The Eagle showcases developing talent

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A review of Culann, Naked Red, Mechanical Smile and Searching For Donkeys at The Eagle, Inverness on the 18th of April 2013

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I first set eyes upon Searching For Donkeys at the tail end of last year when they opened at a battle of the bands at the same venue. I found them, if anything, a little pedestrian in their set. I’m not sure what these Donkeys have been fed in the months in between, but the change has been quite staggering. There is a lot more verve and energy about them now, and have gone from lazy strolls along the beach to decent canter as they gather momentum. Graham Gilchrist cuts a fine frontman with his exchanges with the audience carrying them along in fine style. the set was rounded off with Open Bar which had certain reflections of Squeeze throughout. Whatever the Donkeys are searching for they are beginning to find, and you won’t find them on the shelves of Tesco any time soon.

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Mechanical Smile, a four piece from Ayrshire were up next, bringing their slot forward due to having to get out of town early. Nothing to do with sleeping in the multi storey car park I presume. With a driving start to their set, there is no messing about as lead Dawn Marshall takes no prisoners. It doesn’t stop at Dawn, as this is a four pronged attack. Their is a real passion in their grungy rock, and a belief, a strong belief which propels them forward. It’s grunge with a team spirit as they stride through each song. A set with so many highlights. Afterlife, Leap of Faith, Close Your Eyes, and new single, Set The Spark, all soaked in passion. There is something good going on in Ayrshire at the moment. One punter at the bar who saw me with my notepad told me that I should write that they were ‘very good’. That would be an understatement.

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Second local act was Naked Red, who have seen a recent line-up change with the introduction of Steve Sinclair in place of Tony Baxter. Previously Tony tended to almost upstage the band, but Stephen’s accomplished playing doesn’t distract but embellishes their sound. A set that ranges from the mellow, A Better Way, through Chasing The Moon which reminds me so much of BC Camplight, and on to the stiffer edges of Weston. As the band adapt to Steve’s presence it appears the progression of the set reflects the direction of the band.

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Headline for the night were another Ayrshire band, Culann. Fresh from their success at the SAMAs where they picked up the award in the “best rock” category, they were on a whistle-stop tour of Scotland and had arrived in from Aberdeen on their way to Edinburgh for a gig on Friday. Culann ventured onto our radar earlier this year at MV Festival and aroused our interest enough to follow up tonight. Not many bands kick off their set with a line from an Arnie film, The Running Man in this case, but no sooner than he had threatened to “break our god-damn spine”

Culann launched into their opener, and album opener, Jerusalem, grabbing us by the scruff of the neck. Giving us a leathering throughout, the numbers soared, and The Lowlander’s Great Hatred gave us hints of their Celtic influences, testing the ground held by early Runrig, but never crossing directly into that genre. Beat Your Chest brought a more anthemic, almost stadium, sound as they held the stage. It wasn’t just the stage that vocalist PJ Kelly took charge off, and on more than one occasion he left it to face the band to ramp up the action. Brain Canyon sums up their ever changing mood, as they settle through a mid song respite on keys to re-launch to bring us to a rousing crescendo.

Culann never settle musically within one place within the rock spectrum, and that is very much to their credit. I may have seen them and bought the T-shirt, but I’ll be back, as Arnie would say…

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Frank Finlayson
Frank Finlayson
Chartered surveyor by day, music reviewer by night, and occasionally I get to use my camera. A strange mix, but one that I enjoy. A chance meeting in the queue for Bella in 2010 led to the opportunity to write for InvernessGigs; a far cry from the days of writing for a football fanzine back in the late 80s, early 90s. My interests lie between the mainstream, the emerging and the local. Increasingly I find that we have more than enough locally to entertain us to necessitate a trip south. I’m always happy to give a listen, whatever the genre. Inverness has a plethora of talent, all of which I am more than keen to write about. If it encourages just one person to make the effort to listen to some new music I’ll be happy. You can contact Frank direct via