Last week was an explosive one for music in the North. The high jinks and rampant commercialism of Rockness aside, Inverness hosted GoNorth, an important yearly fixture which showcases the best in music, arts and media talent in the North, including workshops and talks from top dogs in the creative industries and most excitingly, a range of gigs in the evening. Held over 8th and 9th June, there was much speculation over the clash with Rockness – surely this was a drastic mistake by the planners, surely everything would be dreadfully attended?…
So being truthful, it was with low expectations that I travelled into town on Thursday night when everyone else was off to Dores. But the variety of venues including Hootannany, The Room, Ceol-Mor, the Market Bar (obviously) and The Encore Hotel (more obscurely), hinted that there was much to catch and upon entering The Room for the first performance there, it was clear that everyone was up for a tasty platter of talent and a heavy night – the crowd was discerning and lively. Alt rockers ‘Cities and Skylines’ performed a shouty set with angry vocals and aggressive but succinct guitars which was impressive considering the small crowd and frustratingly stupid wooden barrier in front of them. And so the night began with an angsty yelp.
“To Madhatters!”, was the next thought, a venue of consistent true quality. Arriving mid set of Glasgow band, ‘Trapped in Kansas’ meant falling deep into the luxurious intricacies of their light, Foals – like guitars. It was dreamy and complicated and interspersed with explosive, growling riffs and some more heartfelt shouting. A brief, sweaty chat with the bassist revealed that GoNorth was all about the community – a chance for like minded artists to meet, network and exchange ideas. The sense of togetherness amongst the crowd seemed genuine too, especially as they had chosen GoNorth over the bellowing Kasabian at Rockness. Following this in a drastic twist of genre was ‘Kobi Onyame’, hip hop artist from Ghana/London. He was an energetic breath of fresh air, beginning with a bangin’ garage track with a catchy rap. However, from then on it drifted a little too far into Tynchy Stryder territory. Not one for slick emotional pseudo-grime, it was time to move on.
The Market Bar was heady, filled with some extraordinary whisky-soaked creatures and the band Mitchell Museum had just packed up. Despite this time keeping error, punters were quickly charmed by Megan Blyth, who despite not actually being on the bill for GoNorth, played after Mitchell Museum and was exceptional. A legacy of Amy Macdonald but better, she was young and nervous but not so much that she couldn’t knock the socks of everyone there. Truly someone to keep an eye on.
The daft curfew cut short this performance, so it was on to The Ironworks for Invernessian bass merchants Boomshank Redemption and the delicious funky soul of The Leonard Jones Potential. Well done on whoever came up with this line-up as it is music purely made for dancing. Those who weren’t schmoozing with people they should know at the back were breaking loose at the front. I mean who just doesn’t flippin’ love soul music?! With the night ended, expectations had been forgotten – it was surprisingly brilliant. The acts excelled, the crowd responsive and were all pals having bumped into each other in the various venues. So we decided to come back for more on the Friday.
On the cards was Edinburgh’s Chasing Owls at Hoots, a folk indie group made up of four charming, modest guys and a girl with a crisp voice and harmonium. It’s very difficult to review them without making comparisons to Mumford and Sons – believable, romantic lyrics and heart-breaking harmonies that makes you hang on to every melodic note. Plus they were just so dreadfully polite.
From the relentless energy of Thursday to the more chilled but just as thrilling Friday, GoNorth provided everything you could ever want from a musical showcase: talent, spontaneity and local warmth.