Archive for August, 2010

College rock: A music guide to Freshers’ Week 2010

Friday, August 27th, 2010

A Page 3 model turned singer, X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent losers, boybands you could have sworn had split up years ago and more virgins than at an Islamic martyr convention in Paradise.

You guessed it, Fresher’s Week is coming to Scotland.

Our wee country has a total of 14 universities and the vast majority of them have some sort of live music booked to welcome their new arrivals, all wide-eyed and scared shitless as they prepare to take on a financial debt that will still be hanging over them in their 40s.

Although the cheap option of booking local indie bands is a popular one for student unions, some have blown their Freshers’ Week budgets on more familiar names, such as The Futureheads and chart-friendly rapper Example, while Diana ‘no gig too small’ Vickers has decided to spread her talents by signing up for not one, but two different Scottish universities. Meanwhile, the combination of a scantily-clad Porchia and horny teenage boys in Stirling doesn’t bear thinking about.

Aberdeen newbies get the rawest deal, with not a single live music act on show at either of the city’s two universities, shame on you. And it’s a similar story for first-year students the University of the West of Scotland, despite it having a Fresher’s Week that lasts 12 days and boasting a new Music: Innovation & Entrepreneurship postgraduate course, the first of its kind in the UK.

There are plenty of highlights in our exclusive Freshers’ Week round-up below but let’s be honest, for sheer entertainment value it’s not going to get any better than Twist And Pulse, check out videos of them performing here and here.

Sep 5: Example
Sep 8: Kitty The Lion, The Winter Tradition, LightGuides, Make Sparks
Sep 10: S Club 3 vs 5ive, Aggro Santos

Sep 5: Booty Luv

Sep 9: Kassidy, Pearl And The PuppetsUPDATED
Sep 10: Aggro Santos

Sep 12: Kid Canaveral, Pareto, Stanley Odd, Polarsets (Teviot)
Sep 14: The Futureheads, Angry Vs The Bear (Potterrow)

Sep 13: Two Door Cinema Club, French Wives
Sep 14: Diana Vickers, The LaFontaines
Sep 16: We Were Promised Jetpacks, Tommy Reilly, Twin Atlantic, LightGuides, Lou Hickey, Blue Sky Archives, Miniature Dinosaurs, Crow RoadUPDATED

Sep 13: Twist And Pulse (not strictly music but

Sep 14: Rachel Sermanni, French Wives
Sep 18: Porchia
Sep 21: Stevie And The Moon

Sep 16: The Draymin, Young Fathers, Our Future Glory

Sep 17: live music acts tbc

Sep 21: The Pictish Trail

Sep 23: Frightened Rabbit, Kid CanaveralUPDATED
Sep 24: Diana Vickers, Lou Hickey

No live music acts

No live music acts

Sep 30: The LaFontaines, Lightguides, Make Sparks, Trapped In Kansas, Carnivores, Marvel Heights, Pacific Theatre, White Leaf (Live Stage); Aerials Up, Kitty The Lion, Michael Cassidy, John Rush, Ryan Bisland, Johnny Mcauley, Dilectrics, Nicholas Afchain, Aspen Tide, Johnny Barr (Unplugged Stage) – UPDATED

Two Door Cinema Club – Kids

Kid Canaveral – Stretching The Line

Codeine Valvet Club (Lou Hickey) – I Wish My Daddy

Miniature Dinosaurs – Cold Shoulder

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Robyn – Hang With Me: the greatest pop song of our generation

Wednesday, August 25th, 2010

The perfect pop song. It’s the holy grail. So simple in theory yet almost uttainable in practice.

Some people believe there is a formula which relies on an exact equation involving pitch, positive lyrics and serotonin levels which, when tweaked precisely, puts the listener in a euphoric emotional state.

Clearly, groups such as The Beatles, ABBA and The Jackson 5 knew which buttons to push in the recording studio but if the process really was that scientific, examples of pop genius would be a heck of a lot more frequent; instead we have a singles chart choked up with songs and artists that won’t be remembered in another six months, never mind by another generation.

