An Ayr Rise Festival 2018 Review…

words fae liam menzies (@blnkclyr)

It’s not often mentioned but the state of music festivals in Scotland is rather depressing. Sure, TRNSMT is doing awfully gid for something that just began last year but when you look at some of the countries heavy hitters, you’ll come to the startling realisation that the days of Rockness and Wickerman Festival are far behind us with most being sadly cancelled. Hell, even TRNSMT itself is the continuation of an annual festival that sadly dipped in quality before reaching its anti-climatic end.

That being said, we’re beginning to see a rise (no pun intended) in smaller festivals that relish in giving smaller acts a chance to show off and bring their sound to an audience that may have previously passed them by. It makes total sense considering that the likes of Tenement Trail use established venues in order to host the acts, meaning the razzle-dazzle of your usual festival is left to the wayside in order for the music to be the real selling point and with tons on offer, and plenty to drink, it’s an ideal situation.

Ayr Rise definitely seems keen on bringing this to an area that, while rife with talent, often doesn’t generate a blip on the musical radar due to its location. Taking place in local nightclub Furys, a venue which is often the go-to for local gigs, it was an event that was not only important for those involved but one that would ultimately serve as a determining factor for whether or not something of this magnitude could work.


Things were off to a promising start with Molly Eliza taking to the stage. While she may have been filling in the slot left vacant by Atlas Run, it ultimately gave Ayr Rise some variety which benefited it greatly: she may reference the likes of Nina Nesbitt as an influence but you wouldn’t be mistaken for noticing hints of Sophie Allison or even a vocal resemblance to pop heavy hitter Lorde. Her music wasn’t only just pleasant to listen to but also offered some interesting insight lyrically, meaning she could end up joining the ranks of Young Fathers in politically aware Scottish music. Some songs may have been screaming for some backup, specifically some drums, but the minimal performance from Molly left a good taste in the mouth – keep this one on your radar.


Keeping the momentum going were Ayr-based rock outfit Anna Conda and right off the bat, we were hit with remnants of what could easily be mistaken as demos from the fictional Scott Pilgrim band Sex Bob Omb (a high bit of praise fae us). As the act continued on, the band’s influences became increasingly obvious (someone or all involved in the act definitely has a soft spot for The White Stripes as shown by their Fell In Love With A Girl cover) but it by no means detracted from the enjoyment Anna Conda provided: infectious harmonies rolling over some octane performing culminated in what was easily a hugely entertaining set from the boys who we’re sure we’ll see more of in the future.


A band still very much in their infancy, only emerging at the tail end of 2017, Honours. were up next. In terms of stage presence, it was a little lacking (which may be totally down to either nerves or the sheer variety of chords that they’ve bolstered in promotion) but there was definite moments that showed they’ve got the foundations laid to make some really interesting alt-rock.

27545489_381304295674464_7592854196806952831_n.jpgThere would be no prizes for guessing what acts have paved the way for the sound ZANG are going for but oh lordy, did they put on a show. Frontman Bunny Wood channelled that rock and roll frontman attitude both in his vocals, that were reminiscent of another funky, bluesy rock and roller Robert Plant, and the mannerisms he showed off on stage. The argument could be made that the band weren’t quite as varied as we would have liked them to be but for what they’re going for, and for how they managed to keep our attention, ZANG did exactly what they needed to do and then some.


Positioning themselves as an alt-rock riff machine, Zola didn’t disappoint with a rip-roaring good rock time. While the audience at Rise were rather timid (myself included), this didn’t stop the band from interacting with the crowd and trying to get everyone right into the gigging spirit. There were a fair few moments where I found myself reminded of Queens of the Stone Age, a comparison I may throw around a bit frequently but the layered performances and the synergy between and the vocals means I feel justified in that bit of acclaim. Showing off their latest single to finish things off, Zola are certainly going places and we’re looking forward to seeing how they evolve.

21949833_822681854604537_7924578189341822206_o.jpgOur last act of the night (family ting), The Mawb are an act we’ve discussed a fair bit over the past year and a bit but for good reasons. Front-man Ewan McCulloch was the head honcho of tonight’s operation so the fact he had the energy to balance both organisation and performing all on the same day has to be commended. On the related note of said performance, The Mawb were the best they have been yet and hit me with that familiar feeling of pride, not only for the fact they’re an Ayrshire based act doing it proud but for constantly shifting their sound.

