The Highlands annual rock festival eases in with HMV in-store and acooustic night at The Tooth & Claw, Inverness.

Scarlet Rebels/Baz.M/80-R and Dougie Burns

Words and Pictures by  Alan Cruickshank 

Thursday 2nd November at HMV, Inverness was the start to many performances forthcoming for Monsterfest 2023, and what an excellent start with Baz.M, he was due to come to Monsterfest 2020 but we all know what happened that year!

Baz.M describes himself as an “Alt-Rock Artist” but I think he is more than that; he was described by “Total Rock Radio” as (Berlin Bowie with a cool rock swagger), couldn’t agree more. He was at HMV to do a 3 song set as part of the Monsterfest 2023, and although he was acoustic the moniker of Berlin Bowie suited his performance well at HMV and even more so at Tooth and claw later that evening.  At the end of his 3 songs he looked over at me quizzically asking if he should carry on for a 4th, I had a look of (don’t ask me mate I’m just the photographer) on my face but did not let the opportunity to hear another song from this guy pass and confidently told him to carry on! To the best of my knowledge I have NOT been banned from HMV, was worth the risk all the same, sometimes you just have to be cheeky!

Baz.M’s headline set at Tooth & Claw also was acoustic and he took us on a journey through the up’s and downs of his life with a mix of beautifully written and crafted songs alongside a smattering of covers from the likes of King, Japan and in a slightly muted voice Duran Duran, hey…we all have guilty secrets (Rick Astley for Belladrum)!!….sorry. The covers were very much in his own style and worked beautifully and showed the influences that have helped carve out his amazing sound, pop over to YouTube and lend him your ear, you won’t regret it.

First up at Tooth & Claw was “80-R” AKA former Bad Actress bass guitarist Alex Rennie, he took to the stage with some trepidation as I believe this was his first outing as a solo artist. Some trepidation was understandable, when you’re on stage as part of a band there is a certain amount of safety and comfort taken from the others around you, however when it’s just you on the stage where all the lights are pointing at you and all the eyes in the room are looking at only you then some nerves are understandable, however Alex had no need for the nerves, he was among an audience of music lovers that wanted him to do well and be entertained which he did beautifully.  Alex hit us with a mix of his own lyrics and music, along with the odd cover showing his musical influences, looking forward to seeing and hearing Alex on stage again soon.

The middle slot of the evening was taken up by local music legend Dougie Burns along with the man with the gifted fingers Sye Murray. Dougie as always put on a cracking gig as he always does, he has a great ability to talk to the audience and garner their involvement and getting them singing along. Dougie has some great anecdotes about his musical career and where he gets ideas for song titles, (ask him about what happened when his daughter dyed her hair blonde). When I mentioned earlier that Sye has gifted fingers I really meant it, he plays his guitar with a deft delicate touch when needed and plays slide brilliantly, Sye really is a joy to listen too.

Sadly one artist who could not make the evening was Iain McLaughlin who has after all this time been caught by Covid! Get well soon Iain, we’re wishing you a good and speedy recovery.

All in all a great start to Monsterfest 2023, can’t wait for the rest, it’s going to be a great weekend!