To be honest, I’m not sure what defines a perfect pop song – perhaps it’s something you just feel. Whatever it is, it’s in Hang With Me by ROBYN.

I was first introduced to the track on Monday evening by Big D, my sidekick on the Fresh Air radio show I presented earlier this month. I fell in love with it the first time I heard it. Two days and 67 plays later, I love it even more.

Hang With Me is built around a rippling synth melody that resembles the riff of The Who’s Baba O’Riley with drum machine backing. The song initially seems fairly understated as Robyn’s layered vocals quiver with lyrical self-doubt… until the chorus unexpectedly kicks itself into lift-off with an exhilarating disco swoosh and an impassioned plea of “just don’t fall recklessly, headlessly in love with me”. The feeling of elation is staggering as you’re left gagging for the chorus to come around again.

If the Swedish singer never comes close to scaling these heights again I wouldn’t be disappointed. She has delivered the best pop song of our generation on her sixth album (Body Talk Pt. 2) of a 15-year career as a recording artist. Thank-you, Robyn.

Robyn – Hang With Me

October 18, ABC, Glasgow (tickets)

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“I was battered unconscious. They only stopped because a woman came round the corner and saw it happening”

Sunday, August 22nd, 2010

Date: July 29, 2010
Time: 13.00
Location: The Captain’s Rest, Glasgow
Interview subject: Louis Abbott, Admiral Fallow
Background info: Admiral Fallow are without doubt one of the finest Scottish bands The Pop Cop has ever heard, yet the story of their success is by no means an overnight one. Having played for over three years as Brother Louis Collective, they changed their name to coincide with the release of their debut album Boots Met My Face in the spring. In truth, it wouldn’t have mattered what they called themselves. The record is unignorable. Louis Abbott’s stark, soul-baring lyrics speak of an apparently troubled upbringing, while the music swirls from its acoustic-pop foundations with cunning use of clarinet, flute, stand-up bass, melodica, piano, brass and strings.

The roar of Great Western Road traffic shakes the rickety table outside The Captain’s Rest where Louis is sat with a coffee having an afternoon smoke. It’s an unseasonably warm summer’s day in Glasgow, the city Louis moved to from his native Edinburgh in 2006 to study percussion at RSAMD and, as it turned out, meet his future bandmates.

The album they created, Boots Met My Face, is one of stunning contrast. Verses of mischievous childhood antics preclude choruses of disturbing violence. None of it is fictional and Louis’ astonishingly clear vocal annunciation ensures no bruise or scar is concealed under the weight of other instruments.

Three nights before we meet, Admiral Fallow had played a sold-out gig at King Tut’s where there were very tangible clues that these incredible songs had outgrown the domain of the group’s friends and family. The crowd sang loudly to Squealing Pigs, girls danced in the front row and boys choked up during Four Bulbs, which all six members performed a cappella and without microphones.

The Admiral Fallow bandwagon is much more than just hype and hyperbole. Lo-Five Records have already ordered another 1,000 copies of Boots Met My Face to be printed after the first run of CDs sold out; the BBC Introducing team put Admiral Fallow on their T in the Park stage which has led to daytime airplay on Radio 1 and Radio 2; the band have also been snapped up by the same London booking agency which organises concerts for the likes of Daft Punk, Glasvegas and Kylie; and former Beautiful South singer Paul Heaton even offered them a tour support live on 6 Music.

Unquestionably, this is a band going in one direction, but what I’m most fascinated by are the events that inspired the songs which are opening these doors. Lyrics from the likes of Four Bulbs (“the noose around my neck has tightened too much to take”) and Subbuteo (“boots met my face and knuckles cracked me black as coal”) suggest Louis has had a particularly tough time of it growing up, something that initially he seems keen to downplay.

“I had a good upbringing in terms of my family life,” he says. “It wasn’t perfect – my parents are separated but whose aren’t these days, you know? School was tough but I think it’s really tough for everyone.”

