Tolbooth’s Strange Behaviours has two-day festival returns to Stirling for a third triumphant year.
With 18 acts to choose from, the event is a musical smorgasbord with a genre to please even the pickiest of music fans.
Living up to the events name, this year’s chosen aesthetics are just that – strange; broken and decorated mannequins are placed around the venue – some splashed with paint and one covered entirely in multi-coloured feathers.
A projector had also been set up in the Attic Stage showing scenes from Charlie Brown as well as footage of cakes being iced on a loop and other random background imagery.
Stock Manager kick off proceedings in the Attic Stage – having the most daunting slot on the bill being responsible for setting the tone for the rest of the night.
And they didn’t disappoint, they’re just a proper good rock band – complete with the behaviour (no pun intended) to match the sound.
Whether it be rocking out on the floor, knee slides as they jam together or knocking over parts of their set (sometimes accidently –but we’ll pretend it’s all part of their plan), the rock band persona oozes out of them.
Their music is complete with heavy riffs drops that are worthy of a good head-bang.
A new element has been added to the acts playing in the venue’s Gallery Stage this year – a versus battle but not like you know it.
First to put it to the test on Friday night is Chrissy Barnacle and December ’91.
Barnacle provides us with brutally honest tales of her own love life, filling the gaps between songs with quirky anecdotes and the history behind her tracks.
The personality that poured from her makes her entirely relatable – with a very 21st century view of love and relationships it is almost empowering to hear someone talk so openly about it and put it so eloquently to beautiful acoustic music.
Plus, anyone who can use a Tina Turner reference – “what’s love got to do with it?” – so effortlessly in her set is a hero in my eyes.
Once Barnacle had finished playing a few tracks, the audience had to shuffle through to the adjoining room – where Craig Ferrie aka December ’91 is set up with his guitar. Admitting that he’s not as good with the chat in between songs, he simply lets his music do the talking.
His songs run through a similar theme to Barnacle’s, with love and relationships being the key topic to both acts’ music.
Be Charlotte is up next on the Auditorium Stage – making the wee town of Stirling the last stop on her recent tour around South Asia.
A vision of the 90s in her sheer fluorescent top, oversized glasses and topknot bun, she showcases brand new unnamed material as well as live set staples such as ‘Machines That Breathe’.
Her flawless vocals flow effortlessly from rapping to singing without any backing music – stunning her audience into silence.
Don’t be fooled by her petite appearance, her vocals can encapsulate an entire room and she’s not afraid to call you out for talking through her performance either!
The band I have been looking forward to seeing on the Friday night are The Pale Kids and their set is filled with banter, with frontman Josh declaring “that’s close enough” whilst tuning his guitar for their performance.
Their angsty lyrics and heavy distorted guitars engulf the intimate room; The Pale Kids are definitely a band made for a big stage, it’s impossible not to want mosh along to their music – you should come out of their gig with a headache.
A good headache, like getting brain freeze from eating ice cream.
Closing Friday night’s event is critically renowned guitarist (and occasional singer) RM Hubbert.
The Auditorium Stage becomes a calm haven with Hubby up on the stage sat on a chair with just his guitar and the audience mirror his set up by taking a seat on the floor to enjoy his performance as he captures their imagination with his heartfelt and soulful lyricism.
Never afraid to touch on dark taboo topics like suicide, the sometimes melancholic music contrasts with his personality as he chats openly and honestly with his audience between tracks therefore stopping his performance from getting too heavy – it is a Friday night after all.
Eugene Twist kicks off Saturday night on the Auditorium Stage, bringing his jazzy alt-rock to Stirling.
Twist is regularly compared to the likes of Bob Dylan for his vocal talent (I must admit, his appearance is slightly Dylan-esque as well), however he’s definitely a musician in his own right as he packs his songs with sophisticated lyrics and smooth melodies.
He treats his audience to a special stripped down version of ‘Halloween Drama Queen’ as well as new material to be featured on his upcoming album due in January.
Saturday night sees another versus set take place in the Gallery Stage, this time round it is C R P N T R and The Narcissist Cookbook.
At first look, you’d maybe be confused as to why these two acts had been paired together, but after a few tracks, it’s clear to see that they share a common theme.
As well as both being Stirling locals, their music shows them both to be lyrical wordsmiths.
If you squint a little and ignore the Scottish accent, you could mistake The Narcissist Cookbook for Ed Sheeran; either way, he’s definitely got the same level of talent.
At times, he resembled a one-man-band alternating between guitar and tambourine, whilst using the loop pedal to create a vocal backing track.
Although I can’t empathise with his feelings of distain towards coffee (portrayed through track ‘Sugar In My Coffee’), I have to admit I did find myself singing along to it days after the gig; he just makes damn good catchy music.
Moving through to the next room to watch C R P N T R’s (aka. Owen Sutcliffe) counter-performance, we are greeted by Sutcliffe and his companion donning a walrus mask.
An entirely bizarre set up, but Sutcliffe choses not to be restricted by his stage set up and brings his performance into the crowd as he energetically stomps around the room whilst professing about conundrums surrounding Tesco chicken Caesar wraps.
Sutcliffe creates an entirely immersive performance showing he won’t be kept back by boundaries – both literally and creatively.
Alt-folk musician and visual artist Sarah J. Stanley – playing under alias HQFU – brings the party vibes to the Attic Stage on Saturday night, bringing an end to the acts playing in the intimate stage at the top of the Tolbooth.
Stanley fuses her alt-folk roots with electro pop to create hazy, grungy dance music that’s perfect for a Saturday slot, a home-grown Alice Glass meets Jamie XX – Stanley is definitely one to look up if you like your electronic synth-heavy music.
The Tolbooth never fails to highlight the best Scotland has to offer and they do it best with their Strange Behaviours festival.
If you don’t leave after the two nights with a list of some new favourite artists then you haven’t taken full advantage of the great acts on offer to you.
After three successful years, Strange Behaviours doesn’t show any signs of slowing.
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Words: Laura Imrie