goNORTH – Inverness – 05/06/14
After a recent trip to Inverness to see Brew at the Bog for the first time we didn’t hesitate to return to give goNORTH a once over as well. I’d read about it last year and kept an eye on all the social network updates at the time, funny how that feeds you with a `this looks all right` kind of mode and stays there for about eleven and a half months when the decision has to be made to go this time, or not.
You can read all about goNORTH on the official website here, but in my words it’s two days rammed with talks and films and stuff and two evenings full of live music in a number of local venues, all very close to each other and no transport needed to get about. In your travels you see many music people from radio presenters, music bloggers, band members and so on, all enjoying being part of the crowd that is enjoying the band playing at the time, moving from one venue to another, or just having a beer at the bar between bands. It must be one of the best ways to network in the north of Scotland.
So, our two hour journey from Aberdeen in the FnS mobile is confirmed and because of work we can really only manage one evening this year so the Thursday night is selected and the battle plans are drawn up. Pre-registration is required but its a case of basic details only, name, age group (mine is near the bottom these days), email address and mobile number – that’s all. We park at the railway station car park, six quid for all the time we need and we’re only, what, a street and a half away from where we have to pick up our ID cards. Plenty of people milling around when we get to the Mercure Hotel and in fifteen minutes or so we’ve had our pictures taken by laptop and are in possession of our ID cards (Little tip – you only get one chance to take the photo so don’t have anyone distracting you at the wrong moment – yes, I’m looking at you, SB – or you end up with a very dodgy photo on your ID. DS), have a complementary canvas bag full of goodies including timetables, a map and a can of beer from the sponsors and are now free to roam the delights of the live music timetable but first, some food at the local Weatherspoons, again, no distance away at all.
Post food fuelling (and after a chat with one of Indian Red Lopez, who were also fuelling up) we go for a recce of all the venues and in the first one, The Market Bar we bump into the legend that is Houdi, so hands are shaken and local knowledge tips taken in. Myself and Dark Secret have kind of planned who we are definitely want to see (well, photograph), and who we maybe want to spend longer watching and hopefully enjoying. So with cameras, timetables, a pen and a youthful enthusiasm we separate and I make my way to one of the venues I already know, the famous Hootanannys to see The Youth and Young who kick-off the programme at 8pm. It’s maybe quieter than I expect but it had just started and had got busier by the time I left. All bands get half an hour each, over eight or so venues so there’s four playing somewhere, at any given time. Tell you what though, go see The Youth and Young if you get a chance, damn high notches to set tonight’s bar at.
I won’t bore you with much musical insights here, it’s been done very well elsewhere, but will try to give you an idea of who and what goes on in an evening of goNORTH. There was also a few bands I only managed to catch the last song of their set, or less, I’ll not mention them either.
You can see our set of photos of the night on our flickr here.
Next up for me is The Broken Ravens at Ironworks, the only venue I’ve photographed in Inverness before, and I’m surprised to see such awesome lighting and backdrop, boy the rock boys must have felt good playing up there with a number of their fans in the crowd singing along to their anthems. It’s a quick photostop for me though, as I’m on my way to see Dundee boys Vladimir just along the road in a sports bar (it has pool tables and tvs so that’s a sports bar these days, aye?) called Deenos where a couple more acts I want to see will be playing later on. It’s an indie rock sound that makes its way into my ears and I’m amused watching the front man give it his all. Better than expected really and I’ll keep an eye for them playing Aberdeen in the future. I stay till the end of their set and that’s the first hour in.
I’ve forgotten to mention that all of this is free to the punters like me and you, something like thirty bands on tonight and four hours or so filled with live music, seriously, what’s not to like. Anyway, I go across the road to Blackfriars for the second time (I’d already seen half a song from Forest Fires) to catch the previously recommended Garden of Elks. It’s a lot busier this time though, and I end up kind of boxed in at the front, not so good when taking pictures but a snap or two was taken before I step back to just enjoy a song or two. There must have been ten photographers all trying to get the same shots here, flash everywhere and not good for the punters at all so I limit my time in their view space. Blackfriars is a more traditional shaped public bar, with the bar itself running from left to right along the back of the room. The bands are set up on the left and you enter by a door on the right. I can tell this place will be a tight squeeze when its busy.
Back across the road for five minutes takes me into (the lobby of) The Phoenix trying to get a picture or two (via a doorway) of the delicate Miss Irenie Rose playing, I do just that and leave for Deenos again, where Aberdeen boys Indian Red Lopez are setting up. Finishing off their anthem packed electronic-y set with the dreamy Any Given City I reckon it’s the best I’ve ever seen them play. Just my opinion, and I was pleased to see one of `our` bands doing well in someone elses manor. They have got to get a support slot for a big sized band now, got to. Let the charts and radio driven masses hear these guys for themselves, they could be as good as many much bigger names, in my humble opinion of course.
Right, Lopez arse licking over, it’s back to The Phoenix to stick my head in (the even busier now) door to take a picture of Cryptic Keys, task accomplished I then head for the Ironworks again, this time to catch Lionel before doing a needing-to-pee type walk up the road, then up (Hootanannys) stairs to Madhatters, where Siobhan Wilson was to play. I got there before her set started so we were treated to the sounds of the previous act finishing downstairs. I wondered just how quiet this venue could get for her angelic tones. Not to worry, five minutes in and she had everyone quietened down and in the palm of her hand. Being joined by Tommy Reilly for some songs, her shoe falling into a hole in the stage, and reaching one of those peaks of singing emotion that only people like her can, it really must have been one of the sets of the evening (possibly the year).
Now for the tough call of the evening for me. A quick walk back up to the Ironworks to catch a bit of Broken Records who just did what they always do so well. I was a bit disappointed with the size of the crowd but it’s not really a gig is it, so I can’t be too critical. Anyway, a couple of songs enjoyed then a happy stroll along the road to Deenos again, this time to see one of my favourites, Hector Bizerk. Louie is on form as always, with the shoe horned in crowd containing so many other band members and clearly enjoying their set with some tracks from their Hear Nothing Say Nothing SAY award nominated album. Self financed too, so a lesson for the hard-working bands who cover many miles and venues, known or otherwise, all over the place.
The end for us is nigh and we’ve arranged to meet at the venue where it started for me tonight so see The Hazey Janes, also touring their new album at the moment. I meet with Dark Secret, we exchange stories of the night, take some pictures when the band gets going and get out of the way to let everyone enjoy the last band of the evening at Hoots.
Time for some food and then back to the other end of the A96. It was great. We’ll be back for sure. And we recommend it for bands too, there were crowds every time we saw someone play, so it must be a great way to get new people to hear your music.
Now Aberdeen…. its your turn to do this.
You can see our set of photos of the night on our flickr here.
Words by Still Burning, pics by Dark Secret & Still Burning.