Were you bullied? “I wouldn’t want to say ‘yes’ because that just sounds like ‘poor me’,” he replies. “I was by no means massively picked on by a lot of people. Yeah, there were a few folk growing up who really treated me badly, but I think everyone goes through that to an extent. Even the ‘popular’ kids at school get abuse at times. The older you get, the more you realise it doesn’t matter and you shouldn’t lose sleep about it. But at the time it fucks you up a bit.”

Some of the lyrics in Subbuteo clearly point to abuse manifesting itself in a physical attack, and Louis reveals the full extent of the incident which scarred his teenhood.

“The early part of Subbuteo is quite a bittersweet look at the stuff I did as a young kid with my pals – playing football, messing about in the woods – but it gets a bit darker,” he says. “The album title comes from a particularly shitty thing that happened when I was about 15. I was out getting some groceries for my mum and I got jumped. It was a sizeable gang but it was only really two of them who…”. Louis pauses for a moment before carrying on. “One was a guy I’d gone to primary school with and hadn’t seen since. He kicked the shit out of me in front my little brother who was 11. I was battered unconscious. They only stopped because a woman came round the corner and saw it happening.”

The harrowing events of that day understandably stood with Louis for a long time.

“I didn’t really go out for about three years after that,” he admits. “I didn’t like getting on buses, I didn’t like going in the neighbourhoods where I knew those boys kicked about in case I bumped into them again. I went back to the place where it happened for the first time two weeks ago. I didn’t really feel anything but if I saw the guy again I think it would affect me somehow.”

Louis’ experiences as a teenager is a theme he visits throughout the album.

“These Barren Years is about school life,” he continues. “It’s that age when you’re starting to discover women but it doesn’t happen for you because you’re spotty and useless at talking to them. The chorus is a sort of hopeful refrain. I have younger brothers and I’ve watched them go through that period as well so it brings it back.”

Louis wrote just one love song for the album, the opening track Dead Against Smoking, but he claims it only recently struck him just how sombre his lyrics can be.

He recalls: “We were in the BBC studios in Nottingham in April to do an acoustic session and the DJ said to me, ‘Man, the songs are so dark, you sound like you’ve had a tough time of it’ and I started wondering why everyone thought I was such a miserable bastard. Only since he said that did I sit down and look at the lyrics and they really do sound like I’ve had the worst time of everything.”

Relocating to Glasgow seems to have given Louis – and his confidence – a new lease of life, although his personality didn’t necessarily change for the better at first, leading to the quarrel that inspired Squealing Pigs.

He explains: “I was not long through here and I wasn’t behaving very nicely to people. Probably over-indulging too much. A good friend of mine sat me down and said, ‘Look, you’re behaving like a dick, stop it’. I was quite taken aback because no one had ever done that before. At first I was like, ‘This is bullshit, why are you saying this?’ and I was annoyed for a wee while, but you just need to take a step back and think about things a little. I realised he was probably right.”

Louis also blames alcohol for another unsavoury encounter which motivated him to write the lyrics to one of Admiral Fallow’s new tunes, The Way You Were Raised, now a staple of their live set.

“It should be an anti-Buckfast song because it just gets you in trouble,” he says. “We started this ritual of drinking Buckie on stage back in our earlier days as a band. I was walking down Sauchiehall Street after a gig and a guy threw something at me. Normally, I would say ‘Fuck, he’s thrown something at me, walk faster!’ but because I’d had a bit too much too drink I turned and squared up to these two massive guys. I think they were quite taken aback. They were like, ‘This guy’s tiny, is he being serious?’. Luckily, Kevin, our clarinet player, was there to usher me away. But we got followed up the road and it could have been a lot worse.”

What does the “I bruised my heels” line refer to? Louis laughs. “I got really angry that these two guys had got away with throwing this thing at me so I was stamping all the way up the road and going mental, in a total craze,” he recalls, shaking his head. “The next morning, and for about three weeks afterwards, my heels were wrecked, I found it painful to walk. I think my left heel is still fucked.”

