxurious.

It’s probably not fair to compare Indietracks with Indiefjord. They share the same indiepop ethos, one which celebrates music, diversity and, go on I’ll say it, love. Not once, at either festival, was there anything resembling any kind of trouble or major problem. While at Indiefjord you can see every act in Derbyshire there’s always the possibility of a clash, as I found to my cost (The Perfect English Weather, twice!). The van selling dhal running out of cauliflower dhal just as I got to the front of the queue was annoying, only exasperating by a switch to the pizza van queue only to hear there was a 45 minute wait! Minor gripes. I never had to wait more than a few minutes to be served at the bar in the engine shed and I never had to queue for a toilet. There was never a problem getting a seat on the buffet car and even when the heavens opened and people ran for cover it never felt dangerously full anywhere. There’s not many festivals at which you could say that.

I grew to enjoy Indietracks more and more as the weekend went on and, like Indiefjord, I was sad to leave it. My only regret was not staying for at least one of the campsite discos. Like Indiefjord, there seemed to be as many female performers as men. Personally, I don’t care what the male-female split is as long as the music has appeal. Riot girly punk pop played by Hair by Pyrex shouty teens seems to be en vogue but I didn’t particularly enjoy it the first time  in the 90s so a bit less of that please next time. (The New Wave of New Wave of New Wave wouldn’t be a good idea either). One thing Indietracks did excel in though was the number of the stripy t-shirts on show. It was like a bar code convention. They were everywhere!

I would definitely return to both festivals but it would depend entirely on the line-ups. But if I could only do one of them I’m afraid I’d have to plump for the land of trolls, gulost (yellow cheese) and waterfalls. It was simply magical. I hope, as it prepares for its fifth year, it doesn’t lose that special charm.

Finally, I need to offer thanks to a number of people. While I did know some people, I essentially went on my own and I want to thank the following people for making it so enjoyable and tolerating my inane ramblings: Steve, Matt and Rob, Luke and Andrew (Early Doors DJs), Laurence and Eve, Kevin and Linda (Going Up The Country), Silja (Indiefjord organiser), The Orchids, Simon and Wendy (The Popguns/Perfect English Weather), TeenCanteen, Kid Canaveral, Paul, Stuart and Joe (Orchids entourage), Paul Etherington and Ailsa and her quiz team.

 

 

 

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Let’s Get The Party Started!

Men of a certain age (and maybe women too) are wont to embark on a last stab at youthful recklessness in a pathetic attempt to prove that they still have it, whatever it is. This is usually as a result of reaching a particular milestone. Tradition dictates that a 40th or 50th birthday is followed by the purchase of a motorbike, hooking up with a leather-jacketed, bleach-blonde rock chick and riding off into the sunset before the ink on the newly-scribed tattoo has dried.

Not being a fan of motorbikes, or needles (unless giving blood), this option didn’t really hold much appeal. Instead I decided on a more cultural hurrah upon reaching my half century. And so it was, with permission slip in hand from she-who-must-be-obeyed, I headed off to Norway for Indiefjord, the boutique festival for those in the know.

Having been to Oslo the previous year to witness my daughter’s participation in the Norway Cup and starting to learn the language beforehand and, more importantly, falling in love with the country, I couldn’t wait to return and the Indiefjord festival was the perfect excuse. My desire to go was heightened by the knowledge that the headliners of the two-day event, now in its fourth year, were both Scottish bands and both big favourites of mine. The thought of watching glam girl pop pixies TeenCanteen and indie noiseniks Kid Canaveral in a picturesque Norwegian fjord was one I couldn’t turn down.

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From the boathouse across the fjord.

“I hope you’re not in a hurry because the bridge has come to a standstill”

When you’re embarking on a journey that doesn’t have much change out of 1000 miles, and includes a car, two buses, two planes, an airport bus, a ferry and a train, the above words were the last thing I wanted to hear. The driver of Stagecoach’s 747 bus nonchalantly proclaimed that I might not be going anywhere anytime soon. It seems a car had broken down on the Forth Bridge and traffic was at a standstill. This wasn’t the only breakdown taking place as my stress levels heightened. I had only just left my house some 15 minutes before and I was already delayed. The new Queensferry Crossing bridge, due to open in August, can’t open soon enough.

I made it to Edinburgh airport in plenty of time. Of course I did. I was fretting for nothing. Should worrying ever become an Olympic sport I’ll be wearing my GB vest with pride. Assuming it fits. But what if they don’t have any in my size?

The trip to the village of Bjørke for Indiefjord was going to be adventure enough but I had really pushed the boat out/taken the piss (delete as applicable) and bought a ticket for Indietracks too. Norway was only the first leg. For someone who hadn’t been to a festival since the last 1990s (when T in the Park started turning into a nedfest), bookending two festivals at either end of a fortnight was unprecedented.

A flight to Oslo Gardermoen and a quick turnaround for a short flight to Ålesund went without a hitch and I hooked up with three other old-enough-to-know better indie pop fans en route. While I’m more than happy with my own company it was great to hook up with Gail, Matt and Steve and engage in all manner of witty banter and sparkling repartee on the “indiepop” bus to Bjørke. The journey would take two to two and a half hours we were told but not before we stopped off at a supermarket to stock up on beer necessities. Throw in crisps and cheese and three of the major food groups were covered. Bjørke doesn’t have a supermarket or, as far as I could tell, any food shops at all so this was an essential stop off.

The own brand Bare Øl (“Just beer”) and its sidekick Bare Pære Cider were a not unreasonable £2-ish a can. As anyone who has visited Norway will tell you alcohol, as with many things, is expensive. I made sure I stocked up on enough for three days of gigs and parties. Another essential for anyone going to Indiefjord is cash. There is limited scope to use cards as some ill-prepared people found out. Luckily an emergency Saturday morning trip to another ATM, about 15 minutes away by car, and supermarket had been organised.

The journey from the airport, which is situated of the island of Vigra, to the festival’s home in Bjørke flew by and was decorated with an amazing backdrop of greenery, mountains and rolling countryside. Several underwater tunnels were driven through, as well as a transport ferry to Festøyen (The Party Island).

