A promoter is fighting to keep the town’s live music tradition alive.
Having attended gigs in the area as a fan for decades, Eric Kleintges first helped organise events at the Victoria Hotel with his friends Forres music in the eighties, going on to arrange two huge open-air, one day festivals at Grant park in 1989 and 1990.
However, a later change in tastes found younger music fans choosing dance music at the Brig Hotel over bands at the Vic’.
Nearly 30 years after first getting involved, Eric has started The eagle Sessions to show younger generations what they’ve been missing.
He said: "Bands like Leanne and the Radix, The Carloways, Mother’s Ruin, The New Mode and The Lowdown always play to a full house. Dopesicky from Glasgow are starting to fill the eagle whenever they visit and we’re getting enquiries from bands from further afield on tours. The venue has a great ambience, lighting and sound. It just needs more support from local music fans!"
Eric remembers his father talking about Bill Haley and The Comets playing the town Hall in the fifties. But he attributes the local scene to an Elgin man.
He said: "Albert Bonici owned The Two Red Shoes in Elgin and was involved with The Ballerina in Nairn and The Vic’ in Forres. He brought The Beatles, pink Floyd and Slade up here. When he died, the scene died."
Live music thrived in Forres during the sixties and seventies, at the Vic every Sunday, and at the Castle Inn on Thursday nights. It was harder to find after Mr Bonici died.
"There was no Legends Bar or music in The Red Lion then," said Eric. "The only place you might see something was at The Queens Hotel. In the mid to late seventies you started to get live bands playing upstairs at The Carlton on a Sunday - it was always good fun there. Forres music started at The Vic’ on Sundays from 6-10pm with pop, reggae and Cajun music. We then started on Saturday nights and got bands from further afield."
Tenants Live, who went on to run T-in-the-Park, provided a powerful PA and Eric’s friend rob Ellen helped bring top names to town including The Bluebells, of ‘Young At Heart’ fame.
"That fell apart when rave music became popular," said Eric. "More people went to The Brig - it seemed like folk disapproved of live bands."
But not before Eric’s biggest gigs, the Grant park festivals of ‘89 and ‘90.
"There were 4000 folk at the second one," he said. "Highlands and Islands enterprise lent us £8000 for it, which was enough to put on a good show and let everyone in for free. With bucket collections on the day, we broke even."
Wolfstone headlined with support from central belt and local acts. Sales and entertainment stalls plus a 12,000 watt sound system on a atbed truck added to the genuine festival feel.
"I’m glad we did it," said Eric. "There was good music and weather ... and even better memories. Local businesses did well out of the event but putting it on every would have been be too risky as I was putting my money on the line."
Twenty eight years later, Eric has invested more money and time into his passion on North Street, Forres.
He said: "The PA at The eagle cost £7000 so I’m hoping for a return on that one day! I will keep the sessions going as long as I can, Americana act The Carloways are playing on the night of the Toun Mercat on June 8. Please support live music in your town!"