True North returns to the Granite City this weekend. The festival, presented by Aberdeen Performing Arts, promises a mix of fantastic live music and acoustic performances. As well as their headline shows, you can expect vibrant fringe events across the city. This year, True North is celebrating freedom of expression, diversity and community with their theme – Rise Up. This is especially poignant at a time when city venues are only just beginning to open up to audiences for the first time since the Covid19 emergency began.

Stick around because we’re going to take a closer look at the headline events, as well as some of the exciting free fringe shows. We’re sure you’ll find something that makes you want to get out there and experience True North for yourself.


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Peaness | Lemon Tree | Thursday

Playing on Thursday 23 September and kicking off True North 2021 will be Peaness, who will be bringing their catchy, fuzzy, harmony-driven indie-pop songs about love, friendship, frustrations, Brexit and food waste to the Lemon Tree. Formed in 2014 in Chester university digs, the trio have secured nationwide and international shows with bands such as The Beths, Kero Kero Bonito, The Cribs, We Are Scientists, The Big Moon and Dream Wife. They will be joined at the Lemon Tree by Swim School and Lavender Lane.

Ayanna Witter-Johnson | Lemon Tree | Friday

Headlining on Friday night at the Lemon Tree with a Night of New Voices is the soulful, eclectic Ayanna Witter-Johnson.  A singer, songwriter, cellist, composer, producer and arranger with phenomenal musical prowess, mesmerising vocals, uncompromising lyrics and mastery of the cello. Ayanna unapologetically imprints her unique musical signature into her music. Heir of the Cursed, Katie Mackie and DJ Rebecca Vasmant complete the line-up.

John Grant | Music Hall | Saturday

Former Czars frontman John Grant is the headline act on Saturday evening. Described as ‘the misfit’s misfit’, this singer-songwriter is too weird to be mainstream, too mainstream to be weird; too sad to be happy, too sharp not to crack a mordant joke about it. Grant’s superpower is to compare his impressionistic childhood experiences against their amplified adult consequences. SUpport act for the night is acclaimed Scottish folk singer, Rachel Sermanni.

Ransom FA | Lemon Tree | Saturday

Aberdonian grime rapper Ransom FA will head up late night at the Lemon Tree on Saturday. The fast-rising artist, was a contestant on the UK TV show, The Rap Game, where he battled other budding rappers for a record deal. As well as sharing the stage with some of the words best grime artists he has also turned his hand to presenting documentary series for BBC3. He’ll be joined by Sean Focus and DJ HomeAlone.

Corrine Bailey Ray | Music Hall | Sunday

Closing out True North 2021 is Sunday’s headline act, Corrine Bailey Ray. She is performing a specially curated concert called “A Celebration of Stevie Wonder”. The evening will see the Grammy and MOBO award winning singer joined by special guests to perform many hits from the back catalogue of the legend that is Stevie Wonder. It promises to be an extraordinary evening of music. Previous True North curated concerts have celebrated the likes of Neil Young, David Bowie and Kate Bush amongst others. They are a firm favourite with Aberdeen audiences.

Jo Gilbert | Lemon Tree | Sunday

A spoken word event specially commissioned by Aberdeen Performing Arts and headed up by award winning poet and three-time slam champion Jo Gilbert will explore the festival’s theme of Rise Up. Four local spoken word artists will produce new work based around this theme and showcase their work at the Lemon Tree on Sunday. The event promises to challenge and inspire in equal measure.

Fringe events

True North are holding a number of free acoustic events across the Granite City. We picked out some young Aberdeen acts you should definitely be keeping an eye out for over the weekend. Get yourself into the city centre and find your new favourite Aberdeen singer.

Rachel Jack | Spin | Friday

This Aberdeen based singer-songwriter has been turning heads in the Scottish music scene for the past 18 months. Her debut 2020 EP, The Calgary Tapes was followed up in March this year with Magazine Girls. You can check out our Temp Check interview with Rachel Jack here.

Aiysha Russell | Spin | Saturday

This young Aberdeen singer first hit the limelight at The Voice Kids in 2019, proving to be a big hit with judges. Following that, she last year performed Sam Cooke’s classic It’s Been a Long Time Coming live at an Aberdeen Black Lives Matter march which was a real moment for those in attendance.

Calum Bowie | Waterstones | Saturday

With a background in busking, Aberdeenshire singer Calum Bowie has become something of a TikTok sensation, growing a fan base that’s pushing him on to success. He’s capitalised on that hard work with a string of single releases and surely an album on the way.

Olivia Thom | Union Café | Sunday

Glasgow based Aberdeen quine Olivia Thom’s 2020 debut EP is lead off by her truly magnificent song Fine Wine. Her alt-folk sound mirrors her musical heroes Stevie Nicks and Joni Mitchell. We’re very much looking forward to future releases.

Razz Mattreezy | Siberia | Sunday

Born and raised in Aberdeen Matt Reid, AKA Razz Mattreezy, spent lockdown writing and recording. His debut single only came out in March 2021, but he’s already building a follow along the way. His smooth soulful vocals over smooth keyboards make for a cool chilled sound.

What the organisers say

Ben Torrie is Director of Programming and Creative Projects for Aberdeen Performing Arts. He told us, “We are thrilled to announce the lineup for True North 2021, which feels like a huge step in the return of live performance at our venues. It feels really good to be able to bring the festival to a live audience once again. It means a lot to us to be able to put this on for people in Aberdeen, and to shine a spotlight on so many talented performers and musicians is a privilege that has never been so important.

“The theme of this year’s festival is Rise Up. It’s a positive message about rising up to bring people together, marking the re-opening of our venues, and celebrating the power of music to help us stand up for the things we believe in. We could not be prouder of this festival at this time.”

What you need to know

Where: Music Hall, Lemon Tree and venues across Aberdeen
When: 23-26 September 2021
Cost: Various prices including free
More Info and tickets: Event Website
Social media: Twitter | Facebook

True North is back and rising up to mark the return of live music and standing up for what you believe in. They’ll celebrate freedom of expression, diversity, community and equality with an inspirational and vibrant line up of musicians over one unforgettable weekend.


About POST

Kevin Mitchell and Chris Sansbury founded POST from a desire to cut through the noise to share the great things that happen in Aberdeen. They focus on community, culture and the interesting people of the city. The local artists, businesses and charities; photographers, musicians and entertainers; the people at a local level that make a positive impact on our city each and every day.

The goal is to use video, audio, writing and social media to amplify the voices in our community, and to ultimately give a platform to Aberdeen folk to engage and tell their own stories.

Recent work includes interviews with Paralympic gold medalist, Neil FachieChef, an Aberdeen rapper who is pushing for success; an article by film director Mark Stirton abut the state of high-rise buildings in the city; coverage of WayWORD, Nuart Aberdeen and TEDx Aberdeen, as well as British Art Show 9. Visit postabdn.com to read a great selection of interviews and articles.