Saturday night was busier than normal in Mad Hatters with a late show by MIR supplemented by a recently arranged gig by Woodenbox. Woodenbox was an early show with doors opening at eight for the support act, the return of Graham Brown.

 Graham Brown-2Graham has been away from the local music scene, or any music scene for that matter, for the last year as work commitments had put his appearances on hold. Added to his long term absence, Graham took to the stage with a quiet and husky voice due to a cold which had affected him over the last week. However, it didn’t stop him from delivering a confident set, showing very little in the way of any ring rust as he got the songs under his belt.

It was hard to believe that Graham had been away for a year, and his voice displayed a growing maturity with his range tested at times, but never failing. There was also a freshness to the old songs such as, Recover and Believing, and as good as it was to re-acquaint ourselves with those it was interesting to hear a new song too. Although untitled, it was heartfelt and unmistakably Graham. Hopefully we won’t have to wait another year to see and hear Graham again.

Woodenbox are a sextet, but tonight we were entertained to a cut down three piece version of the band with Ali Downer majoring on vocals, guitar and harmonica; Nick Dudman playing his part from behind his drum kit with a touch of vocals too; and trumpeter Phil Cardwell being a one man horns section, or as Ali put it ‘The best three!’

Woodenbox-5With a set that drew heavily on first album Home and the Wildhunt, it was difficult to believe that their were only these three musketeers on stage, as the sound was as intricate and all consuming as the full Woodenbox effect. The added energy of making up for the absentees gave a real drive to the set, most notably in the rattling good finale to ‘Twisted Mile’. They really worked their socks off throughout what was not, as they put it ‘a lo-fi stripped back acoustic set’ which you could have forgiven them for if they had taken that route. It seemed to end just all too quickly, but as murmurings of ‘one more song’ grew they gave the crowd the option of Easy Life or Besides the Point. With the choice being that of the latter, they put what energy they had left into giving it one more blast. They like it up here, and up here they are liked too, however many band members they bring with them.

Final act of the night, and technically speaking a separate show to that of the previous two acts, were MIR, who were there to entertain the late night revelers in two sets before Dan Tierney played a DJ set through into the wee small hours. MIR, fronted by Miriam Campbell, produce a real throwback set that could grace many a venue across the pond.

MIR-6The early promise within ‘Lonesome Train’ gives a feel that they would be very much at home in a freeway side roadhouse. They have a capacity to fuse not just healthy measures of rock ‘n’ roll, country, and a dash of blues, but that ability to enjoy a gig as much as their audience. It’s a character filled set, both musically and through the individual personalities within the group. Chippy’s exquisite guitar playing defines many of the songs and aided by a strong rhythm section, giving a stage for Miriam to develop the songs. In the main it’s fun and feel good, it’s what a late night performance should be all about.

The songs are an interesting mix, with the first half (and I only stayed for the first half) although delivering on pacy numbers, also had, in Miriam’s view the slower numbers which she felt they needed to get out of the way early on. Oh, and Miriam, she can talk. She even wants the audience to ask her to stop talking! But that is part of the appeal of MIR, Miriam says it as she sees it, even down to dedicating their song ‘Roses’ to Mikaeel Kular, a tragedy which ‘touched a nerve’ with her. The band puts a lot into their performances and the audience responds really well. What more can you ask for.

Click for more photos of the night.

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Chartered surveyor by day, music reviewer by night, and occasionally I get to use my camera. A strange mix, but one that I enjoy. A chance meeting in the queue for Bella in 2010 led to the opportunity to write for InvernessGigs; a far cry from the days of writing for a football fanzine back in the late 80s, early 90s. My interests lie between the mainstream, the emerging and the local. Increasingly I find that we have more than enough locally to entertain us to necessitate a trip south. I’m always happy to give a listen, whatever the genre. Inverness has a plethora of talent, all of which I am more than keen to write about. If it encourages just one person to make the effort to listen to some new music I’ll be happy. You can contact Frank direct via