photos by Stephanie Gibson
Your friendly, local Pictish Trail, here.
I seem to have gotten out of the habit of updating the Lost Map website regularly, and my memory of life events dissipates with each passing year, so i might try and put together a semi-regular blog. Specifically about label stuff, although maybe with the occasional belch of gossip.
If i manage to keep it up, it might make the website as a whole a bit less impersonal. Plus, now that we’ve made it through to our half-decade of existence, it’s as good a time as any to be a smidge reflective … and what better way to start than with a detailed rumination on our recent Strange Invitation all-dayer, an event that was to commemorate our fifth year, which took place barely a fortnight ago. I’m pretty sure I can remember that far back.
We’ve been wanting to put on recurring all-day events for awhile, but it’s been difficult to find the right place to host it. It’s tricky, as we can’t put on anything too often on Eigg - the logistics are a nightmare I can only bare to put myself through once every two years, with Howlin’ Fling. We put on a fun day in Penicuik a few years ago, and there was a good one down at Leith Theatre’s Thomas Morton Hall in 2016, plus an all-dayer in Paisley in 2017. We’ve co-curated Kid Canaveral’s Xmas Baubles event every year since Lost Map started, too, as well as being involved with some of the I Can’t Dance To This Music events with Randolph’s Leap. Last year, we started up a separate run of Lost Map all-dayers under the name Strange Invitation with a view to making them a regular thing - initially they were gonna be stripped back / acoustic showcases of acts from the label with special guests, but they’ve evolved into something that’s really more of an ‘anything goes’ scenario. We’ve done a few in London, at the Strongrooms in Shoreditch, and a couple others that were all quite small … but we wanted to do something that could get a few more punters in, run our own bar, and have a bit more of a DIY feel.
After years of scouring across the central belt, Kate Canaveral found a venue - St Peter’s Hall on Lutton Place, in Edinburgh. We both went to check it out earlier this year, was a decent size, really nice looking stage, and had a friendly, well-worn feel about it. Modern places can feel quite sterile, whereas this older hall had a comforting, no frills quality to it - just a good space, a functioning kitchen, easy access for equipment load-in, and a really friendly soft-spoken hall-keeper called Colin. Perfecto.
The kitchen was quite important, because if you’re gonna have people in a hall all day listening to music and drinking, it’s nice for them to have something to eat. My pal Sadie, from Eigg, recommended her pal Sinead, who runs Bistro Box in Edinburgh - who put together a really tasty menu for the day, catering to all diets. Food, done.
Booze, next. Williams Brothers beer, from Alloa, is a firm favourite amongst us Lost Map drinkers. My glug of choice for a long time has been their Birds And Bees beer, a summery 4.3% ale with a hint of elderflower, which is now available to purchase from Williams directly, in kegs. OH BOY. Not only that, if you order with them direct, one of the actual Williams brothers will come around and deliver the kegs, along with a draught bar. I was star struck. It was Robbie. (It wasn’t Robbie).
That’s all you need for an event, right? Oh, shit, PA. We’ll need a soundsystem. Over the past ten years, pretty much all of our live sound-needs have been catered for by my pal Matthew - the Home Games, Away Games / Howlin’ Fling. He’s always the first person I call when we’re planning a gig. He handles all the sound needs for something like 250 different shows during the Edinburgh Festival. The guy is a total machine. Good sound is really vital for a live music event, I think, and so it’s always the thing we spend a lot of the budget on. Matthew likes to over-spec, so we usually end up having something double the size of what we need, but better to have too big a PA than something that sounds under-powered. DM Audio deliver the equipment to the hall the day before our event, and as soon as Matthew gets off the train from London on the Friday evening, he makes his way to the hall and starts setting up. I told you he was a machine. He’s pals with the lovely folk who run Black Light lighting in Granton, so we get a ridiculously good deal on lights, too.
Hmm, this has become something of a guide on how to put together a DIY event. I tell you what, having done this sort of thing for 15 years now, one of the main skills you have to learn with hosting DIY events is being able to deal with abrupt changes in plan. A few days before the event, Kate calls me up, on Eigg. She says that she’s just been to the hall, and that the stage - the big lovely stage - has been all boarded up.
