Volunteering for Girls Rock Glasgow

This was originally posted up on Glasgow Music City Tours’ blog on the 6th of July 2015 as I was guest blogging on behalf of Girls Rock Glasgow. The project is finished up now but the week long summer school was so, so amazing and inspiring to be apart of. We’re also looking at running a fundraiser this October for next year’s rock school so keep checking in for updates on that!

Feminism is very important. It is confidence, a sisterhood, a safe place and a home all in one. However, it took me years to come to terms with the term itself – I realise now that it’s more than a brand name or a belief system. It’s a livelihood. It’s what brought me to the lovely ladies working at Girls Rock Glasgow – an institution built on the foundation of a shared passion for both music AND feminism. Seeing those two things coming together was like a winning light bulb flashing on a game show. Sign me up! Although – when I looked into it and realised that the project was aimed at younger girls aged 8-16, I was initially gutted because I’ve always been an avid music lover, but I’ve never gotten around to actually learning to play any instruments. I had tried and failed before, but had I been of the age to partake, I would have felt more comfortable with this than replying to an ad on Gumtree for guitar lessons.
I got in contact with the team regardless – and spoke with Jude. She’s one of the co-chairwomen of the project and was warm, welcoming and enthusiastic about the project. She let me know that from the 13th to the 17th of this month, the Art School venue will house Glasgow’s first ever Rock School for Girls – inspired by existing American models. The classes will be split up into juniors and seniors and the girls will get a chance to learn various instruments and participate in singing lessons. On top of the musical side of it, they will also be taught other practical things that come with being a DIY musician. They will learn how to make badges, practice screen printing, partake in a songwriting workshop, and one session will even concentrate on the importance of a positive self image – which we hope will help to boost the confidence in these young girls so that they won’t shy away from rocking out.

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Custom patches by Half Stitch Embroidery, with all proceeds going to GRG – https://www.etsy.com/shop/halfstitchembroidery
I’m involved with the project now because I feel like it is so important that this sort of thing exists here. “People Make Glasgow,” but they start as young people. Glasgow is an ever-bubbling hub of creativity and having something that actively encourages young girls to try new things and expand their talents and potential is absolutely necessary. If you’re interested and want to support us, we have a donation page here. Here’s our website, and we’re also on Facebook, TwitterInstagram and Tumblr.

The chronicles of Scottish Heroes.

Since the start of the year up until now, I have been involved with putting on my own show as part of the Behind The Noise Trainee scheme, which I have touched on before. Now the gig is over, I’m taking a look back at the whole experience overall to evaluate my time and how I felt the project went.

Cochlea. Credit: Tom Howe
First off, this is the first time that Behind The Noise has ran it’s trainee scheme, and I was lucky enough to be one of the guinea pigs along side three other former participants of the school project. With myself, Michaela McElroy, Ibriham Dikko and Kieran Howe in tow, with a watchful eye of Sean Kerwin – one of the senior members of the Behind The Noise team – helping us along the way, we got to work cultivating our own gig. The first training workshop we had was on the 15th of January of this year, and has lasted up until the 23th of April – the night of the gig itself.

In the beginning, we did  hit a snag in the road because the original plan was to be that the four of us would organise and put on a E.P. launch for a band who had also came from Behind The Noise, but things didn’t work out. Instead, we came up with the idea for a night to celebrate all that’s great about Scottish culture, and to that, we called it Scottish Heroes. I know, on the surface, it might sound a bit much – but hear me out.

Pulling from the recent events of the Scottish Independence referendum, as the four trainees involved are teenagers living in Glasgow, we were able to see how passionate people our age were able to get about the politics of our country. I know, for me at least, that there were many people my age that were engaging with the idea that Scotland could potentially exist on it’s own. So what is it that makes Scotland so great? It’s people. It’s culture. It’s music.

That’s what we wanted to celebrate.

So we got to work.

We made the Facebook event page, booked the venue, which was Stereo – thanks goes to their lovely booker Ian for taking a chance on us, letting us bring together all the creative elements and have them on show under one roof. We sourced photography of Scottish bands taken by Scottish photographers through the help of Ravechild, and we commissioned paintings by the exceptionally talented Antonis Kassiotis.

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We were in good company with the photography on show.  

