Songs from Northern Britain
Sheep. Lousy weather. Angry people. Absolutely sod all to do. Sheep. This is what most people think of when they think about Northeast Scotland. Take all the good bits away (and, yes, they do exist) and they’d be right. However, there is more to life in the Northeast, and shock horror! A music scene does exist!
Where I come from, this largely exists in the form of ceildh’s, dodgy middle aged crooners and the odd country and western singer in a builder’s hat. But, a new culture has started to emerge in the form of DIY Rock Concerts. School Halls and Town Halls proved popular of late, the former being the setting for one, which I caught the last hour of on Friday night. I even participated in one myself, this time at a pub however, to raise money for a local Skate park. Successful? Yes, in the sense that the bands were excellent and everyone had a good time, no, as after deducting the cost of the mammoth PA, we raised something like £20. The DIY job – famous for there last minute panics, fear of no-one turning up, diabolical organisation and a lot of goodwill, would surely be improved upon by a local promoter organising a competitive music event, right? Err…wrong! An area-wide Battle of the Bands was littered with disorganisation, misunderstandings and a high admission price. £5 may seem reasonable in the city, but out in the sticks amongst rabid teenage music fans, that’s far too pricey. The winning band, which I interviewed after, told me that "everyone was meant to share one drum kit and bass amp, but bands weren’t told to bring any and some bands just expected the equipment to be at the town hall. Also, the PA didn’t agree with the distortion and no-one was loud enough." Events like Battle of the Bands and DIY concerts seem to be proving one thing for NE Scotland – there are plenty of bands in the area, but where are the promoters? Ventures like a local Rock Club have proved these skilled, organisational types do exist, but seem prepared to give up straight away if it isn’t a raging success. Word of mouth is as infectious as foot and mouth, yet promoters seem to be killing events before word of mouth can spread.
To go slightly wider of my hometown, things aren’t all bad. Fanzines exist and do a lot for the promotion of local music, for example, Fudge in Aberdeen, who also organise music events such as Fudge nights and Fudge frenzys. Adie Nunn, formally of Blind Youth (another fanzine) has also started Alphabetty (although this is now based in Surrey), a label (and fanzine) with bands such as Purple Munkie and Nero, to go alongside Aberdeen’s Lithium label. The internet also houses sites such as the Aberdeen Ultimate Band List, a comprehensive list of, yes, you guessed it, Aberdeen Bands. This has also been joined recently by the Inverness Ultimate Band List, although different parties run them.
So, ‘the area that music forgot’ was not actually forgotten, no more than the rest of Britain anyway. Aberdeen is full of activity, and the rest of the area is running to catch up with it, although it seems to be stuck in a rut right now. If only sheep could play instruments…