Short of corporate sponsors and barely hidden back-handers to elected officials, it seems that the idea of the concert is coming back, albeit with a fragile sense of optimism. So it is with that warm, fuzzy feeling of positivity that I was really pleased to see the ‘going ahead of’ Hidden Door Festival.
There was once a time when musicians would advertise their presence in some sort of location, outside or in, with the express intention of playing some music for an allotted period of time. On coming to know of said musician’s intentions, members of the public (onetime referred to as fans) who felt some kind of intangible affinity with the music, would seek to be present for the duration of the musical performance (set), even going so far as to pay for the privilege of just being there. This whole affair was called a concert.
Scotland + Organised religion. To say that this storied double act has had a complicated relationship would be quite the understatement.
A while back, while a’wandering round the dormant volcano that sticks out the middle of Edinburgh, my gran, my girlfriend, and I stumbled across a strange iron contraption stuck to the wall of the local church. Shaped like a snare, with a length of chain to tether it to the kirk’s wall, it begged the question from my better half:
‘What the hell is that?’
Nonchalantly, my gran replied that the unknown piece of masonry attached to the church was in fact a ‘Scold’s Bridle’, a bleak concept in which women who dared to express opinion could be chained up in order to receive a dose of public humiliation; in this case ecclesiastically-sponsored public humiliation.
Here is a typically progressive pamphlet from the time.
Unbelievably, this ritual punishment continued until terrifyingly recently, with the Calvinistic notion of Scottish Presbyterianism fuelling the idea of the submissive women, bound to a life of grisly servitude. Do not pass go. Do not collect £200. Complaints to be addressed c/o the Witchfinder General.
Scotland + Organised religion. To say that this storied double act has had a complicated relationship would be quite the understatement. From the notions of church goers’ ‘come for the service, stay for the torture’, to the mob that destroyed Glasgow cit centre last weekend in the name of a Dutch monarch who died over 300 years ago, I think it would be safe to say that old Caledonia and the praying game has been a pretty volatile combo.
Maybe it was probably better before all this malarkey eh?
There’s always good in pain, that much I have learned
Lyrically the above line spoke to me, a blatant reminder of the wee figure of John Knox that appears on my shoulder every time I consider my path as a musician. My interiorised 16th century clergyman usually hits me at the low points (busking in a downpour, an empty gig venue, a friend’s wedding with loads of graduate trainees) to tell me to get a real job, or that enjoying what you do is fundamentally wrong and sinful or something. Is this just me? Is there more to it? A bigger picture? Should I set up a helpline for artists plagued by a constant feeling of inadequacy and shame due to a deep-rooted history of Calvinistic brainwashing?
Well in the meantime, there’s probably no need, as Jack Hinks’ lyrics sound out the frustrations felt by many:
God damn these eyes, these eyes that prove me blind God damn these eyes, they fail me by design. God damn this mind, this mind that knows me best God damn this time, I’ve pinned it to my chest
God, Jack Hinks
From an artistic point of view, I think Scotland has a really weird relationship with creativity, given that it is arguably one of the most creative nations on earth. The idea that we are blessed with all this talent and ability; the eye to see, the mind to imagine, and the time to do it (especially now!), yet we have this bizarre sense of self-discipline and fundamental shame, is a really Scottish concept. Like having an abundance of something great but not being able to really use it properly, a bit like trying to play Andy Robertson and Kieran Tierney in the same starting XI.
I might be miles off the mark here, my music writing usually is, but that’s what I got out of Jack Hinks’ latest piece.
I ask God what they mean She says they’re both the same I say you’re no god to me.
God, Jack Hinks
Great lyrics, god as ‘she’ too, ace. Get those words sent to the Church of Scotland General Assembly laddie! See what they make of them! Turns of phrase that once may have left the author chained up outside the wee church by Arthur’s Seat, but now represent a move away from the superstition and pointless discipline of the path towards a more progressive future perhaps.
I eagerly await the next instalment of the song cycle.
I (naively) always thought that in an age of such readily available technology, just throwing together a wee video would be ridiculously easy.
As a musician, plugging my trade in the modern music industry, the importance of a visual presence quickly became evident. Sadly for dinosaurs such as myself, the emphasis on aesthetics has some sort of relevance to most music in this day and age. With this in mind, I reluctantly signed up to Instagram about 3 years ago.