Everyone in the act was on phenomenal form, Callum McIlwaine being the devilish chap on guitar we’re all used to and incorporated a wireless device so he could prance about the club while playing, picking up a pint in the process. The aforementioned Ewan continues to impress with those pipes of his and bassist Harry Mawb still radiates that effortlessly cool as a cucumber attitude about him without breaking a sweat. Drummer Paul Nally seems to have totally come out of his shell at this point and it definitely added it all, his commentary during the break between each track adding a certain charm to it and by the closing track, he was clobbering away at his set with the energy of a man who had just went through a botched exorcism. To put it simply, it was a bloody great end to our night.

So Ayr Rise was an overall success, showing that a local festival can definitely work when the right management and acts are brought in. If there’s any feedback we could give, it would be that next year’s event (which we hope is on the cards) tries to shake up the genres on offer: every festival has their strong point but we’d love to see some more bands that don’t fit into the alt-rock mould. From an optimistic perspective, money permitting, it would be exciting to see Ayr Rise branch out amongst some other venues in the town: West of the Moon may no longer be with us but places such as Soundmagic would serve as a nice alternative stage and Big Sparra Vinyl potentially acting as an acoustic one for some stripped back sessions. Of course, this is pure speculation but Ayr Rise, much like the acts playing it, is brimming with potential and we’re crossing our fingers that we get to see it return in 2019 and beyond.

Gig Review: Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters @ Clyde Auditorium

By Josh Adams (@jxshadams)

Photos by Jay Blakesberg

In the 1970s, no band were more hedonistic, heavy, and–dare I say–better than Led Zeppelin, and standing with his hands on his hips and his chest bared to crowds of tens of thousands at the front of the stage was their singer, Robert Plant.  The story of Led Zeppelin is one of triumph and tragedy, and emerging from the group’s initial end in 1980 due to the passing of drumming powerhouse John Bonham, came a more-scathed-than-not Plant.  After losing his voice, his friend, his son and nearly his own life in the span of five years, it’s a miracle he’s still making music and performing live to this date – a tenacity due in no small part to his diligence to test himself and explore new ideas previously unheard of in his solo discography.  His latest effort, Carry Fire, garnered strong reviews and continued the creative renaissance that began, ironically enough, shortly after the one-off Zeppelin reunion concert a decade ago now. But how would seeing a living legend in the flesh stack up against the dizzying, staggering heights of his own legacy?

Thankfully, Plant’s risk-taking paid off.  His refusal to shut up and play the hits, and instead manipulate and warp them into something entirely different, is well known, often leaving the suspense of what classics he would play on any given evening to fester in the minds of the audience before and during the concert, practically ensuring a rapturous response with any note that he and his unshakably professional band let out from the singer’s glory days.  That’s The Way, Misty Mountain Hop, What Is And What Should Never Be… the canon, and the pleasant surprise of transformation with which he presented it, seemed endless.  Gallows Pole, nobody’s favourite song from Led Zeppelin III, morphed into a country stomp that roused the Glasgow audience into hand-clapping fervour; Babe I’m Gonna Leave You sounded even more haunting than it did back in 1969, with extended flamenco-flecked ambient interludes that serve to emphasise, rather than detract from, the crushing hard rock chords that come hurtling through.

And somehow, his choice of solo material managed to keep up with the Zeppelin numbers. Rainbow from 2014’s Lullaby and… the Ceaseless Roar in particular sounded gargantuan in the Clyde Auditorium, its polyrhythmic percussion assault contrasting beautifully with the jangling indie-rock guitars and breezy melodies offered by the other side of the band.  My favourite moments from the show, however, came in the form of traditional folk cuts reimagined for a contemporary audience.  The blues classic Fixin’ To Die, for example, was contorted beyond recognition, with pulsing synthesisers and skittering drum machines battling against dissonant guitar solos that really pushed the expectations of the (predominantly white male) crowd to hear Black Dog bellowed out before them.  None of this would be particularly special if it wasn’t for the fact that Plant is now nearly in his 70s and is still refusing to bend to the cliches he made his name on; yet unlike a similar icon Bob Dylan he does so in a humorous, chatty, self-effacing way, regularly discussing the origins of songs whilst taking pot shots at himself.

After roughly an hour and a half of the most eclectic array of genres I’ve ever heard in one sitting (country to African music, blues to art rock, and beyond), The Sensational Space Shifters decided to turn everything up to eleven and end with WHOLE LOTTA FUCKING LOVE.  Hearing that song for the first time on record can blow open the doors as to what rock music can be, and since then it, like most of Zeppelin’s hits, has unfortunately fallen into the nether of overplayed.  Yet when that momentous, staggering riff falls on ears live, it can send shivers down the spine, and it did just that in the Armadillo.  Plant’s voice may have diminished in the decades since it was originally recorded, but he gave it all his might, and the crowd lapped it up; his yells and screams echoing throughout the room to cheers and whoops.  That’s the way live concerts ought to be.