Sunday 12 August 2018

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A fantastic experience playing for Sofar Sounds in Edinburgh…

AN early start (for a Sunday)..we’re up, showered, some work done, breakfasted and on the road by 10am.

First stop is Perth for a session on touring in Australia, New Zealand and China organised by Showcase Scotland and Help Musicians Scotland as part of The Visit – a delegation of promoters, agents and festival organisers from these territories.

The session is informative and useful and there’s time to network and meet the delegates afterwards.

We grab a late lunch then head for Edinburgh where I;m paying a Sofar Sounds show. It’s a kinda secret thing with the venue only revealed to successful ticket applicants on the day of the show. And they don’t know who’s gonna be on the bill!

Tonight’s event is being hosted at Rock’n’Rose – a cool  hairdressers which has been transformed into an intimate 50-capacity gig space. It’s been sold out in advance and, like many Sofar events, had many more folks applying for tickets than there is space. That’s a good start.

We arrive just after 5pm and are warmly welcomed by the organisers, camera and video crew and the owner of the space.

I’m curious to experience first hand how the Sofar thing works. The concept has attracted a fair bit of positive and negative comment, touted in some circles as ‘the Uber of house concerts’. While the performer fees are pretty low – and can be be forfeited in lieu of a professionally shot video – this, in my humble opinion is not the point of Sofar. The big positive here is that the audience don’t know who they’re gonna see, so artists perform to an entirely new audience. I expect them to be pretty open-minded music lovers who are getting to experience new music in a pretty perfect environment….we’ll see…

There’s three other artists performing tonight – uke-wielding, looping songstress Joanna Wallfisch, performance poet Toby Thompson and a solo performance from Steven Milne of Little Kicks. Yours truly is scheduled to be on last.

Although it’s an acoustic event – save for Joanna’s looping pedal which adds some layers to her vocals in places – everyone does a quick soundcheck for the audio/video recording.

Everyone is friendly and enthusiastic, and immediately the first major positive of Sofar is obvious…the acts have been all been well chosen and curated…I suspect the format will be the catalyst for many friendships and collaborations amongst artists.

Doors open at 7.30pm, there’s refreshments on hand for all the artists and Joanna kicks things off at 8pm sharp with a captivating 20-minute set. Toby follows with an intriguing clutch of poems…again, this is another win for the Sofar format – having been scunnered with schooldays poetry I’d never have imagined enjoying this art form but Toby is fucking amazing. And judging by the audience reaction, they agree.

Next up is Steven Milne – an Aberdeen singer/songwriter better known as part of Little Kicks. Another fantastic performance and I’m getting pretty nervous at the thought of following this lot. I’m also trying not to over indulge in the beer!

Then it’s my turn. reservations vanish into thin air and I have a blast playing my short five-song set. The audience is fantastic and more than live up to the hopes I mentioned earlier.

By 11pm we’re packed and on our way home. Would have been nice to go for a drink afterward, but we have a long-ish drive back to East Loch Lomond and an early start in the morning.

Back home I pour a large dram and, both impressed and happy with my Sofar experience, do a bit of research into the operation. I find this is a pretty serious and passionate business…critics of ‘the deal’ should take a step back, find out what’s involved.

These shows are not about the money – not for anyone involved – it’s about audience development, networking and friendship which at the same time gives those lucky enough to attend a Sofar show a fantastic experience. Plus, we’ll have some official photos and video to share soon.

In order of appearance…Joanne Wallfisch, Toby Thompson and Steven Milne.


Wednesday 31 January 2018

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Interesting panel discussions at Showcase Scotland’s Artists’ Day.

MARGARET drops me at the station and I get ona train into Glasgow.

First stop, McDonalds for some breakfast, then a quick gander round GuitarGuitar before heading up to the City Halls to register for Showcase Scotland’s Artists’ Day.

I catch up with a load of folks then the panels kick off at 11am with a session on international festival booking. Lunch is followed by another couple of panel sessions then Margaret meets me at the City Chambers for Showcase Scotland’s civic reception.

Great to catch up with more pals and meet delegates from overseas before we head to the concert hall to catch our pal Grainne playing the Danny Kyle stage. Our pals form Celtic Music Radio are broadcasting live…nice to catch up with them and cameraman Omar who we haven’t seen for a while.

Grainne plays a blinder and we hang out for the final two acts on the stage before the three of us (Margaret, Grainne and myself) make our way to Citizen M hotel for a joint Scottish Music Industry Association.Wide Days networking event with a presentation on the value of music tourism.

Great company and fantastic hospitality.

It’s after 9pm when we head back home. Grainne’s staying with us tonight – have some snacks, drink too much and blether into the wee hours.