So over to radio. Semantically speaking, the mere idea of ‘radio’ has become so dated that we can barely bring ourselves to refer to it in the vernacular, instead using the medium of podcasts to somehow detract from the fact that the majority of podcasts are, if not ACTUAL shows from the radio, then a segment of talking and/or music within a specified time frame; i.e. a radio show.
I’m in love with the radio on It helps me from being alone late at night Helps me from being lonely late at night I don’t feel so bad now in the car Don’t feel so alone, got the radio on
Roadrunner – Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers
I always drone on about this musical utopia, one in which all aspects of making, writing, performing, reproducing, listening, and talking about music all exist on this hitherto absent level playing field. The results of which would be a flourishing and sustainable music scene etc etc. If that’s what you want to start your Wednesday by reading about, then you can find that piece here.
For grass-roots musicians in this day and age, when it comes to gaining ‘exposure’ (I hate that word) for the music that you have bled into, sweated over, and torn from your being, the options are certainly more varied than before.
Frankly, I really appreciate an LP that can go from paying homage to one of the defining social movements of the current age to a song about mistakenly drinking a cup a magic mushroom-infused tea. It is a rare ability to offset the relevance of global affairs with the opening of the doors of perception via a psilocybe brew.
Today’s post is brought to you in association with:
Felix and the Sunsets will be familiar to yous from last month’s single ‘This Will Change’, an introspective voyage through the #BLM protests in Scotland last year. You can listen to that here. It’s pretty to the point, and certainly preaches a hopeful message, one in which musicians can still reflect the spirit of the times.
Imagine a world in which music didn’t work as a glorified pyramid scheme, a world in which achievement (and by that I mean the sad common trope of capitalism, money) didn’t create the success apartheid in which the music industry exists at the moment. Imagine if an act of god, say for example, a global health crisis that the neoliberal ne’er-do-wells that control every aspect of our life confronted with world-beating incompetence, aye imagine that came about, yet grass-roots musicians weren’t the first to be cast adrift in a wave of self interest-
I think it would be presumptuous to talk of utopia, insulting even given that what I view as utopian could be quite easily achieved, given the right set of circumstances.
Why selling off musical copyrights makes a terrible situation even worse. Plus, fun with Russian bots.
I haven’t released any music since the 30th of October, 2020. That’s not to say that I haven’t been making music in the intervening time, but in the world of evidence-based existence via social media, it would appear that I have done absolutely nowt since then, musically speaking anyway.
This dearth of social media self-promotion, in addition to a consistently low Spotify listenership (shout out to ye local 142 people worldwide!), means that algorithmically I don’t exist any longer.
In this topsy-turvy world full of inherent contradiction, my lack of ‘being’ on the world wide web would probably lead to even less public interest regarding the music that I have already made, given that I am not promoting anything, or even revisiting back catalogues. I haven’t sent anything to any playlist or radio for a long while, and other than to check the inbox for this here review site, I would have assumed that I would be getting little in terms of direct communication.
Nukular, by Gefahrgeist. A post-apocalyptic vision of live music (unless you live on the Isle of Man).
I like the way that music amplifies (no pun intended) and provides a window onto society, allowing future generations the opportunity to gauge the mood of times gone by. Should we make it to 30 years from now, no doubt future generations of android-children will look back on this period and think,
Scottish musical culture transcends language and history, from Hebridean Gaelic to Indian rhythms, through to the frank wordsmith that is Spee Six Nine. This is, for me, a fuller picture of contemporary Scotland.
The teacher told us to shut up and listen, glaring over the top of the electric piano, harpsichord setting, his eyes alive with a total obsessiveness of a man unused to not being listened too. He’d wire into fugues by Bach or variations by Mozart, occasionally adding his own unbearable falsetto voice to the clunky, same-y melodies that we would listen to in stony silence. Then we would be lectured on how one fella in 18th century Germany influenced another in 19th century Austria or vice versa. Variation #12 Opus 32. Music by numbers.
The Gaelic part of the course was equally as tenuous, as if the SQA in all their desire to make Scottish culture as monochrome and one-dimensional as possible, sought to somehow find the relevance of the traditional Puirt à beul (mouth music), or Òrain Luaidh (Waulking Songs) in suburban Edinburgh. Though we were spared the grey days of falsetto-heavy baroque and classical, the historical and cultural significance of Gaelic culture sadly fell on deaf ears. That is until in an act of academic sabotage, our once demur teacher broke rank and put on ‘Chanter’ by Martyn Bennett, and in one moment of glory that only exposure to music can provide, the world of sampling was thrown open to me.