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The Conversation: I am Me; Cask, Bad Actress, The Fragz, Ant Thomaz and MacTa deliver powerful mental health message at Elgin Town Hall


By Chris Saunderson

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MUSIC has the power to lift your soul and provide emotional peace at some of the darker or more anxious times in your life.

Ant Thomaz came from Glasgow to perform. Picture: GMC Photography
Ant Thomaz came from Glasgow to perform. Picture: GMC Photography

And to see so many fantastic musicians on the same stage, delivering a night of energy and enthusiasm, could not have failed to raise the spirits of everybody in Elgin Town Hall on Saturday night (January 27).

'The Conversation: I am Me' brought together punk, rock, soul and feelgood pop for a night of fun, as well as raising awareness and money to support mental health charity Mikeysline.

This was the second gig promoting men's mental health under 'The Conversation' banner.

The message was 'It's OK to not be OK' and for men to open up and let family, friends and health professionals know when they are struggling with their emotions.

Alan Jamieson (AJ) of local punk band The Fragz was one of those behind the gig.

He said: "I thought last year was going to be nigh on impossible to beat but this was absolutely ridiculous.

AJ (left) and others came together to perform 'The Conversation: I am Me'. Picture: GMC Photography
AJ (left) and others came together to perform 'The Conversation: I am Me'. Picture: GMC Photography

"We need to normalise it (mental health), it is not a stigma. Local voices and local faces makes it easier for everyday people.

"Everybody comes here with their heart on their sleeve and just goes for it."

Last year AJ penned 'The Conversation: I am Me' and admitted he was a "bubbling wreck" after it was performed at the gig.

The Fragz produced a powerful set. Picture: GMC Photography
The Fragz produced a powerful set. Picture: GMC Photography

"This year I managed not to be but the song is personal, I write about me. If there was one moment tonight, it was everybody stepping forward and singing it.

"We have Cask who just broke out last year. They won't have played to 300 people in a hall before and they were buzzing. Ant coming up from Glasgow; he will make it because he is just class.

"We had soul, funk, classic rock, punk, a wedding dance function band but back stage it was just a collection of folk helping each other out."

Cask, from Buckie, opened the gig, followed by rising star Ant Thomaz from Glasgow. His band included Northern Scot reporter Lewis McBlane on bass guitar.

Bad Actress lead singer Toby Michaels, from Nairn, was buzzing after their set.

He said: "Musically it is one of the more diverse gigs I have been involved in.

Toby on stage with Bad Actress. Picture HNM
Toby on stage with Bad Actress. Picture HNM

"There is a real feelgood vibe in the hall. I went to get a can of juice and it took me half an hour because I chatted to so many people.

"I am quite open about my autism, and I have anxiety, depression and PTSD. I don't particularly show that on stage but that is part of my mental health journey, enjoying myself on stage.

"Men's mental health in the area in particular is not in a good place because we have had a couple of decades of people being told terms like to 'man up' which is incredibly toxic.

"The most manly thing a man can do when they are struggling is open up about their mental health.

Bad Actress rocked the town hall. Picture: GMC Photography
Bad Actress rocked the town hall. Picture: GMC Photography

"Everyone has struggles and sometimes people can think their struggles are not as important as other people's struggles and 'I shouldn't worry about them'. Absolutely worry about yourself. It is OK to be selfish when it comes to your mental health, that is the most important thing to you, because your mental health can start to affect your physical health.

"Hopefully events like this will help people open up a bit."

Mark Aldridge, the bass guitarist with MacTa who organised the gig with AJ, said: "It was an amazing turnout and it was really great to get a full hall.

"The calibre of musicians we have had was amazing. Ant Thomaz has played the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, it was great he came up from Glasgow.

"AJ put the idea together. We came together for the song (The Conversation) and because that was such a success he said 'let's put a gig together'. That was a one-off but he came to me and said 'I want to do it again'."

MacTa brought the evening to a fabulous finish with some great cover songs. Picture: GMC Photography
MacTa brought the evening to a fabulous finish with some great cover songs. Picture: GMC Photography

Cask lead singer Joe Grant, from Buckie, said a phone call or a message can make all the difference to someone who is struggling.

He paid tribute during their set to good friend Jody Thain (31) who took his own life last year.

"I have known him since I was a kid and unfortunately we lost him last August, that is why it was so important to play this because it was for mental health."

'Not 19 Forever' was Jody's favourite song and the band played it in his memory.

"Sometimes you don't realise when people are struggling until the worst happens, so, it important not only to speak to people when you are feeling like that, but to check up on your friends, even a quick text, a quick hello, that can make the world of difference.

Cask were performing in front of a major crowd for the first time. Picture: GMC Photography
Cask were performing in front of a major crowd for the first time. Picture: GMC Photography

"There is still a bit of stigma (around mental health) and even if this one gig helps even one person, that is something."

The other members are lead guitarist Jake Bain, from Keith, Craig Howard, drummer from Elgin and Sean Anderson bass, also from Elgin.

They are due to release their debut single 'No Faith in the Future' in the coming months.

Cask remembered a friend they lost in 2023 during their set. Picture: Cask
Cask remembered a friend they lost in 2023 during their set. Picture: Cask

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