In like a lamb, out like a lion. It’s one of those well worn local phrases that conveys the schizophrenic nature of Scotland’s weather in March. But, really, what kind of atmospheric state befits coming ‘in like a lamb’? As a one time hill-dwelling Highlander, I’ve seen lambs ‘coming in’ to this world and, rest assured, it's not pretty. Not pretty at all. Anyway, back to music matters. It’s almost April and that means the season of losing your self respect in a boggin’ field to a smattering of happy-to-be-there melody makers is quickly bearing down upon us. And, as you’ll quickly notice, this month’s round-up gravitates around Scottish festivals like an MP looking to bury bad news does a natural disaster.
The big story, of course, is the big T. Yep, days after our last Drowned in Scotland dispatch, the line up for this year’s T in the Park (TITP) was ceremoniously announced to slavering media types. Lurking beneath the headline triumvirate of Arctic Monkeys, Coldplay and Foofighters lies an intriguing undercard that offers up the corduroy-clad return of Pulp, Primal Scream in their Screamadelica smothered pomp and the boot-kicking, lip-pouting, hip-wiggling thrusts of Blondie. Sure, blasts from the past they may be, but TITP is a festival for scorching your liver while screeching your lungs off. Taste, as anyone who's been before will vouch, is not always top of the agenda. Much like non-educated delinquents, according to festival organiser Geoff Ellis
Continuing the TITP theme, Tennent’s have been inviting Scotland’s unsigned artists to stake their claim for a chance to play the T Break Stage at this year’s festival. As part of this year’s selection 'panel', I can’t honestly give you an objective take on this call for demo submissions. But I can confirm the artists who have already applied are proving unnervingly adept at hunting down the judges on social media networks and pleading their case. Rest assured, not even a vinegar drenched palony supper will swing our votes.
Anyway, the T Break stage offers up-and-coming bands the opportunity to play to a potentially huge audience, while raising their profile within the wider Scottish music industry. Frightened Rabbit, Biffy Clyro and We Were Promised Jetpacks have all graced the T Break stage at one time – each going on to greater things. The submission process seems fairly easy – you should plonk your tuneage here before 11 April – and you can rest assured (because it’s been drummed into us by the lovely ladies in the T Break PR office) the judges will wrap their lugs around every entry before casting their decision. The selected 16 bands will be announced in May and will play the TITP festival on Saturday 9 June and Sunday 10 June. And, hey, if you don’t make the cut at least you know who to blame, right?
OK, moving on from that shameless plug. Another festival, slightly less gargantuan than TITP but no less worthy, was announced this month. The rather quaint sounding Doune The Rabbit Hole festival is returning to the enchanting pastures of Doune Castle in Stirlingshire. For three days the castle plays host to a healthy sprawl of Scottish melody makers, long and short in both tooth and style, including The Vaselines, BMX Bandits, James Yorkston, Dam Mantle, Conquering Animal Sound and many more tasty tunesmiths. If you’re getting the impression it’s one of those fancy-shmancy Boutique type affairs where tangerine-tinted girls wear 6-inch stilettos while attempting to negotiate a field full of cowpat, fear not. For this delightful little soiree will cost you at most 58 of your finest pounds and at the least 18 quid. Not a bad bang for yer buck, I'm sure you'll agree.
Next up, it’s an all-smiles-in-the-end-report on the stooshy around Withered Hand’s South By Southwest (SXSW) visa. In short, Dan Wilson – aka Withered Hand – was entrenched in battle with the USA immigration control about whether his melody-merchantry was of sufficient quality to play in the land of the free (or is that the brave? I can never remember). Admittedly, the visions of dour-pussed visa control officers mulling over Dan’s whimsical folk-pop conjures up a grin or two, but what on earth they were doing questioning the validity of a musician’s work – especially one who has been selected by SXSW and vouched for by Creative Scotland – is, frankly, baffling. Anyway, after a plea or two in the ears of the right people, it all ended as jubilantly as an Enid Blyton escapade, with our maligned hero swathing his way through the tabloid-conjured red tape to touch down in Texas with moments to spare - huzzah. To get more of a feel for the whole SXSW shenanigans, here’s a very watchable video diary from the sweat-soaked Detour boys…
For our final festival fling of the month, we move to matters of a more naval gazing disposition. Edinburgh-based industry bods Born To Be Wide have revealed details of their forthcoming Wide Days event. On 7 April, Wide Days will host a programme of panels, workshops and showcases in venues around Edinburgh, covering a range of topics like ‘Music in Films’ and ‘Not Just SXSW’ as well as more practical elements like ‘How To Write A Killer Biog’ and 'Music Making Money'. Olaf Furniss, a key Wide Days curator, says: “Last year’s Wide Days proved that it is possible to host a successful event which brings together industry veterans and those working at grassroots level. This year we plan to build on that success with a programme combining the experience of both the old and the new music business.”
Now, before the DiS subs hack away at this column like some sort of sleep deprived, amphetamine-swizzing hairdresser recently ditched by her deadbeat boyfriend after he salami-dipped her ex-best mate, there’s just enough room to tell you about Jonnie Common’s excellent new Deskjob project. Essentially, Jonnie – a renowned ditty-designer with an ear for a tune – has coerced ten of Scotland’s finest acts to hand over stripped down versions of their musical wares to have his wicked, electronically-stimulated way with them. The result is a rather nifty, ear-pleasing record that you can get your hands on here. And, if you’re in Glasgow on 6 April you can witness nine of the ten acts ply their Common-infused trade at the skinny-fitting Captain’s Rest. To top it all off, we've got a little taster of the album to get your pulse running...
There's some tasty treats amongst Scotland's myriad musical sweatboxes this month. Here's a quick round up of five of the best...
The live return of Edinburgh’s premium electro-hipsters Dead Boy Robotic is made even more titillating by the inclusion of Lady North’s pneumatic-whacking skinsman on drums.
Deerhunter – Monday 28 March, Oran Mor, Glasgow
Bradley Cox and his understated, ethereal arrangements will no doubt haunt Oran Mor’s hallowed coves. Expect tickets to be at a premium - in fact [quickly checks venue] they're already sold out. Sorry.
A new look Meursault take to the ever impressive Limbo stage alongside gorgeous bleep-mongers Conquering Animal Sound. Most definitely gig of the month.
Haddowfest – Sat 2 & Sun 3 April, Various venues, Edinburgh
Sure, the ‘main’ draw of this festival may be Johnny Borrell’s curiously Young Guns-modelled Razorlight, but there’s myriad local treasures to ease you through the pain.
Much revered Scottish luminaries Gordon Anderson and Johnny Lynch make a sizeable dent on the Aberdeen gig scene this month.
With a career that’s already spanned ten years, including stints supporting Jurassic 5 and Amy Winehouse, it seems a little strange to be ‘Introducing…’ Profisee. But for Edinburgh MC Nike Oruh (AKA Profisee) timing is everything. Lyrically, Oruh has always outgunned the competition, reeling off engorging, spiritually conscious yarns that push far beyond limp schoolyard tokenisms. But it’s in the beats where his work is finding fresh thrust; new EP, Logan’s Run, is a driving charge of electronically scarred hip-hop that hurtles into the ear canals like an inter-galactic meteor shower. Behind this tumultuous sonic backdrop, Oruh’s enlightened tones offer the kind of rhyme-coining wisdom that's matured from years of battle, transforming Logan’s Run in to an invigorating slab of genre-crossing sound. After a decade of graft, Profisee has just about seen it all. Now, finally, success is almost in his grasp.
Logan’s Run is released on 28 March through Phuturelabs. You can check it out in its entirety here.