We are back in the Windy Ha, Saltcoats, our base of operations, stomping ground, territorial turf, neck of the woods, hame away fae’ hame, this is the place where, in Ayrshire at least, history is in the making, as up and coming musicians flow through these hallowed walls week in, week out, and past performances now read like a who’s who of the local music scene, one day people will look back at the Windy as ‘the place it all began’ and we have another top class billing lined up tonight – the One Man Music Industry Will Johnstone, The superlative Iqons and one I’m very excited about, The Stonehouse Violets! I’m full of anticipation because in my circles, as a music journalist, promoter and fan, I have heard a lot of good stuff about the Violets and The Iqons but have not yet had the opportunity to see them live, that all changes tonight. The Windy Ha is a positive breeding ground for awesome musicians right now, and there is nowhere else to see these primordial, hair-raising live events.…
 WILL JOHNSTONE

 Will brings his moody aura to the stage (moody in a good way of course, as in atmospheric) Will is an extremely gifted multi-instrumental-mentalist and with his unequivocal guitar skills he takes the crowd into a soaring rendition of ‘Wonderwall’, ‘Wonderwall’ is a song that even your granny would know, it is a British institution, and as much as I don’t like Oasis it is certainly the perfect song to get a crowd singing along to, Will knows how to work a throng of music-lovers and I daresay I prefer his stripped-down, pure version, because Will is easily a better singer than those whiney Gallagher fuck-heads and the guitar is much more skilfully plucked. For the first time ever that I’ve seen, Will has brought a setlist along, so he means business tonight and after ending Wonderwall to the crowd’s roaring approval he moves straight onto ‘Them Bones’ by Alice in Chains, you can tell he really loves this song just with the cordial deliverance with which he sings it. Next he plays one of his own ‘Signal Fires’, he reminds me a little of Frank Black by the way he holds a guitar and plays a song, this song exemplifies his talents as a vocalist and boy can he holler as his voice amplifies around the room, prevailing and invigorating all in its majestic sweep. A small celebration of Maggie Thatcher’s death, a round of ‘Happy Birthday’ for Sara-Lee (a huge SHV fan) and Will’s short but thoroughly captivating set of moody blues is over and it is time for the three minute warning as Stonehouse Violets are about to set off a nuclear bomb…

STONEHOUSE VIOLETS

…Stonehouse Violets is a name I hear bandied about a lot and now I finally get to see them strut their stuff, and usually when you go into a new band with high expectations you can be disappointed quite badly, but not so with these guys. They open with ‘Nothing’s Moving’ and my first impression (and I quote my notepad) is “WHOOOOOOOOOOAAAAA!!!!!!!” The wonderful Tsunami of sound they produce pins my ears back and straightens up my MDMA-crooked spine, they are bouncy and brisk and full of alacrity and I become a one-man Tasmanian Devil mosh-pit as I get caught up in a musical styling more energetically potent than five Red Bulls back-to-back topped off with a line of Nescafe Gold! The vocals have a nice grungy, style that is full of attitude and appeals to my punk receptors, I can hear the Damned somewhere far-off in their distant musical backdrop, I almost feel like I’m hearing ‘New Rose’ again for the first time! The band are obviously a set of tight-fitting, supremely-skilled individuals, the drummer is excellent, the keyboardist adds a nice touch and they all look very cool (apart from the drummer, as pointed out during a song by one of the band members, haha) so plenty onstage banter to keep ye’ goin’ as well, but not so much that it gets in the way of the music, nothing could get in the way of this music really, in fact everything gets out of its way, it has a vibrant ferocity to it and an assertiveness so sorely missing in a lot of their contemporaries. ‘Empty Spaces’ has a nice intro that leads into a crackin’ Clash-esque drum onslaught that the guitars then accompany and compliment, cue that grungy, effective vocal and we’re already listening to a brilliant song before it’s even got off the ground. Even “Gandalf” the long-bearded wizard-lookin’ octogenarian who is at the bar every Friday, sitting quietly, is up on his feet and dancing about, swept up in the glory of it all just like me and  everyone else. There’s a nice well-played guitar solo threaded through the middle of the song and then back in with that slammin’ drumbeat and beautifully grubby Strummer-like vocal. They have enthusiasm, spunk and consistent punk undertones as they rattle on through ‘Vampire’ (and I haven’t taken many notes cos’ I’m so caught up in thrashing about to the rock being produced, vigorously shaking the Windy by its very foundations) and then bring us to the ‘Rapture’, a slower but no less unrelenting number, the song builds up into a glorious crescendo and a spaced-out trippy guitar solo that’s so psychedelic it’ll have you seeing stripes and Paisley patterns. ‘SOS’ has a definite punk rock feel as soon as it starts, it has a nice mixture of the old skool sound of such punk notables as Wreckless Eric, but combined with the melody of modern pop-punk like Greenday, then it weighs in heavy and the guitar shreds through your soul before lifting into a nice, tuneful sound that carries you along to the end. They finish with ‘I Am The Light’, ‘Saviour’ and an encore of ‘Leaves Will Fall’ which is a very poignant song, with meaning, that will reach right into your mind and force you to think. So after SHV vacate the stage I’m left with a feeling of great satisfaction – the band I’ve heard so much about were even higher than my expectations (and me) and I can’t wait to see them again, I wanna’ see them again now! Immediately! But there is compensation to that set ending, as it’s The Iqons’ turn to deal…