Expecting a traditional hostel with lots of little rooms I was intrigued to find that while I had a nice little double room at Bjørke rom og camping, the bands were all living together in one big room, bedecked with around 40 mattresses on the floor. If I wanted a shower in the morning I’d have to tip toe through the inevitable post—gig wreckage to a small bathroom on the other side. That should be fun. My three bus buddies were situated in the other, more traditional hostel at Hjørundfjord Vandrerhjem, which would also be the venue for Friday night’s Welcome Party.

Local craft beers, courtesy of Grim & Gryt’s pop-up pub, nestled beside a barbecue, a dart board and a roaring fire as the new arrivals mingled. Some had been here before but I was a newbie and keen to know what was the done thing. A polish sausage, some Bare Øl, a loads of banter around the fire made for a great start to the weekend. As it turned out my 1.30am climb into bed would turn out to be something of an early night over the weekend.

It doesn’t get dark for very long around these parts and I woke at 5am. Then 8am. After a light breakfast (yogurt and banana picked up at the supermarket) and a chat with some other early birds I took a stroll down the hill towards the boathouse at Notanaustet. This was to be the venue for the first entertainment of the day, courtesy of the guys from Early Doors Disco. Bedecked in gold lame gowns (think Martin Fry meets the Polyphonic Spree) I heard them before I saw them as the soft rock stylings of John Farnham’s The Voice, swiftly followed Bon Jovi’s poodle perm anthem Livin’ on a Prayer, wafted through the valley. This was no ordinary disco.

The offer of a Juca coffee – I went for San Francisco – and cookie for 50 krone while being serenaded with the likes of Aquarius was too hard to resist. Unfortunately, the coffee took forever to make. The barista Eirik, the very definition of a local ‘character’, was turning coffee-making into something of an art form. I consoled myself that it would be worth the wait, and with an eclectic soundtrack and amazing views it would indeed be worth it. Finally it arrived. Unfortunately the search for milk and sugar proved fruitless – it doesn’t seem to be the done thing for coffee drinkers in these parts – and I wandered off to sit on a log to enjoy my cookie, coffee and cacophonous background mixing easy listening and, er, soft rock! A semi-circle of logs, with scattered cushions looked an ideal resting place. Except the log I chose wasn’t a log at all but a plank and the long-awaited coffee, which I had placed carefully at the end proceeded to project up and swan dived off the plank just as I sat down. More see saw than seat, it went flying! I rescued some of it but most was now worm food. I didn’t let this harsh my Norwegian mellow and I wondered off to the next stop.

Indiefjord HQ was up a hill from the main road but I barely noticed the distance as I took in the views and stopped regularly for photo opportunities. HQ, where we collected our wristbands, was also the starting point for what has been a regular Indiefjord feature. Ivar, aka Indie Dad, leads hardy souls up a mountain towards a hilltop waterfall, with freshwater pool for those brave enough to go for a dip. Fifty five people, including four dogs and one baby, took the hike. We snaked our way through trees, moss, rocks, water and mud as we followed Indie Dad skywards, followed not a path but trees marked with orange dots. A couple of brief stops for water and to allow stragglers to catch up and we were soon onwards and upwards. Luckily I had another new friend, Juana from Colombia, to lead me up. She would be my “mountain goat” and I made sure to follow in her footsteps. Literally. This, however, didn’t stop me going over on my ankle at one point as I missed my footing. I soldiered on and it didn’t seem to bother me at first, just as long as I kept moving. Only later would it cause problems. In the true spirit of indie pop I carried on through the pain barrier. What a trooper! We reached a plateau near the top, where we picked and ate wild blueberries, and while others carried on to the pool to indulge in some bikini-clad swimming I took the opportunity to chill out.

After filling up our water bottles from the waterfall and some more fabulous vistas back down the valley, we headed back down. The descent seemed to go quicker than the climb up if only because I fell a few more times and slid down most of it sideways or on my bum. Chris Bonnington, I am not, but I felt it was a great achievement and we were all pleased with our efforts. After the purchase of raffles tickets (numbers 21 and 22 – fingers crossed) and a look around the arts and crafts stalls at HQ we decided to walk (seriously?) to Haukly, home of the evening gigs, for some lunch. We’d earned a big lunch and recent calorific constraints weren’t going to hold me back. The walk from HQ to Haukly was a bit of a trek and I struggled, like a Tour de France Gruppetto, to keep up with the others. Matt and Steve hadn’t gone on the walk and were fresh but Gail and Trev had and they raced through the valley and up the hill to Haukly. I lagged at the back as my ankle swelled. But I kept my own tempo and consoled myself that there was a hearty meal at the end of it.

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The main evening venue at Haukly

Indeed there was. With all manner of wraps, samosas, falafel, burgers and chips on offer, I plumped for hamburger and chips, with a samosa to start and a Diet Coke. It had been a while since breakfast (excluding my ‘emergency banana’ on the hike) and all the walking meant I didn’t feel any guilt about stuffing my face. Boy, it was good. What wasn’t so good was the way my ankle had stiffened up even further while I sat at the table. Even though my hostel was a short walk away down the hill, I struggled to put one foot in front of the other. Walking uphill had actually been easier. The others marched ahead and back to the boathouse for the next gigs. I decided to give it a miss. A hot shower and a disco nap, while elevating my leg, was the order of the day.

Fully refreshed I hobbled back up the hill for the evening’s main gigs. The ankle felt better, if somewhat tender, so I resigned myself to sitting at the side of the hall for the first five bands and getting up to dance for headliners TeenCanteen. Again, this proved to be sensible. It also meant I could test it’s fitness during the post-gig disco, once more hosted by Early Doors.

The Keep Left Signs from Sweden opened up the show with a wonderful set of 60s-tinged power pop. (Three of the band also play with The Electric Pop Group, who were on later in the evening). Simen Mitlid from Norway was up next, followed by Swedes Tinsel Heart. This was only their second ever gig but they sounded like they’d been playing for years. Both acts were worthy of future investigation. I made a point before the trip in checking out the Indiefjord Spotify playlist, which includes tracks by all the acts playing. On the basis of what I heard I figured that Saturday would be a ‘poppier’ night and much more up my musical street.

