Schemers (review)

Schemers is an autobiographical account of UK music industry promoter Dave Mclean’s rise from the working class streets of Dundee promoting up and coming bands (including Scottish band Simple Minds) culminating in the Iron Maiden concert in 1980. These gigs were all organised by ‘Davie’ and his pals, as the young likely lads growing up in the city, and it all started when he put on a disco to impress a girl. He would go on to work with artists such as Nirvana, the Foo Fighters and Pearl Jam before finding and managing Placebo to truly cement his place in music history.

The film starts with a quote from Hunter S Thompson about the music industry which sets the tone for Davie’s story about his money making schemes that test the boundaries of legality, getting into debt and mixed up with some unsavoury local gangsters as well as the local authorities trying to escape the harsh realities of the streets of Dundee, have a good time and take things to “the next level”.

Written, produced and directed by Dave Mclean himself, there are some similarities with Trainspotting – the film is narrated in the first person and starts with some stop-start editing and heavy guitar music that gives it that energy but overall it feels much more like a love letter to his home town and whilst it will appeal to the youthful generation with plenty of Scottish wit and humour throughout it should attract a much wider adult audience too. Being autobiographical you’re left with a real sense of wonder at his achievement, especially knowing who he would go on to work with. The comical soft touches distract in a way from its cultural significance but this is no doubt a reflection of his own modest sentimental style.

Davie is played by Connor Berry, a young unknown actor originally from Edinburgh, whose Scottish authenticity, like the rest of the cast, is so good that on occasions you might require subtitles to help with the dialect and accent. There is of course a great collection of songs throughout the film with some notable 80s classics and a cameo appearance from Kit Clark as Davie’s father who is amongst the collection of Scottish talent featured in the movie.

Filmed with the back drop of Dundee including inside the very same Caird Hall where Iron Maiden played that night. There’s a nice scene with the venue’s proprietor who tells the lads the story of how he booked the Beatles for £30 before they were big and lost money! It’s hard to imagine but without these people like Davie risking it all for their music passion, wanting to escape the 9 to 5 factory work life and bring live music to venues, breaking new acts, there wouldn’t be the music industry we know and love.

If anybody wanted proof that making it in the music industry was a possible dream then look no further than this story about a man who momentarily changed the face of live music in Dundee and would become a forerunner for the grunge punk scene around the world. 

Film: Schemers

Run time: 1hr 31min

Director: Dave Mclean

Genre: Comedy / crime / drama

Stars: Connor Berry, Sean Connor, Grant Robert Keelan, Tara Lee

Rated: 15

Rating: 4/5

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