30 for 30 // Attend a Spectra Gig

For a few days every February, Aberdeen's dark winter nights are set aglow by SPECTRA - the city's annual festival of light. 

Running from February 8th-11th, Marischal College was lit up by electric lightning, St Nicholas Kirkyard taken over by a glow-in-the-dark circus, and Union Terrace Gardens filled up with musical, light-up see-saws and flashing bicycles as part of this year's event, 'Play the Night'. 

I popped down with some friends shortly before closing on Thursday night, then returned alone on Friday, camera in hand, hoping to get some good shots. Photographic opportunities were complicated somewhat by the crowds and queues, but that's a positive for the city with visitor numbers up significantly on last year! I'm always pleased to see people turning up and showing local events some support.

As well as 30 light installations throughout the city, this year's packed programme also included - for the first time - a series of live music performances from Nordic and UK artists. Keen to add some new bands to my playlist, I committed myself to attending a gig by adding it to my '30 for 30' list. 

The ticketing system - paying per date rather than performance - further opened up the possibility of some new musical discoveries and, undeterred by my friends' lack of interest or availability, I grabbed myself a ticket and headed down to The Assembly - alone! - on Saturday night. 

I had never been to a gig by myself before and found myself profoundly worried about standing out and drawing attention to myself, but I managed to keep my anxiety in check and made it along somehow. I might have looked like a bit of a creepy loner, but I did it anyway and I am pretty proud.

Saturday's line-up featured three acts at The Assembly, followed by a fourth at The Tunnels and I figured if I could stick it out for the first two bands I'd be doing pretty well. As it was, I enjoyed myself so much that I ended up seeing them all!

First to take the stage were London-based collective Nanye, with their own brand of electronica - wild sound-scapes fronted by the powerhouse vocals of Ella Joy. Their style wouldn't be my first choice for a lazy day at home, but it translated well to a live performance and I gained much enjoyment from their set. The beautiful background animations added to the atmosphere and, dang, that girl's got a voice!

Next up were Icelandic five-piece MammĂșt, exploding onto the stage like a volcano of female rock. Actually, the band's line-up features two gents these days, but it is the three fierce females at the front of the stage who truly captivate. It's a clichĂ©d comparison for an Icelander, but lead-singer Kata reminds me, vocally, of Bjork (whom I bloomin' love) ..if Bjork were to suddenly start playing guitar-based rock. I loved their feisty set and have found myself repeatedly seeking them out on Spotify since.

Third came Hidden Orchestra with  multi-instrumentalist Joe Acheson joined on stage by a number of guest musicians, bringing his immersive electronica to life. I should probably confess here that they didn't get my full attention, through no fault of their own, and I only heard a couple of tracks before deciding to take a break from the crowd. 

Finally, it was a short walk down to The Tunnels for Scottish singer-songwriter Emma Pollock's set. Emma's beautiful voice, clever lyrics and folk-rock sound sit comfortably with my usual taste in music. I thoroughly enjoyed her performance, save for the annoyingly chatty crowd, and her impressive back-catalogue has since been getting a lot of air-time in my house.

If my goal was to discover some new music to add to my playlist, I certainly succeeded. Likewise, if it was to have an entertaining evening out, I'd say that was a solid success as well!

I really appreciated this new musical addition to the Spectra programme and hope to see it return next year to help light up this little city in the cold winter months. If it does, I can only encourage you to grab yourselves a ticket and hurry along!


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