Sunday, 13 March 2011

Burns Night - Roughneck Riot + The Real McKenzies

Burns night saw me back at Drummonds Aberdeen for a feast of kilted, Celtic punk, and what a fantastic night it turned out to be! Greg Matheison from Chaos Promotions sure knows how to throw a party!

I took the gig on, not really knowing what to expect, because my old drummer teaches the Roughneck Riot drummer and gave me the heads up that they were coming up from Warrington to Scotland for a mini tour.

I kind of looked on the night as a favour to them and to my old drummer.
I knew nothing about the band, or the headliners, The Real McKenzies and was a little dubious as to whether I would enjoy the experience.

As always, I did my research.
I like to give a band 100% and to do them justice, I will turn up knowing the band’s music, their history, their individual names, what they look like, what they had for breakfast and be ready for any signature moves. If the opportunity arises, I like to have a chat with the band members before the show and build up a rapport and trust.

All the guys (and gals) in both bands were very friendly.
It transpired that Roughneck Riot and myself share a few close mutual friends as they are from or around my home town before I relocated to Scotland 10 years ago.

Drummonds is a great live venue, although the lighting is a nightmare (virtually non existent) against a black painted and untidy stage backdrop. It is one of the only venues I know where flash is permitted, if not essential.

Flash can kill a live music image, but I find that if you dial the power right down to just ‘tickle’ a little light into the scene, it can help create a great image under poor conditions.

On to the show…

I can’t even remember the name of the first band on-stage, they left me totally un-impressed, both musically and visually.

As an audience member and a photographer, I prefer bands that hone their stagecraft and entertain their audience. Yes, the music is foremost, but I’m left cold by shoe gazers who make no effort to engage their audience. The void in front of the stage, empty of audience said it all really, as did the lack of applause. I normally photograph all of the support bands, but I gave this one a miss and went outside for a cigarette with some of the musicians.

Next on was Billy Liar from Glasgow, who I have worked with before and consider a friend. Solo punks with acoustic guitar don’t normally do anything for me, but Billy has it nailed. He looks the part, writes great, clever songs and delivers them with passion and energy. The Aberdeen punk troops lined the edge of the stage for his performance and they and Billy fed off each other.

Billy and myself popped out into the dark Belmont Street before his set for an impromptu portrait session, and considering that all I had to work with was a single on-camera flash, we were very pleased with the results.


After a short interval, The Roughneck Riot took to the stage and what a show they put on! Their music is Irish/Celtic punk (think The Pogues/Dropkick Murphys), which was well received by the audience.

This band has obviously made a conscious effort to work on their stagecraft and I was fed with opportunities for great action images from the moment they walked on stage until the moment they left it.

Every band member was a joy to watch, and I could photograph Caitlin, their banjo player all night!


Toward the end of the show, there were more band members on the floor than on stage, and the stage was invaded (by invitation, if that makes sense!) by the Aberdeen troops. The whole scene was one big party and the line between band and audience was blurred, which made for some great images.

The Real McKenzies kept the party going and again were a joy to photograph.
They were in the middle of their European tour from their native Vancouver and were on top form. Again, very friendly guys…a simple email resulted in a reply from their manager, Randy Stifes with permission. It turned out that Randy doubles as their sound guy and was there on the night and destroyed my image of him being a suit behind a desk somewhere in Vancouver. I thought it only right I should throw in a shot of a kilted Randy at the desk…thanks again. Randy!

There was a serious mosh pit going down half way into their set, so I found myself at one point standing on a pool table for some long shots and getting in the middle of it for some audience shots.

I came away from the night exhilarated and with a large number of images I was very pleased with. Billy, Roughneck and the Real McKenzies were all pleased with the results too.

The Real McKenzies have set up a gallery on their website from the night.

The Roughneck Riot will be returning in July for the Slaughterfest.
I will be there, and will be wearing my Roughneck t-shirt, courtesy of the band!

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