The Electric Pop Group followed, with the Keep Left Signs members making a quick costume change. (The regulation indie pop uniform of stripey t-shirt was very much on show throughout the weekend with the Electric Pop Group more than playing their part!) While the third Swedish band of the night thrilled me, the fourth, Agent blå, blew me away. Sonic cathedrals of sound nodding knowingly to Alvvays and Siouxsie and the Bansheees, Agent blå got me, and my dodgy ankle, out of my seat. The anti-pop star, arms folded singing stance of lead vocalist Emelie Alatalo could easily be mistaken for the I-don’t-want-to-be-here posturing of a moody teenager at a family party but it just added to the mysterious murky mist of sound emanating from their set. I could listen to them all night.

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Red sky at night, TeenCanteen are a delight

Headliners TeenCanteen, one of the main reasons for me being in Norway, were up next. Despite the presence of a heavy cold Carla, alongside trusty bandmates Chloe, Deborah and Sita, powered through a set full of the girl group-influenced, glam-soaked, glitter-caked pop goodness we’ve come to expect from them.  It was the twentieth time I seen the girls live (including Carla solo) and it wouldn’t be the last. Mid-set Carla egged on Sita to throw a Sirens 10” single into the crowd. It landed on the head of guy in the front row who didn’t know if it was New York or New Year! He was very drunk and too busy trying to chat up my pal Juana!

But that wasn’t the end of proceedings as the dynamic triumvirate known as Early Doors DJs kicked off their set in the best way possible with The Beastie Boys. The right to party was on. Numbed by cheap-ish lager I boogied through the pain barrier to all manner of tunes from Taylor Swift and The Smiths to Bon Jovi (them again) and The Violent Femmes. I nearly gave myself whiplash sprinting to the dancefloor for Spice Up Your Life. Shaky, shaky, shaky!

A special mention at this point should go to the hostess with the mostest Silja Haddal Mork. Her boundless energy and enthusiasm for everything and everyone was infectious and no-one was left out as she ensured that people from all over the world mingled with each other and the locals. She was a star!

Around 2am we wondered back to our chosen homes safe in the knowledge we’d be doing this all again the next day.

Despite the late night an alarm call courtesy of the Norwegian weather gods meant an early rise and a peaceful coffee in the hostel lounge. One by one members of various bands, including hostel host Tolbein, joined me to dissect the previous evening’s events and to ponder what goodies we had to look forward to.

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The beautiful Bjørke Kyrkje

Our first show of the day rather aptly took place in Bjørke Kyrkje, a beautiful white church in the centre of the village. Matt Stead and Rob Ash, along with Allison on violin, led us gently through the morning hangovers with some lovely instrumentals, including an 18-minute piece called Autobiography. Matt apologised for the length and said he wouldn’t be offended if we fell asleep during it! It turned out, when I bought the CD afterwards, that the full length version was actually 29 minutes long! We had been treated to the radio edit. Norway’s Indiana Loss was up next and shared with us their obvious obsession with American and all things Stateside. Most songs mentioned at least one US town or city.

Next up was another trek up past Indiefjord HQ, this time swinging a left towards Bakketunet fort two more bands. I don’t recall the exact nature of the building (pictured) but I’d been calling it a cow shed. Whatever it is I’m told it’s the oldest of its kind in the area, having been around for 500 years. (Some of the timber used in the area dates back to 1549). Coffee (black) and an array of cakes was available – blueberry for me – and I partook before finding a seat on a hay bale in the front row. The Dumpster Divas were first up as Trine and Helle entertained a packed Bakketunet. They even had to squeeze some of the fans onto the stage. Things were overrunning and I was worried about missing the boat to Leira so I made my apologies to Sam Airey. I had to get back to my hostel to get some stuff (okay, I’ll admit it, my pear cider) and then meet the boat at 4pm near the red phone box. Only later did I find out that they’d made an announcement that even though the show was running late, no-one would miss the boat. Of course, I didn’t know that at the time. Also, rather fortuitously, as I yomped down the hill on my dodgy ankle, the head chef from Haukly was getting into his car. Having only met him once I chanced my arm and asked for a lift to my hostel. “Yes, sure, jump in!” It underlined the friendliness of the place. Thanks to his generosity I now had to loads of time to kill, had taken the weight off my feet and made the boat in plenty of time.

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The tunnel of love

While I waited for the boat I checked out the Leiratunnelen. When I first viewed the village on Google Street View I had contemplated walking through the tunnel to the cinema, but the combination of a sore ankle and the astonishment from some locals that I should even contemplate such a walk meant I plumped for the boat instead. For the record, the tunnel, while is only single lane, is well-lit, has a pavement and is only 1.9km long, about 20/25 minutes.

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Jensaløda

The boat has two stops. Firstly, there was the wine-tasting at Viddal and then Leira for a screening of Charlie Chaplin’s The Kid. I opted for the latter. This was no ordinary film night with Hjørundfjord Filmteater production featuring a live soundtrack accompaniment by Tor Grunde Simonsen on piano and John Inge Leira Bjøringsøy on saxophones at Jensaløda (The Jensa barn). I was only one of two non-Norwegian speakers there but I managed to understand the jist of what was said. Despite a couple of technical hiccups the show was a joy and at times you didn’t realise the music wasn’t coming from the film itself. I even managed some conversation with some locals in Norwegian.

It was then back to dry land for another Haukly hike. A fabulous chicken wrap and chips was a great tea and would soak up the pear cider. I decided to follow this previous night’s choice to sit out most of the bands, only getting up for the headliners and disco.

Norway’s amini were up first and their emo-disco (their words) went down well. Indie Dad then popped up on stage for the first of two appearances. The Indiefjord raffle had been drawn and he read out the list of winners. Sadly, I wasn’t one of them but Gail was lucky enough to win some beautifully knitted socks. There were other local arts and crafts on offer, as well as band merchandise.