We as trainees had also been working in conjunction with the Gig At The Grand gigs that took place at the start of the April in the Classic Grand. Even though we had previously been able to get a hand at being behind the scenes – this time we could do so without feeling the pressure of being in one of the bands who were performing. I think doing that put it into perspective how much work the Behind The Noise team put into the Gig At The Grand shows. Putting on three shows over three nights with multiple bands – I’m talking 6 or 7 a night – playing – it seemed extremely stressful. If they could pull together shows like those though, then we should be able to successfully pull together at least 4 bands to play for one night.

Obviously, we had to start promotion somehow. On one of the nights while we were at the Classic Grand, Jim Gellatly gave us a shout out on XFM. That was such a boost for us. Our gig was being plugged on the radio! We also plastered up some posters around the city centre.

We had a change in line up due to unforeseen circumstances, but as they say, they show must go on. The final bands that we played at the gig – The TutorsWeatherston and Cochlea – have all been past participants of the school project. The Lapelles were another young band that we discovered and they got on board with the gig. The idea behind having younger bands on was that we wanted to give them a platform to not only perform their own material, but to do covers of whoever they felt were their influential Scottish artists. 
The final poster.

Each of the trainees involved brought their own core strengths to the project. Kieran is a film maker, so that’s where we brought the element of film into our event. We interviewed John Paul Mason, one of the members of the Events department at DF Concerts and spoke with him about the importance of the Scottish music scene as a whole – which was a humbling experience to hear the stories and thoughts from someone who is so passionate about it. We also thought that a non-cringy X Factor styled introduction should be filmed for each of the bands that could been shown on the night before they went on stage. In the introductory videos, the bands would talk about what songs they had chosen and a little bit about themselves. Here’s an example of the one that Kieran made for the Lapelles: 

Leading up to the gig, in order to get myself in the patriotic way of thinking and feeling, I made up a Scottish Heroes playlist. Didn’t realise before how many great bands actually came from here until I started this project. Michaela, being the business brains of the operation, handled the actual playlist on the night and the band settlements like a champ.

The night loomed ever closer. Soon enough, it was upon us. 

The night exceeded my expectations tenfold. Ibrahim handled the technical side of things on the night and helped handled the short time slots we had allotted for the changeovers – and he also helped to control the lights. Rico – one of the other senior members of Behind The Noise – commended him on his hard work saying that he thought it was handled a lot better than any local band gig he’d been to. I helped to handle the door, along with some assistance from Yvonne Morrison and Libby Urvois from Ticketmaster and Ticketweb respectively. They were also a massive, massive help to us throughout and especially on the night.  I didn’t expect as many people to turn up that actually did. So many people came down and helped to support our show and for that I am so grateful. All in all, it was a fantastic night.

To anyone reading this who might be in school who cares about music in any capacity and that is interested in taking part in Behind The Noise, or the trainee scheme – I say do it. It’s afforded me with experience that I’m going to able to utilise from years to come. I’ve been able to work with like minded people to create something that I am still really proud of.

I even feel a bit like a Scottish Hero myself.

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"Put your hands together for our good friend Tony."

Before I get into the rest of this, let me give you some back story. My favourite band is Motion City Soundtrack. On the 20th of March 2013, the drummer of the band, Tony Thaxton, announced that he was leaving the band after 11 years.

The band never really broke through to the mainstream as I can imagine that some of you reading this may not have heard of them, despite how consistently great they are as both performers and songwriters. (Me? Bias? Never.) Over time, Tony began to open up about leaving and why he did. You know why? Because touring for nearly 11 years non-stop can take a toll on a person. 
He spoke about how he began to get really depressed being on the road and being away from home, being in temporary places for small amounts of time. I think it must’ve been a really, really hard decision for him to walk away. Not many people would put themselves first and take such a big step in looking after their own mental health. I think it’s both rare and refreshing to hear someone to be so open and honest about it. People like Tony Thaxton creating a dialogue like this are the people that will evoke greater levels of change in regards to breaking stigmas against mental health. For that, I am so proud of him.
Currently, the band are celebrating the 10th anniversary of their Commit This To Memory album (my favourite both by theirs and of all time) by touring the US with the #CTTM10 tour, where they play the whole of album in full, plus a couple of other fan favourites. Playing a date in California this month, they happened to have a special guest. It was Tony, and he played the last song with them. I tweeted out this…

