This is a very interesting blog from Dundee Acoustic’s Barry Nisbet.
Having set up the Dundee Acoustic Music Club in December 2014, we couldn’t wait to get started; so we kicked off with The Woody Pines on the afternoon of Sunday 29th March last year. Our venue, the hall at Roseangle Arts Café, part of the Dundee West Church, was set up cabaret-style, and on the day local band Two Thieves played a great support spot before Woody and his band came out and delighted the 65-strong crowd with their American rootsy, stomping music.
Still buzzing from our first gig, we were over the moon three days later when we learned that we had been chosen as one of the three Scotland Live clubs, and we started planning our gigs for later in the year when we knew the funding, expertise and assistance provided by Hands up for Trad would be invaluable!
On 26th April we hosted Edinburgh based duo The Jellyman’s Daughter, who brought their cello, guitar, and tight vocal harmonies; their support were Dowally, also from Edinburgh, featuring a more traditional Scottish sound and some superb arrangements. A crow of almost 60 turned up, and we began to feel we were on a winner with our Sunday afternoon format.
In May we hosted good-time Virginian string band The Hot Seats, and local group Seven Sons, (fronted by DAMC committee members Ruth Alexander and Clayr Borthwick), provided support. 75 people turned out for this gig, and we hoped the momentum was gaining as word got around about the high standard of the shows we put on. Harry Bird and the Rubber Wellies followed in June, these travelling folkies bringing their feel-good sound to our Roseangle venue on Sunday 24th. We made new friends by opening up the floor for a session and singaround after the gig, and in doing so identified a couple of potential support acts for our future gigs! We started making plans to host a second monthly gig later in the year, in a venue across the Tay in the newly-refurbished Newport Hotel. These concerts, we decided, would take place on midweek evenings, to provide variety.
We took a summer break, with no concert in July; and on 9th August tried out a new venue, the larger Chamber East, in Dundee city centre, where we hosted the New Rope String Band on their farewell tour. The New Ropes put on a great show and we got a crowd of 64, however this was not enough to justify the gamble we had taken and due to the much higher costs of the larger venue this was our first loss-making concert. Everyone went home happy but some committee members went home perhaps a bit wiser too!
In late August our friends from Dowally returned in a different form, playing a gig with a bigger band and an Americana sound under the name of Wayward Jane. Their music was as excellent as the last time however the crowd numbers were disappointing.
On Sunday 13th September our first concert as a Scotland Live supported club took place. We had Scottish based US banjo player Cera Impala and her band the New Prohibition for this gig; Jo Foster of Pittenweem played support, accompanying her haunting voice with guitar and piano.
Our first Newport gig took place on the 23rd September – the Corn Potato String Band played their old-time music acoustically to a near-capacity crowd for this venue of 45.
We had been beginning to question the viability of our Sunday format after a string of low turnouts and loss-makers, so we were delighted when Dallahan brought in our best turnout so far on October 11th, and the committee and volunteers dashed about finding extra chairs as 84 people turned out to hear their unique, Eastern-European tinged brand of Celtic tunes and songs. Later that month, US Old-time duo Beverley Smith and John Grimm played an excellent evening gig in Newport.
Welsh singer Jess Morgan played a solo gig for us in Newport on November 1st, to a respectable crowd of 29; and later in November San Franciscan bluegrass band Front Country brought in another good Sunday afternoon crowd of 62, and these fortunate people witnessed some stunning musicianship from this band, with up-and-coming Dundee based Celtic-bluegrass band Wire and Wool playing support and joining the main act on stage for a rip-roaring finale.
Dundee Acoustic Music Club held its first AGM on 3rd December, with a busy month ahead of us; we were very happy to have a turnout of 16 for the meeting, and were able to expand our committee to 10. Hopefully the fresh ideas and added input these new committee members bring will help us build on our achievements of 2015.
Two days later the Na Trad awards came to town, and Ruth, Clayr and Barry did their duty and attended the spectacular show and wonderful evening that was put on. It feels great to be a part of this very healthy and exciting music scene that we have in Scotland.
The following weekend, on 13th December we hosted our first sell-out concert, with 110 tickets being sold for Karine Polwart, one of our favourite singers, and one of the finest songwriters performing today in our opinion! Of course, she did not disappoint; and together with Gavin McGinty playing support, gave us the December concert and the year-end finale that we had been hoping for.
In all it has been a great first year, and a massive learning experience for all of us at DAMC. We can state with confidence that we have not hosted a show that has been anything less than excellent, and we would like to think that we are gaining a reputation for putting on quality shows, both in the standard of the acts, the sound quality, and the warmth and welcome of the environment we provide. We now boast a membership of 72, and hope that we can build on our successes with another great musical programme in 2016!