Matt, Rob and Allison were back, accompanied by Anders who was borrowed from The Keep Left Signs on drums. While a couple of tunes were repeated from the church gig we were also treated to tunes from Matt’s days with A Fine Day for Sailing and Banana and Louie. The lack of any rehearsal – I think Anders had been recruited at breakfast – didn’t hinder a lovely, if somewhat ramshackle performance. Matt had been more concerned that morning with finding milk for his Shreddies!

It’s fair to say that Trist Pike was the big talking point of the evening. By no stretch of the imagination, any imagination, could you call them indie pop. Starting with a barking dog and backed by an assortment of electronic/metal backing tracks, these Beavis and Butthead wannabes howled and growled their way through a remarkable set of Norwegian noise. Once witnessed, you can’t unsee them. File under: not my cup of tea. Rumours that David from Kid Canaveral was suitably inspired enough to muse on a new direction for his own outfit’s next album are as yet unconfirmed (and were probably just the drink talking).

The recent TRNSMT festival (new incarnation of T in the Park) was recently criticised for the lack of women on stage. This isn’t an issue for Indiefjord with at least 33% of the performers being female over the course of the festival. Pale Lights from the USA kept with quota up, with the second female drummer of the weekend (and not the last). They begged, stole (not proven) and borrowed equipment and brought us a lovely set of tunes.

At some point in the evening Indie Dad Ivar returned to the stage to give a speech of thanks (much applause) as well as a warning for those who had been on the hike about killers mites that might have bitten them!! Apparently if some of them bite you and leave certain red marks you could get really ill within three days. Now he tells us! I kid you not. Still, if we were going to die within the next 72 hours, there are worse places to do it. So, you know, swings and roundabouts. (T-shirt idea for next year: “See Bjorke and die!”

Young Romance were the penultimate band of the night. Claire on drums (standing and singing), with Paolo on guitar rocking their way through some short, sweet, and raucous numbers. Mighty fine they were too.

Time to get out of my gigside seat and head to the moshpit for headliners Kid Canaveral. With bassist Rose, drummer Simon and Michael (keyboards) all unavailable, the bombastic Audrey Tait (from The Miss’s) and Bartholomew Owl from Eagleowl were brought off the substitutes bench. This meant the “miserablist Scottish techno” of the third album (their words) made way for an “indie pop set” dominated by the first two albums. A crackin’ set ensued, with a stagebombing by TeenCanteen who joined for backing vocals and random stage dancing on You Only Went Out To Drunk Last Night.

Edine and friends, well friend (Bart Blue), provided the post-gig tunage, with a weird and wonderful selection with Saint Etienne, Marilyn Powell and Camera Obscura amongst many great selections. Another skinful of booze, another great evening and another late night! Rock and roll baby! We walked home in the rain but we didn’t care.

The rain persisted overnight and I was once again woken up far too early for my own good by mother nature. Having just about managed to squeeze everything into my rucksacks, I headed down to the red phone box for the bus. One last look around, a few final snaps and then we were off. Until we got to the edge of town and had to stop because someone had missed the bus!

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Ya beauty!

Time for one final polish sausage on the ferry back from Festøyen. It was huge! (The sausage, that is, not the ferry. I couldn’t eat a whole ferry!) I had contemplated spending a couple of hours having a look around Ålesund but it was raining and the shelter of the tiny airport was more attractive. What wasn’t so attractive was the price of the beer in the airport bar. Not a kick in the arse off £12 for a pint, with one of the special burgers on sale for around £27! I lost any appetite I might have had. My new found friends disappeared in groups of two or three as their various flights departed. I was the only one heading to Oslo. I could’ve got up at 5am and got a very early flight to Oslo, enabling me to get home to Edinburgh in one day but I decided against that. Plus it turns out I would’ve have to share the vehicle with Trist Pike. (In the least surprising event of the weekend it turned out their driver had to rake through the bodies in my hostel to find them because they’d overslept for their lift to the airport!)

Knowing I would be back in Oslo I decided on a return trip to the Thon Panorama hotel on Radhusgata. My daughter and I had stayed there for the Norway Cup last August and really enjoyed it. It’s also very close to the city centre. Plus, and this was the clincher, the breakfast is the business! I figured a full English breakfast, followed swiftly by a full Norwegian would be enough food to see me through to when I got home, and therefore no need to spend a small fortune on a bag of crisps or sell a kidney to buy an airport beer!

After checking in, I made a quick trip to the supermarket to get some snackage and sweets (for my daughter), during which time I managed to help some non-Norwegian speakers translate the names of various foods (I knew my Duolingo app would come in handy). After giving a couple of Argentinian ladies some directions (and my best Spanish chat up lines), I took some photos of the opera house and ambled back along Radhusgata to the harbour so I could just chill and enjoy the sun going down. No chance of that with a New York basketball-playing street performer nearby. In fairness he was funny and entertaining and just about on the right side of casual racism! He had a crowd from all over the world and he had a joke and a pun for everyone.

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Monument at Oslo harbour

I didn’t bother to unpack because I was scared I couldn’t get everything repacked. Instead I enjoy some free hotel coffee, while catching up with some television. Ever watched Sex and the City with Norwegian subtitles?

My hearty breakfasts had been interrupted by a family of unknown origin having a full-scale domestic right in front of my table. I’ve no idea what was said except the occasional use of the “Fuck you!” Seriously, it was putting right off my third roll.

Upon checking out I was delighted to meet the receptionist we had met at the hotel last year. She had been planning a trip to Scotland and had asked us for some tips. It was good to hear that she’d had a great time. She thought Aberdeen was a bit boring but had such a great time in Inverness she stayed for an extra night, thereby only managing half a day in Edinburgh.

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A last visit to Oslo-S

I love the Norwegian trains. The local train to the airport (which is half the price and takes almost the same time), is clean, with great information available. When you buy your ticket at the machine, which you can change to show English, it also tells you which platform for your next available train and how long until it leaves. Marvellous! It’s the simple things that please me. The airport was fine but our flight gate changed constantly. Gate F21, gate F19, back to F21, no, it’s F19. I say “we” because I got chatting to a lovely couple from Ardrossan who’d been in Oder in the North of Norway doing some photography. At times like this it’s nice to have a sympathetic ear, plus it kills time. Finally the flight left, albeit 50 minutes late, and I was heading home.

