Ropetackle Arts Centre, Shoreham-by-Sea
Surely I can’t be the only AWista in love and awe of this band? Hot on the heels from the launch of their their 2nd album, “Air Fàir an Là”, this brief tour of Scotland and some lesser known spots in England was all the opportunity needed to suggest a long weekend on the south coast, they also being toppermost of Mrs Ps poppermost. And Shoreham must be one of the more unlikely venues I have been to, but I can report it a delight, a vibrant arts centre with a lively catalogue of music, plays and more. Good bar, too.
Niteworks are an absolute delight, in existence some 10 years, with a paltry output of 2 CDs and an EP to their name, preferring to hone their talent, and, in the meantime, building up a huge fanbase in their native land. Not for nothing were they chosen to close the Edinburgh Hogmanay shindig festivities in 2017. Loosely, very loosely, they might be argued a marriage between a less twee Capercaillie and a less miserable Massive Attack, a trad folk influence with a heavy techno underbelly. The late Martyn Bennett surely part of the template. The 4 members swap between synthesisers, programmers, live and electronic drums, bass guitar and highland bagpipes. And it works, setting up a heady swirl of skirling euphoria. Gaelic vocals intersperse from time to time, on record provided by the likes of Julie Fowlis, tonight provided by Ceitlin Smith, a member of Sian, an all-female trio who appear on the lead track from the latest recording.
The names of the songs matter little and all are unpronounceable, but the band steamed off from the start as they meant to go on, a sonic barrage of unbridled joy, headphoned heads nodding away as they dextrously fused the traditions. Worried that this might make for limited visual enjoyment was soon scotched, the clear pleasure of performance obvious, with especial mention of Allan MacDonald who made the pipes both a glorious focus and seem entirely normal in the otherwise alien setting of dance music. Similarly, Ruaridh Graham, backbone of the band, with both the expected metronomic thump expected, but inventive flourishes to counterpoint. Split into 2 sets, a legacy of being painted into the F word, there was thankfully no raffle, but the audience, many of who, I discovered, unfamiliar with the band, soon realised this was no white heather club, swiftly assimilating the shock of these youngsters and taking to the floor. The few seats at the side of the room, certainly ours, lost their appeal very early on.
I find it hard to describe the joy I felt in this performance. Certainly my gig of the year thus far. Of the decade, said Mrs P, eager to persuade me into a trip up to Islington for tonight. (We didn’t, but it was briefly so very tempting.) Yes, it’s true, I am by heart a folkie, that heart also beating brawly with scottish blood, so nearly any band with a bagpipe will float my boat. But I am also a late to the party electronica buff, in no small part courtesy Mrs P, whose enthusiasm for Faithless and similar knows no bounds. She used to see Faithless back in their early days, in school gymnasia and village halls, comparing the energy then with that witnessed tonight. Indeed, one high point of tonights set did not even include either pipes or vocals, showing they can compete on a pure electronica label also. I appreciate the stigma of folk music will put off many. All I can say is swallow your prejudice. Turn down the lights, put on your cans, turn the volume up high and smile.
As is ever, mostly the age of the bands parents, albeit some scattering of younger blood. Curious becoming consumed might be my partisan take on the consensus.
It made me think..
Genres can as much divide by their being named and so should be shunned. File under music.