Live in Livi 2021 – Live Music is Back!

By Megan Hughes

Drinks were being ordered; dodgy draft mixers were getting skooshed into every spirit known to man; I was complimenting random girls I had never met before in the toilets- what does all this mean? It means I was lucky enough to be part of the return of a live audience at this years Live in Livi which was streamed live online from Howden park centre. 

Firstly, a message from myself and behalf of all the acts who performed: a big thank you to Trash Panda HQ who provided all necessary production elements to make the festival possible.  Trash Panda is a business which aims to make live music inclusive and accessible to all; be sure to check them out. 

The full live set line up for the day was as follows: Amy Baillie, Ross Whelan, The Tropicana’s, Volka, Fake Lips, Megan Black, Chris Greig & The Merchants and last but certainly not least the night was finished with a performance from Dictator. 

Amy Baillie (@amybailliemusic) does not disappoint but she does surprise. When you hear her speak she is clear but her accent makes her a smooth speaker, soft wouldn’t quite be the word. Yet when she starts singing you can hear a strong vibrato in her voice just waiting to be unleashed – something which is very noticeable in a cover of the Sound of Silence she released back in September of 2020. Live in Livi was her first live gig since March 2020 but she certainly grabbed the bull by the horns and went for it. Like many artists she has had to scrub dates out her diary, reschedule or even say goodbye to them forever due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  However, fear not as she shall be making an appearance at Gig In The Goil next year so keep an eye and ear out for her there.

The Tropicana’s are definitely a must listen.  The band is full of character which you will see through their instagram (@thetropicanas).  They brought that energy and good vibes for their first gig back in over a year.  Their last performance was February 2020 in Henry’s Cellar which we can all agree was a lifetime ago now. However, lockdown and the pandemic haven’t been completely detrimental for the band as they’ve managed to use the time and invest into their creative processes which has resulted in a new single called sunflowers which makes summer feel like it could last just a little bit longer. The single highlights ‘the importance of taking care of each other and everything we cherish; while trying to take the tough parts of life in our stride.’

Post festival I was able to get the band to answer some interview questions for me.  Their personality was shining through in every answer but my favourite was this (no paraphrasing, a direct quote): How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before? It’s off-kilter guitar pop, little bit psych and a little bit surf. It’s music to transport you to a far away, tropical paradise where you can wear your speedos and drink unlimited mojitos. To get a better feel for the band and their sound you should go and watch their music video for ‘A Lovely Coincedence’. To sum up The Tropicana’s they make me think Joy Division but with this time with some joy. 

Volka are a self professed noisy rock band with a big heart. Live in Livi was their first live performance in 695 days, however, since their last performance they have been very busy: they have recorded three singles, released one and made a music video. The guys highlighted to me that part of the creative process does sometimes require in person connection which can be hard to achieve when you can’t get together to create. That being said their most recent single Become Undone is phenomenal and the band to a T – it’s noisy, and driving and a really good signal for what we’re about.

If you loved their last performance and are keen for more then you are in luck as they shall be playing live Friday 6th August at Dreadnought Rock in Bathgate. If you can’t make it then a word to the wise, as my sources have informed me, keep a close eye on the bands socials (@volkaband) as they might be due to drop a new single in the not so distant future. 

Fake Lips (@fake_lips_band)  are a cracking musical duo to follow. They’d have you fooled into  thinking  they are a group of four or five musicians when you listen to their current releases, when in reality the group is made up of front man Gary McLean and drummer Michael Cameron. Their sound is full and their stage presence is mighty.  McLean does well to work the stage and space in front of a live audience and Cameron knows how to not just play the drums but make it a performance took . It had been over a year since the pair had played for a live audience but it was never noticeable as the guys were in their element and never missed a beat. Hitting the stage again and doing it so seamlessly is a big step given the length of time away.  Cameron admitted ‘we’ve lost time, momentum, and impetus, which are all crucial elements to the growth of a live band like ours’. 

