Aberdeen A Beginners Guide To This Outpost Of Rock And Roll
Aberdeen is not renowned for its rock and roll credentials. A city of 250,000 people on the North East coast of Scotland, it will always be more famous for being the oil capitol of Europe and its under achieving football team (bar a few glory years in the mid 1980's when they actually managed to challenge the old firm and win some silverware). Few rock and roll icons have managed to escape this beautiful place. Notable exceptions include Annie Lennox who hails from nearby Ellon (but apparently hates Aberdeen) and Shamen front man Colin Angus. Oh and not forgetting Dr Graham Garden who troubled the charts a few times in the 1970's as part of comedy trio The Goodies.
The sad truth of the matter is that few bands manage to escape the small but vibrant scene within the city. Getting gigs is not usually too difficult but breaking out is not so easy. For every happening Aberdeen band, there's equally happening acts in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and the promoters down there tend to put on local acts as there is more chance of them pulling a crowd. Having said that an increasing number of Aberdeen bands are beginning to get off their backsides and gig out with the city.
Clocker, Eskimo Blonde, Driveblind, Nero, The Score and Ditch are just some of the local acts who have branched out the city recently. The Score it should be noted have been playing dates in the north of England, most notably at the legendary (and refurbished) Cavern Club in Liverpool. In fact the venues down there liked them so much they asked them back. The Score and their management team are also a good example of how you can make a hometown gig work. Hailing from Westhill (about 6 miles from the city), in September 2001 they headlined a night at the prestigious Lemon Tree venue along with fellow Westhill bands Star, Stuka and Miles Above. It was a night to remember, the show was practically sold out, the vibe strong and the show became more of an event than a gig.
There are a number of pubs which put on bands but these are more recommended for new bands starting out. The Malt Mill, Moorings Bar and Drakes all put on a variety of live music and will book artists of varying genres. A step up the rock scale (yes we even have them in Aberdeen) is Lava, one of Aberdeen's premier venues. Lava has got its balance just about right. The venue regularly plays host to touring bands and tends to focus on up and coming bands (such as The Music, Hundred Reasons and Proud Mary) and seasoned pros like Napalm Death.
Lava gets things right in the sense that they nearly always put on local support whenever they can (The Music's management insisted on no local support for their recent gig there even though a band had been already booked). If a touring band who are not well known play, they will book three local supports and get the touring band to play third so the crowd will stay for the last act. It's a good system and works well. A number of bands who have come up have remarked just how lucky we are in Aberdeen to have such a system.
The other organization which puts on regular gigs in the city is Fudge. Initially they did just one show a month at Triple Kirks but this has escalated into monthly shows at The Lemon Tree and Triple Kirks as well as an increasing number of gigs at Lava. Fudge also have a fanzine which makes for entertaining reading and this comes with an essential CD which features an array of local talent and new bands from around the country. Both Fudge and Lava are approachable for non-Aberdeen based to try and get themselves gigs (Contact Details later).
With Aberdeen being the musical outpost that it is, more and more bands are doing it themselves. It's highly unlikely that record company execs are going to travel this far north (though they did for Driveblind) so the best way to get the music out there is to do it yourself. Clocker, Sirius, The Kanedas, Wonderboy and The Beaker People are just a few bands who've done it themselves recently. Luckily One Up Records (which really is the centre of the Aberdeen Music Scene on Belmont Street) are stout supporters of the local scene and will stock any do it yourself efforts. The recent Kanedas mini album was limited to 50 copies and they still stocked it. One Up Records is also the place to put posters and flyers for gigs.
Local radio is sadly only represented by an hour-long show on a Sunday night presented by me. It's a hard job getting the balance right between local and national stuff. I probably get around 30-40 new CD's a week. Demos vary but there are still a few bands I haven't played on the show yet and will do eventually. It must be frustrating for bands who send demos in and hear nothing, some bands get more airplay than others. A lot of it is to do with contact and how fresh you keep your material. A new demo from a local band is, to me, like getting a new single from a band I love. Whilst I've only got an hour long show, it's always going to be hard to get the balance right, bearing in mind it's almost impossible to promote stuff properly (a noticeable exception to the rule are The Jasmine Minks so it can happen). However, on a more positive note, I have complete creative freedom over what I do, so I can give that vital first exposure to new bands and some groups may get their only airplay on my show.
As for the local papers, they really don't cover this thriving scene properly. The Evening Express do a small column, written by Claire Walker but it just advertises a local gig which is taking place the following week. This is not Claire's fault, she had to practically beg to get such a small spot. The Press and Journal covers virtually no new music or local bands although there's a few rumours knocking around that all this might change soon. Finally, freebie paper The Independent runs a small section on music but this is restricted by tons of advertising on the page and the fact very few read the paper anyway.
If the local media got behind the scene a bit more then all parties would benefit. There is a small but vibrant and exciting scene within the city and with the right marketing maybe that scene could become a little more established. One possible answer is Go North, which although still in the planning stages, promises to give local bands the chance to shine in their hometown to important muso types from afar. The day launch is happening on November 8th, with free showcases based around the city's Belmont Street area. This is to be the launch day for the main event to be held in May, which will see various gigs, showcases and workshops in the city spread over nine days.
Finally, for those in cyberspace, an excellent website dedicated to Aberdeen bands, the AUBL (Aberdeen Ultimate Bands List) is online and well maintained and updated regularly. It is a good source for finding out about the actual bands and it is not just restricted to groups from Aberdeen. An invaluable source of information and well worth checking out. There are plenty of MP3 files to download so you can actually hear the bands. The message board is a good source of finding out what is currently going on in the city and a good way of making Aberdeen contacts.
Generally, the standard of bands in Aberdeen is pretty strong, there's something for everyone from quality songwriting (Driveblind, Eskimo Blonde) to Nu Metal (We Become Less). I've lost count of the amount of bands in this city, but it's at least 50, possibly much much more. There are all kinds of people making a worthwhile racket from oil working professionals to kids just out of school. Some bands gig very regularly, others hardly at all. The list is endless, I support them as much as I can and will continue to do so.
Useful Aberdeen Contacts
Aberdeen Ultimate Bands List
Good starting place to find out about the Aberdeen music scene.
If You're Looking For A Gig
Contact Paul Stewart at Lava 01224 648000 or e mail email@example.com
Contact Brain from the Fudge Fanzine 01224 630894 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Send your demos for airplay to