The Twa Tams pub in Perth has played a big part in my musical life since I started going there as a teenager. Back then it was the closest thing to the 'Cheers' bar to me and my friends.
I remember Friday night's there, racking up the pool table, putting my three songs on the jukebox (Golden Years - David Bowie, Like A Hurricane (Unplugged) - Neil Young, and I Wish - Skee-Lo) before grabbing a Diet Iron-Bru and a sausage and Branston pickle I remember Friday nights in the Tam's, racking up the pool table, songs on the jukebox and a Diet Iron-Bru and Sausage Sandwich from the bar.sandwich from the bar. Later the pool table would be taken off of us as (the soundboard would rest on it) and we would be witness to some great live music.
Over the years I saw some great gigs there and even played live there a couple of times myself with my buddy Peem and our punk/electronica outfit. It felt like a safe, supportive place to make and consume music, plus the obvious added bonus of beer and food.
I don't go to the Tams as much as I'd like these days, although I do occasionally stop in for a lunchtime gig or a pint. However, I haven't been to an evening gig there in quite some time.
That's about to change though as I've just added a couple of gigs to my diary. First up is a Louisiana Cajun Mardi Gras day on the 28th of February. It is being organised by my friend and neighbour John Martin.
I've seen John live a couple of times now and can confirm that he is an excellent fiddle player, singer and has an encyclopedic knowledge of rural Louisiana and its music. John has been planning his Mardi Gras for some time now and has done a great job of tracking down and booking the best Cajun music on offer. Beyond that, he has pulled out the stops to ensure that the day is authentic as possible including a costume competition and amazing food.
Following that, on Friday the 13th of March, the gruesomely good Chris Small will be playing a show to promote his excellent EP, 'Something in the Water'. It's out on Feb 28th but I've already heard it and it's a sunny slice of soulful jazz-funk just begging to be played on repeat.
I spoke to both John and Chris about grassroots local music, what they have planned for their shows, and what the Twa Tams means to them. First up, Chris.
Interview with Chris Small
The Twa Tams was one of the first places I ever got to experience local live music, do you remember some of the first home town gigs you attended?
I remember my first gig was seeing The Magic Numbers with my Mum in around 2007. Neither of can remember where (it was Perth Concert Hall, I was there too! - Colin
), but I remember it being a part of Perth Festival of The Arts. Since then,
most of the gigs I’ve been to, I’ve also been a part of. The Twa Tams, The Green Room and The Corinna were where I spent most my of time.
You've chosen The Tams as the venue for your upcoming hometown gig, what attracted you to the venue?
I’ve been playing The Tams since I was 14 and has proven an excellent platform for music at a local level. Every band I’ve been a part of has played there so it’s a special place to me.
The new EP sounds fantastic, you crowdfunded the recording, can you tell me a little bit about that experience?
Thanks Colin, you’re a swell guy. This is the second time I’ve crowdfunded a record, the last time being my debut EP in 2016. I set an ambitious target which would enable me to release the record as well as record promotional material, however we only raised around half. This was still enough to mix, master and print some copies of the EP which is fantastic.
For pledging money, people would essentially pre-order an early copy of the EP along with some other fun rewards. I’m always amazed and humbled by people’s generosity when it comes to crowdfunding. I think it’s a fantastic tool for independent artists like me to help fund the costs of producing a record.
The title of the EP is 'Something in the Water', how come?
Something In the Water ... is a reflection (pun intended) of my direction as an artist.When writing the title song, I wanted a recurring common phrase that could get stuck in people’s heads easily. Once I’d finished writing the rest of the EP, ‘Something In The Water’ stood out as a good title as it suggests something’s going to happen, it’s suspenseful, ambiguous. I see this as a reflection (pun intended) of my direction as an artist, I have a lot of ideas and plans for my career and this EP is the first step in that.
The EP is like a big, beautiful musical stew, what sort of stuff were you listening to when you wrote and recorded it?
I hope people find it tasty! I’ve been listening to a lot of RnB/Soul and Jazz recently. I find myself falling on the same records time after time, as many of us do. I’ve always cited Sting as a big influence on my style and writing and I think this EP shows that in places, but as a horn player, I absolutely love songs which utilise tight horn sections such as Tower of Power or Earth, Wind & Fire.
What can we expect from your live show when you play The Tams next month?
The Tams show will be the first time I’m performing as a 4-piece, adding keyboards to the live sound, provided by the wonderful and exceptionally talented George Staniforth. I’ll also be inviting some musicians who contributed to the EP to perform. The whole thing is being filmed and recorded too so I’m hoping for a decent turnout, filming an empty room would be a bit embarrassing!
Interview with John Martin
This article is all about supporting local music, can you remember any great hometown gigs during your musically formative years?
Being from Cumbernauld, Glasgow was my nearest musical hub. Seeing
Wishbone Ash at the Glasgow Apollo was a lasting lesson in arrangement and musicality. All those twin guitar lines and harmonies. The Cumbernauld Theatre though is still a place I want to play sometime.
You've played at The Twa Tams quite a lot recently, what is it you like about the venue?
PA set up at all times, a sound engineer, lights, respect for music and musicians. What’s not to like?
You're hosting a Louisiana Cajun Mardi Gras party at the Tams next week, can you tell me a little about the event?
Mardi Gras is celebrated in many places. It’s Carnival, Shrove Tuesday, Pancake Day. We’ll be doing it, as far as is possible, the Cajun way. That means eating, drinking (optional), fancy dress (hilarious) and dancing (either well or badly, it’s all the same).
The tradition is very old; pagan, Roman then medieval Europe. It came to The New World with the Royal House of Bourbon. The first Mardi Gras recorded in America was March 3rd, 1699.
Costumes typically represent fantastic birds and animals and indulge in role reversal between farmhands and captains etc. They are also used as a disguise, while satirically mocking political and royal figures.
We’re hoping for some of that happening.
For people that are unfamiliar with Cajun music can you give us a brief idea of what it is like?
Cajun music is predominantly fiddle and accordion led. That doesn’t mean you The songs are mostly sung in French; two-steps and waltzes, though I have some Swamp Pop and Cajun Country in my set.can’t have Cajun music without an accordion.
Accordion, does, however, feature very strongly in the hands of Kim Tebble (playing with Jennifer Ewen) and Dave Oudny (Bugaloosa).
The songs are mostly sung in French; two-steps and waltzes, though I have some Swamp Pop and Cajun Country in my set.
The Cajuns originated in France. They brought the violin and many old folk songs with them. After their expulsion from Acadia (now Nova Scotia), many ‘Acadiennes’ joined their French countrymen in Louisiana. Along came the diatonic accordion and, after some experimentation particularly among black Creole musicians, the full flavour of Cajun came through.
With, Dundee's Bugaloosa, The Jennifer Ewan Band from Edinburgh, and Everyone has heard the term Cajun but it is used as a catch-all for all sorts of Americana.yourself all playing, Scottish Cajun music is pretty well represented. Is the Scottish Cajun scene in quite a healthy place at the moment
I don’t see many outlets for Cajun bands here. We’re not really on the radar, but the people who do it have never lost their love of it. Everyone has heard the term Cajun, but I find it’s used as a catch-all for all sorts of Americana. However, when people hear it, they are always glad they did.
More Cajun music at festivals, on radio, in pubs would be a great help to the possibilities for Cajun music in Scotland.
You mentioned that there is going to be food at the event, what sort of Cajun delicacies will be getting served up?
Gumbo, jambalaya, cornbread, coffee gravy, crawfish, andouille sausage, okra, crab cake and my favourite thing, beignets (choux pastry doughnuts).