Fake Lips front man Gary McLean

However, rest assured since their last live performance they have been very busy as word on the street is a new EP is on its way. To prepare for the release I highly recommend listening to their other releases. Rise is their most recent single – the riffs sound like something we’d hear in a Guy Ritchie movie.  Fame Whore an earlier release is, also, a very honourable mention – it’s got Thin Lizzie vibes in parts and the music video is something else, worth a like and a watch. 

Megan Black (@meganblackmusic) is the embodiment of queen of cool. Her stage presence left me thinking Janis Joplin.  Not necessarily because their sounds connect but the energy she brings from her voice alone lets you close your eyes and still feel the full performance.  The stage was hers and she knew it was.  She pulled a soul awakening cover of Come Together out of the bag like it was nothing. Her band were superb and she led them perfectly, not once did her voice get lost in amongst them. 

Black has a very new release out: Freedom Belongs To Him – a must listen.  Her voice is strong but soft; sultry but it feels cool at times too.  Blacks voice and performances are juxtapositions unto themselves because the second you think you know her she does something else and you realise you don’t.  I had the pleasure of meeting her and was taken aback by how softly spoken she was and how gentle her mannerism were; I hadn’t expected that from the woman who had commanded the stage.  But that is Megan Black – a modern woman who is more than any one definition.  Her sound is old school blues, rock and roll but she is unashamed of sexuality and power, the gay undertones are definitely there and definitely making some old men turn in their grave somewhere.  Something tells me Black is happy knowing that. 

Chris Greig and The Merchants are an upbeat indie group.  Their entire repertoire sounds like the closing track to an indie coming of age movie that has a positive and feel good ending. The positive vibes were there in stereo, the band brought plenty to make up for their time away.  The last show they played was February 2020, however, timee away from stages and live audiences hasn’t been free for group as they’ve asked me to tell you to keep a very close eye on their socials (@cgmerchants) as they have recently announced a head line show Saturday 9th October at broadcast and promise more announcements are to follow. 

To label their sound might not be fair as they admit that ‘we just make music we like and hope you do too’ which is perhaps why their music is so cohesive and feel good because they enjoyed everything that they were doing. One song does drift from their usual sound which is Sick To Death – this is one you are going to hope they play live in October because live is how this song should be listened to, always.  A notable mention of other releases is one of their most popular songs GLUE: a little bit of band trivia – this song made it into Made In Chelsea so hopefully it can make it into your Spotify liked list. 

The final performance of the evening came from Dictator (@dictatorband). Clearly the organisers of Live in Livi wanted to have all attendees leaving the event in their feels as these guys blasted us with many emotions which were only amplified by properly  socialising for the first time in a year (or maybe it was just me). Dictator is officially classed as an electronic indie pop band so they describe themselves as ‘if Primal Scream and Gorillaz were to have a love child it would be us, we’d have a couple step brothers and sisters in alt-j and Glass animals’. 

In the last week Dictator have released a new single Mirror Mirror which is currently available on all streaming platforms. This release has a mellow tempo which has you bobbing along in a dreamlike state; the song has a psychedelic feel to it. Hopefully and can be really experienced once live performances are back in full swing as Michael (or Mic the Dic as he called himself) expressed missing the feel of live sweaty gigs with too many people squeezed into too small a space; civilised seated crowds don’t quite slap the same for him. 

As previously mentioned Dictator are likely to have delving deep and acknowledging your feelings to help this the band have suggested you check a version of their release Hide and Seek on YouTube or a cover of When the Party’s Over by Billie Eillise.  But only if you ‘fancy a wee cry’ to quote Michael. 

Live in Livi was a day to be enjoyed and certainly a great warm up to get us ready for some crazy live music once miss rona becomes a little less dangerous.  It was certainly a foreign feeling being back amongst people and even more so watching live music.  Hats off to all the acts involved many of who have really had to dig deep and use their passion for music to get them through the tough times in the last 18 months.  Everyone showed raw talent which is only going to get better. 

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