I didn’t think I could fall in love with Norway any more than I already had but I did. Indiefjord was everything I had hoped for from a festival and so much more. The locals are friendly, the bands were great, the food was lovely and I met so many wonderful people of all ages from all over the world. Don’t be mistaken into thinking that because a festival is marketed as “indie pop” that it is somehow twee. It wasn’t. It was simply brilliant. While there were so many people contributing to the smooth running of Indiefjord, including drivers, hostel hosts etc, special praise must go to Silja Haddal Mork, the driving force behind the festival and an amazing host. I can’t wait to meet her again at Indietracks, where she’ll probably be checking out contenders for next year’s Indiefjords. Apparently 170 acts had applied to play this year.

Many of the people I met are also going to be at Indietracks next weekend. It’ll be great to catch up with them while also comparing the two festivals. So part 2 of my Midlife Crisis Tour rolls on through the highways and byways (not forgetting railways) of Derbyshire and I’ll report on that one in the fullness of time. In the meantime, I’m off to get my “Twee as Fuck” tattoo. Now, where did I put my motorbike?

The discovery of new music has, for me, taken more of a nosedive than usual this year. A combination of ennui and financial paucity has meant gigs and records have been rather carefully selected and this has meant the tried and tested prevailing over anything new and risky. I leave the discovery of the next big things to young whippersnappers like my good friend Scott Hastie, a colleague from my HND in Radio days, who is doing great things in the radio world. This year he’s managed to unearth 365 albums worthy of our attention while my paltry offering numbered seven. (Two of my list actually made his!)

FAVOURITE NEW ALBUMS OF THE YEAR

My keen anticipation for the TeenCanteen album Say It All With a Kiss (Last Night From Glasgow) was previewed in last year’s music review. I hadn’t looked forward to a new/debut album since, I don’t know, the mid-eighties. In the interests of balance I should declare an interest. My daughter Felicity and I were one of a select number who performed handclaps on the track How We Met (Cherry Pie), which was recorded at the wrap party for the album. We also went on to appear in the video for the song. (Everyone was supposed to wear red but Flick went rogue and wore a yellow dress. You can spot her easily in the video).

The album’s heady mix of girl group harmonies, electropop glitter, bombastic glam rock and bloody good tunes was always going to be hard to beat as my album of 2016, even before it was released. Believe the hype kids.

The musical year began and ended for me with two very different offerings from Scottish bands. Dropkick‘s alt-country powerpop Balance the Light (Sound Asleep) continued the great work of their numerous previous albums. One day they’ll get the big break they deserve.  A late contender for my year-end list came from The Laynes, a freakbeat mod band based on the West Coast of Scotland. I’d been aware of their penchant for all things 60s and finally got to see them live in 2012 when they supported Secret Affair. While the headliners disappointed me I found The Laynes to be fabulously tight and energetic. The album Come On Board With The Laynes (KDBS) has been worth the wait and I hope I get to see them live again next year.

My other favoured new releases of the year come from old favourites. Teenage Fanclub continue to plough their own harmonious furrow and release wonderful music as and when their schedules allow. Here (PeMa) was every bit as good as I’d hoped and by the time their UK tour came around many of the tracks had already slotted into the set like old favourites. Another longtime love of mine is The Popguns. Simon and Wendy of the band – Mr and Mrs Pickles, if you’d rather – did their own thing with a side project called The Perfect English Weather. The resulting album Isobar Blues (Matinée) was another joyful pop collection and it continues to get regular airplay chez moi even during the festive period.

Ette, side project of TeenCanteen’s Carla Easton, ably accompanied by Joe Kane, released their Homemade Lemonade album on Olive Grove to much-deserved acclaim.

A special mention to psychedelic funsters The Spooks who released their long overdue second album, The All-Seeing Chelsea Boot, a mere quarter of a century – that’s 25 years in old money – since their fabulous debut With and Without. Never a dull moment with these chaps.

In terms of new singles/downloads, I very much enjoyed Foggy City Orphan‘s Rocket, Linden‘s double A-side Bones/Broken Glass, Jo Mango and FriendsWrack Lines EP on Olive Grove, The Smart Set‘s Together on the Moon, La Bella Luna‘s eponymous EP and, best of all, Ette‘s Attack of the Glam Soul Cheerleaders (parts 1 and 2), also on Olive Grove.

MUSIC REVISITED

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It’s not really surprising that this list exceeds the one above. I spent more time revisiting old favourites and records that had passed me by originally. Here’s some of them:

Squeeze – East Side Story (A&M 1981)
The Shadows – Greatest Hits (Columbia 1963)
Ultravox – The Collection (Chrysalis 1984)
Easterhouse – Contenders (Rough Trade 1985)
Associates – Sulk (WEA 1982)
Billy Bragg – Must I Paint You a Picture: The Essential Billy Bragg (Elektra 2003)
REM – The Best of REM (IRS 1991)
UB40 – Signing Off (Graduate 1980)
Kraftwerk – The Mix (KlingKlang/EMI 1991)
Simple Minds – New Gold Dream 81-82-83-84 (Virgin 1982)
Julian Cope – Floored Genius: The Best of Julian Cope and the Teardrop Explodes 1979-1991 (Island 1992)
Kate Bush – The Kick Inside (EMI 1978)
The Sundays – Reading, Writing and Arithmetic (Rough Trade 1990)
Prefab Sprout – Swoon (Kitchenware 1984)
Dr Hook – Greatest Hits (Capitol 1980)
Psychedelic Furs – Greatest Hits (Columbia 2001)
Black – Wonderful Life (A&M 1987)
The Lotus Eaters – No Sense of Sin (Arista 1984)
Allo Darlin’ – Allo Darlin’ (Fortuna Pop 2010)
Talk Talk – Natural History: The Very Best of Talk Talk (Parlophone 1990)
The Lemonheads – The Best of the Lemonheads: The Atlantic Years (Atlantic 1998)
Friends Again – Trapped and Unwrapped (Mercury 1984)

There would’ve been others too but these are the ones that stuck in my memory. For the first three months of the year Flick and I listened to nothing but David Bowie to the point where she knows the words better than I do.

