To be or not to be…that’s Referendum


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It’s been nearly a year since the band “Referendum” last took to the stage together and a year on into the voluntary break I’m finding it tough to decide whether I want to start things up again next year. It’s been a big part of my life and I’ve played at weekends for nearly all of my adult years to the decision is a tough one as I have to weigh up the enjoyment and financial reward against something I’ll never get back – time.

Way back in the mid Nineties a series of chance meetings led m to play with a band that went on to become Referendum, one of Aberdeen’s most popular function bands. When we first started we were purely a Ceilidh Band that played all the well known and loved Scottish dances. Wedding, Company events, Charity Balls we played across the North East of Scotland wherever we were booked. I suggested we take the band up a level and brought in the cover versions to give us an extra dimension – and it turned out to be a good decision. For the next sixteen years we built up a strong reputation and word of mouth recommendations made us a very popular choice for events in the Aberdeen area.

There were several members of the band over the years but there was a core group that stuck together through the majority of those gigs. Billy was a revelation on the keyboard. His ear was amazing (not just the size of them!) but his ability to listen to something once and play it back, harmonise or improvise was amazing. He is a truly talented musician and continues to play around the festivals mostly on his accordion these days an anyone you speak to about him rates him as a genuine musical talent. Andy is one of the most kind, decent people and versatile players I’ve played alongside. On both guitar and bass he plays a range of styles and his vocals made the band as flexible as it was. Then we had Colin on Drums who brought a level of professionalism in his approach to the group. His playing was fantastic and he was the backbone the band had been missing in previous years. Together the four of us marched on developing and improving.

With Billy’s decision to focus on work we tried different options and brought in Scott and great a guitar player with Andy moving to Bass and Steve coming in on keys. They were both a natural fit into the fold and that was the line-up until we called it a day last September. And now twelve months later I do wonder if there is a future in the band. Why? I discovered weekends again for the first time since I was a teenager. Finishing work on a Friday and relaxing until I headed out on a Monday morning again was he biggest joy of all. That combined with not being tied by weekend commitments I got to spend time with the kids, Jill and see friends that my weekend work had been in the way of.

I love music and thrill of playing to a receptive crowd is second to none. If you’ve never done then it’s hard to explain to people how it feels. The issues are that it’s not always such a positive experience. For every good gig there will be at least two that are so-so. The music is still as good but the room is not interested – you can’t always put your finger on why that is the case. Sometimes you have a drinking crowd that will dance in the second half; then you might have a small crowd in too big a room; or it could be no one in the room knows or likes each other and there is a complete lack of atmosphere. No band can change those things, but more often than not we did the job and made the evening a success.

So for the future? I don’t know where we go next. It’s up to each member of the band to decide if they are back in or not – perhaps that will ultimately influence my decision. We have two bookings in for next year that were agreed before the split and one way or another we’ll honour those, but beyond tat I’m just not sure if I want to, or even need to get back into the swing of working weekends again.


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