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…hoping to get a response from a fan who had attended the show to tweet me back with a video. Instead, I got this:
It was the video.
The ex-drummer from my favourite band had sent me the video of him playing with his old band mates.
The reason I find it so moving is because if you’re feeling depressed, there’s a good chance you feel like you want to die and that there’s no real point in being around. This reaction and intensity of performance shows the complete opposite of that. He’s cared for, respected and moreover; loved. Even little things like the way the light is on him and the band all turn around to face him to start amplify this tenfold.
If you watch to the end of the video, you can hear the crowd chanting for Tony. Some people in bands, when they leave, may be met with an angry venom or an unwelcoming reception, but this is absolutely not the case. He left because he had to care of himself, and that’s okay. Playing music isn’t where he wants to be just now, and that’s okay too. Having a sense of community within a band’s fan base is so crucial and important, and I am so, so glad to be apart of Motion City Soundtrack’s.
Motion City Soundtrack will be bringing the #CTTM10 tour to the UK this May, playing at the Liverpool Fury Festival, the 02 Academy Birmingham and KOKO in London. Tony, however, will probably not make another guest appearance.

Get me away from here, I’m dying…

I have a bout of the flu. So I’m not really dying, but it sure as hell feels like it. Anyway, let’s reflect back on when I was actually capable of doing real life things.

Last week the Behind the Noise trainees had a meeting with Yvonne Morrison from Ticketmaster and Libby Urvois from Ticketweb to discuss – yes you guessed it – ticketing for the gig that myself and the other Behind The Noise trainees will be putting on some time in April.

It was a nice, informal Q&A type session and they were both happy to help with anything that we may need for our impending gig. What I took away from it though, is that the ticket websites aren’t actually just ripping the piss when it comes to booking fees for gig tickets. The initial price you pay for the ticket is the cost of seeing the band alone, which is set by the band and has nothing to do with the ticket website that they put them on. All they do is charge the 10% of whatever the band charges, add that on as a booking fee and that’s the money that goes back into the company to keep it running.

Booking fees sneaking into your order like…

Ticketmaster/Ticketweb aren’t always the evil boogeyman lurking in the shadows trying to steal your money. They’re just trying to make a living. Rather than being angry at them, be angry at whatever burnt out band returns with a comeback tour and charges astronomical amounts because they know people will buy them. They’re the real villains, people. OPEN YOUR EYES.

Last Saturday I also was at the Behind The Noise open day, speaking again with the trainees and offering my wisdom to the kids there that were interested in going into further education with music courses/just want to see themselves in the music industry in some way. My university – Strathclyde University – actually used to run a course called Applied Music which sounded ideal for someone like me, but they dropped the course the year I applied. I am still upset about this.

Dat accidental flash.
It was really cool being able to speak to people younger than me who are in the same position I was in last year. A big part of me wanted to go off on a big rant about believing in yourself and all of that stuff, but we had to talk for like 2 minutes or so just about ourselves so I kept the motivational speech short. 
It was really cool to see the universities and colleges coming out and talking about their courses, and overall, how important they think music is. I think a lot of kids are told that a career in the music industry just isn’t a realistic prospect and that’s shitty. If anyone really cares about something, and is passionate about it and want to take it further into a career, then I say do it. If you work hard, the money will come. 
I spoke about this in a video interview I did for BTN here.

I also managed to see Allison Weiss and Rob Lynch at Audio while I could still sing without my throat feeling like it was the home to a million tiny razorblades. Allison Weiss was, as usual, great. She played a song that I requested called Boston, from her Teenage Years album but since she doesn’t play it that often, she forgot some of the lyrics half way through. To help, I started to sing really loud so that she heard and remembered. This prompted a “YEAH!” of recognition and she finished the song and it was beautiful. I adore the song and it meant a lot that she played it since if she doesn’t normally. THANKS, ALLISON ❤

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Think that’s it for now. I’m going go drink my weight in tea. Again.

Behind…Behind The Noise.

