The music showcases at GoNorth always bring out the best of up and coming Scottish and European acts.So much so that picking your way around the venues is always fraught with difficulty.
My Wednesday night kicked off in Mad Hatters where Le Prince Miiaou were taking to the stage. This rather enigmatic French band brought us an element of brood and menace but equally through a synthetic vocal touched upon a Florence and the Machine vibe. With a haunting beauty casting a veil over their songs it was pleasing that the held the audience from front to back with this performance. I’d happily travel to France to see this band.
Across the road in The Room, local lads Silver Coast were taking it out in a domain most used to cover bands. Tactically they got it right. There was no pissing about here as they loaded up the power from the very start of their set.
The beauty of goNORTH is that bands don’t just play to their usual followers but also those that are there for the festival. In the case of Silver Coast this included the likes of Vic Galloway and The Herald’s Alan Morrison. You don’t get that level of industry interest at gigs normally and Silver Coast did their damndest to capitalise on it.
Next stop required a trip down Academy Street to Deeno’s, a new venue on the GoNorth circuit. Hailing from Lewis, Black Cub knew how to to knock some life back into the tired surroundings of Deeno’s. They pretty much much threw everything into their set and came out the other side in one piece. There is a lot of really good music happening over in the Western Isles and people are now sitting up and taking notice.
It was no more than a couple of steps away from my next stop at the rebadged Phoenix Ale House. Last year it saw the Whiskys nearly tear the place down; a place that was then somewhat tired to say the least. This year it has all changed; the bar is under new ownership and has been fettled up, and The Whiskys, although still very much a band, are tonight replaced by front man Dr Wook who has been putting his solo material out there.
Rather cleverly he was also selling a limited number of CDs with individual artwork to entice people along. He doesn’t need to do this as his music speaks for itself. His set draws influences from the south of the US; it’s raw, emotion packed and grabs a room.
Kris Douglas, for that is his real name, has his passion etched across his face as he delivers song after song. Etched so much that as I had camera in hand tonight taking photos was like shooting fish in a barrel. Such passion connects not only with a camera but also an audience. This was mighty fine as they would say in the Deep South.
Last stop for me was Poor Things who were bringing it all to a conclusion in The Room. Last year they played along the street at the Auctioneers to widespread plaudits. This year they returned with a new verve and confidence of the back of their recent eponymous album release.
Craig Angus and Richard Stratton share vocal duties and general banter with the audience. It’s all driven along by Gavin Redford on drums with a real sense of purpose. They are making a quick return to Inverness on 13 June at Mad Hatters. So I think I know where I’ll be next Friday.
Opening my Thursday night was Miss Irenie Rose another product of the Western Isles. Irenie is quite a talent. Starting off with just her voice and guitar she gives out a slice of her personality within her songs and her almost deadpan delivery between each track. What sets her aside is her use of a little box, I’m not the most technically minded, to loop her voice to stunning effect. Her half hour could so easily have been a little longer to please those in attendance.
The subtle approach in the Phoenix gave way to the full on electronic edged pop of Indian Red Lopez. It’s amazing how once again a young band can breath life into a tired bar such as Deeno’s. The focus is on frontman Michael Chang who is robustly aided by his supporting back drop. A real adrenalin surge to move the night along.
Shaped have come from nowhere over the past few months and they, not I, still have doubts over how good they are. Tonight they stormed the Market Bar but still with that feeling of what are we doing here hanging over them. Their insecurities make them all the more endearing and each song is always a joy to hear, and for them a joy to just get through it. They may not be re-inventing pop punk but they are delivering it in its true spirit.
It would be fair to say that Siobhan Wilson was before the festival viewed as one of the acts to see. It was a tough draw for her though in Mad Hatters a venue which over the two nights saw her as the only acoustic act. Any chatter from around the bar died away within seconds of her striking up and all attention focussed on the stage. Her sparse guitar playing style and gentle vocal ensured that there was total hush throughout each song.
Accompanied by Tommy Reilly, whose touch was light and complemented Siobhan’s delivery, this was a set of near perfection. There was a moment of light relief when Siobhan burst into laughter mid song as she became distracted as her heel got stuck in a small gap in the floor. Undeterred she kicked off her shoes and completed the set barefoot. When her half hour ended the applause rang out and felt neverending. As I left to head for the Ironworks almost everyone else was in a queue to buy her EP.
The Ironworks was to be my last stop of the night, and the festival, but due to the usual stops to chat with people at the venue on the way, most notably by an element of Schnarff Schnarff, I was a little too distracted, and unprofessional, to pass much comment on Broken Records who were the penultimate act before the closing party with Roman Nose.
So overall without the sideshow of Rockness coming over the hill, GoNorth was a fantastic two days with the city centre absolutely buzzing on both nights. We may, if reports are true, no longer have Rockness but in GoNorth, or as it will be known from next year XPO North, we have something that we should cherish and appreciate.