SNP conference opportunity for Michael Yellowlees

Michael Yellolees

When the SNP conference closed in Perth earlier this month the last person on the platform wasn’t First Minister Alex Salmond or even his deputy, Nicola Sturgeon. Instead the honour fell to young Scottish singer-songwriter Michael Yellowlees.

The Dunkeld-born Edinburgh University student had been handpicked by SNP chiefs to bring proceedings to a close at Perth Concert Hall with his new single Scotland is Ours. John Landau once claimed to have seen the future of rock and roll in Bruce Springsteen and it was another, somewhat more unlikely, John who was responsible for plucking Yellowlees from obscurity.

The young musician’s road to Perth began at a party meeting. Yellowlees explained: “I am a member of the SNP and I was invited to perform Scotland is Ours at a local party meeting. Our MSP is [finance minister] John Swinney and he liked the song and spoke to me about the possibility of performing it at the conference.

“A few weeks later I received a phone call from the conference organiser asking if I would like to perform the song at the conference.”

Spurred on by this, Yellowlees recorded the song and had a cd version produced for sale at the event. He is also in the process of recording his debut album which he hopes to have ready for release in November. While Scotland is Ours is very much in the folk-rock tradition he describes his other material as: “eclectic, some folk, some more rocky tracks and others bluesy.”

His debut single may lyrically be unashamedly political but the story behind the track is a deeply personal one. The words were written as a tribute to Yellowlees grandfather, John Cullen, a lifelong supporter of Scottish independence, who died in April. Adding to the poignancy it was Yellowlees father Robbie who helped him finish writing the song.

Yellowlees said: “One afternoon my dad came round and he helped finish the lyrics with a few lines that really worked.”

He is aware that his appearance is great exposure for an artist who has spent much of the last few years honing his musical skills as a busker. He clearly hopes that it will lead to increased interest in his forthcoming album and subsequent tour.

As for the big moment itself Yellowlees admited that performing this particular song in Perth could prove cathartic for him. He said: “My granddad never missed a [SNP] conference and this is my first one so yes it will be emotional being there.”

With the 2014 independence referendum and Glasgow Commonwealth Games on the horizon there could be a market for the track with its tartan This Land is Your Land feel, a comparison the artist acknowledges. Michael Yellowlees may be a name we are hearing a lot of over the next few years.

Original here

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Haddowfest 2011

The 10:04s

The second annual Haddowfest took place in Edinburgh over the weekend. An eclectic mix of over 100 bands took to the stage at various venues throughout the city at the event organised by local band the 10:04’s.

Saturday

There had been a number of changes to the line-up for Saturday and new timetables were handed out to festival goers on arrival. First port of call was Maggie’s Chambers an intimate venue above the 3 Sisters. Unfortunately there had been a late call off so a delay ensued before Londoners Flintlock took to the stage in front of a small crowd. The band’s bass player was sporting a Specials t-shirt but the sound owed more to rootsy hard rock with a hint of punk. The last two tracks which were faster and heavier, recalling Motorhead confused matters somewhat. A band with talent but one that needs to focus their influences into a more coherent sound.

A quick walk to the Electric Circus in the glorious spring sunshine yielded performances from a couple of young Scottish bands. Radio Arcade looked unfeasibly young on stage, somewhat like the Arctic Monkey’s little brothers. However judging by the anthemic sound they were making their influences go beyond their tender years.  Next up were Glasgow band Selective Service. Starting their set with no guitar, just drums, keyboards and bass the sound, thankfully recalled the Doors more than Keane. Front man Ian MacKinnon strapped on a guitar for the second number which had more of a reggae feel to it. The band, were accomplished players, bass player John Boyle, with his impressive afro, particularly stood out. The band grooved through numbers such as Greyhound Blues and gave a very good account of themselves.

Next up was the Store where Edinburgh two piece The Fire and I were playing. Featuring Gordon Love on Bass and vocals and Hooligan, which may or may not be pseudonym, on drums and vocals they make more noise than two people are entitled to. They gave a high energy, punky performance and while their sound is sometimes hard to pin down echoes of the likes of Nirvana, the Ramones and White Stripes could be detected at various points.

The Liquid Rooms which was the biggest venue hosting bands on the Saturday suffered a setback when the Dykeenies cancelled. However there was still a large crowd present for the performance from West Lothian band the Dead Sea Souls who entertain with their ska influenced indie rock. Cagefighter is a particular highlight. Fife’s The Draymin caused something of a stir when appearing at the unsigned stage at T in the Park a few years ago. Many predicted great things for the band but it has taken until recently for the group to garner extensive coverage in the national press. The band have brought a sizeable and vocal following over the Forth and the audience is well up for the performance. As the band prepare for their set frontman Fraser Penman smashes himself in the moth with his microphone. This is not an Iggy Pop inspired piece of self harm but an accident and serves as a precursor to further bad fortune. Opening with the excellent Don’t Fade Away it is immediately apparent that the sound is far from perfect. Cracking on with with a set that includes the recently released Mirrors, the band mange to purvey both power and melody despite the ongoing issues with sound. Mid set  the stage lights pack in and the drum kit starts to fall apart. Following some running repairs on the drum kit the bands launched into an unexpectedly effective cover version of the Eurythmics Sweet Dreams which is propelled by some powerful drumming. At the end of the cover the stage lights come back on for the remainder of the set. Before their last number Heart Attack Penman opines that they are “having a nightmare”. While it is true that pretty much everything that could have gone wrong did go wrong the band never lost the crowd and showed their potential.

