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Horse: Review of Careful, The National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh, August 2016 and Winter Tour Preview


“Be yourself, and others will find you”
 This stage show, shown at this year’s Edinburgh Festival was the story of Horse’s life. Born Sheena McDonald (the Sh-he-na part she hated), in one of Scotland’s market towns.
And as a fellow Lanarkian, the feeling of the town felt very familiar, but while I might have experienced the usual teenage angst, Horse’s experiences growing up were very different.
First of all the name that she hated. She decided she was going to be called Horse, she identified with those lovely majestic animals, and she knew in her heart she was different from the other girls, as she struggled with her sexuality, feeling misplaced in the world.
The set was minimal but effective. Two chairs on stage – representing her home life – one for mum and one for dad – both empty. Her parents, Vicky and Dugald, both passed within six months of each other, leaving Horse bereft. The experience somehow cemented even more firmly her compassion and ability to connect and empathise with other people.
During her show we hear about the simple things, and the things you remember growing up. We hear tales of her mum and dad and how they would sit in their chairs, drink tea and eat Rich Tea biscuits.
We hear about the angst of growing up in a small town where Horse stood out, was subjected to bullying and the odd advice from a lady on a train who tells her of a doctor she could go to to “help” sort out her problems.
There’s lots of laughter too among the tears, as Horse talks of her two tone loons “as experimental as it gets in Lanark” and having to go to the school disco in her mum’s Paisley patterned shirt.
 But there’s an escape and a sanctuary which Horse finds in music. Oddly not realising at first the gift she was born with. But then success comes as she appears on The Tube, gets the record deal and is asked to perform at the Stonewall gig at the Albert Hall.
There are still dark periods though – the operation for vocal nodes and the agonising wait as she fears she won’t be able to sing again.
And then we somehow come full circle. Horse meets her soulmate Alanna. she returns to her birthplace to marry, and she attends the equal marriage vote at the Scottish Parliament on 4th February 2014. And we feel a lovely sense of love, acceptance and peace.
This was a heartfelt and soul-baring play, delivered bravely by Horse, beautifully written by Lynn Ferguson and expertly directed by Maggie Kinloch.
While I know Horse and the town she grew up in, what would the couple from California I got talking to in the queue make of her? They visit Edinburgh every year and stay for the duration of the Festival, packing in as much as they can. They knew nothing about Horse, stumbled upon the play and decided to give it a go.
I met them afterwards. They were enthusiastic and moved to tears. The lady was desperate to get her hands on a Horse CD and loved the song Careful – which Horse sang and referenced throughout the show. I caught Horse’s play on the first night, and if this was anything to go by, all those festival goers who stumble upon shows will have felt like they discovered a little Edinburgh Festival gem.
Horse is now back at the “day job” and getting ready for a tour in November and word is that she’s going to be touring Careful next year.
Meanwhile catch her at:
Dundee Rep 5th November

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Filed under Edinburgh, Edinburgh Festival, Edinburgh Fringe, Music, Previews, Scotland, Theatre reviews

Preview: Tenement Trail – Saturday October 8th 2016


1 Day / 9 venues / 50+ Bands / 1 Ticket / £20+ booking fee

I can’t think of much out there that gives better value for money than this year’s Tenement Trail – organised by those doyens of music, Glasgow-based Tenement TV. This is their fourth multi-venue music festival held over one day in the city.

One ticket gives you access to more than 50 bands across eight venues and 12 hours of music. It’s a brilliant way to see some of your favourite bands and also discover new music.

There’s been some recent additions to the line-up. Bands including The Spook School, Louie and The Lochbacks, and Declan Welsh. They’ll be joining newly reformed indie rockers Milburn, who will headline proceedings alongside the excellent Crash Club, The Bar Dogs and Gangs.

Crash Club

Crash Club

It’s always good to see what Barrie-James O’Neil is up to and I’m hoping he’ll pop in and join Emme Woods on stage and perform a duet. Get yourself to Nice n’Sleazy in the afternoon for Emme’s set. She’s on the Last Night From Glasgow record label, who are supporting some great acts and putting out some exciting new albums, including the excellent Teen Canteen‘s Say It All With A Kiss, who you can also see perform at The Art School. A great live band, with cracking tunes, and highly recommended.