It took almost four years for Admiral Fallow to create their masterpiece and you get the impression that Louis would happily wait another four to ensure the band can deliver a worthy successor to Boots Met My Face.

“We’ve already got a handful of new songs which we’ve started to work on, hopefully quite a nice progression on from these ones, but we’ve still not quite settled on where we want to go,” he says.

“One of my biggest beefs in music is when people churn out record after record that is pretty much the same because one of them has worked. Bands I respect greatly are ones that evolve record by record. I don’t understand how Oasis managed to forge out a 15-year career churning out the same bullshit record. Bands like The Shins really excite me, when it’s catchy but also has a bit of depth. That’s an important side of what we try to do as well, which is why it took us quite a long time to write the songs for Boots Met My Face, but I think it sounds quite cohesive because we recorded it very quickly. We’re all proud of it.”

Admiral Fallow’s debut album, Boots Met My Face, is available to buy here.

Admiral Fallow – These Barren Years

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The gender reversal challenge

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Take a look at the tagline on the front cover of the recently-published Hollyoaks – Girl Talk book: “Boys, bodies, relationships, fame and the important issue of what to wear.”

Are those topics genuinely the most important things these actresses have opinions on? Are they really the main issues that people would be interested in reading?

Cultural stereotypes are so deeply ingrained in both sexes – women as nurturers and homemakers who should  be aesthetically pleasing at all times, men as breadwinners with Neanderthalic tendencies – that most people aren’t even aware of it. It’s about time this social conditioning was challenged but where do you start?

The mainstream media are probably the most frequent purveyors of this self-perpetuating narrow-mindedness. Pay close attention to the line of questioning in any interview, particularly with female celebrities, and you’ll find examples of glaring sexism.

To demonstrate the point, The Pop Cop decided to meet a couple of bonnie young Scottish musicians, RACHEL SERMANNI and DONALD MACDONALD, to see how they fared with a few questions that are rarely asked of their gender…

Rachel Sermanni, 18, hails from Carrbridge, near Aviemore, and is about to enter her second gap year. Her mum works for the NHS and her dad is in the police force. She is currently staying with relatives in Glasgow as she chases pop stardom.

What’s your favourite type of car?
Mini. I can’t drive but I’m taking lessons in September.

What cool gadgets do you own?
I have a mobile phone, a laptop – a nice Mac thing – and an iPod.
What kind of iPod?
A thin one!

Which football team do you support?
How many Celtic matches did you go to last season?
[laughs] None. I don’t think I’ve ever been to a football match.

What sports do you take part in regularly?
I like to run. Football is probably my favourite to play, though. When we were with Admiral Fallow on tour, we had a game and our team won. It was something like 11-8. I was an attacker, at the front. I scored about three goals.

Would you fight for your country if there was conscription?
It depends on the cause. Probably not. I’d maybe be a nurse.

Have you been in a physical fight?
Only with my younger brother. I think the first time was when I was 12 and he was eight. It was more slapping than anything else. I don’t think I’ve ever punched him in the face. I’ve probably punched him elsewhere, though.

Have you ever been in trouble with the law?
I was out with a group of friends from the village and one of the boys had brought back a water pipe from Turkey. We were all completely oblivious to the fact that you’re meant to smoke drugs through it. One of our friends was 18 and we wanted to see how it worked so he put some tobacco in it and we sat in the park and watched him smoke that. And then the police came down. It was so bad. They shone a light on him and told him to come over. But everything was legal.

What’s the drunkest you’ve been?
I was once sick in Sleazy’s because of White Russians. They are bad. I remember being escorted out by the guy with his hand on my back. But I’ve never been so drunk that I can’t remember anything or fallen over. I don’t drink a lot. If I’m going out I’ll stick to something like vodka and lemonade.
What kind of drunk are you?
I take on the observer role. I step back and barely talk. I watch interactions and get really engrossed. I’m a big people-watcher.