Grainne Hunt plays a great set at Celtic Connections’ Danny Kyle stage.

Monday 16 January 2017

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ONCE the routine things are out the way I try and work out why a form on a pal’s site isn’t passing all the info entered into the resulting email.

I dig about for a lot longer than I expect and come up with a workaround which seems to solve the main part of the problem.

There’s still a few anomalies. so when the client calls I arrange to pop over and see of there’s anything at their end that might be part of the problem.

We spend an hour and half sorting a few things out. It’s mid-afternoon when I get home and I haven’t even looked at today’s to-do list.

A rejection for a local (to Scotland) showcase opportunity we’d applied for – for the third or fourth time time at the request of the organisers – comes in. We filled out the ‘urgent’ application forms the day before leaving for the USA tour to they made the deadline only to get and email on the deadline date saying the deadline had been extended by a few weeks. This is a regular occurrence and pisses me off to say the least. We drop everything to get our application in on time but it brings no benefit – my, perhaps incorrect and paranoid – interpretation of this scenario is that the applicants the organisers want on board haven’t got their shot together. That’s the only explanation I can think of for ‘extending the deadline’.

The showcase event the application is for is around a week long and applicants have to be fee for the whole period. Mmmm…that might be fine for the majority of eligible artists/acts who have day jobs or other income, but for a full-time independent musician, this is a big ask. Nevermind, our choice to apply and if that’s the conditions, then that’s the conditions.

To cut a long story short, the selection of successful showcase artists and subsequent announcement was delayed three or four times as ‘the panel were having such a hard time making a decision’, Most recently an enquiry promised a decision last Monday…or Tuesday at the latest. So today, a week later, Margaret enquires again to be told an email would sent out later. Indeed, a ‘sorry, but your application hasn’t been successful’ arrives in her inbox an hour or two later. Can’t say I’m surprised.

Moral of the story? If you’re serious about your art/music, don’t waste time trying to attract funding or support – and certainly don’t delay other (real!) opportunities in the hope that it’ll come good. There’s no such thing as a free lunch and, in the long term, (unless you’re one of a lucky few) nothing but your own hard work will progress your career.

Bitter? Maybe.The funding bodies constantly support those ‘in the club’ – or whose face fits….it certainly doesn’t have anything to do with  being business ready, having proven potential and a track record achieved entirely through hard work and sacrifice…not through handouts, grants or funding. And to make matters worse, when the recipients of the funding fail to deliver, more funding and opportunity is thrown their way in a bid to justify the initial decisions!

And to add insult to injury, the majority of artists supported and funded in Scotland have been and gone with a year or two having achieved very little, or anything…back to their day job (if they ever left in the first place).

Unfortunately in Scotland – unlike the rest of the UK – there’s really only one gatekeeper to funding and showcase opportunities (including those outside Scotland..but that’s another story!)…so if your face doesn’t fit or your music is deemed unworthy you’re fucked as far as these chances are concerned.

Ah well….head down and get on with it. Just makes me all the more determined!

Dave Arcari is a full-time touring alternative blues (alt.blues) guitar player and songwriter 
based on the eastern shores of Loch Lomond, Scotland

Tuesday 30 August 2016

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EARLY start into Glasgow. I drop Margaret off and go to grab some breakfast, deal with emails and get some work done.

Looks like a couple of cool gigs are on the cards to fill in some of the available dates on the USA tour. I’m indebted to the ongoing support and help from some of our musician pals over there – Left Lane Cruiser, Tom (20 Watt Tombstone) and the Dig Deep guys – who pull out all the stops to help. I hope to be able to return the favour some day.

I call our regular garage to see if they can help with our defunct driving lamp on the driver’s side…’bring it down’ says Stevie, so I do. Turns out to be more than the bulb and  Stevie spends a good half hour sorting a bust cable. They’ll ‘get the money next time’ 🙂

If ever there’s a reason to stay loyal to a service provider, this is a perfect example. I’ve lost count of how many time Stevie and Peter at Ashwood have saved our asses and got us out a fix.

There’s some shopping to get then, after picking up Margaret, we go for a coffee and cake at John Lewis (courtesy of their loyalty vouchers) then check out the newly re-opened Apple Store on Buchanan Street. I’m not sure there’s any improvement…maybe even not as good as before!

Next stop the CCA for a Creative Scotland/DIT seminar on international showcasing with an emphasis on SxSW and Midem. It’s a good event and nice to catch up with folks over a glass of wine afterwards.

It’s after 10pm when we leave…and we’ve not had any dinner, so it’s a very rare visit to a chippy. Not that we don’t enjoy it, but it’s not the healthiest option!


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