Apparently the hall is under going renovation. Colin, the increasingly softer-speaking caretaker, had told us this might be a possibility … but didn’t seem likely, given the time frame. The hall was being used all throughout August, as an Edinburgh Festival venue, so there’s no way they’d start work the week after the Fringe ends, right? Hmmm. Turns out the front of the stage is completely boarded up, and now - where the stage used to be - there is a newly fitted disabled toilet and small kitchen. Apparently, over the coming months, the stage area is going to be revamped into meeting rooms. Hmmm. Bit odd.
Does this mean we cancel everything? No. We’ve ordered the Birds And Bees beer, now. There’s no going back. Instead, we’ll just set up everything on the floor in front of the stage. Should we bother hiring in some staging? It’s really pricey … and anyway, hired staging always looks shite, like something you’d find at one of those awful Top Gear-style arena conferences. Fuck that. We’ll just set up the PA and the bands on the floor. It’s more DIY that way. Plus it has the added bonus of making the venue seem a bit cosier. Whatever you do, don’t panic.
So, the music, then. Doors are at 1pm, and we open proceedings at 1.30pm with our ol’ pal Dan Willson, aka WITHERED HAND. I’ve known Dan for years, have toured with him loads, and he’s played a ton of our events. He’s got so many great songs, he’s based in Edinburgh, so I figured he’d be a perfect ‘secret’ opener for the day. Initially, he was going to play solo, with an acoustic guitar … but then he got wind that Eagleowl were also on the day’s bill, and half of Dan’s band play with them, so the set mutated into a full band Withered Hand set. Although it was dependent on said band members making it to the venue in time, as there was a last minute Eagleowl rehearsal going on at Summerhall studios. Which is interesting, as Bart and Benzie from Eagleowl are meant to be DJing when doors open. This is classic ‘Owl.
Still, everyone arrives on time, and the day kicks off - with an already packed audience in attendance. And it is LOUD. Kate Canaveral gulps, as the walloping power of ‘California’ and ‘Horseshoe’ blares from from the speakers. One of the main concerns with putting on an event in Edinburgh is getting shut down for noise complaints - the last thing we need is to get the plug pulled after the first act. It doesn’t sound too loud outside the hall though, and what’s the point of living if you can’t have scuzzed-up rock music sounding as loud as it should? Kate’s looking worried, and I decide it’s time for me to avoid her panicked glare, and have a pint of booze. My first of the day. Steady the nerves and all that. On my way to the bar, I ask Matthew to trim down the volume a touch, and that seems to do the trick. It’s all sounding amazing. So chuffed Dan is part of the day.
Next up is VICTORIA HUME, our erstwhile South African envoy balladeer, now relocated back in the UK, commuting regularly between Dorset and Yorkshire. Vic’s music is that perfect blend of ornate, cyclical phrases of melody, accompanied by fragmented lyrics, sung with soft resonance. It’s really beautiful. Today, she’s accompanied by her partner Chris, on guitar & keys, and her dutiful drummer Dave, who has taken the train up from London especially. Vic was going to be playing the hall’s upright piano, but as fate would have it the piano was blimmin’ locked. Thankfully, my pal Gillian had her fancy electric piano available. Phew. Sounded great. Her recent mini-album, Closing EP, we released on Lost Map back in 2016 - and it’s definitely worth searching out. Vic’s been sending us some new music, and we’re hoping to have that out soon.
Gus Fairburn, aka ALABASTER dePLUME, arrives just before Vic takes the stage - so we help him load-in his equipment. Holy shit, there’s a double bass. It belongs to Matt, who is traveling with Gus, and who also plays as part of the Edinburgh collective, Sink. He’s got some overwhelmingly bright pink trousers on, which distract momentarily from what is an almighty handlebar moustache. What a dude. Emerging from the double bass is Semay Wu, carrying a cello. Semay is also playing with Gus, and is someone who we are very pleased to see - she was part of Chorlton-based prog-poppers, The Earlies, back in the day, and so is no stranger to our events. She played on Pictish Trail’s Secret Soundz Vol.1 - no doubt a highlight of her career.