How would you feel if you started getting grey hair?
I’d think it was kind of cool because it shows a wisdom. I’ve got one white hair, which I like to call silver. I, my mum and my sister have it in the same place. I pull it out but it grows back. My mum is 50 this year and she doesn’t have any greys except that one.

Do you have any tattoos?
No, but I want one. I’ve known that I want one for a while. I’d like to do a lot of the design myself. I’m thinking of getting a fox. My dad once told me a really cool phrase, ‘As soft as a doe but as sharp as a fox’. I’ve thought of getting something like that, a little deer – you’re gentle but you have good instincts.

Would you feel uncomfortable if your partner earned more money than you?
I’d be alright with it. It would be nice but you wouldn’t want to rely on them too much. I’d like to feel as independent as possible.

Rachel Sermanni – Eggshells

August 27, Ivory Blacks, Glasgow
September 18, Loopallu, Ullapool (tickets)

Donald Macdonald, 21, grew up in Contin, about eight miles from Dingwall. His dad, Calum, is one of the founder members of Runrig and his mum is a teacher. He went to college in Skye and is now working in Glasgow.

When do you plan to settle down and have a family?
63! Ohhh, I really, really couldn’t answer that. Ehhh. Oh, lordy. I’d say th-, th-… not before 35, 36.

How many children would you like?
That depends on the wonders of contraceptive! I would like three kids… eventually. I’d like three boys, teach them shinty.

Are you ever worried about your weight?
No, it has never been a problem. I’m quite active and go to the gym.

Do you watch what you eat?
Not at all.

Have you ever been hurt in a relationship?
Emm… in what way?
Not physically then! I’ve been cheated on and stuff, it’s not nice. I’ve never done that to someone myself.
Did the experience make you more cautious of women?
THAT woman, yes! I suppose a wee bit. I don’t really think about it.

Chocolates or flowers?
Chocolates. I don’t think I’ve ever received flowers. Or chocolates for that matter, except Dairy Milk.

How much attention do you pay to your own appearance?
I spend about six minutes in the morning putting gel in my hair and that’s pretty much it. I don’t pay too much attention to it but I make sure I’m presentable. Some days more than others. If I’m going out I’ll maybe spend seven minutes.

Do you think people judge you on how you look?
They would if I went into the local back home. If I go out here I wear skinny jeans. If I go out to the Strath hotel – that’s the shinty pub back home – I have to dress down so you put on a hi-viz jacket and boilet suit and off you go. Absolutely no skinny jeans at the Strath hotel. Once, I was labouring on a building site across the road for a summer job. It was a Friday and we brought clothes to go straight out after work. I brought these pointy shoes with a wee heel in them, they were pretty cool. Unbeknownst to me, they sanded one of the heels down for a laugh. I ended up hobbling about all night.

Donald Macdonald – Wreck Of A Ship

August 19, Bar 10, Glasgow
August 21, Isle of Wedge, Skye (tickets)
September 2, Twa Tams, Perth

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Music Alliance Pact – August 2010

Sunday, August 15th, 2010

There’s no mystery in pop music any more. What happened to the days when Michael Jackson’s dancing defied the laws of physics, Godspeed You Black Emperor seemed like prophets of the apocalypse, Belle & Sebastian refused to do interviews and Prince became ungoogleable?

Perhaps DEMS can bring some stealth back to the table. The one-man Edinburgh-based musician has never played a gig and there isn’t even a face to go with the name. Normally, I wouldn’t pick an artist for the Music Alliance Pact who has only two songs to be judged on, but you just have to rewrite the rulebook when one of them is as incredible as Jarndyce vs Jarndyce.

The Music Alliance Pact is a team of blogs from all around the world, and every month each of the 36 blogs from these 36 countries select one song they like from their homeland. All these 36 presentations are put together into a big MAP post, which is published on all 36 blogs on the same day, the 15th. All artists featured have agreed for their song to be made available to the MAP project as a free mp3, which you can download either individually or as a compilation using the link below. There are links to all previous MAPs on the right-hand side of this blog.

