Off the Beaten Track: Scottish Gigs & Festivals Calendar

We speak to the organisers of Kirkcaldy's Tae Sup Wi' a Fifer and Glasgow's Freakender, and shine a light on the cavalcade of events still to come this year in venues across Scotland

Preview by Fraser MacIntyre | 05 Sep 2019

Florence Welch enchanted Princes Street Gardens and The National transformed a dreich Glasgow evening into a poncho-clad triumph, while Doune The Rabbit Hole found John Cooper Clarke sharing a line-up with Sister Sledge, John Grant and Blanck Mass. There’s been no shortage of gigs and festivals to intrigue this summer. Fortunately, while our nights will soon be drawing in, they still have much to offer.

Gigs and Festivals in Aberdeen and the Highlands

Did you know that Scotland’s most distinguished of duos – Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert – are about to embark on a farewell tour, packing it all in after two records? While this parting of the ways will likely result in more solo gold from each former recipient of The SAY Award, and doesn’t appear to have come about after a Gallagher-esque dressing room bust-up, their collaboration is one many will miss. Aberdeen’s True North Festival boasts one of their final appearances, as they support The Twilight Sad (21 Sep), who have also invited recent touring companion Michael Timmons to perform in a more intimate setting earlier the same evening.

Bill Ryder-Jones headlines the Granite City’s Tivoli Theatre on 20 Sep, while Vic Galloway curates Rip It Up Live! at the Music Hall on 22 Sep. Following on from last year’s Rip It Up! exhibition and Galloway's subsequent book of the same title – both of which joyously celebrated the history of Scottish pop – he'll welcome the likes of Emma Pollock, Richard Jobson (The Skids) and King Creosote to the stage for one-off performances exclusive to the festival.

Elsewhere, Broken Chanter, the new solo-project of Kid Canaveral’s David MacGregor, is booked to perform in Aviemore, Fort William and Tobermory in the coming months. For those enticed by the idea of tying in a gig with a visit to somewhere far removed from the major cities, catching MacGregor, or indeed, any artist of his calibre in locations such as these will likely be a memorable venture.

Fife Festivals and Gigs

While Dunfermline’s Outwith Festival will introduce William McCarthy (Augustines) and Goodnight Louisa to the Auld Grey Toon in early September, James Yorkston will be keeping Fife on the map well into the winter months with his monthly Tae Sup wi' a Fifer night, which the songwriter and author describes as "an inviting little folk club. We put on all sorts of oddities, from surround sound electronica to spoken word to Tony Conrad drone fiddle. There’s soul singers, Sufi singers… Maybe it’s more a social club for people willing to take chances with their evening out. It’s mostly held on Saturday nights, but is very different to its televisual competition, Britain’s Got Talent. Maybe it’s Britain’s Got Talent (on acid)."

Questioned on the most rewarding aspects of putting on Tae Sup, which has found a "great wee home" in Kirkcaldy’s Adam Smith Theatre, Yorkston expresses his delight upon hearing that audience members have made a discovery. "A lot of people turn up not having heard a note or word of the performers, but they trust me now as a programmer. Seeing a reasonably obscure and experimental musician from somewhere far away doing well on the merchandise table after the show is always good."

Ian Rankin (14 Sep), Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite (25 Oct) and poet Hollie Mcnish (16 Nov) have all found their way onto Yorkston’s upcoming line-ups, as rewardingly eclectic as locals and visitors to the Adam Smith have come to expect. "This December’s show has a man called Özgür Baba playing," Yorkston begins. "He’s coming over from rural Turkey with his saz [a traditional Turkish folk instrument]. There’s a YouTube video of him playing while chickens cheuk about around him. Distant explosions are also heard, somewhat mysteriously. It’s very alluring. He’ll be with comedian Josie Long and harpist Rachel Newton [on 14 Dec]."

Last Night From Glasgow and Freakender 

Last Night from Glasgow – who are releasing Broken Chanter’s debut record alongside Olive Grove Records on 6 September – will be celebrating their ever-expanding roster with an all-dayer at Glasgow’s Òran Mór on 3 November. Fife psych-masters Domiciles will share the stage with the likes of Lemon Drink (set to release their debut single a fortnight beforehand) and Martha Ffion.

A couple of months prior in Glasgow, Freakender Fest will return for its fourth year (13-14 Sep). Organisers Ross Keppie, Holly Calder and Ian Crawford aim to "push to the front interesting, and mostly relatively unknown psych, garage, post-punk and weird pop music from all over the world" at their festival. "We only feature bands we really love and strongly believe in."

This year, the three have reeled in, amongst others, Glasgow’s Romeo Taylor and Nashville’s Faux Ferocious to perform at The Old Hairdressers, which they describe as "the perfect space for a DIY event like Freakender. It’s intimate, but being spread across three floors, never feels too small, and it gets wild when it's packed. The staff are so supportive of what we do," Keppie says, "and the sound is great. It’s home. I love that within the space you can easily get around and never miss a band.

"We’re really excited to have the debut Scottish show from Modern Nature at the festival; the new project from members of Ultimate Painting, Beak> and Woods – it’s going to be very special." He continues: "Aside from the festival, we’re passionate about all the bands we have coming up [throughout the rest of the year]. The Black Lips will always be special to us, they were top of our wish list of bands we could work with one day, so it's humbling to have achieved that goal." The Black Lips play Glasgow's Stereo on 28 November, one show among a host of others on the Freakender calendar, following their annual festival.

Lost Map, Sonica and more

A little further away, Paisley Youth Arts Festival (3-15 Sep), open to young people under the age of 25, features Man of Moon. Organisers say they are "keen to welcome music lovers from Glasgow and further afield," and also have a host of theatre, gaming and visual arts events lined up. Later the same month, Belhaven Brewery celebrate their 300th birthday in Dunbar (21-22 Sep), with folk outfits Breabach and Niteworks set to play, and activities catering to all ages, from storytelling to beer tasting over its two days.

In October, the team behind Lost Map Records – the Eigg-based label run by Johnny Lynch, aka Pictish Trail, and one that Callum Easter and Kid Canaveral amongst others call home – will embark on a Lost Weekend, featuring events in Glasgow, Portobello and Paisley on 11, 12 and 13 October respectively. Are they mad? Probably.

Later in the month, Cryptic will present Sonica in Glasgow (31 Oct-10 Nov), a series of exquisite installations and performances celebrating "world-class visual sonic arts" from local and international talent. As the cold sets in, Make-That-A-Take Records bring Book Yer Ane Fest XIII back to Dundee's Conroy's Basement (29 Nov-1 Dec), which they promise will be "three days of DIY punk/hardcore/ecossemo goodness to raise funds, consciousness and awareness in solidarity with a plethora of local charities and community groups."

While heavyweight gig promoters like DF Concerts, 432 Presents, PCL and Regular Music are welcoming the likes of Björk to Glasgow and Bill Callahan to Edinburgh, a host of other weird and wonderful events will be taking place across Scotland throughout the rest of the year. Seek them out.