So, this year, I’m apart of the Behind The Noise trainee scheme, where, along with 3 other ex-participants of the programme, we’ll be putting on our own gig at some point at the end of April, after the Gig At The Grand. 
The Gig At The Grand is the end product of all the hard work that comes from the course leaders and those kids taking part in it. The course is aimed at school kids who want to get involved in the Scottish music industry, whether it be through performance, learning the technical side of putting on a live show or the gaining knowledge about the business of it all. 

Last year, the band from my school, Heisenberg, performed 4 covers live at a sold out gig at the Classic Grand. This is the cover of Do I Wanna Know? by the Arctic Monkeys.

And this was the last song, Many Of Horror by Biffy Clyro. 

Overall with the project, I was really, really proud at how our show went, how the crowd reacted and at the fact that we all as a team managed to pull it together in the end. Being side stage was cool enough, I can’t imagine how exhilarating it would be to actually be ON stage. The singers both did a great job, especially Jay, who had been known in our school for years as the guy with the good voice. He had a fantastic stage presence, it was just really nice to watch. The guitarist, Martyn, was my friend and we had been to gigs prior to this show. After any band we would see live, the one thing he’d always say was how much he wanted to be in a band and play live shows of his own. Thanks to this, he was able to actually go up on a stage and perform rather than just watch. Could he have eventually ended up playing a show without the aid of Behind The Noise? Maybe. But at least, for the 20 minutes or so they played, he was able to get a taster at least. 
It pushed everyone involved with it to the absolute limit, but I wouldn’t’ve had it any other way. 
Back to the modern day after that bout of nostalgia, Behind The Noise 2015 is now in full swing but since I’m in university, I can’t take part. But as a trainee, I’ll be able to get a look in at the after school workshops and hopefully the rehearsal sessions. I’ll also be talking at the Further Education Day at the Classic Grand this Saturday, more info is here on the Behind The Noise website
Yesterday, we had a chat with Yvonne Morrison from Ticketmaster and Libby Urvois from Ticketweb about ticketing and our up-coming show. 

Super exciting times ahead. Watch this space.

This week in brief.

This past week, it was announced that there’s gonna be a limited edition run of 400 copies of Brother’s Blood by Kevin Devine on vinyl at Big Scary Monsters and I managed to snag one when they went on sale. I got it today and I am so happy.
I have another one of my favourite albums of all time on vinyl. Call me a hipster, but who is starting to build a nice vinyl collection she’s proud of?! Well. Fuck… never mind.
At least I’m not vegan.*

I’ve also been totally obsessed with Tegan and Sara recently, especially their newest album Heartthrob. Fans of the two piece may have been a bit taken aback by the sharp difference in sound when this came out in 2013, They still hold on their strong indie pop roots, but they infused in a large blend of dance-y pop. It’s very different from the material what they started off with, but that’s progression, right?

I mean, they did collab with Tiesto for a song in 2009…

…while Tegan had offered her vocal’s in the Against Me! song Borne On The FM Waves of the Heart a year eariler. It’s all about expanding horizons.
 
I personally, think what they’re doing is fucking great. There’s nothing better than being able to cry at a song on The Con, then being able to have a solo dance party later on, to a song like this:

In other news, I’ve also totally fallen in love with Chrissy Barnacle.


I met her last year at a TYCI introductory meet up and I remember her being super lovely and mentioning that she was a singer-songwriter. I had since taken note to listen to her tunes, but have actually not done so until very recently. She’s unlike anything I’ve heard or listen to. It’s hard to believe that when she sings that she’s doesn’t hail from America or Canada because it’s just so different. But I think it’s so wonderful. Her music is an injection of what this scene needs. Really lovely stuff.