I’m also looking forward to seeing Be Charlotte, who are about to bring out their second single called “Machines That Breathe”, also on the Last Night From Glasgow record label. The band headed up by 19-year-old Dundonian Charlotte Brimner has attracted the attention of One Direction star Louis Tomlinson, who Tweeted about her. She’s also just been nominated for the prestigious Big Apple award at this year’s SSE Scottish Music Awards, which is the fundraiser for Nordoff Robbins Music Therapy in Scotland.

Lucia Fontaine‘s voice blew me away when I saw her perform with composer Craig Armstrong, and I know the hugely talented HQFU will bring a storming set and get the crowd dancing.

There’s lots of venues to get around on the day, including 02 ABC1, 02 ABC2, The Art School, The Art School (Vic Bar), King Tut’s, Broadcast, Nice N Sleazy and Flat 0/1.

This is a brilliant event with a cracking line-up. Where else can you see all this music for £20? The only problem you’ll have is co-ordinating your day and trying to pack in as much as you can.

Tenement TV, who continue to break new music, as well as entice established acts to play in their famous Flat 0/1, also celebrate their milestone fifth birthday this month.

Watch teaser video for Tenement Trail  – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2hcJfuXlHQ&feature=youtu.be

Tenement Trail Festival Director Chae Houston commented: “We’re really building an impressive line-up for TT this year, with a great mix of new, touring and established bands. It’s the perfect day out for music lovers, offering music across all genres and really giving fans the chance to discover new talent whilst checking out old favorites.”

Tenement Trail 2016 | @tenementtv | #TT16

Buy Tickets Here


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Filed under Events, Glasgow, Music, Music Festivals, Previews, Tenement Trail, Tenement TV

Ette: Homemade Lemonade – Album Review and Launch, The Old Hairdresser’s, Glasgow – June 2016


Carla J Easton

Ette is the solo project of Carla J Easton one of the all girl foursome from Glasgow who call themselves Teen Canteen. Here she’s teamed up with Joe Kane from Dr. Cosmos Tapelab and the result is a brilliantly harmonious album called Homemade Lemonade.
At an album launch in the Old Hairdresser’s in Glasgow, we heard a run through.

Joe Kane and Carla J Easton of Ette

Carla wears her unabashed passion for 60s girl harmonies on her sleeve and it shines through the album. From the sublime Fireworks, with its dreamy wistfulness and trombone, to the cheerful jauntiness of My Mother Says, to Bones, which makes you feel like doing a few side swaying dance moves, and Bonfires, which even includes some rapping.  And would could not fall in love with the fantastically titled Attack of the Glam Soul Cheerleaders (Parts 1 and 2).  It’s pure pop perfection and finger clicking heaven with an L-O-V-E mantra.
Meanwhile, in true Spector fashion there’s nostalgic festive dreaminess in Spending Every Christmas Day With My Boy, with its gorgeous bells and jingles.
This record is a strong body of work and an incredibly catchy collection of songs. Amazingly the album was recorded in only five days at Joe Kane’s garage studio. All songs were written by Carla, with Joe playing multi instruments on every song as well as working on the production. He also co-wrote the disco led Heaven Knows.

Ette – Carla J Easton and Joe Kane

Performed live it’s fun, bold, and loud, with a psychedelic rocky edge that makes this gig more spiky than sweet.
And while there’s lots of love, happy-go-lucky handclaps and harmonies, underneath there lurks a dark reflection, sadness, pain and anger, which gives much added depth to the songs.
We see this in the lyrics of Bones:
I only want to see the best in you
But you only give me all the rest of you
You’re a constellation that I’ll never know
Cause you’re missing each and every star that glows
And in the fiery I Hate You Song:
I hate you but I hate that I once loved you even more
I’ve got a score to settle
And don’t be fooled by the slight frame of Carla, she’s got a massive voice accompanied by a commanding stage presence. A confident performer, when she sound blew at the end of the gig, she carried on and improvised with a great a Capella.
A winning combination backed by an excellent band, let’s hope we hear much more from Ette.
The album ‘Homemade Lemonade’ is released on Olive Grove Records.
Listen to the album here:

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Record Store Day at Tenement TV, Glasgow – 16th April 2016

DSC05225.jpgRecord Store Day, an event to honor the UK’s independent record shops was founded in 2007. It’s held on the third Saturday of April. This year Glasgow’s Tenement TV opened their doors and put on a great collection of bands to celebrate.

