North Atlas

Review: North Atlas, Tiderays, The Lutras, Frozen Shores

Dumfries Music Conference Sign

(photo credit: Martin McKeown)

The Stove was the venue of choice for a recent gig hosted by the Dumfries Music Conference (DMC) – very apt considering that is exactly where the music conference itself is held every year. The DMC team has grown of late, with Martin O’Neill being appointed as Operations Manager and running things on the ground. The result of this has been more activity – and the gig on the 1st of February was just a part of that.

The event was held in conjunction with Help Musicians UK, which is a charity for musicians of all ages and at all stages of their career that provides positive support when they need it the most. The Stove gig was one of several being held across Scotland to launch their Rooted in Scotland campaign which helped mark Help Musicians Scotland’s permanent roots in Scotland – on the same night, Idlewild, Be Charlotte, and Indigo Velvet played a Rooted in Scotland gig to a sell-out crowd at King Tuts in Glasgow.

The Dumfries gig took the opportunity to showcase emerging talent instead of more well establish acts, with North Atlas headlining and worthy support slots being provided by Tiderays, The Lutras and Frozen Shores.

It was fair to say this was a very busy gig – at one stage it was so crammed I wasn’t even able to battle my way to the front (and at 5’3” my usually failsafe tactic of burrowing through crowds was unfortunately unsuccessful too). This is actually quite an important observation, however – we all know how hard it can be to fill local live music venues at times, but this was a Thursday night (oh my god, a SCHOOL NIGHT!) and the place was packed.

Frozen Shores

Frozen Shores (photo credit: Martin McKeown)

Frozen Shores opened the show and went on to perform a pretty special debut gig. Consisting of only one man – Ruari Barber-Fleming – there was no bravado, just an almost scientific approach to the music combined nicely with an element of vulnerability. His sound could most definitely be described as ambient, using a loop pedal to make the overall sound seem much bigger than what just one person could produce. His vocals were haunting and suited the atmospheric lighting and sounds in The Stove. It was an extremely impressive first live show and although I don’t think the live show format is something Ruari will often do, I would absolutely encourage you to check him out online.

I’ve never tried to hide my love for The Lutras – I’ve been a massive supporter of theirs since they began. I absolutely love their sound which is a sublime combination of old school and new school indie (think Blossoms mixed with Catfish and The Bottlemen mixed with The Kooks and The Stereophonics). I think this is why their following continues to grow and seems to encompass such a wide range of ages within it. They have the swagger and the attitude to go with their music, and I was really pleased to hear that they have just announced their first Manchester gig in April. I have no doubt they will be as well received there as they are in their hometown and they thoroughly deserve to be seen more widely.

Eddie Oakes of Tiderays

Eddie Oakes of Tiderays (photo credit: Martin McKeown)

Tiderays have been on a bit of a journey over the past few years and every time I see them live they seem to be tighter as a band and seem to add a new element to their live shows. Guitarist Liam Russell providing vocals for a song during this set (in place of usual vocalist Eddie Oakes) is a prime example of this. This is a good thing in that you never know what to expect – you aren’t just buying tickets to their shows and expecting to get the same thing again and again. It is an interesting approach and shows they are developing and experimenting as a band which is commendable. For me (and I suspect I was the exception here, as around half of the crowd had come specifically to see Tiderays), the set was a bit manic. It felt a little like a rollercoaster; a fast and energetic performance followed by a very slow ballad, then into another lively song. Did it keep the audience on their toes? Oh, for sure. And that’s probably what they were going for. In which case, well done lads…

North Atlas

North Atlas (photo credit: Melissa Gunn)

North Atlas are officially Glasgow-based but we love a good grey area here at Small Town Sounds, so we can definitely say they are ‘local’ to Dumfries and Galloway because brothers Leon (Vocals) and Cam Hunter (Drums) are both from Dalbeattie. I have been covering them on Small Town Sounds for a while now, and it’s been great to see them do more D&G live shows, having played The Venue previously and also Big Burns Supper last month. This was the first time I had seen them live and everyone at The Stove was expecting big things.
As you would expect from a band who have cut their teeth musically in the Central Belt, their live shows are everything. They are full of energy, chat, enthusiasm and passion. The sound they offer is unlike anything we have here locally – it’s a combination of alternative rock with clear electronic elements. If I had to compare it to anything locally then it would probably be a softer Xavia. North Atlas’ songs are at times anthemic, and I particularly loved their ambitious cover of ‘Teardrop’ by Massive Attack. It was also great to see lots of new faces who were clearly specifically there to see the band, proving that quality line ups covering different genres will draw people out from their homes, even on a wet and miserable Thursday night.

Overall, not a bad way to spend a school night and it only cost £6, with all the money going to Help Musicians UK. Exciting times ahead for all the bands involved, as well as for DMC. 

I posted a few Facebook Live videos on the night and you can still view them on the Small Town Sounds Facebook page if you’re interested in seeing some parts of the live performances. Also, a big thanks to Martin McKeown for letting me use his photographs for this review.



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