COMPILATIONS

I do love a good compilation and here are some of the ones from this year that I really enjoyed.

Love and Affection: More Motown Girls (Ace)
John Savage’s 1966: The Year The Decade Exploded (Ace)
Where The Girls Are Volume 9 (Ace)
Toujours Chic! (Ace)
Love Hit Me: Decca Beat Girls 1962-1970 (Ace)
Scratch My Back!: Pye Beat Girls (Ace)
Here Today!: The Songs of Brian Wilson (Ace)

That’s a lot of Ace records. Literally.

GIGS/EVENTS

The financial constraints brought about by unemployment and no entitlement to any kind of benefits (thanks DWP) meant gigging, as well as record buying, was cut to a minimum this year.

Three trips to see TeenCanteen, including album launches at either end of the M8, brought my tally for seeing them to 16. They now lie third behind One Thousand Violins (21 gigs) and BMX Bandits (18, including Duglas solo). With BMX Bandits and TeenCanteen playing together in Paisley in January there’s a good chance that either or both will overtake the Violins at some point in 2017. They have been top of my gig-going pile since 1989.

My first gig of 2016 was Tom Hingley in the less than salubrious setting of a pub in Cowdenbeath. His two-set offering of Inspiral Carpets favourites proved what a great catalogue they had. He also threw in some blues covers, which seemed a bit out-of-place.

April saw Frightened Rabbit hit Dunfermline. I’m not particularly a fan but a friend had a spare ticket. It was okay and the assembled hordes loved them but it wasn’t really my cup of tea. As mentioned earlier Teenage Fanclub returned with a new album and did two tours in support of it. One small one with a handful of dates and then a larger one later in the year. The Edinburgh gig in September was the perfect time to take Felicity to her first proper sweaty club-type gig, with the Liquid Rooms having the honour. Such a shame it was so unbearably hot. Despite being in an airy part of the balcony it was absolutely boiling. It was an under 14s gig but at 5’6″ Flick enjoyed a rite of passage in getting in underage (my first proper gig was when I was 17). A proud moment. I also saw the Fannies later on in December with my friend Phil. The place was rammed and it was hit after hit after hit. Okay not ‘chart’ hits but you know what I mean. The place was crawling with old friends and you couldn’t move for indie pop stars.

In any other year the Fannies Barrowlands show would’ve been gig of the year. But there was one gig in August that would’ve taken some beating. It was also the first gig of the year that Felicity and I went to together. It was no ordinary gig and in no ordinary venue or country.

Felicity is goalkeeper for Bayside Girls and her team had been invited to take part in the Norway Cup in Oslo, the biggest children’s tournament in the world. As soon as we signed up in October for the tournament I checked the What’s On guides for Oslo to see if any other events were taking place during the week of the Norway Cup in August. There was one stand-out event or should I say eight. Kraftwerk had announced they were playing eight albums, over eight gigs, in four days and all in 3D. The venue was to be the Operahuset, a beautiful building which would be five minutes walk from our chosen hotel. Taking into account the days on which Flick would be playing football, as well as other planned activities and also which albums the band would be playing we plumped for The Mix, which was a kind of greatest hits and a good starting point for Flick to learn about the German electro giants. I was worried that Flick might not enjoy it or be bored or not ‘get it’ but I needn’t have because she said it was “amazing”. Robots was her particular favourite. When we got back to the hotel we FaceTimed my wife, pretending to be robots. I guess you had to be there.

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RADIO BROADCASTS

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The usual domestic commitments mean that I can’t listen to all of these shows every week/month etc but I enjoy them regularly enough to list them as amongst my best of the year.

Sound of the Sixties (Radio 2)
Andrew Collins’ Saturday Night at the Movies (Classic FM)
Lauree McArdle’s Spin Cycle (WERA-LP 97.6 FM Arlington, Virginia)
The Earl Okin Show
John Cavanagh’s Soundwave (Radio Six International)
Pete Paphides on Soho Radio
Forgotten 80s (Absolute 80s)
Paul Brown’s Curiosity Shoppe (Mixcloud)

The year ended with some good news for me in that I’ll be working part-time as a support worker for a blind radio producer/presenter so my foot will be back in the door of radio, albeit a toe at a time so no doubt I’ll be listening to more radio.

The only music televsion I watched regularly this year was the Top of the Pops repeats on BBC Four. Due to the issues surrounding the behaviour of certain presenters ‘back in the day’ many episodes have not been broadcast so the shows can jump leap ahead, missing out weeks. We still get to see messrs Read, Vance, Bates, Jensen and, unfortunately, Peter Powell, who was the Richard Madeley of the day. I dare you to watch one of the shows fronted by him and not shout obscenitites at the screen. Go on, try it. I should add the early broadcast of the show is edited so it’s best to watch the full length repeated edition, which goes out early in the morning. You should also watch them while following the @TOTPFacts on Twitter, which is a wonderful service by Ian Berriman providing all manner of facts about those performing on that week’s show. It isn’t just taken off Wikipedia. The shows also confirm, as if you didn’t know, that Modern Romance were crap.

So that was my musical 2016. A small and perfectly formed selection of where my musical head was at. I’ll have missed out some stuff and may add it in as and when it comes to me.

The main overriding musical talking point in 2016, however, was the loss of so much musical talent. Actually, that’s a major understatement. The list was endless… David Bowie, Glenn Frey (The Eagles), Colin Vearncombe (aka Black), Signe Toly Anderson (Jefferson Airplane), Terry Wogan, Maurice White (Earth, Wind and Fire), George Martin, Keith Emerson, Merle Haggard, Prince, Billy Paul, Guy Clark, Scotty Moore, Prince Buster, Pete Burns (Dead or Alive), Bobby Vee, Leonard Cohen, Leon Russell and Greg Lake amongst others. God bless them all and thank you for the music.

Fatherson Open Book

Fatherson return with a new album on 3 June 2016. Released on the Easy Life/Sony Red label Open Book is the follow-up to 2014’s I Am An Island and will be available in several formats: signed CD, signed gatefold vinyl LP, signed CD with handwritten lyric book and signed gatefold vinyl LP with handwritten lyric book. You can pre-order the album HERE. You can also preview one of the tracks Little Lost Boys (Radio Edit) HERE.