With a line-up that included Crash Club, Barrie-James O’Neill, aka Nightmare Boy, Other Humans, The Bar Dogs, Gangs and Strawberry Wine – the tenement was rocking its foundations all day. Here’s a selection of photos and videos from the day.

2016-04-16 12.50.51-1



For a list of the records released for Record Store Day 2016 – see Record Store Day Website


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Filed under Events, Glasgow, Live Music Reviews, Music, Photography, Record Store Day 2016, Tenement TV, Videos

Tenement TV launch The People’s Film Collective at St Luke’s, Glasgow – 23rd February 2016


St Luke’s is a music and arts venue based in a converted church in Glasgow’s east end. This beautifully restored Grade B listed building retains the church’s original features and includes stained glass windows and a pipe organ which dates back to the early 1800’s. Also within the venue is The Winged Ox bar & kitchen.

The venue was the perfect place to host the launch of Tenement TV’s – The People’s Film Collective – an event where music and movies come together, in unusual places.

Music came from Barrie-James O’Neill (Nightmare Boy) and The Bar Dogs. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of its release (is it really that long?!) we were treated to a screening of Baz Lurhmann’s Romeo & Juliet. And when the film reached its tragic conclusion (no spoiler alert – everyone knows how the story ends! ) with Romeo & Juliet dying on a church altar surrounded by candle light – it was fitting that we found ourselves watching the sad scene unfold in St Luke’s. Here’s a selection of photos from the night.


For more information on St Luke’s – see St Luke’s Glasgow Website

For more information on Tenement TV – see Tenement TV Website


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Filed under Events, Films, Gig Reviews, Glasgow, Live Music Reviews, Music, Photography, Scotland, St Luke's Glasgow

Midge Ure, Town House, Hamilton, March 21, 2015

Midge Ure

This event was billed as part of a Young at Heart Festival and it was a night of two halves. The first half was a sit-down interview with Midge conducted by Scottish broadcaster and music journalist Billy Sloan, followed by a second half where Midge performed some old and new songs.

It was a format that worked, no doubt due to the relaxed and well researched interviewing style of Billy and his subject Midge having such an interesting wealth of stories to draw from.

The evening felt like sitting in someone’s living room and listening to some easy banter, but where the stories are all interesting and engaging, and you’re not looking for an escape route to the kitchen.

Obvious topics for conversation were Midge’s collaborations with Bob Geldof, when the two hooked up together in the 80s and pulled off the Live Aid concert on 13th July 1985.  Although they were obviously ambitious and passionate about their cause, I don’t think they anticipated just how ground-breaking an event they were embarking on.

Bob Geldof and Midge Ure

Bob Geldof and Midge Ure

Those of us who remember a world before social media and the internet, can appreciate how difficult it must have been to pull musicians together for the Band Aid single. And Midge admitted that on the morning of recording, they were in the studio nervously waiting, with no idea who was going to turn up and who would sing what lines. Duly recorded the single was whizzed over to Radio One on a cassette tape. Remember those?  A magical moment was when Midge turned on the radio and heard it getting its very first exclusive airplay.

And it was inspirational to hear how a young boy from Cambuslang managed to forge a career in the music industry and realise a dream, grafting in early bands such as Slik and Rich Kids and then forming the seminal Visage with Steve Strange.

Steve Strange and Midge Ure

Steve Strange and Midge Ure

There was also a stint with Thin Lizzy, where he answered an SOS call from Phil Lynott, after the abrupt departure of Gary Moore, which saw Midge on a flight to New York, learning guitar chords on the way.

