IT IS an unusual venue for the renaissance of Scottish 80s rock and pop, Douglas MacIntyre is the first to admit.

But the Strathaven Hotel – a boutique country residence in rural Lanarkshire, about half an hour’s drive from Glasgow – is fast becoming THE place to see some of the country’s biggest musical acts thanks to Douglas’s live gig series Frets Concerts.

Glasgow Times: The Bluebells

Lloyd Cole, The Bluebells, James Grant, Hipsway, Kevin McDermott, Teenage Fan Club, David Scott of The Pearlfishers…the list of those who have already appeared is impressive, and with Altered Images, JJ Gilmour of The Silencers, Roddy Woomble of Idlewild, King Creosote and more lined up for spring, they just keep coming. It’s not just Scottish legends either – Tim Burgess, of The Charlatans and Robyn Hitchcock have also appeared.

Glasgow Times: Douglas MacIntyre,  Frets concert founder pictured at Strathaven Hotel, Strathaven, South Lanarkshire...Photograph by Colin Mearns.30 November 2021.For Glasgow Times, see story by Ann Fotheringham.

The concerts, which are all-seated, acoustic and intimate, are usually sell-outs, with fans snapping up tickets quickly - The Bluebells and Hipsway added extra dates to meet demand – and each night includes at least two support acts.

Glasgow Times: Hipsway

Even with the frustrating interruption of Covid and lockdowns, which meant Douglas had to reschedule many of the gigs, the appetite for Frets is still strong.

It has taken its creator, musician and producer Douglas, a little by surprise.

“I didn’t know how it would go,” he admits.

“But it’s actually quite magical. Acts like Lloyd and James can sell out Glasgow Royal Concert Hall and the Barrowland. To see them in such an intimate setting feels like a luxury, it’s amazing.”

He laughs: “Lloyd was about to do a world tour when he agreed to do Frets, and he slotted us in at the beginning. I really enjoyed the fact his world tour started in Strathaven.”

Douglas grew up in Strathaven, dreaming of being in a band.

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“I learned to play Teenage Kicks on the guitar, started getting into music when I was at high school, and really wanted to be part of that world,” he grins.

“Like a lot of kids that age, I suppose. Me and my mates formed our own band, called Frets, and practised in our bedrooms. And I’m very lucky to have been in bands and making music ever since.”

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Strathaven has an interesting music history - Orange Juice recorded the first Postcard single, Falling and Laughing, in the market town at Emblem Sound studio.

Douglas adds: “I recorded my first single in Emblem Sound when I was 18 - my group then was called Article 58, and our single was produced by Postcard’s Alan Horne and Malcolm Ross and released on Josef K manager Allan Campbell’s label, Rational Records.

“John Peel played it on the radio. I was 18, in a band, and John Peel was playing our record. That felt amazing. Postcard was definitely the inspiration for Creeping Bent, all those years later.”

Douglas set up independent record label the Creeping Bent Organisation in 1994, working with a diverse range of acts from The Nectarine No 9 and The Secret Goldfish, to Adventures in Stereo, Monica Queen, Fire Engines and more. John Peel chose Creeping Bent as the featured label when he curated the Meltdown Festival at the Royal Festival Hall and Creeping Bent artists recorded 20 sessions for Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show over the years.

Douglas had had the idea for a Frets-style series of concerts for a while before he launched in autumn 2019.

“I’d been watching the old 1970s BBC2 In Concert television shows, especially the Neil Young ones – I’m a massive Neil Young fan,” he says.

“It feels like you can get music for nothing these days – I can get any music I want on my phone in seconds for hardly any cost. But you can’t download the magic, the atmosphere of a live experience. Yes, you can film it on your phone, but that will never replicate it properly. Interaction between audience and performer is absolutely key and with Frets, you get that in a very intimate way.”

Frets is a family affair, with Douglas’s wife Katy Lironi (ex-Fizzbombs and The Secret Goldfish) and daughter Amelia, 21, performing on stage, while the couple’s other four children, Dougal, 20, Matilda, 17, and 15-year-old twins Flora and Sonny often to be seen - “in amongst it,” laughs their dad - lending a hand selling merchandise and collecting tickets.

Such has been the success of Frets, that Douglas was approached recently by Celtic Connections, who asked him to curate a special event in Glasgow as part of the festival.

READ MORE: 'It will be special' - the Bluebells launch new season of Frets Concerts in Strathaven

Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake, ex-Suede guitar legend Bernard Butler and Love and Money frontman James Grant, all of them also veterans of diverse solo projects and collaborations, will perform together at Saint Luke’s on January 30, and – because that gig sold out so quickly – at the Mackintosh Church on January 31.

This first Frets-on-tour venture is not a sign it will be moving away from its home, says Douglas.

“The ethos was always about community, and building up a creative community in Strathaven,” he says. Douglas – who is also assistant principal at Riverside Music College in Busby - has set up Frets Creative, a dedicated space for arts organisations which is already home to Creative Strathaven.

“When I first approached Hans Rissman, who is the owner of the hotel, he got what we were trying to do and he and the Strathaven community have been really supportive.

“It will always be part of the town.”

Visit fretsconcerts.com for details of the forthcoming gigs.