Review: MiL presents On the Rocks Opening Night

On the Rocks has officially kicked off with Music is Love hosting the opening night party in the Byre Theatre.  After entering and receiving my wristband for the ticketed bands, I was offered a canvas tote band with the program for On the Rocks which included a schedule of all the events for the next two weeks and leaflets for businesses that helped sponsored the festival.

Wandering through the theatre, as the crowd of excited patrons grew, I found myself in the Byre studio where a film created by Social Anthropology PhD students was being shown. This film followed the lives of people in Dominica, Bolivia and Edinburgh, and was soundtracked by Moodroom Collective. Of this film, I enjoyed the soundtrack the most, but I know that many others appreciated the artistry of the social anthropology footage.

On exiting the studio after the film, the Byre was buzzing with excitement and activity. This was an event that you had to wait a bit to get into the groove of–it personally did not draw me in immediately but, after a little over an hour and beginning to see the bands play, I definitely enjoyed myself. The Byre bar was open for any patrons who wanted to purchase drinks, and the middle level of the theatre had stalls for START, Hearing Aid, and merchandise from the bands that played in the main auditorium. There were also multiple folk and jazz musicians playing in the Byre bar throughout the night.

An hour after the event opened, the first band, Jemima Thewes, began to play in the Byre auditorium. Jemima Thewes played a rather peaceful set, using a mandolin and a tongue drum; a unique instrument that is a wooden box with tongue shapes carved into it which created a beautiful and haunting sound. Her songs were of a very distinct folk style with few variations. Despite most tickets being sold for the band, the auditorium was not even half filled for Jemima Thewes–I would blame this on her set being earlier in the night when people were more apt to buying drinks and socializing. Also, unfortunately, the activity in the rest of the Byre was rather loud and distracting to Thewes’ subdued, mellow set.

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The second band, Inti Rowland had a larger audience, but the low energy ambiance in the Byre auditorium remained. This band also played a similar folk style instead using an acoustic guitar, a violin, two cellos, a drum set and a trumpet. Because this band was slightly louder, the outside noise was not quite as much of an issue. The final band, Eagleowl, was definitely my favourite. Consisting of guitars, a cello, and a stand-up bass, they played pop-folk music with stock footage of microscopic marine life in the background. All the music in the auditorium was very low energy but very nice and relaxing for the event. Unfortunately I was unable to stay for the Minimood set, however, based on their work with providing a soundtrack for the social anthropology films, I am sure it was a great ending to the night.

While the bands were a lovely addition to the night, they also posed the biggest problem of the event in the division between those who bought the £2 entry and those who bought the £6. While the ticketed bands created a great opportunity, it uncomfortably divided the event. We could either sit in the auditorium and listen to the bands or stay out and mingle throughout the Byre. The Byre’s main auditorium only remained about half full throughout the bands’ sets while the rest of the theatre was buzzing with excitement from the other events that were going on. Also, if only part of your group bought the tickets to see the band, the evening became very fragmented between watching the bands perform and socializing–it did not flow well. In the future, I would recommend that the opening night consists of only what occurred outside the Byre’s main auditorium, the folk and jazz performances, art installations, and social anthropology film, while the ticketed bands are scheduled as a totally separate event. Overall, the event was a nice and mellow night to meet other people who are just as excited for the festival.

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