Ahead of Out/Dores in April, Organisers Ally Ridgers and Mark Mackenzie chats to Chris Lemon of IGigs.

The first time I met Ally Ridgers was five years ago, it’s a challenge to remember the venture he was promoting, but what was unforgettable was the enthusiasm and passion he spoke about music with. It was infectious and at the time I thought unsustainable.

Half a decade later and I am meeting with Ally, with one of the three organisers of Out/Dores, Mark Mackenzie, and his enthusiasm has not waned. At all. It would be unfair to say that Mark’s keeness for the event, despite his role changing a little, is any less. The trio is complete by Cisco Rodriguez whose is not with us tonight, but his presence is clearly felt throughout. Ally later refers to a programme with Annie Mac which refers to promoters as the “first person to get blamed, last person to paid”. “It’s our sacrifice to put it on” Ally adds, and that underpinning passion, echoed by Mark, is tangible throughout the interview.

The Out/Dores events hit the scene last year dare I say, with a splash. There was two events last year, the same as this, but there is no sign of growing the event, more a sensible approach to ensuring that party goers get as best an experience as possible. Both Ally and Mark appear respectful for the loyalty displayed by supporters of the event, even if the festival gods have not been kind with the weather in the past.

”People have to trust us, and that’s what we saw last year, even before we announced the line-up tickets were moving” . Tickets are certainly shifting and shifting fast, with the third release of tickets now on sale, and indeed there were less than twenty left of those at last count.

Music is obviously the heartbeat of the event and a lot of consideration has gone into the line-up for April’s event. Originally planned to be a representation of local acts “We were not actually going to have a headliner, as such” Ally explains “ We were going to go local for April”.

The draw of Hammer (Feel My Bicep) was too much to ignore “He fits perfectly with what we are doing”. Although the circumstance of his signing caused a bit of confusion, Ally revealed that he had approached Hammer’s agent, Mark having thought contact was initiated by Hammer. In many ways this highlights the synergy between Mark and Ally, matching ideas and actions, and ultimately getting the job done to good effect.

Hammer had come to Ally and Mark’s attention from feedback from their friends ““every that went to see him said he was amazing”, and in many ways Hammer fits in with one of the events ethos to put new and undiscovered rising talent in-front of a Highland audience who Mark feels “they won’t really know who he is unless you are really into your dance music”.

The importance of creating the best of atmospheres is emphasised “every booking that we make, they are party people… people that we know that can really work a party”.”We want people to go away and say that DJ was fucking awesome he [Hammer] does that”.

The line-up draws from the best of the crop of local DJs, and whilst having the resident DJs (Cisco,Mark and Ally) were automatic choices, the rest of the line-up caused great discussion and debate partly due to the desire to support new local talent but they are clear “we can’t compromise quality”. Subsequently Out/Dores this time round will see Hypnotic Groove, Let Us Play and Vault 95.

Conversation leads to the logistics of the event and at one point they describe themselves as amateurs, but are happy to be corrected when it is put to them that they may be “amateurs” but there is no indication that they are doing anything less than a professional job. It is when you start talking about the behind the scenes work that you realise how invested the Out/Dores team are in ensuring everything works, from the number of toilets (more that is ‘required’), the transport system “I sat and watched the system work really well” , sound management and even capacity “we would rather have less people in who enjoy it, than cram everyone in”. Whilst nerdy, it’s not the kind of thing that gig goers consider, it’s the stuff that’s essential to every event and reassuring for the organisers to have such a grasp on.

It’s also great to see Out/Dores getting the acknowledgement for the event, for the pair they are both surprised and pleased for the attention, using as an example the fact that national press and Visit Loch Ness were intending to cover or support the event.

Mark and Ally are keen to emphasise the ‘keeping it local’ ethos with Creative Skate, Inverness Taxi, Black Tartan Food, Shake and Stir whilst also drawing on national brands including Innes and Gunn and Etnies. Of course without the ongoing support of Dores Inn has been essential and both are keen to praise the help of ‘bossman’ Adam and the staff of the event’s venue..

The after-party this year sees a change from last year, and emphasises the relationship being with it being held as part of Mark Knight’s gig. “We booked Mark Knight” they both joked. The reality emphasised the positive relationship between the Ironworks and Out/Dores, with Ironworks having made the booking, but both working together to benefit each other.

As the interview draws to the end, Mark and Ally are away to their next meeting about the event. It’s a busy time for the pair and with such passion and hard work going into the event you can’t help but wish them well for another Highland event with music at it’s heart.

Tickets , and further details for the 8 hour event on the 1st of April are available via the Out/Dores website.