Alabaster’s set is captivating. Semay fluctuates between minimal cello and an assortment of electronic gadgets, scattered on the floor in front of her. Matt sways with his double bass, booming out purposefully obnoxious backing vocals, in time to chiming guitar. Who’s guitar is that anyway? It’s Bart Owl from Eagleowl, who has decided to join Alabaster’s improv troupe, like a gingerly jazzy Greg Proops. The Ryan Stiles / Paul Merton of this ill-fitting analogy, is Alabaster himself - whose tall, thin frame cranes over the audience. The way he hunches and lurches is almost like a fishing rod, his poems and tremulous saxophone reeling in the entire room. His latest LP, The Corner Of A Sphere, we released earlier this year - and it really comes to life once you have seen Gus perform it live.
GROUP LISTENING is the work of Steve Black (aka Sweet Baboo), and his good pal Paul Jones. I toured with Paul last year, as he was part of Slow Club’s band, whom I was lucky enough to support on a run of dates. He’s a whizz on keys, is Paul. And Sweet Babs can play pretty much everything. Their Group Listening LP, Clarinet & Piano: Selected Works Vol.1, is one of my favourites this year. Released on PRAH recordings, the experimental off-shoot label of Moshi Moshi, it’s an album of reinterpretations of ambient classics, from the likes of Roedelius, Arthur Russell, Briano Eno, Euros Childs and more. But there’s far more than just clarinet and piano going on here, today - Paul’s brought a Tascam 8-track tape machine, and is feeding it through effects; Steve’s clarinet is being manipulated by FX pedals, and sampled through itself. The room is awash with different textures and atmosphere. There’s moments where it sounds like Mulligan & O’Hare’s version of Phil Collin’s ‘Another Day In Paradise’, which is about as high a compliment as I could ever give anything. They have to leave straight after their set, to go do some more recording, at a studio in Sheffield, and I shed a small tear.
EAGLEOWL are such a big part of the Lost Map family, and not just because Bart is on course to play in almost every band on the label. They’re just always up for helping with events - volunteering, and helping set stuff up, and generally just being good for morale. Their debut album, this silent year, was released 5 years ago, just as Fence fell apart, and Lost Map began. I love that album, it feels like a lost classic in some respects, and i’m feeling quite emotional as they play today - a performance that includes a rendition of ‘Too Late In The Day’, their epic 12 minute post-folk riot, that hasn’t been aired live for a number of years. Apparently they’re doing it especially today, as it’s the label’s 5th birthday. My mind goes back to them playing the same song at 4am on the Isle of Eigg, about 6 years ago. Ooft. I’m on the second beer by this point, and getting emotional, so it’s possibly time to go on the water.
It’s then I realise that PICTISH TRAIL need to take to the stage. Shit! We’re playing! The band has recently upsized to a 6-piece. Bass player and keyboardist extraordinaire, Suse Bear, has been süper-busy this summer, acting in a sold-out run at the Fringe (Cora Bissett’s ‘What Girls Are Made Of’), playing in Tracyanne Campbell’s new band, as well as performing with The Pastels. Suse did so many things in the Pictish band, that we’ve had to draft in two new players to cover - Cammy Maxwell, and his partner Gillian Fleetwood. Cammy’s an astonishing bass player, great on keys and vocals too - and Gillian also plays keys, as well as the flippin’ HARP. Yes, there’s a harp in the band. My dreams come true. With Nichola on viola, Joe on electric guitar, and Iain on drums/drum-pads, we’re sounding immense at the moment. After becoming obsessed with the Netflix documentary Wild Wild Country i’ve started insisting that the band all wear the burnt-orange / maroons / burgundy colours of the sannyasin cult group. Tonight, I’ve decided to don a disgusting candlewick bedspread burgundy tracksuit (which i debuted the previous weekend by DJing as DJ Catshit Kebab at Bart Owl’s club night, Irregular Owl Movements). It’s all about the clothing these days.
Oh, and the entrance music. In the days leading up to any big event i always get a Vic & Bob scene in my head. The scene where they arse about in-front of the cameras, pretending to do magic tricks, to the sound of Queen’s ‘It’s A Kinda Magic’. I don’t know why I always think of that scene. But I do. It’s a kind of magic. So, obviously, i insist on that song being played at high volume before we go on, and then i scream over the top of it through an auto-tune device. I’m not sure if it’s what the crowd wants, but by christ i’m happy. And sweaty. This corduroy tracksuit wasn’t such a great idea, perhaps.
