Review: Dumfries Music Conference 2017

This year marked the 5th birthday for the Dumfries Music Conference (DMC) and, as with every year, there were definitely some absolute standout moments. It may have taken place 2 weeks ago but for most, the memories are still strong.

Colin Tennant and Mike Nicholson

DMC Organisers Colin Tennant and Mike Nicholson

Organisers Colin Tennant and Mike Nicholson together with a range of helpers – credit absolutely also needs to be given to Martin O’Neill who does a ton of work behind the scenes – put on yet another jam-packed weekend event full of music industry experts giving advice and tips via workshops and seminars. As is customary, the 2 days were finished off with DMC Live, a pretty spectacular gig featuring both local and national acts.

To kick everything off, Thursday evening saw the official launch of DMC with renowned music video Director and Producer Drew John Barnes giving an informative video talk for DMC attendees (filmed at his base in New York, no less). There was also some local representation with Nathan David Smith there to talk about his directing experience from more of a UK perspective. The evening was well attended, with healthy supply of free beer and wine – not a bad start at all.

Nathan David Smith

Nathan David Smith talks about his directing experience

Throughout the weekend, the free workshops included opportunities to find out more from music experts on how to get press and media attention, as well as how to book your own gigs and tours.

Friday night’s live offering was Johnny’s Got An Empty – a relaxed gig with a secret line up that was only unveiled immediately before the acts came on stage. The room was set up to look like a cosy living room, complete with electric fire, comfy sofas and family photographs on the mantelpiece. Alex Maxwell, Kate Kyle, Fraser Clark and Gracefell all featured in the very exclusive line up.

Ellie McConnachie

13 year old Ellie McConnachie performed on Radio DMC to an awe-struck audience.
Photo credit: Kirstin McEwan Photography

Radio DMC has become a pivotal part of the overall DMC output, with the live shows being broadcast online from inside the Stove Café between 12noon and 4pm on both the Friday and Saturday. Small Town Sounds provides the bulk of the coverage, writing and presenting two  2-hour shows each day. This year I booked ten local acts which was more than previous years (this will be the 3rd year I’ve hosted Radio DMC) and it all went pretty smoothly, even if I do say so myself! I would like to thank my acts – Chasin’ The Train, Ellie McConnachie, Ben Nash, Karin, Yip Man, Franky’s Evil Party, Stoney Broke, Elia Davidson, Tiderays and 13 Crowes –  as without them my shows would not be the quality that they are and I appreciate every single one of you making the effort to appear live on air with me. They were all fantastic in their own specific ways – even Franky’s Evil Party who provided much entertainment value with their attempt at providing predominately one or two word answers to all my questions (and Jim Gellatly’s too). Organisers Colin and Mike presented their first solo show before my one on the Friday and featured Taagan as their live band who performed beautifully as always, and also interviewed some of those that are involved with DMC including photographer Rurai Barber Fleming and music journalist/press-guru Derick McKinnon. And a big well done goes to Emily Cooper who kicked off the Saturday offering of Radio DMC by presenting her first solo show, making the choice to feature only female acts.

Be Charlotte

Be Charlotte at DMC Live.
Photo Credit: Ruari Barber-Fleming Media

I always love a good DMC Live gig – they’re the highlight of the Dumfries Music Conference for me. The sound quality of the live performances within The Stove is always superb and the organisers manage to always strike a good balance between local acts and those who would probably never normally come to Dumfries. Over the years I’ve watched some fantastic acts – from local bands Barstow Bats, Sean vs the Robots and 13 Crowes, right through to Honeyblood, Indigo Velvet and this year, Be Charlotte who was phenomenal. Local representation this year came from Franky’s Evil Party who swapped places in the line-up with Be Charlotte and became the gig headliners. So here’s some helpful information for those of you who aren’t up to speed about this band:

Franky's Evil Party

Franky’s Evil Party at DMC Live.
Photo Credit: Ruari Barber-Fleming Media

1.     Franky’s Evil Party is made up of members of the former Brat and The Bonemen.
2.     However, Franky’s Evil Party now consists of the Brat and the Bonemen three, plus an additional 2 members.
3.     Brat and the Bonemen played at last year’s DMC Live. I thought they were fantastic.
4.     Franky’s Evil Party played at this year’s DMC Live. I did not think they were fantastic.
5.     At the end of their set they ripped down the photos of Brat and the Bonemen in the superb photo exhibition behind them, proclaiming that ‘Brat was dead’. Shame that a photo of Jim Gellatly and some other local bands were casualties of this ‘message’ too…
6.  Just to be clear – Brat is dead and Franky is Alive…or something like that…

Anyway, a special mention has to go to local lad Alex Maxwell who kicked off DMC Live and was the ‘special guest’ mentioned on the event promotion. His sound has really developed over the past year and he sounded superb.

So, to sum up and be honest whilst doing it, I was a bit disappointed by this year’s DMC Live. Going from an impressive 4 acts last year to an advertised 2 plus one special guest (who played at Johnny’s Got An Empty the night before) this year was a bit of an anti-climax. And next year, please bring back the A&R session for local musicians to submit their tracks and receive feedback from an industry panel – this is such a valuable opportunity and really helps the musicians to grow and improve.

DMC Photo Exhibition

Photo Exhibition celebrating 5 years of DMC

But, overall, the Dumfries Music Conference is still such a valuable thing for the town to have. It is always encouraging to see the numbers of musicians and music fans attending the workshops and seminars increasing year on year. I particularly liked the range of panel experts brought in this year too, they covered a wide range of areas within music and were friendly, approachable and didn’t have a hint of a ‘know-it all’ approach. Without DMC, musicians wouldn’t have the opportunity to access all these experts together for free without travelling long distances.

Thank you to the organisers for asking Small Town Sounds to return to Radio DMC for a 3rd year – although it is always a lot of work, I had tons of fun. I’m looking forward to seeing what DMC has in store for Dumfries and Galloway for next year!

If you would like to see more photos of DMC 2017, visit the Facebook pages of the superb event photographers – Kirstin McEwan Photography and Ruari Barber-Fleming Media

(Unfortunately, the recordings of the live shows for Radio DMC have all been removed from Spreaker so there is no way to listen if you missed them. If you’re a fan of the Small Town Sounds radio shows, keep an eye out at the start of 2018…we may have some interesting news for you!)

Header image – Be Charlotte courtesy of Kirstin McEwan Photography

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