THE IQONS

…Because………I am a Gonzo journalist, I am wasted by this point – I abandon my notes and have an awesome time jumping around to the rockin’ sound of The Iqons, so particular details aren’t clear, but gather round the carpet kids and I will tell you what I can remember – The Iqons are a great looking band, beautiful female singer/bassist Wallis, (nothing sexier than a girl who can play guitar and play it well, especially in such a sausage-orientated field as guitar-playing) Her voice is every bit as enchanting as her image and singing seems to be a joint effort between herself and Scott who also plays the six string with some sensational skill. All the members are very proficient with their weapons of choice, the drummer is pounding away with expertise and a merciless ferocity, that is giving them a nice rough edge, that, and a growling guitar-sound juxtaposes magnificently with the polished-off poppy overtones that will make this band widely appealing to rockers and boppers alike. The Iqons may well live up to their name one day as they have a great, unique sound with the synth thrown in there somewhere to set it apart from the norm. If I was to categorise their genre it would be pop-punk, though they call themselves just out and out rock and that’s fair enough too, but my point is I don’t like pop-punk much, except for a handful which make it into my ‘good’ pop-punk list, a very short list, but one that The Iqons have just found themselves on, but that’s personal opinion and although you may not look for objectivity under any by-line of mine, it’s fair to say that The Iqons have all the talent and originality to go far, and go far they shall, with such memorably played and brilliantly named songs as ‘These Are Not The Droids You Are Looking For’ the force is strong with this group and managing to follow a fantastically rocking act like SHV is no small feat, but one that The Iqons achieved effortlessly. I’ve never jumped about this much to any band I’ve seen so far at The Windy Ha but The Iqons would get a corpse up and dancing with their contagious, Muse-like riffs, serene, composed harmonies and thrashing, thumping, thoroughly thunderous drums, I think I’m going to be seeing these guys on bigger and bigger stages quite rapidly in the months to come and I’m glad I had the opportunity to be up close and personal with them at this tender stage in their soon-to-be illustrious career! Indeed, they have already played alongside such notables as OCS, Fratellis, Biffy Clyro and Idlewild, so what does that tell you? If you hear of The Iqons playing anywhere near you, catch them now while you can still say you were there before this phenomenal and prodigious band take off to the firmament of the music world, high above our grimy, but precious, little underground scene…and they deserve every bit of success that comes their way, and I for one will be following them very, very closely, and so should you be, trust me, I’m a doctor…of journalism.

That’s it from me, a big thankyou to everyone involved in making this night so special, from the roadies to the groupies, from the photographers to the promoters, and especially to the  musicians, who never tire in their quest to entertain us with good, homegrown, heartfelt nights of live music, without them there would be nothing. I’ll leave you by bastardising a HST quote;


“Strange memories on this night of nirvana in Saltcoats. It seems like once-in-a-lifetime or at least a Main Era – the kind of peak that never comes again. The Windy Ha right now is a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it means something. Maybe not, in the long run . . . but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world, whatever it meant. History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long, fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time – and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happened.’’
See ya’ in The Pit!!! ~ CTH
Originally Published on NHC Music 21/05/2013
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