Stirling has always had something very special about it when it has come to emerging talent. Stirling’s Student Radio Station itself gave a platform to much loved misfits Detour and one half of the duo Ally McCrae went on to Radio 1 and now manages Prides.
It doesn’t stop there though; The Tolbooth has been renowned for its music programming. Previously Stephen Hume filled the role and brought emerging Scottish artists including Frightened Rabbit, Twin Atlantic, Twilight Sad, We
Were Promised Jetpacks, Errors, Admiral Fallow, Broken Records, Fatherson, even Mogwai. The music scene flourished notably, but since Stephen’s departure things became quiet.
Someone I have had the pleasure of interacting and working with in various music circles is Kenny Bates. There are certain people that stand out, their passion and dedication for what they do is apparent and Bates is one of those people. He is instrumental to the DIY music scene in Glasgow and I often feel he does not get enough credit for how much work he puts in. Bates has taken over Hume’s role and has announced a 2-day multi-stage music festival boasting over 30 acts at the Tollbooth called Strange Behaviours.
When asked if this was one of Bates’ most ambitious projects to date, ‘In terms of scale, Strange Behaviours festival most definitely is. As it’s a council-run venue I have a lot of backing and support from the team at the Tolbooth, and I’m given the time and space to work on it properly, so it maybe doesn’t feel as frantic and difficult to bring to fruition as other things I’ve done in the past, working in my free time, but yeah, this ‘hings pretty massive for me.’
With artists such as The Phantom Band, Miaoux Miaoux, Hector Bizerk, Model Aeroplanes, Fat Goth and United Fruit leading the main stages, on paper alone it is impressive. There will also be some unannounced special guests that will popping up throughout the building!
Bates’ background in music is very much from a DIY perspective, but it is not just the Tolbooth that he is involved in, ‘I have booked for a couple of venues in Glasgow and taught music/worked in community arts projects for the past 10 years. I run a goofy DIY progressive/noise/ambient label called Good Grief Records, schedule regular independent events and a monthly slot at spiritual haven Bar Bloc called ‘Good Grief’s Goop Shop’ 2nd Thursday of the month. I also
play in an mellow/jazzy/mathy indie band called Bianca. And I write a little almost-monthly zine called ‘hey man’ that I’m not sure anyone actually reads. Lately, I just helped a local Stirling artists Jason Riddell release an EP of super-addictive music.’
The hope is that this festival will breath life back into Stirling, but early indications from the Honeyblood/Algernon Doll gig recently show that there is still very much a strong heartbeat. And what of Stirling’s local music scene? Bates’ explains, ‘It’s similar to any larger town/smaller city in Scotland, whereby most people over the age of 18 seem to move away to Glasgow or Edinburgh for
university, thus wiping out or removing a lot of really promising bands before they can start creating a solid scene in the area. Talent is definitely not in doubt, and there’s a really strong singer-songwriter scene. Having a strong culture team in the council definitely means there are more opportunities for young musicians in Stirling than in somewhere of a similar size, like Ayr where I grew up. There are exciting things happening, and it’s my aim to help build on that and bring new musicians through the ranks via the events and workshops we schedule.’
As mentioned, I have seen the excitement Bates has for music especially within the community and his approach is infectious. His hopes for the Tolbooth make it apparent that this is not just a job, it is something far more, ‘The aim is to encourage musical participation in the city, try to put networks in place to build a cohesive and strong scene through here, and to make the venue and city in general a worthwhile touring stop for out of town bands.
It can be difficult. Without the solid base of a large number of innovative and popular bands/acts, it means putting on even weekly exciting touring bands or out of town bigger names can be difficult in terms of ensuring there’d be an audience there to make them work. But the people here are great, they know their music and they’re open-minded, so they’ll turn out for a big headliner or a well-promoted event. There are a number of motivated musicians and bands, there’s a great local record shop, a pretty pro-active HMV even, and plenty of really varied musical activity for young people to get a head start through. All in all Stirling has a lot going for it. I’m hoping that Strange Behaviours is going to be the hefty great bucket of madcap inspiration and aspiration that the city’s musicians and music fans need chucked all over them to be motivated to create and innovate.’
Tickets: £10 in advance per day, on the day they are £12 and limited £15 weekend passes. Visit – www.tolbooth.stirling.gov.uk or phone 01786274000
Main image by Ricky Henderson and poster designed by Anna Kraay