To download all 36 songs in one file click here

DemsJarndyce vs Jarndyce
Dems is a truly exciting newcomer to the Scottish music scene. London-raised but Edinburgh-based, Dan Moss has just two songs to his name at the time of writing and no live appearances on the horizon. What we do know is that he’s a man whose talent is matched by his ideas. Jarndyce vs Jarndyce is a classy, clever and thoroughly accessible piece of electro-pop, like a more edgy Postal Service.


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Detour: the live wire daredevils

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

For the past three month I’ve been fighting with Talk Talk to fix my horrendously slow broadband connection (0.38mbps average download speed, I shit you not), which has involved no less than 100 phone calls, mostly to India, and three engineers sent to The Pop Cop HQ in an attempt to get to the root of the problem. It eventually got sorted earlier this week, which finally allowed me to watch video clips online without the computer going into buffer meltdown.

The one link I had saved in anticipation of such a momentous day was footage of renegade Scottish video-bloggers DETOUR’S inaugural ‘Wee Jaunt’ around Glasgow on May 30, which I have embedded below.

The all-day event started off with Stevie And The Moon playing in Brel’s beer garden, before the audience was taken by subway to St Enoch Square where The Second Hand Marching Band were in full flow; they then led the crowd to the first of four performances in venue toilets – Rachel Sermanni in Mono followed by Energy! in The Arches, This Silent Forest in The Admiral, and Admiral Fallow in The Flying Duck. Oh, and Bronto Skylift also rocked out in Bothwell Lane (pictured above).

The geniuses behind Detour are 23-year-old duo Ally McCrae and David Weaver, who are famed for their monthly ‘Kidnap’ series in which they huckle a band into a transit van and drive them off to a secret, unorthodox (often outdoor) location and film them playing a short set, powered by a petrol generator. On top of that Detour also do regular podcasts, put on live nights and have even recorded a pilot for their own TV show. Considering the incredibly professional job these guys do with no funding – just a wealth of ideas, an infectious enthusiasm and the goodwill of people with a shared passion for local bands – they really do deserve to make a living out of this. The Scottish music scene is lucky to have them.

The second Wee Jaunt will take place on Sunday, August 22 in Glasgow. The entertainment will begin at 3pm at St Enoch Square with the last stop being Bloc’s open mic night at 9pm, but quite what will happen in the six hours in-between is anyone’s guess. If you fancy going along, email to reserve your place. See here for more info.

November 2009: Bronto Skylift kidnap video (Forthside Bridge, Stirling), podcast
December 2009: The Whisky Works kidnap video (Glasgow film studio), podcast
January 2010: Other People kidnap video (Forth Rail Bridge), podcast
February 2010: LightGuides kidnap video (Scotland/England border), podcast
March 2010: Hey Enemy kidnap video (Bath Street, Glasgow), podcast
April 2010: The LaFontaines kidnap video (Falkirk Wheel), podcast
May 2010: Carnivores kidnap video (Glasgow Science Centre), podcast
June 2010: Song Of Return kidnap video (St Peter’s Seminary, Cardross)

Check out Detour on MySpace, Facebook, Twitter and Vimeo.


The Second Hand Marching BandLies

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Five bands who should be heard and not seen

Saturday, August 7th, 2010

There’s a fair chance you’ve never listened to Blink-182’s live album The Mark, Tom & Travis Show, released back in 2000. As live albums go, it’s definitely the one I play the most. It energises the studio versions of the band’s best songs (at that time) and allows you to appreciate some fiendishly catchy punk-pop without the fluff that clogged up their early records.

So imagine how cheated I felt when I actually saw Blink-182 with my own eyes in 2004 at the Braehead Arena. The din coming out of the speakers made you wonder if the guitars were being channelled through a telephone line, while Tom DeLonge clearly lacked the ability to sing in tune. In short, the gig bore no resemblance to The Mark, Tom & Travis Show, which I only recently discovered was ‘tidied up’ with some overdubbing in the studio.

