Review of the First Day of the Winter Showcase at the Ironworks, Inverness 28/12/2011
16 local acts, 2 nights,8hours of nearly consistent live music and over 500 people came to see what represented the best of 2011 and the “ones to watch” in 2012.
Netsounds Unsigned and Ironworks combined forces to create or recreate an event that puts local acts in the spotlight. In doing so the main hall of the venue was split into two: the main stage and an elevated smaller setup just beside where the mixing desk is. The smaller stage was not completely the reserve of the acoustic, nor the smaller line ups e.g. The Frues and Homework.
Comperes for both nights were Toby Michaels for the second stage, who was dubbed Toby Claus following his handing out of presents on the first night and Jamie MacDonald of Netsounds Unsigned.
First band was Red Ronson, who had recently been described as a punk band in the local press. Whilst the lead singer had attempted a mohawk to mark the occasion, it was fair to say it was only the occasional anti-disestablishment message that connected the music that was on offer and punk.
The band which have previously supported Iain McLaughlin and the Outsiders, created a folk – pop style more akin to The Thrills. The group used the opportunity to debut some new material, with the final two songs offering great promise.
Arguably any of the four bands on the main stage could have headlined the event given the array of talent and experience on show. It was Roadway that opened the main stage, with the Rock/Metal sound that indulged the metal heads in the crowd.
A tight five song set, that emphasised both the professionalism of the band and their passion for the genre, saw ‘Fight for Freedom’ moved from it’s usual opening slot. We can’t help but think that the time is right for Roadway given the massive resurgence of rock.
The eclectic mix of the night saw us swept back to the smaller stage with Megan Blyth holding host. The stage suited the intimacy of her lyrics and voice and provided an almost perfect contrast to the preceding rush of Roadway.
Netsounds Unsigned are one of a collection, that believe that Megan has what it takes to “make it” in 2012, and on that performance we couldn’t agree more. But it’s the audience response that is most marked with a respectful awe clearly apparent from those not getting the beers in.
Little Mill of Happiness have continued to grow in stature over the year, consolidated by their EP release that everybody,including ourselves can’t help but pile praise on. Having never seen them on the big stage (I think the last time was when they supported BSP), the sound of Steve Obern chords tore through the hall. ‘Article of Faith’ was a great example of the talent on offer, you couldn’t do more than listen.
Certainly achieving the most talked about set of the night, even before Steve’s advice “if you’re going to have children,make sure you teach them how to smoke crack properly”. This is proper grown up intense music, superbly orchestrated, a musical experience that grows on you.
It certainly did not feel as big a jump to move on to Sara Bills complete with The Hasbeens. This was the first time we had seen a full set with the whole band, although well acquainted with the EP released earlier in the year. Sara coped admirably with a wardrobe malfunction, not detracting from her music. The band definitely offered a different dimension to their songs with a sneaky cover thrown in for extra value.
Iain McLaughlin and the Outsiders have been consistent throughout the year, with the impending album release, it was a slightly more relaxed feel to the gig. With both Dave and Iain engaging the audience it added an increased personal touch to the well known tunes.We look forward to the King Tuts appearance on the 14th of January.
Homework, certainly provided a genre challenge to the rest of the evening, not without their fans on the night.. The band have certainly travelled some distance since their first gig of the year at Ceol-Mor in March, even popping across to Belgium a couple of weeks ago. Electronica (the Kraftwerk T-shirt helping the uninitiated come to grips with what they expect) with attitude, a stomping way to end the small stage.
Ending the night was He Slept on 57, the trio managed to consolidate the energy in the room with their indie pop styling. The trio certainly enjoyed the big stage,after the success of their main stage slot at Belladrum. The group have a charm that add to the mix. The band pride themselves on their live performances and certainly those that managed to see the set in it’s entirety would not be disappointed.
Day one over, the evening was relentless, with the mix of genres offering some respite, however a little time to digest the sets may not have gone amiss. For us it was The Litttle Mill of Happiness that stuck out, taking full advantage of the showcase, and blowing us away in the process.
Written by Chris Lemon
Photos by Thomas Bisset Photography .