Dropkick 2

I alluded to the release of this fine new record from Dropkick a couple of weeks ago and here, as if my magic, it now is (thanks guys!). It has, as the kids are wont to say, “dropped” but in my case it means from the letter box to the mat behind it. The most pleasing of sounds as I ingest bran flakes, banana and Homes Under The Hammer – thanks postie! A pleasing sound nonetheless, as is the album itself.

While the likes of Bowie were ever ch-ch-changing, Dropkick are very much a if-it-ain’t-broke-don’t fix-it kind of band and for that I love them. That’s not to say the album sounds like all their others (and there’s plenty of them) because it doesn’t. There’s still plenty of the melodic alt.country powerpop they’re known for while moving hither and thither in other musical directions. Not so much pushing the boundaries as giving them a little tickle under the chin.

I love album opener Save Myself because, rather ironically, it sounds like the kind of epic, leave-you-breathless track that could close an album and, after a brief pause, have you start the whole record again – “start afresh”. Maybe it’ll be a live set closer. It has that kind of feel about it.

It’s a mighty fine album and one I shall be embracing on a daily basis over the coming weeks and months, like a musical hot water bottle keeping me warm as winter bids farewell and ushers in the spring.

You can sample poptastic track Slow Down on YouTube.

Balance The Light is released on Sound Asleep/Rock Indiana on 25 March 2016 and available to pre-order NOW.

Contact:
Website: http://www.dropkickmusic.co.uk
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/dropkickmusic
Twitter: @dropkickmusic
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/mrcockroach
Bandcamp: https://dropkickmusic.bandcamp.com/

Tuff Love Resort

My first musical hero was Roddy Frame (still is) and he shares, along with my mother, a birthday on 29 January. Coincidentally it will also be a cause for celebration in the Tuff Love household as they release Resort, a compilation of their first three EPs, on that day.
TYCI are hosting a launch in honour of this great occasion and what a multi-starred evening it promises to be. Not only will headliners Tuff Love be looking to shift some units, they’ll be ably supported by the ever well-groomed pottymouth Vaseline (seriously, mouth like a docker) Frances McKee. Bossy Love will also be putting their best foot forward, with TYCI spinning the platters that matter before and after each set.
The shenanigans take place at Stereo on Glasgow’s Renfield Street on Friday 5 February 2016. Tickets are a measly £10 and available HERE. Bargain!
While it is Tuff Love’s party and they cry if they want to, they’ll actually be on second, following on from Frances and setting a good example to Bossy Love.

Resort collects together the Junk, Dross and Dregs EPs, quite naturally in chronological order, in one handy CD-sized package, with vinyl version available for those who like that sort of thing. These formats are available in good record shops (and maybe some rubbish ones as well) but you can pre-order it HERE.

As well as hanging out in some homegrown haunts Tuff Love will be terrorising, in the nicest possible way, the nightspots of mainland Europe. Check out the order of play:

5th Feb 2016: Stereo, Glasgow (as annotated above) [TICKETS]

22nd Feb 2016: Summerhall, Edinburgh [TICKETS]
24th Feb 2016: Trades Club, Hebdon Bridge [TICKETS]

25th Feb 2016: London Fields Brewery, London [TICKETS]
21st Mar 2016: Berghain, Berlin, Germany [TICKETS]
22nd Mar 2016: Blue Shell, Cologne, Germany [TICKETS]
23rd Mar 2016: Eldorado, Zurich, Switzerland [TICKETS]
25th Mar 2016: La Parenthese, Nyon, Switzerland [FREE ENTRY]
29th Mar 2016: La Salle Du Grand Marais (LSFM Festival), Riorges, France [TICKETS]
1st Apr 2016: Le Divan Du Monde (LSFM Festival), Paris, France [TICKETS]
2nd Apr 2016: Les Trinitaires (LFSM Festival), Metz, France [TICKETS]
19th-21st May 2016: The Great Escape Festival, Brighton [TICKETS]

That’s your lot for now. Go on, shoo, beat it.

 

Lost Map Holwin' Fling 2016

Lost Map Records’ Howlin’ Fling returns this summer for a two-day extravaganza on the home of The Pictish Trail, namely the isle of Eigg.

The line-up remains more of a secret than a certain Colonel Sanders’ recipe but will be revealed in the fullness of time.

Tickets, priced at £110, will go on sale on Wednesday 10 February and for that princely sum – along with some wholesome musical entertainment – you get a place on the specially-chartered ferries and camping. This year’s Howlin’ Fling will be a more intimate stripped-back affair than usual so tickets will be rarer than rockin’ horse poo. Get the dates in the diary and your pennies in the piggy bank.

The rather superb poster was designed by Andrew Denholm.

Born To Be Wide

Born To Be Wide returns from a winter break to celebrate its 20th birthday. They’ll mark the occasion with a self-help seminar for managers, artists and record labels on Thursday 4 February at Electric Circus in Edinburgh.

“This seminar will help unlock the many techniques within everyone’s grasp,” explains Born To Be Wide founder Olaf Furniss, who will chair the evening. “We guarantee that anyone attending will increase their chances of being covered and do a better job than most PRs.”

The seminar will cover a number of music-related themes including “online promotion, social media, deadlines, creating an effective biography and how to get useable press photographs”.

Speakers:

James Bruce (Concert promoter),
Amy Ferguson* (BBC Radio Scotland producer),
Jannica Honey (photographer) and
Matthew Young (Song, By Toad records).

After the seminar, the panelists will be playing a selection of their favourite tunes as well as ‘working the room’ while ‘pressing the flesh’.

Tickets for Wide Days are priced at £5.50 (£4 for Musicians’ Union Members) and are available from the website.

The running order for the evening is:

1900 Doors Open
1930-2125 Self-Help Seminar
2115-late Guest DJ sets and socialising, mingling and schmoozing

* In 2012 Amy and I were in the team that won the Radio Academy (Scotland) quiz. How’d you like them apples?

