And so the three mighty bands did meet on the field of battle. Axes in hand, some only armed with sticks or battle cries. And lo, did the reviewer stop writing like this as it’s confusing.
Yup, 3 bands. No Ragazzi, not sure why. Axes would be guitars, sticks were drum sticks, the lassie from Thousand Stars doesn’t play an instrument. Makes sense now eh?
The birthday boy
The night was three things. Organiser/compare Graeme Gilchrist’s birthday (happy birthday!), the final of the battle with that all important 3 days of recording up for grabs and the re-opening of The Eagle upstairs after a very long period of being shut. A fair few of the more experienced crowd members commented on how glad they were that it was back. The refurbished venue is very nice too. Roughly Market Bar sized for the crowd, bigger stage so a band can fit, toilets that aren’t Hobbit sized. Nice place all round. Wee bar in the corner, windows make a good back drop for the stage, comfy sofas to incentivise turning up early so you get one. The sound is good too. Check it out when you get a chance.
Not to put The Market Bar down any, love the place.
But this isn’t a venue review now is it? I had a vote in the outcome of this, yet no one who was playing bribed me. Poor show bands. Archie from the Oxides offered me a quid, as did Ryan Golder. PROFESSIONALS!
First up were Searching for Donkeys. They were Switzerland, non combatants and didn’t vote on the outcome. I only caught the end of the set as I had to jump over to The Market Bar for a bit and I wouldn’t review them in this instance anyway. I will say that they are a nice, mellow rock band and leave it at that for now. Proper review down the road no doubt.
And then came the first group of warriors. Lionel, only their second gig. The first one being the heat to get here. There appears to have been a decent amount of rehearsing in between as they sounded tighter than they did the first time. They have a retro sound with some great bass hooks and twangy/twiddly guitar solos. Each instrument, drums included, brings with it some variety over the bands regular sound to keep things interesting. They also showed a lack of fear by playing not one but two new tunes (though to be fair, second gig means they are all new to most of us. PLAYING new is a different matter though). The first new track fits in with their other stuff, the second is a fair bit darker and deeper. Like Lionel’s evil twin. To start with I thought this brought with it a bit of a weakness vocally but as the song went on my opinion changed. Could have just been down to nerves or it being new. Overall it was a blistering set from a band who sound more experienced than they are. A few more gigs under their belt and I could see them doing rather well. Keep at it boys.
76 Knots, catching flies
Next up were 76 Knots, another relatively new band really but slightly less so than Lionel. In the heat review I also highlighted a bit of vocal weakness at times and thought the same to start with this time around. As the set progressed I changed my opinion on that though. Now and again a bit patchy, generally spot on. Particularly for the genre of music they play and especially when it’s full on punky singing. I call it California Punk, or Skater punk. Loud, fast, high energy. There is nothing to fault musically here at all. I’ve referred to Andy as the second best bassist in Inverness BUT after a second visit….it so bloody close I can’t chose between him and Archie. And I’ve got a feeling that each of them would point to the other one as the best, which is nice. All round they brought fun, good music from all three guys and vocally they have a bit of an Offspring thing going on really. Though better. Uber bassist Andy provides backing and lead vocals on one track and when he’s doing the lead it gets very Offspringish. Though better. I LIKE the Offspring but don’t love em, just using it as an example for your ears. I’ve seen these guys twice now, they keep getting better, the crowd loved them though I think it was weighted in their direction anyway. Cracking.
This picture is full of stars, a Thousand of them.
And finally, Thousand Stars who keep things in a California vein but a more mellow one. They aren’t goths, but I think of the sound as gothy indie rock. Like stuff you’d get on The Craft or Charmed soundtrack. They have a very passionate singer and lyrically I think they may be spot on for the genre though I need to listen to things a few times to pick up on that kind of thing. They could probably do with cutting back on the harmonised parts on some songs though as it doesn’t always gel. They are a much mellower band than 76 Knots so placement may have damaged them a little bit. In fact at times, mainly while playing, they looked a bit disheartened. If that is the case then fair play to them as they did as good, if not a bit better, a set as I’ve seen them play and they brought banter in between the songs to have some crowd interaction (something that was scored on). A solid set from a solid band who I’m not sure are QUITE there yet but are certainly on the right track.
And that was it. Scores were scribbled on bits of paper and handed in to the hosts, totting up was done, milling about for 5 minutes happened and then results were announced. And the winner was…..
76 Knots! Which is fitting really as on the night they played the best set. Not to put the others down by any means. So at some point I’ll have a 76 Knots EP to play on the radio, along with the Thousand Stars one and hopefully Lionel at some point. The winner were extremely happy, grateful for the opportunity and respectful to their opponents. Their opponents didn’t have a problem with who won though obviously there was probably a bit of disappointed. No hard feelings though. Yes it was a competition, but not a nasty one. Very good to see, don’t want a divided scene. Throughout everyone had a good time, we got to see some good gigs and the upstairs bit of the Eagle has made a blistering return to the Inverness scene. Expect more music up there, expect to see me now and again hopefully, and expect that EP in…oh could well be a couple of months really.
Thanks to The Eagle, the Searching for Donkey’s boys for organising it and to EVERYONE who played (even though I missed heat 4). Wonder if they’ll do it again next year…. And a special thanks to photographer extraordinaire Adrian Young for taking all of the pretty pictures used in these reviews. Great work man.