The pavilion is an iconic structure with an impressive combination of history, having originally been opened in 1881, and tenacity , that saw the venue restored to its former glory in 2004.
It is fair to say, apart from the occasional stand out gig, The Kaiser Chiefs and Frightened Rabbit in particular, it has not seen many contemporary music events. The announcement of the showcase gig at Strathpeffer did show that a new chapter could be opening in the venue’s story.
First up was Dr Wook. This is the recent solo project of The Whiskys’ front man Kris Douglas. With Dr Wook it is a very different proposition to his band, less brusk more vulnerable and deeper in tone and approach. The focus obviously is on one man and his musicianship and with Dr Wook he creates an intensity in his music that perhaps is overlooked in the songs of The Whisky when focussing on the tune.
Between songs there was almost an unnerving silence as guitars were changed and the audience gathered themselves. Set ender “Grace from Below” combined a strong potency with a feeling of experimentation. His set satisfied both those that knew him from the Whiskys, and those that were new to his music.
The upping of the tempo allowed the audience to move into the space in front of the tables dubbed “the embarrassment pit”, by Donald. He further chose to reflect that the band had the uncoolest name on the bill as well as the uncoolest picture on the gig poster. Most unfairly self critical.
With influences flying from from Bruce Springsteen to Arcade Fire, it is particularly surprising that they have more than a dash of pop in their tunes. A fact that can at times unnerve with familiarity. Could it be Celtic Rock? or indeed Celtic Pop? However you badged it, they had the crowd eating out of the palms of their hands.
Next visit to the Highlands will be for the sold out Bogmanay at Bogbain, where it doesn’t take a genius to predict that they will go down a treat
With AMWWF, I had in my mind a greatest hits (if that were possible from a band that is in its relative infancy) with perhaps Mona , Michael’s Temptress being played. However it was striking that the band could play a set omitting such standards and yet still leave the audience feeling not cheated.
You can easily understand why they have in the past they have preferred the term collective rather than band. In many ways changing vocalists was perhaps a red herring for a band that could quite happily jump from genre to genre in a relatively cohesive manner. They gave us a glimpse of 2014 with material from the forthcoming Ep (which David Webster talked to us about in our recent interview with him) being played .
There is much to love about the five-piece and the elements create an immersive and at times subtle experience (perhaps missed by some of the audience who had not acclimatised from the previous set) .
Overall, this was a positive night for the Pavilion. The bar may have been in the wrong place, down by the stage, but they pulled a decent sized crowd into the spa village. Each set was appreciated by the audience, whether it was the wee kids at the front who danced all night, or those that took time to savour it from further back with a few pints of the Cromarty Brewery’s finest.