Northern Rock

This month sees the launch of a brand new music and art festival in Shetland. Vunk Fest aims to bring together the best alternative rock music with an innovative art and photography exhibition. Chris Cope explains more.

Shetland’s alternative music scene is about to play host to a brand new festival this summer, with a number of bands hopping up from the mainland to play at the event. Vunk Fest is primed, prepped and ready to launch a smorgasbord of guitar slamming and cymbal thrashing upon an unsuspecting evening in mid-July, with an art exhibition taking place the day after.   

Who? Attica Rage
Where? Glasgow
What? One of Scotland’s premier purveyors of all things that rock hard, Attica Rage are stalwarts of the mainland metal scene. Decked out in beards and long hair – and most likely wearing some form of black – this foursome have notched up several festival appearances and have supported the likes of Saxon and Diamond Head.

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The reason behind the outlandish name lies with the event’s promoters and sponsors, Vunk Ventures. The Shetland based music promoters are ploughing their time and effort in making the non-profit event, due to take place on the 11th and 12th of July, a successful amalgamation of homegrown talent and mainland musical spice. The art exhibition meanwhile will enjoy a music theme, and with acoustic music on show too, there’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy some mellow downtime after the maelstrom of rock ‘n’ roll bombast the night before.

Among the bands on the bill for the gig are Glasgow based rockers Attica Rage and Inverness’s Stolen Order, whilst the Shetland rock fraternity will be represented by the likes of punk band Bacchus and effervescent rock outfit El Pedro. There’s a multitude of bands lined up to hit the stage, and for Vunk Venture’s Dave Kok, there is the hope that the festival will grow from its infancy into a regular yearly rock extravaganza. “Our main aim here is to hopefully give Shetland an annual rock festival that will eventually be recognised and have a profile similar to the Folk Festival,” he said. “We also want to give musicians and artists who don’t normally get recognised locally a chance to shine in Shetland on a stage or hanging space where they can strut their stuff.

Who? Stolen Order
Where? Inverness
Looks like leather and denim ahoy, as this band are old school rockers and seem quite proud of it. Probably best served with a frosty pint in one hand, and devil horns on the other, Stolen Order take nods from the likes of Guns N Roses and Motley Crue and are set to join Shetland rockers Ten Tonne Dozer around Scotland on tour in September.

They say: “We’re very excited to be playing at Vunk Fest – it’s the very first one and it’s an honour to be on the bill. This is the most northerly festival in the UK and it’s important that no matter where fans are in the UK they are given the option to see the bands they want and Vunk is a great platform for that. With regards to Stolen Order, we give it our all and the fans will see some high energy, high octane insanity.”

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Doing festivals like this will also inject a bit of interest and much needed life into the rock music scene in Shetland and will help musicians and artists collaborate with other local and non-Shetland individuals. There’s economic reasons too, with folk travelling to Shetland for the festival – musicians and music lovers alike – Shetlanders getting involved with the festivities and the travellers spending money on or at the event, this will keep money in Shetland and support local business and artists.”

For Vunk Ventures however, the festival is a labour of love. Their services are being offered for free to help organise and promote the event, alongside the various sponsors, companies, venues and individuals that are helping to create a festival with real community spirit. “We are donating many hours of our time and loads of effort to try and make this event happen as best we can based on the donations, sponsorships and whatever funding may come our way,” Kok added.

“Basically, we are doing this for free – we personally won’t make a penny, as Vunk Fest is set up to be a non-profit-making event, in which we have a constitution and a formal committee with numerous members. We are doing this out of the kindness of our hearts and souls, and for the sweaty passion of good old gutsy rock’n’roll!”

Who? Dirty Ride
Where? Orkney
What? This band will make the trip up over the water from Orkney and will be hoping for a warm reception from their Northern Isle neighbours. Their Myspace page lists their genres as garage, experimental and alternative, but there are bluesy undertones that seep in the music too. It’s pretty dirty sounding, but it sounds like a fun ride too.

They say: “It’s going to be dirty, with a good bit of 60s/70s influenced garage rock in somewhere too. It’s great that this sort of thing is happening as there aren’t enough events with original music around Orkney, and hopefully this will help change that.