 

 

BAMS2015

After much deliberation and polishing off of crusty Yule Logs and leftover turkey, the results are in for the 2015 Scottish BAMS Record of the Year.

The annual Scottish BAMS (Bloggers and Music Sites) poll to find the best album of 2015 has been decided by an esteemed group of Scottish music presenters, journalists and bloggers (listed below), including yours truly.

Anyway, enough preamble, the winner for 2015 is…*cue fanfare*…

KATHRYN JOSEPH for Bones You Have Thrown Me, And Blood I’ve Spilled.

On how she felt at winning the award a delighted Kathryn said, “It feels amazing! Thank so much!”. Her own favourite album of 2015 was five places below her in the poll, “Sufjan Stevens record is the most beautiful piece of music ever. For me that is the most beauiful record of last year”.

The Top 10 on the poll were as follows:

  1. Kathryn Joseph Bones You Have Thrown Me, And Blood I’ve Spilled
  2. Miaoux Miaoux School of Velocity
  3. C Duncan Architect
  4. Young Fathers White Men Are Black Men
  5. Chvrches Open Every Eye
  6. Sufjan Stevens Carrie & Lowell
  7. Kendrick Lamarr To Pimp a Butterfly
  8. Courtney Barnett Sometimes I Sit and Think, and Sometimes I Just Sit
  9. Wolf Alice My Love is Cool
  10. Public Service Broadcasting The Race for Space

For the record, my own votes were cast as follows:

1. Linden Rest and Be Thankful (AED)

2. Rozi Plain Friend (Lost Map)

3. Daniel Wylie’s Cosmic Rough Riders Chrome Cassettes

4. Boots For Dancing The Undisco Kidds (Athen of the North)

5. Randolph’s Leap Most Clunky (Lost Map)

6. Public Service Broadcasting The Race For Space (Test Card)

7. Young Fathers White Men Are Black Men (Ten Big Dada)

8. Robin Gibb Saved By The Bell (Rhino)

9. The Truth Who’s Wrong: Mod Bedlam 1965-1969 (RPM)

10. Bodyheat Bodyheat (Mini LP)

I was genuinely surprised that two of my selections made the Top 10. While dominated by Scottish acts, as you’d expect, the vote was open to any record and the bootm half of the Top 10 were taken over by international acts.

31 different writers voted for a total of 160 records, with 11 selecting Kathryn Joseph in their top 10s.

The 2015 BAMS were: Scottish Fiction, Jim Gellatly, Almost Predictable Almost, Vic Galloway, The Spill, For Malcontents, Netsounds , Is This Music?, Manic Pop Thrills, Last Year’s Girl, Tenement TV, 17 Seconds, Alan Morrison, Houdidontblog, Post Nothing, Glasgow Podcart, Everything Flows, Avalanche, The Skinny, Alive & Amplified, Jocknroll, Ski Pie Rage, Local Music Scene, Get Music, Ravechild and The (New) Vinyl Villain.

The 2015 BAMS were brought to you by Mike (Manic Pop Thrills), Neil (Scottish Fiction), Jamie (Netsounds Unsigned), Al (Houdidont), Stuart (Is This Music?) and Lloyd (Honorary Head BAM).

Past winners:
2009 The Phantom Band The Wants
2010 The National High Violet
2011 Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat Everyone’s Getting Older
2012 Meursault Something for the Weakened
2013 CHVRCHES The Bones of What You Believe
2014 The Twilight Sad Nobody Wants to be Here and Nobody Wants to Leave

Linden BonesBones/Broken Glass is the brand new single from Linden, nom de plume of ex-Superstar/BMX Bandit/Groovy Little Number Joe McAlinden. You can watch a trailer (such a tease) for the new video on YouTube HERE.

Joe and the band are busy, busy, busy and will be in session on Janice Forsyth’s Radio Scotland show this afternoon (Wednesday 20 January 2016). New single Bones also features rising stars JR Green and is released in the UK on 5 February on Edwyn Collins’ AED Records and in America on Slumberland Records.

You can also see Linden live at Celtic Connections on Wednesday 27 January 2016 (alongside ex-Silencers frontman J J Gilmour) at Oran Mor before venturing south of the border for the first time to the Trades Club at Hebden Bridge on 31 January 2016.

Contact:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/linden.music
Twitter: @joemcalinden
Label: http://www.aedrecords.com/
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQ9rGFRFWXhYX0vVzhBFDaQ
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/joe-mcalinden

Mt Doubt
While I’ve been a fan of Joe McAlinden’s work for more years than I care to recall Mt Doubt are very new to me. My finger hasn’t been on the pulse of every thing happening musically in the nooks and crannies of scottish rock and pop so I’m always grateful when CDs or, as is the modern way, digital links are thrust into my email inbox.

While Linden takes the name of its frontman and songwriter, it has a regular carousel of band members to call upon. Mt Doubt is more of a one-man operation. Leo Bargery is the colonel-in-chief of Edinburgh-based Mt Doubt, who started life at the beginning of last year.

Debut album My Past is a Quiet Beast was released to great acclaim last year (I’m slow to catch on!) and the first two singles from it – Feathers and Asunder – garnered the right kind of attention from Messrs Gellatly and Galloway as well as XFM and Scottish Fiction. In fact Slick Vic declared Mt Doubt one of his 25 Scottish Artists to Watch in 2016.

Mt Doubt has a new single and album lined up for later in the year but in the meantime you can catch him (and band) at Sneaky Pete’s in Edinburgh when he (they) support Edinburgh’s Bronston on 5 February 2016. In fact, it’s Bronston’s debut live performance, in support of their I Feel Safe single. Tickets available HERE.

I enjoyed the mood swings of My Past is a Quiet Beat. From quiet introspection to full-on sonic cathedrals of sound, there’s so much to hear in terms of atmospheric soundscapes. If you love a bit of quiet-loud-quiet tuneage then Mt Doubt should float your boat. The self-released album was produced by The Winter Tradition‘s Mark Morrow and is worthy of your attention.

Contact:
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/MtDoubt
Twitter: @MtDoubt
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjOF4MNC7l_cJkYvogU-72Q
Bandcamp: https://mtdoubt.bandcamp.com/releases
Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/mtdoubt