It was an interesting and engaging chat full of fascinating stories which could have gone on for longer.

After an interval Midge backed with two excellent young male musicians performed some of his best known tracks and some from his new album Fragile. It’s his first release of original music for over a decade, although he has been recording other material during that period, such as a covers album, some live CDs and the latest Ultravox album Brilliant. Fragile, you could say, is a solo album.

It’s also the 20th anniversary of the Breathe album and he’s currently on a Breathe Again tour around the world. He has released an album called Breathe Again – in celebration, which includes the entire Breathe album and four bonus tracks (Lament, Fade to Grey, All Fall Down, Become).

It’s difficult perhaps to imagine an acoustic version of one of the most iconic tracks of the 80s – Vienna – but it worked, as did a brilliant version of Visage’s Fade To Grey. And Midge poignantly paid tribute to Steve Strange who sadly died this February.

Midge Ure

What was evident from this evening was that after over 40 odd years in the music business and now at the age of 61, Midge is as passionate about music now as when he started. The old songs stand the test of time and judging by the new songs, he’s still got plenty to say.

He’s currently on tour – for more information see: Midge Ure website

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Serious Drugs – Duglas And The Music Of The BMX Bandits

What does it mean to be a BMX Bandit?

Serious Drugs poster

Serious Drugs poster

If you listen to American filmmaker / record producer Kim Fowley:

It means a nuclear submarine floating through chocolate syrup skies of spinach, raining raisins on a Chihuahua covered infinity of plaid waistcoats, with sunglasses and slow motion. It sort of means, pathos equals suburban integrity of loneliness punctuated by really nice melodies.’

While band member Sean Dickson said:

“It’s like being wrapped in your favorite chocolate bar with everybody you love all around you hugging you at the same time.”

Meanwhile Creation Records co-founder Alan McGee has a more down to earth answer in his description of the band when he said:

“I always thought it was a joke group but if it was, it was a very good joke.”

Or how about the accolade from Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain? In the early 1990s he said:

’If I could be in any other band, it would be BMX Bandits.’

Jim Burns, the filmmaker behind Serious Drugs – Duglas And The Music Of BMX Bandits started his project with this question in mind.

Film-maker Jim Burns

Film-maker Jim Burns
Picture Credit: Spence Photography

Inspired by his love for the band and in particular their album My Chain, which he credits with helping him through a period of depression, he wanted to make a film about the Bandits and their founder Duglas T Stewart.

Duglas T Stewart

Duglas T Stewart

Duglas agreed to the project and a four year journey began. It was quite an undertaking for Jim, who works for a software engineering company, because he had never made a film before. Duglas however had faith and put his trust in Jim. So much so, he didn’t see or vet any footage. The first time Duglas saw any filming was at the movie’s world premiere, screened at the Glasgow Film Theatre in December 2011.

The film is an amalgamation of interviews, new and old footage, photos and musical segments pieced together and taken right up to the current day where the band are in the production of their album BMX Bandits In Space, released last year.

BMX Bandits In Space

BMX Bandits In Space

This album, their 16th release, reunites Duglas with his former Bandits Jim McCulloch, Norman Blake and Sean Dickson. It’s the first time he has written with Dickson and McCulloch in over 20 years.Given the sprawling history of this band, who celebrated their 25th Anniversary in 2011, it’s quite a task to squeeze into a documentary. A good indication is the drawing, like a family tree, that Duglas presents during the film. It’s a reminder of the members who passed through bandit country and the trails of bands and connections from Soup Dragons, The Vaselines, Teenage Fanclub, The Pearlfishers, Superstar and many others.

BMX Bandits Family Tree

BMX Bandits’ Family Tree

Latterly the addition of Rachel Allison on vocals and multi-instrumentalist David Scott has given the band another dimension and keeps them evolving.

There’s been a constant ebb and flow of people, leaving, coming back, moving on, and coming back again. It feels like one big happy family. It would probably take something pretty serious to be ex-communicated.

