Netsounds Unsigned Takeover: The Little Mill Of Happiness and Garden Of Elks Review!

I wasn’t going to do a review of this but I was able to see the whole damned gig for once so I will. Alas, no pics of Little Mill as I hadn’t decided to write this when they were on. And I still only have a blackberry, so the pics of Elks aren’t fantastic either.

A Happy Little Mill

Things kicked off with Inverness’ own The Little Mill Of Happiness. A second EP is in the works so I was looking forward to hearing some new (at least to me) material. It’s been a while since I’ve managed to see them live. Never a band to disappoint, there was new stuff a plenty. I didn’t take any notes so I’ll just sum up. Basically what you expect from Little Mill, risky lyrics growled with feeling that pull no punches and don’t care what you think backed by immensely well played instruments. Solid guitar and bass hooks, pumping drums. One track that definitely wasn’t new, Drying Out Wishbones, did have a new treatment. Bit faster, bit thrashier, still immense.

Disclaimer for all of the above. New = new to me. Also “what you expect” doesn’t mean samey, it means “this is their sound and its really fucking good”. Catch Little Mill the next chance you get.

Speaking of really fucking good, Garden of Elks. Headliners for the first takeover of the year and a fine pick they were too. Well done Netsounds. If I closed my eyes I could easily have imagined that I was in a dirty basement in the mid nineties, somewhere in northern England, surrounded by sweaty punks jumping around like nutters. That’s the Elk sound. High energy, no respite noise. The boys have lots of hair so the best way to see the intensity is to watch lady drummer Kirstin at the start of a song. Calm ready to start face, quick change to “immaplaysomefuckingmusic” face and we’re off. Thrashy guitar and bass, thumping drums. Harmonised, as much as punk harmonises, girl/boy vocals. Fun. I for one am very glad that the lo-fi punk aesthetic is alive and well (they had TAPES!) being kept alive by the likes of these guys, Cleavers, and PAWS. The kind of music that if you aren’t paying attention spins you round, grabs your lapels and yells in your face until your having fun.

So in short, good gig eh? Most of the above is probably rambley bollocks but I wrote it on the bus and I’m a shit writer at the best of times. Music is for listening to so head over to both bands pages and treat your ears. And they’re on the radio shows play list obviously.

Donald Macdonald and the Islands @ The Greenhouse review

Katie’s lovely handywork

It was a busy couple of days in The Greenhouse. Crazy night on Thursday for Fash’s Annual Christmas Extravaganza, a very well attended Saturday set in the afternoon and then on Saturday evening the final gig of the Donald Macdonald (and the Islands) tour. And the place was HEAVING when I got there. Standing room only, and in some areas barely even that. Mainly there for the main men themselves obviously but they were also in for a treat to start off with.

Sorry for the dodgyness of the pictures as usual. Let’s hope I have a better camera at some point in the coming year!

Solo sapling Alice Bentley

As with pretty much every gig there was some support on offer and it came in the shape on Dingwall native Alice Bentley from the Young Trees. Unfortunately it was a rather noisy crowd for the Greenhouse, felt more like Hoots really, but this didn’t put her off at all. After the set I was talking with Alice and she admitted to suffering pretty badly from stage fright before every gig. It doesn’t show in the least though. Alice came across as a very comfortable performer who belongs in front of an audience. Great guitar playing, lovely voice and a mix of covers in her own style and original tracks. Her own style being what I’d describe as pop folk, something that appears to be on the rise. A seasonal cover, Santa Baby, was given a bit more energy that the more famous versions, while her cover of U2’s With or Without You was more mellow. Alice doesn’t have a soaring voice, more of a delicate one, so none of Bono’s wailing just lovely lovelyness. I didn’t get a note of the names of the originals as I’m useless but they were all very good, and the one I do know the name of (Scottish Rain) sounds just as great solo as it does with the whole Young Trees forest.

2 other things of note as well. She doesn’t suffer from Fiddly Tuner Syndrome, will have a wee check to make sure things are sounding okay but that’s it. Very glad to see that. And while the between tracks banter was light it was present which is also a good mark. Despite what may be going on inside before a gig, and EVERYONE gets a bit of stage fright, what you see is a talented young lady who should go very far. And has a very proud mum.

Sexy McSexy (and the Sexys), random superfan on the left

After a bit of turn around setting up time it was time for the main event, Donald Macdonald (and the Islands). Who, as you can see from the caption, I’m reliably told are a very attractive group of young men. I don’t care about that myself, I like girls, but I do care about what kind of music they produce. Their first EP is very familiar to me and listeners to the radio show as they’ve had a few spins at this point. Live they are that but a wee bit more. Turned up a notch or two. Whether it’s just because it was the last gig of the tour or if they always do this live I don’t know but they certainly gave it their all. I mean look at the Jake Bolt rivaling sweat levels

Wet T-shirt contest

So they produce some loud folk rock then, with plenty of quiet bits thrown in. In many ways a bit of a north west answer to Fatherson in the varied pace and energy levels, with more subtle vocals from Donald than comes from Ross. Very distinct from each other, but a similar effort vibe. The crowd and this reviewer were loving it and the band were giving back their all. Bit of singing along and lots of clapping. There was waltzing. There was bouncing. AND there was crowd surfing. A challenge for some crowd surfing was put forth and local celebrity wild child Josephine Sillars (kidding about the wild child bit) stepped in. With a lift from Fash and a boost from myself, hence no picture, she was up on the sea for a bit and walked away the proud owner of a DMac t-shirt.

Not the first time there’s been crowd surfing in the Tea Posy btw but I do believe it’s a first for a folk gig!

The set was a mix of high energy folk rock with mellower ballads thrown in and a great time was had by all. Alas my notes are a bit sparse as I was one of the all. Plus I accidentally found myself in the midst of the sizeable crowd. I can tell you that they threw every last ounce they had in to the final number which was actually quite punky. Basically this isn’t your grandpa’s folk music by any means.

You’ve missed your chance for the year for either of these acts I think, but if you get the shot next year to see either Alice (slash Young Trees) or DMac and the I’s then get yourself along. You won’t regret it. You can pick up an EP from the main men here and they have another EP in the works for release….I dunno, probably a month or two. You’ll hear it on this page when that happens, and can keep up on Facebook here.