Saturday

Derry punk legends the Undertones take the stage at the Electric Circus at 2 o’clock on Sunday afternoon. Despite the early start the venue is packed with a mixture of old punks and youngsters in thrall of the bands signature tune Teenage Kicks. Most of band may have grey hair and glasses these days, though the jeans and Doc Martins remain in place, but they still have plenty energy. Opening with Jimmy Jimmy they career through hits such as Gotta Getta, Male Model and Here Comes the Summer. Of course vocalist Fergal Sharkey is no longer with the band but his replacement Paul McLoone fills his Doc Martins with aplomb. Teenage Kicks of course gets the biggest reception of the afternoon, dedicated to Lizzy who has been dancing and bouncing all through the set it is pleasing to hear this cove band staple performed by it’s owners for once. Judging by the onstage banter the band are enjoying their unusually early performance which they finish with My Perfect Cousin.

It seems odd to be greeted by sunlight as the crowd disperses but there is still a whole day of music to be enjoyed. A number of the Undertones crowd drift into the Caves where young Edinburgh band Underclass are playing. Unbeknown to the band they have some act to follow. While clearly not having the Undertones arsenal of tunes the groups sweeping rock sound is enhanced by the acoustics in one of Edinburgh’s best sounding venues. Closing number Bottom Line has a particularly epic feel to it. Edinburgh’s Broken Records are next up and have been on the cusp of something big for sometime Incorporating instruments such as fiddle and trumpet to their sound the sweeping Wolves encapsulates their sound while the mournful A Promise provides a welcome mid set change of pace.

Over at the Picture House a sizeable crowd is congregating in advance of Razorlight. First though two of the areas top young bands are performing. Pose Victorious are first up and swagger on stage as if they had been playing venues this size for years. They deliver a well honed collection of accessible indie rock. Melodic numbers like Infiltrate swing along easily and echo the best of Britpop – like Oasis at their most tuneful – and tasteful. Definitely a band with an ear for a good tune, a big future awaits. Next up are the 10:04’s, who are of course the band responsible for the Haddowfest. After months of planning the band finally hit the stage at 9 o’clock and what follows is joyously triumphant. With a large and supportive crowd the band let rip with their sound recalling the likes of the Libertines, the Strokes and Biffy Clyro yet ripping off none. Opener Into the Money sets the tone for a raucous set while About Tonight is an absolute stand out and has the crowd bouncing about with abandon. Closing with their forthcoming debut single they are appropriately one of the real highlights of the festival. Any band that can combine the drive and determination required to launch and run a festival with the songs and musicianship on display here are surely on to a winner.

 Razorlight have become a favourite punchbag of the media but there is no doubt that Johnny Borrell and co have a knack for writing a good tune. They duly provide a plethora of feelgood, singalong hits that are a perfect end to any festival. Probably the bands greatest pop moment, Golden Touch is aired relatively early in the set and is accompanied by a deafening singalong from the crowd. The band judge the atmosphere perfectly and send the crowd home happy.

All in all the Haddowfest is a great addition to the Edinburgh scene. Achieving its twin goals it brings quality music to the city while putting the spotlight on the capitals burgeoning music scene.

Original article here – http://www.theedinburghreporter.co.uk/2011/04/haddowfest-rocks-edinburgh/

It’s a long way to the top….

I grew up in an era when being a fan of rock music was often looked down on as yobbish and low intellectual. Things have changed in the last 30 years and it is now entirely acceptable to profess a love of Led Zeppelin, the Stones or AC/DC.  Indeed to go to any establishment such as bank, law firm or government and the many senior figures are just as likely to pop Highway to Hell or Physical Graffiti into their cd player for the car journey home as Mozart or Bach.

I was reminded just how ‘respectable’ rock music has become last week when the Scotsman ran a story about the 30th anniversary of the death of Bon Scott. AC/DCs original singer. It has been a slow process but over the years rock music has become more and more accepted in the quality press. Initially it was acts see as more political or ‘high brow’ like Dylan, Springsteen or the Smiths that would garner attention. These days bands like AC/DC are just as likely to be covered.

The article worked on many levels for me. Not least on the criteria that it provided me with some information I was previously unaware of. In this case while I knew that both Bon Scott and JM Barrie hailed from the Scottish village of Kirriemuir – and I have always liked the irony of the authors of Peter Pan and Whole Lotta Rosie hailing from the same place – but I was unaware that Scottish mountaineer Sir Hugh Munro was also born there. Not a bad list for a small village with a population of under 6,000.