Sadness and depression not evident in ‘weel-pickit’ crowd

I’ll start this review by laying my cards on the table. Prior to attending this gig I was a Shetland Blues Festival virgin who thought blues music was a sad, depressing genre, only suitable for the over-50s.

I was one of a small, but appreciative audience, who attended the sixth blues festival concert at the Northern Lights in Brae on Saturday night. The organisers promised we were in for an evening of fantastic music from the three acts lined up, and although I was somewhat doubtful that I would enjoy and appreciate two of the groups, I decided to keep an
open mind.

There was never any doubt that I would enjoy the first group on stage. Shetland legends No Sweat provided the sound-track to my younger years and always invoke happy memories of Adidas Sambas, Special VAT and a great night out.

As the boys now approach their 30th anniversary, it would be understandable if the group were a little tired and jaded, but the reverse is true. From the start they were full of energy and banter. Brian began by looking out into the somewhat sparse audience and stating: “Dir no mony o you, but you’re weel pickit.”

Later on David offered waxing workshops oot da back, guaranteed to give you the blues on Monday. They powered their way through some fantastic original material and everyone in the band looked as though they were still really enjoying themselves. The Whalsay-inspired song about the blue whiting was a real treat, and the censors prohibit my description of the song which featured waxing of the back and lower male regions.

Next on stage were The King Bees. Although members of this four-piece group have played with various bands over the years, the King Bees only formed early last year. This certainly wasn’t evident in their performance as they made everything appear effortless with a brilliant selection of covers and self-penned songs, ranging from slow and haunting to up-tempo and exhilarating.

Frontman Marc Patching was celebrating his second visit to Shetland after attending the festival last year with Cherry Lee Mewis, and according to his dad, Marc was delighted to be back in Shetland.

The audience really appreciated this brilliant set as The King Bees meandered through smooth blues tones and romped through rousing rhythm and blues. Special mention has to be made to Jeff Dakin on percussion and harmonica whose talent and interaction with the audience added greatly to the experience.

By now the audience had warmed up and were ready to welcome the final act of the evening. The tiny stage was crammed with musicians and their instruments as the eight-piece, Inverness-based, Leonard Jones Potential began their set with an instrumental arrangement.

A tight rhythm section provided a funky skeleton for Ruairidh and his fabulous keyboards, all wrapped up with swinging horns that included saxophone, trumpet and trombone. The LPJ were a funky, groove-orientated group who registered more on the jazz scale than the blues perhaps, but this did not detract from the enjoyment of the audience.

After the first instrumental, the band were joined on stage by vocalist Michelle Davidson who added an extra dimension to the mix with her powerful vocals. The LPJs really looked as if they were glad to be on stage and the audience was impressed with their original, up-tempo approach.

It was an emotional evening for Laura, the alto saxophonist, who played her last gig before leaving the band to have a baby in 10 weeks. Best wishes to her and bass player husband Andy.

Throughout the evening the “weel pickit” audience remained firmly in their seats and the dance floor remained empty until well through the LPJ set when a couple of brave souls got up to shake their thing. This all changed for the last couple of songs, however, when Stroma and Nicola arrived on the scene and hauled most of us on the dancefloor – good on you lasses, just what was needed!

All in all it was a fantastic night and I really enjoyed all three acts. I wasn’t sad or depressed at any time during the evening and I’m definitely not over 50, so maybe the blues is for me after all.

Maree Hay


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