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Reviews / Heavy Metal Buffet…unplugged

The Claire Thomason Experience - (from left) Magnus Bradley, Michael Anderson, Peter Keay, Rodrigo Ferrari Nunes, Claire Thomason and Kirsty North.

FOR a radio show to host a live night of acoustic music by local heavy metal acts is not only a fantastic idea, it’s almost unheard of.

Yet this is just one example of the energy behind Shetland’s Heavy Metal Buffet as they build up to their second festival, The Buffet 2014, which promises to be even bigger than last year.

Co-presenter Jamie Hatch says the festival line-up is sorted out for a weekend of music on 22 August featuring at least 22 bands at the Lerwick Legion, whose identities remain a closely guarded secret.

“I’d say there’ll be a lot more bands than 22 this year, without revealing too much,” Hatch confided, adding that his dream is for it to become one of Shetland’s “staple festivals”, alongside the folk, blues and guitar festivals.

This week’s acoustic night at Mareel to raise funds for the festival was packed – from the bar, it felt as though it was full to the rafters with crowds gathering on the balcony as well as downstairs.

Dirk Robertson waves his coveted hand-carved guitar during the raffle. Photo Chris Brown

The Revellers kicked things into gear with their audacious folk-rock crossovers, their close harmonies and tight playing demonstrating the well-oiled machine that the group have become over the past five years.

Will McCover had the unenviable task of following the band, but flourished regardless. Opening with a self-penned guitar instrumental that channelled the likes of Andy McKee or Newton Faulkner, the young Shetlander won the crowd over with an energetic performance of his own songs.

McCover was then joined by singer Emma Kennedy to perform a cover of Imagine Dragons’ hit radio single Radioactive her strong vocals leaving the crows begging for more.

Next up was another duo, guitar-based and bacon-loving Trookers (see Facebook page for details), who played a diverse and fun set of self-composed tunes. They approached their performance with humour and vitality, providing upbeat summer sounds, with funk and country in the mix as well.

Next came the main purpose of the acoustic night – a raffle of everything under the sun to raise funds for the Buffet. A guitar carved by co-host Dirk Robertson was the coveted prize amongst a myriad of goodies. The draw was done with characteristic Buffet humour – “Are you excited, Jamie?” “Very, Marjolein!” “Well, you shouldn’t be, because we couldn’t buy tickets.” – and was highly successful.

Singer-songwriter Toni Sidgwick’s soulful voice went down well as she performed songs from her Now EP alongside newly-penned numbers. An impressive display of percussive guitar playing was on show, and closing with a cover of Folsom Prison Blues heightened the audience’s enthusiasm.

The young Matthew Adam Band was next on the bill, performing a mash-up of System of a Down and Avenged Sevenfold to open. The mix of shanty-esque vocal harmonies and strong instrumentation had the crowd lapping it up.

The closest thing to an HMB supergroup, The Claire T Experience were impressive – no matter how little practice they allege to have had. Members of Beef Cleaver were joined by Rodrigo Ferrari Nunes on djembe, and their opening cover of Toto’s Africa, which featured a Jamie Hatch skat solo, went down a storm.

Robert Balfour and Christopher Thomson of Trookers. Photo Chris Brown

Being joined by Kirsty North on harp and Revellers’ Magnus Bradley and Michael Anderson won them even more crowd love.

Deathstar Canteen, not long after celebrating their first anniversary playing together, performed their grungy pop. Group-written Killing Time got their set underway before a cover of legendary Cranberries song Zombie. The driving basslines and strong drumbeats gave the guitars and vocals freedom to roam, ranging from ripping to ghostly with ease.

The Kev T Experience closed proceedings in the cafe in rip-roaring style. Kevin Tulloch’s vocal range and power was on showcase, especially on covers of the bands Clutch, Pearl Jam and Alter Bridge. Dual guitar accompaniment from James Johnson and Jamie Hatch provided the best foundation possible for the gutsy performance, and suitably ended the night near midnight with Metallica’s The Unforgiven II.

With two months until the real thing, the Buffet 2014 looks to be in good stead and smoothly sailing.

If the crowd from the acoustic night was anything to go by, it should be a fantastic weekend for all music lovers, with the variation of acts bound to attract many.

Hatch and Marjolein Robertson believe this could be the key to reducing any stigma towards metal in the islands.

Kevin Tulloch of The Kevin T Experience gives it his all with James Johnson (left) and Jamie Hatch. Photo Chris Brown

“A lot of the stigma is attached to the fact that there used to be these halls, and people just associated that kids going out listening to local bands meant they were getting too drunk. We want to knock that on the head,” Robertson said.

Hatch agrees: “I’d say it did focus on going out and getting trashed, but now the majority of people are going out to rock gigs and just having a good time getting involved with the music.”

Heavy Metal Buffet are unsure of where they may go next, having started as a radio station on Soundcloud and quickly becoming promoters, event organisers and now even music video makers.

Despite getting set to lose two key multi-instrumentalists in Joe Watt and Lewis Murray, Robertson is not pessimistic about the vitality of the music scene.

“It’s going to be really sad when you lose those two, but there’s so many bedroom musicians around Shetland, and to get them in a dialogue with other musicians and forming new bands would be ideal,” she said.

“That’s a dream for the Buffet. We want to support them and advertise and be a platform for bands.

“Shetland musicians are renowned worldwide, but that’s almost predominantly with the folk scene. We want to show the world the other genres of music that are thriving in the islands.”

 Iwan MacBride

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