To anyone that interests in touring/drumming/music in general and/or Hole, I thoroughly recommend the documentary Hit So Hard, which concentrates on the drummer of Hole, Patty Schemel.
Kurt, Frances, Patty.
I was never too interested in Hole until now, and Courtney Love has always kind of irked me so originally I wasn’t really interested in watching this. A documentary about a drummer? Can’t be that interesting, surely. But she wasn’t just a drummer. She was an addict, a girlfriend, and the glue that held the band together. She was good friends with Kurt Cobain, someone I am fascinated with. If you care about music in any sense, watch this documentary.  
Finally, I currently have two other exciting escapades. I am partaking in the Behind The Noise trainee programme, and I’m also working with First Run Records
There are some exciting few months coming ahead with BTN that I am really excited about, and I will be updating my blog as things happen/develop. 
At First Run, I’m helping them out at the moment in the run up to their First Run Live show at the Barras Art and Design centre – or BaAd – at the end of the month. The poster looks like this: 
The guys that work at First Run really have their heads in the game in regards to the current climate of the Scottish industry and what they’re doing could potentially expand into something massive. 
*Disclaimer: No disrespect to vegans, I am joking. I may or not may not be considering veganism myself. Potentially. Maybe.   

On the death of Ned Vizzini.

Many adults have tried and failed for years to understand what tweens/teenagers go through as they grow up. Yes, they were once young themselves, but it doesn’t stop barriers creeping in. Ned Vizzini was someone who understood. Who are these kids supposed to go to? They can go to their friends, but they might judge them and leave. Parents would worry too much.
He didn’t talk down to his audience. He doesn’t try really hard to get on to their level, embarrassing himself in the process. What he did was write down his own experiences and comprised it into a novel. That was it. But he got it. He perfectly encapsulated what it’s like to struggle as a teenager when all the world wants to do is degrade you for your problems.
Oh, you broke up with your boyfriend? Grow the fuck up and you can complain when you have a mortgage.
You have acne? You’ll grow out of it, stop complaining.
Kids are picking on you at school? Try having a dead end job you can’t get out of with a boss that hates you. You feel down and wish you weren’t alive? Think of the people that have cancer, they don’t get a choice.
Our problems may seem minimal or not as important, but they are. When these minimal things happen to us at a younger age, how we are able to cope with them will shape who we become as human beings.
He opened up parts of himself that other people might’ve kept hidden.
He deserved more than what he was handed with. He was talented, humble, honest. Something we should all aspire to be. He helped and reached out to so many, but I don’t know if he even realised how much when he were still with us. Here’s some examples:

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In the run up to Christmas, it’s easy to get snowed under with everything and forget about certain things. This weekend is the last weekend before Christmas, so, for my first year as being over the legal age to drink, I’ve been both working late, drinking after and drinking when I’m not working. Oh, Christmas.

Although, one thing that totally slipped away from me was the first anniversary of Ned Vizzini taking his own life on the 19th of December, 2013. 
If those who don’t know, Ned Vizzini was a YA author, father, and husband. I knew him, of course, for the first aspect. I did not know him personally, and now I never will. He wrote a book called It’s Kind Of A Funny Story, which is not only dear to my heart, but dear to kids all over the world who have at some point struggled with intense feelings that they feel are too difficult to handle. While the book is part fictional, part based on his own experiences, it still resonates.

I’ve already tweeted this, but I want to share it again because I really want people to see it. The date stamp is 2008, but I feel like it might be earlier. I’m not sure. It’s a spoken word/poem about the suicide of a beer. It’s haunting to listen to it now, but at the same time he manages to tackle this issue, this very prominent issue that lead to the end of his life and makes it light hearted. It has less than 400 views.

At the back of his books, he had a direct contact email address and he would reply to messages to those who reached out to him. He made the experience full circle, through the reading and connection of his book with the reader to then the subsequent conversation. Coming across this even now makes my heart sink to think that he won’t be there on the other side of that email. He also gave talks at schools and colleges, letting those who liked his writing come and hear him in an arena that was familiar and comfortable to talk about things that they knew and understood. I think having the opportunity for young kids to hear from people that they admire or connect to can be a very important, and sometimes life-altering thing.
At the very least, I hope he’s at some kind of peace at a place beyond lingering teenage troubles or worries. His words will continue to live on, and generations of kids that feel the exact same way that he felt will be able pick up his books and feel understood.  I’ll leave this post with the last section from a It’s Kind of a Funny Story, because his own words do a good job of encapsulating his legacy. 

Ski. Sled. Play basketball. Jog. Run. Run. Run. Run home. Run Home and enjoy. Enjoy. Take these verbs and enjoy them. They’re yours, Craig. You deserve them because you chose them. You could have left them all behind but you chose to stay here. So now live for real now, Craig. Live. Live. Live. Live. Live.  

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