We’re really looking forward to hearing the other bands as from what we’ve heard on Myspace it sounds like it’s going to be tough to match them.”

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But we all know money makes the world go round, and with the coaxing of bands from the UK mainland to make the long trip up to Shetland, pennies will inevitably have to be counted. “It’s always going to cost an arm and a leg to get folk to and from the Auld Rock,” Kok said, “but I guess we live in hope for the ferry and flight prices to drop a little to help us with doing events like this. Even a bit of sponsorship from the airlines and Northlink wouldn’t go astray. There’s a lot you need to consider when costing events like this – phone calls, postage, travel costs, accommodation, security, p.a. hire, insurance, licensing, bus/car hire, printing. It goes on and on. But if you break it all down,” he added, “the travel would be the single most costly thing.”

For some, the most intriguing aspect of Vunk Fest will be its art and photography exhibition, due to take place at The Pierhead in Voe. “Let’s not forget Karen Bruce [Vunk Ventures colleague] who’s been the main instigator and ideas person behind the exhibition,” Kok said. “Like my wife says, ‘we’re trying to show people there’s more to Shetland than puffins’. What better way to end a festival than with art imitating music, when we begin it with music imitating art.”

Who? Hidden Agenda
Where? Shetland
This band engineered a near rabid following a few years ago as they played a plethora of gigs across the isles, with their punk rock sound composing of both crowd pleasing covers and original material.
After some all-too-common downtime due to university commitments, Hidden Agenda are back on the radar with a new album in the works and new crowds to be won over too.

They say: “It’s been so long since we last played a gig and we’ve been itching to perform again – or is the itch just this annoying rash? It’s especially exciting to have our first return performance to be at such a big gig. Knowing Dave it’ll be a brilliant night! We finished recording our debut album at Easter this year and it’s currently being mixed down by the brilliant man-in-the-box Stevie Hook. We’re hoping to play a number of gigs this summer to help promote the album and give a taster of what’s in store. We’ll be practising hard to be able to give the best possible show.”

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Jono Sandilands is one of those scheduled to take part in the exhibition. Fresh from completing his graphic design degree from Gray’s School Of Art in Aberdeen, Sandilands will be showcasing a display of artwork specifically related to the bands that played at Norscot the day before. “The pieces I’m working on for the exhibition are based around the lyrics of the Shetland bands involved in the gig the night before.

Typographically designed pieces of art you could say,” he said. He’ll also be appearing at the gig as the drummer of Aberdeen-based The Brothel Corpse Trio, and as a musician too it’s something he feels is important for the music scene in Shetland. “It’s great to see something like this happening in Shetland. With it being rich in traditional music, there’s something lacking in the contemporary/rock scene just now and Vunk Fest will show that rock music is still very much alive in the isles. It just needs an outlet.”

Who? Ten Tonne Dozer
Where? Shetland
What? One of the Shetland’s alternative music scene’s success stories, this band have pillaged their way through the UK and Europe on a number of occasions and seem to have attracted a sizeable following in the process. Ten Tonne Dozer’s sound is a snarling brew of hard rock and metal, with a shimmying groove underpinning their sound, and with an engaging live performance that often ends up in blood, sweat and tears – well, minus the tears part – these experienced axe thrashers are quickly becoming one of Shetland’s most sought after musical exports.

They say: “It’s great to be able to play with some bands here on our own territory that we have had the chance to play with and befriend on our previous tours of the mainland, such as Stolen Order and Attica Rage.
The crowd can expect a rousing, energetic performance from a group of hairy men teaching the younglings the gospel of metal.”

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Whether you’re a fan of rock music or not, the idea of inititating a new summer festival in Shetland, especially during this economic downturn, should be appluaded. And if you are a rock fan, go along and support the local music scene, because it needs you. “Everybody knows how well Shetland does with the folk and blues festivals, Kok added in a rallying call. “Let’s try and do the same with a rock festival in the form of Vunk Fest.”

Vunk Fest takes place at The Norscot Angling Club on Saturday 11 July and The Pierhead on Sunday 12 July. Tickets for the gig are available from the Islesburgh box office, whilst the exhibition is free of charge.


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