During the film Norman Blake, who features extensively, likened being a BMX Bandit to being an Army Reserve, “you could get called up any time.”

We go back to the birth of the Bandits and see footage of the band playing early gigs in Bellshill’s Hattonrigg Hotel, which was demolished in the early 90s.We see a young Duglas cutting about his native Bellshill with an angular blonde wedge haircut reminiscent of ABC’s Martin Fry, wearing sharp suits, ties, multi colours and collecting Barbies and dolls houses. In the small Lanarkshire mining town, famous for churning out gruff straight-talking men like football legend Sir Matt Busby, Duglas stood out. But he made his own unique impact and was fondly regarded. A master of impersonations, particularly Frank Spencer, we see Duglas visiting his old Bellshill school.

Early BMX Bandits in 1987.L-R Norman Blake, Francis Macdonald, Billy Woods, Duglas T Stewart, Jim McCulloch, Joe McAlinden

Early BMX Bandits in 1987.
L-R Norman Blake, Francis Macdonald, Billy Woods, Duglas T Stewart, Jim McCulloch, Joe McAlinden

During the film it was touching to meet Duglas’s mum sitting in the kitchen of her house. Possibly like most other mums with a creative child under their roof, she was quite non-plussed and fairly oblivious to her son’s burgeoning career.

The film was shown at the Scottish Mental Health Arts And Film Festival in October 2012 at the Edinburgh Filmhouse. At a question and answer session afterwards Duglas revealed that his mum knew he had finally made it when he appeared in the local paper. He made it into The Bellshill Speaker’s list of 100 influential people from Bellshill – at number 51. This was an astonishing revelation which begged the question of who were the other people who made up this list of 100?

The film title comes after a BMX Bandits song. Duglas explained at one point he had been taking medication for depression and he had a new girlfriend at the time who said, “You don’t need these any more, you have me.”  After while the girlfriend said “This isn’t working, you better get some serious drugs.”

This conversation inspired the lyrics “I said I don’t think I can take it much longer, she said ‘maybe your tablet should be stronger, get some serious drugs’, I need some serious love.”

This song which appeared on the 2006 Bandit album My Chain, was written during a difficult time in Duglas’s life, and proved to be a salvation for Jim. He said he felt this was a guy who knew what it felt like to be lonely.

The film is a reflective look back through time, there’s entertaining footage, lively interviews with Creation co-founder Alan McGee, Kim Fowley, band members, it’s a nostalgic slice of Scotland’s musical culture from the 1980s, when albums were made in bedrooms with borrowed gear and lots of mates. But what came through in the question and answer session with Jim and Duglas, was their special relationship, formed with a mutual respect and trust, and a sense that they had both helped each other in some way. It felt as much a personal journey for Jim, as it was for Duglas.

While Jim credits the Bandits music with helping him through a dark period in his life, Duglas suffered a similar darkness which surfaced during filming. Jim was faced with an unexpected dilemma. He sensitively chose not to film and decided they would deal with this period at a later stage when Duglas felt better. And as the darkness descended, the Bandit family gathered around Duglas to help him, like “angels” arriving. They instinctively knew something was seriously wrong.

Duglas Stewart & Norman Blake

Duglas Stewart & Norman Blake

Duglas recovered. The film continued and we were brought up to date with The Bandits celebrating their 25th anniversary, gigging and working on their latest album BMX Bandits In Space. It’s been a journey.

It also felt like the realization of a dream for Jim Burns, a first time film-maker with a vision. He made the film on a shoestring, borrowing and acquiring gear whenever he could and often with his family pitching in to help out.

Before any of this happened he was sitting in the Glasgow Film Theatre one night with his family and whispered to them something along the lines of “Wouldn’t it be great to make a film and have a premiere in here?” The seed was sown. He had never made a film before but somehow managed to make his dream become a reality.

The film is now available on DVD. For details see: Serious Drugs DVD Ordering

There’s also a special edition available with lots of extras. See also: Serious Drugs – A Film About The BMX Bandits Facebook Page


Filed under Films, Glasgow Film Theatre, Music