Irvine Herald Christmas/New Year Edition

Posted on Friday 16th January 2015 00:00 by FreckFest

We’ve come to the end of a very busy year with all things Freckfest, so we thought this week we’d take stock of everything we’ve done over the past 12 months. When I started looking back at what we’d been involved in, it was quite impressive. Since February 2014 we’ve managed to put on 16 events and have 30 different acts grace our stage under the ‘Freckfest’ banner. Not at all bad for a voluntary organisation.



Our year went something like this;



At the beginning of the year we were given the brilliant opportunity of putting on live music events once a month in the Harbour Arts Centre. These were quickly billed as ‘Freckfest Fridays’ and our policy was to feature a heady mix of well-known and up and coming acts. In keeping with Willie Freckleton’s ethos of giving everyone their moment in the spotlight, we’d include local bands at all times – ‘Touring headliners, the best local artists and your new favourite band you’ve yet to hear’, as the tagline on our first poster read. We spent the month listening to then booking the bands that would fill the first few months.



We had a sold out launch night in the HAC featuring Irvine’s Sean Kennedy alongside a set from the Colin Kennedy Band. This was swiftly followed up by one of our ‘Freckfest Fiver’ nights, where a £5 ticket got you in to see a trio of local bands – Accolades, Common Ground and Aboriginals playing 3 very live and very loud sets.



In March, Freckfest gained charitable status. This allowed us to explore avenues for funding – funding that will better enable us to put on a live festival. These plans are still very much at the forefront of our ambitions.  March also saw more ‘Sold Out’ signs up at the first of two 2014 JJ Gilmour shows at the HAC. JJ is the former vocalist with The Silencers and his shows are a brilliant balance of comedy and song. Another ‘Freckfest Fiver’ gig took place at the end of the month featuring hot-tipped up-and-comers The Tripps, Polar Bears In Purgatory and Closer.



A relatively quiet Freckfest month, April saw us feature Daniel Wylie. Daniel is no stranger to chart success and the live circuit. His band Cosmic Rough Riders were successful at the end of the 90s and toured with U2 amongst many others. He played a well-received show to an appreciative audience.



Freckfest really took off in May. We booked Medals to play only their second live gig. The fact that their first was as support to Biffy Clyro at a top-secret Glasgow show only a few days before shouldn’t go unnoticed. The gig sold out extremely quickly and people travelled from as far afield as the south of England and even Germany for it! Medals have gone on to receive regular airplay from Zane Lowe on Radio 1 and were one of the highlights at this summer’s T In The Park. The Biffy Clyro connection also meant that the HAC was graced with rock royalty when Biffy’s Simon Neil sneaked into his seat at the back of the venue, almost unnoticed, a few minutes before the start of the show. 


A few weeks later we had another jam-packed house when local favourites Soldier On, ably supported by Dogtooth - a trio of 12 year-olds (!) launched their ‘Eggs For Breakfast’ EP. 


By now we were getting a reputation as a serious stop-off on the touring circuit. Bands like the venue and audiences like the ‘vibe’ of the place – our events are always friendly and well-organised. There’s a level of customer service (for both bands and ticket holders) that other gigs just don’t seem to do.  



We intentionally kept June free. Volunteers need holidays too, you know!



July saw us begin another busy period. Another ‘Freckfest Fiver’ gig sold out quickly, with local acts Culann, Sonic Templars and The Outlawed all playing thrilling sets.



Not one, not even two, but three events this month – and all were completely brilliant. First we had The Chaplins, the rootsy, folky, Americana-influenced trio from Paisley. They were the surprise hit at the previous year’s festival and once again they didn’t disappoint.


Then we were given the opportunity of a Glenn Tilbrook solo show, when he had a free week between Squeeze shows. Glenn played two sets of greatest hits to another sold out HAC audience and proved to be an excellent raconteur.


Lastly in August we invited esteemed broadcaster Andy Kershaw along to talk about his life in music broadcasting and beyond. His show, a mix of funny-but-true stories and harrowing accounts of his life on the frontlines of the world’s most troubled areas, interspersed with some of the best music ever recorded was terrific, a real highlight of our year. We’re still working on him to come back for part two. 



Another up-and-coming act landed in September when Dundee’s Model Aeroplanes stopped off in Irvine for a Freckfest Friday gig. A really accomplished act, with a zip and  energy to their set, they filled the HAC with a gaggle of giggling, screaming, teenage girls. Normally Freckfest gigs are full of musos craning their necks to check out the guitar tech spec, so this was quite refreshing. Model Aeroplanes have since released a couple of singles and are being touted as a big name in 2015. Ones to watch out for.



October saw us sell-out the HAC in record time. Nik Kershaw has the honour of being the fastest-selling ticket in the HAC’s history, selling out the first of two nights faster than a shop full of widescreen TVs on Black Friday. His shows were terrific – a mixture of old favourites and new material, held together by a brilliantly funny ‘Ask Nik’ section, where questions submitted by the audience were answered truthfully and with a self-deprecating humour you might not’ve expected.


Nik gracefully signed albums and posed for selfies with the audience after each show. In fact, his shows were probably the best-received events we put on all year. Did you know he left Irvine to go home and pack his bags for Australia, where he was going on tour with Spandau Ballet? We’re hoping to have him back next year…



We put on a couple of shows in November, both at opposite ends of the spectrum. First up we had acclaimed singer/songwriter Jon Gomm. To call Jon a mere guitarist would be doing him a massive disservice. I’m a guitarist. Jon is on another level to all us ham-fisted finger-pickers and strummers. Jon bends, bashes, beats and batters his guitar until he gets the most unique sounds you’ve ever heard. He was mesmerising. The audience was pin-drop quiet throughout and at the end he proved to be a thoroughly engaging musician, happy to chat with his fans and answer all manner of guitar geekery questions.


At the end of the month we ventured into the Magnum Theatre to put on a well-received Eagles night featuring top tribute act Hotel California. This was a step away from the normal events we’ve been doing but proved to be a hit. Next year (13th March) will see us do another couple of tribute nights with MacFloyd (13th March) and Them Beatles (3rd April). 



We finished our gigging year with a cracking double bill. JJ Gilmour made a welcome return to the venue following his sold-out appearance in March. He was brilliantly supported by the Colin Kennedy Band who ‘went acoustic’ for the night and played a terrific set of stripped-back originals. 


What a great set of shows!


Freckfest doesn’t just happen – there is a core of volunteers who ensure the smooth running of the events and everything that that involves (there’s far more than you may think!)


We’d like to thank everyone who has been involved in any way at any of our events this year – the bands, the paying customers or even just the well-wishers. Extra special thanks go to North Ayrshire Council, the Harbour Arts Centre, Zisys Events, Brown Brothers Printers, Auld Lang Signs and Nexus Web Design for all their support and assistance throughout the year. We have loads planned for 2015 - including a very large event. We work very hard to provide something for everyone - if you have a suggestion of an act or genre, please let us know. We really do try to accommodate everyone. We want to put Irvine back on the music map. With your help we can do it.

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