There’s therefore no chance I could be persuaded to see the Californians when they head back to Scotland this month, but that doesn’t mean I don’t have a fondness for them, especially their 2003 self-titled album, which made The Pop Cop’s best albums of the decade list no less.

However, the Blink-182 paradox did get me thinking about other musicians whose live shows have delivered crushing disappointment and bad memories.

On November 14, 2008, the stars aligned to plant two of my favourites in Edinburgh on the same night. Ryan Adams at the Picture House vs Death Cab For Cutie at the Corn Exchange. How cruel! The decision was actually not that difficult. Two years earlier, I had witnessed the latter at the legendary Glasgow Barrowlands and almost fell asleep standing up. Death Cab For Cutie, I quickly discovered, are a band to be heard and not seen. I wouldn’t make the same mistake again.

Little did I realise, though, that Ryan Adams would deliver self-indulgence, brain-numbing guitar solos and dire chat. But the most unforgivable thing is that he played a 26-song set that wilfully missed out his best material – just one song from Heartbreaker – Come Pick Me Up – and one song from Gold – When The Stars Go Blue – in TWO AND A HALF HOURS is not what I signed up for. Thanks, Ryan. Thanks for nothing.

Few could argue that the Barras is the greatest venue for atmosphere in Scotland and witnessing anything other than a band at the peak of their powers there is a rarity. Nevertheless, Death Cab aren’t the only ones. Badly Drawn Boy also had a complete stinker in 2002 with a tragically passionless gig which was summed up by the desperate sight of Badders having a go at the crowd for not being more animated despite offering absolutely nothing to get animated about.

The fifth and final performance I’m going to single out was probably the most excruciating of all.

The date: November 20, 2005. The venue: ABC2 in Glasgow. The band: Clap Your Hands Say Yeah. There’s no denying Alec Ounsworth’s strained, wobbly vocals are an acquired taste on record but having warmed to the Brooklyn hipsters on the strength of their marvellous self-titled debut album, I was simply unprepared for the aural molestation that came my way one winter’s night. All you could hear was the sound of one man wailing louder and ever more erratically through the microphone as though his pubes were being secretly pulled out one by one with tweezers.

Feel free to add your own gig nightmares in the comments section below.

Blink 182 – Going Away To College (live)

August 16, AECC, Aberdeen (sold out)
August 17, SECC, Glasgow (sold out)

Badly Drawn Boy – The Shining

October 20, Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow (tickets)

Ryan Adams – Let It Ride

Death Cab For Cutie – Photobooth (live)

Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – Over And Over Again (Lost And Found)

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How to sell out a festival the Belladrum way

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

When things don’t sell as well as expected all sorts of excuses are offered – the weather, timing, competition, funding, advertising and that conveniently perma-topical phrase “the current financial climate” are usually at the top of the blame list.

In the context of Scottish music festivals, history shows that if you build it, they might not come. Connect, Outsider, Live At Loch Lomond, Retrofest, Big In Falkirk, Homecoming Festival, Rock4Life and the Festival of British Youth Orchestras have all sank into the mud in recent years.

The simple reality is that punters won’t commit to such a considerable outlay unless they feel they’re getting their money’s worth – that’s why T in the Park manages to sells out year after year despite being one of the more expensive festivals in Europe.

Given their vastly inferior budget, this week’s BELLADRUM TARTAN HEART FESTIVAL can’t compete with the TITP line-up when it comes to luring mainstream acts, but the organisers still managed to shift all 12,000 tickets for the second year running, which is testament to how it excels in other areas.

For starters, families are encouraged to attend. Belladrum offer free entry to children aged 12 and under and as many as 2,000 festival-goers fall into that category. Needless to say, a more tolerant atmosphere is created when excited kids are chasing each around the site instead of boorish, topless men.