It’s been so fun playing Future Echoes over the past few years, having a band, and blasting each song out at outrageous volumes. I’m taking a bit of a break over the next wee while, to concentrate on writing and recording the next record … which has already started. It’s difficult getting out of the gigging cycle, though, as it’s really addictive. Tonight we play, and the momentum of the set, and the good feeling in the room keeps us going like a juggernaut.
By the time we’re finished, i’m in need of a dry towel, and a few wet pints. Phew! Just enough time to catch my breath before I introduce Serafina, Charlie and Rachel of BAS JAN on stage, in their eye-poppingly sleek, colour-coordinated jumpsuits. I’m excited, as this band are totally thrilling to watch, and in my post-gig exuberance, I demand everyone in the room to get ready to dance. When Serafina takes the mic from me, she calmly informs the audience that the songs aren’t actually that danceable, but that she hopes people enjoy themselves anyway. And then they play 45 minutes of their signature post-punk surrealism, where disjointed drums, bass guitar, violin and synthesiser collide in an instrument-swapping celebration, infused with detached, bewildered vocals that erupt into shouty, exultant harmony. It’s entrancing, and by the end my heart’s racing. Their album, Yes I Jan, was the fastest selling LP we’ve ever made, and for good reason. “It’s the Beatles!”, i squeal down the mic, at the end of the set. “Fuck off, we’re better than the Beatles” storms Serafina, before ranting about Macca. Amazing.
There’s only time for one more act, and to close the night we’ve got the incessant FREE LOVE to play. Suzi and Lewis are, without a doubt, one of the most engaging live acts around at the moment. Imagine all the best bits of 80’s synth funk, with early-90’s acid-rave thrills, paintbrushed with a fluorescent streak of psychedelia, where insistent French lyrics are chanted, and the whole crowd are hypnotised by mesmeric dancing. Suzi ascends the speaker stack, climbs the walls, performs yoga moves in the middle of the crowd, jumps on to the bar, and pushes and pulls the audience into submission. The whole performance is an ecstatic workout, everyone beaming with smiles, and busting moves. Bringing their own smoke machine, Free Love transform the room into their own intergalactic venue - and when the music ends, we’ve all transported from our earthly bodies. Fittingly, Free Love have created an EP about alien abduction as part of our VISITATIONS series - they came up to Eigg last year, and spent a week in a cabin we provided, and the resulting music is truly transportive. It’s out at the end of this month - you can hear more about the project in the current episode of the Lost Map Podcast, y’know. lostmap.com/visitations Ok, ok, plug over.
Oh! The hall lights flicker on, and so it’s time for the clean-up, then. Under strict orders not to make any racket outside, we ask the audience to tidy up after themselves, and sneak away to the pub - which they dutifully do. It’s a great feeling, as the whole day has been an enormous success, and we’re keen to use the venue again for future events. We’ve sold out of all the beer, and now we’re frantically packing up all the equipment. Somehow, with the help of 20 or 30 pairs of hands, the whole room is ship-shape within the hour. All the rubbish and recycling packed in black bags, the PA company have arrived to take the sound equipment, and everything else has been tidied up, ready for collection over the next few days. Our merch table (run by Ella and Polly) has been packed up; the bar (run by Tallah) has been wiped and derigged; Laura who recreated the six-fingered giant Hand Of Glory of our event poster (designed by our in-house guru, David), is taking her creation down from the boarded-up back wall of the stage. I’m a bit tipsy. Kate Canaveral is frantically running around making sure all the proper doors are locked, and seems a bit reticent about giving me the hall keys. She’s off on holiday to Spain in 3 hours, and so can’t do the final bit of load-out. I assure her that i’ll be fine, between dripping sips of delicious left-over beer over my beard.
There’s only one thing to do. Run to the pub before it shuts. I’ve got to get up tomorrow, unload the rest of the stuff at the hall, drive some equipment through to Glasgow and back, and then prepare for a week of recording. But, for now, what’s most important is getting to the pub before it shuts. Oh, and maybe finding Free Love, cos they’re meant to be staying at the place i’m staying, tonight.
THANK YOU to everyone who came, and to Stephanie Gibson who took all these amazing photos.