The perks don’t stop there. Camping and car parking are included in the ticket price, there are designated family, disabled and ‘quiet’ camping areas, and the organisers are less Nazi about rules and regulations, as the Belladrum website’s FAQs proves:
– Can I pitch a tent next to my campervan/ caravan?
The short answer is ‘No’ – but we may turn a blind eye if the tent in question is small and tucked well in.
– Can I give or sell my tickets to someone else?
– Can I leave the event and return to it later?
Yes, so long as it isn’t between midnight and 0800.

So we’re on to a winner and we haven’t even mentioned who’s playing this Friday and Saturday. The opening day’s headliners are Feeder, with Stornoway, Badly Drawn Boy and Beth Jean Houghton the pick of the non-Scottish acts. Amy Macdonald tops the bill on the second day, with a supporting cast which includes Candi Staton and The Divine Comedy.

However, it’s a familiar story of the bigger names being overshadowed by the quality of the local talent. Friday also plays host to Twin Atlantic, Colin Macintyre, Admiral Fallow, Tommy Reilly (DJing, bizarrely) Unicorn Kid, Kassidy, The Boy Who Trapped The Sun, Sorren Maclean, Astral Planes, The Moth & The Mirror, Woodenbox With A Fistful Of Fivers, Bwani Junction and Randolph’s Leap, while Saturday has King Creosote, Rachel Sermanni, Panda Su, Hip Parade, Kitty The Lion, Alex Gardner, Young Fathers and Julia And The Doogans.

Tommy Reilly featuring Rachel SermanniMake The Bed

Bwani JunctionTwo Bridges

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Fringe benefits

Sunday, August 1st, 2010

Hello August! It’s my favourite month of the year, purely because it heralds Edinburgh Festival time.

Flicking through the 300-odd pages of the Fringe programme has become an annual ritual that involves circling every show that stands out and compiling those into a fantasy shortlist which is then narrowed down to a workable itinerary that eventually turns into no-room-for-error daily schedule and a severe lightening of the wallet. What a barrel of laughs it must be in The Pop Cop household, eh?

Funnily enough, it is. In the decade or so that I’ve been going to the Fringe, the type of event that has most made it onto the list has been comedy shows, as well as anything from theatre and exhibitions to street dance and even a city cycling tour.

It might seem strange, but very rarely does anything from the music section appeal. Sure, there are always plenty of talented acts that I adore from the alternative sphere to choose from in The Edge Festival listings, but it never feels like a very ‘Fringe-friendly’ choice. The problem is that the Edinburgh date tends to be just another gig for these musicians. They come on stage at 9pm, play for 75 minutes, go off for the prerequisite encore, do another 10 minutes then move on to the next city on their tour.

Here’s what the organisers should do to make things more in keeping with the Festival vibe:

– Put bands on in the afternoon, or any other time that isn’t in the conventional 7pm-11pm bracket.

– Books bands to play an extended run of consecutive shows – at least two weeks.

– Persuade a band to play a set made up entirely of fan requests, either submitted in advance or at the actual gig.

If anyone has any other suggestions feel free to add them in the comments.

My first trip to the capital this month will be on Sunday, August 8 to host a one-off radio show on the student-run FRESH AIR station from 7-9pm. As you can see by the schedule below, I’m one of several music bloggers who have been invited so there should be plenty of quality music and chat to look forward to.

August 8: 7-9pm

August 4: 7-8.30pm
August 11: 7-8.30pm
August 18: 7-8.30pm

August 4: 8.30-10pm
August 15: 7-8.30pm
August 22: 7-8.30pm

August 11: 8.30-10pm
August 18: 8.30-10pm

August 5: 7-8.30pm
August 12: 7-8.30pm
August 19: 7-8.30pm

August 5: 8.30-10pm
August 10: 7-8.30pm
August 17: 7-8.30pm

August 13: 7-8.30pm
August 20: 7-8.30pm

August 7: 8.30-10pm

*I’ll be joined by a very special co-presenter for my stint so be sure to tune in online here.

Regina SpektorOn The Radio

Fiona Soe PaingDeep Song

August 10, Forest Fringe: The Forest Cafe, 11.30pm
August 28/29,
Video Lab, Roxy Art House, 10pm

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