Oran Mor, Glasgow, January 26 * * * *

Norwegian outfit Casiokids has slowly been picking up press backing thanks to a colourful, distinctly Scandinavian musical past and a reputation for quirky live shows. They may have dispensed with the puppet show that often accompanies their stage endeavours, but it was still an entertaining performance tonight from Bergen’s latest electro-pop pioneers.
It didn’t take the five-piece long to stamp their own distinctive style on proceedings. Full of energy and armed with songs capable of getting a crowd moving, the quintet showed enough potential during the course of a six-song set to suggest that they warrant the attention.
Songs like Togens Hule and, by far their best offering, Grønt Lys I Alle Ledd ensured a steady flow of punters left the bar to check out a support band surely destined to fill venues in their own right next time they hit our shores.
Certainly with their child-like enthusiasm and idiosyncratic style – tonight epitomised by beaming multi-instrumentalist Einar Olssen – the band’s rhythmic, percussive and infinitely danceable fare will doubtless be embraced by those indie kids left out in the cold by the demise of nu-rave.

King Tut’s, Glasgow, January 21 * * * *

Tonight marked San Diego quintet Delta Spirit’s first visit to Scotland, but judging by the very vocal response garnered from the meagre crowd it won’t be long before they return to play in front of a considerably larger audience.
Their cause is sure to be helped come March when the band release debut album Ode To Sunshine, an LP which received glowing reviews when it hit the shelves in the US last year.
Tonight they found themselves sandwiched between two local bands to ensure punter numbers didn’t dwindle, but the promoters needn’t have worried as the crowd only grew in size as the five-piece worked their way through an impressive collection of soul-infused indie-rock numbers.
Bleeding Bells proved the perfect opener. Sprawling, drenched in distorted guitar and with its chorus possessing a distinctly uplifting vibe it guaranteed Delta Spirit had the crowd’s full attention from the start.
After less successful new song Bushwick Blues came and went in a semi-dirge, the five got back on track with Parade, singer Matthew Vasquez’s gravely, soulful vocal stealing the show.
With his voice failing due to his exertions in Leeds the previous night, Vasquez and his associates rattled through final number Crippler King and in the process rounded off a thoroughly entertaining performance in some style.

King Tut’s, Glasgow, January 20 * * * *

Having a singer/violinist for a frontman is not always a winning combination, especially when it comes to indie-rock – anyone for Story One, no didn’t think so. Tonight however Cardiff three-piece Threatmantics showed it’s a variation that can work.
Second on a four-band bill, the trio’s ramshackle display was a hit with a sparse crowd who barely managed to number thirty. The inevitable lack of atmosphere may have made singer/violinist Heddwyn Davies’ between-song chat slightly awkward but it didn’t really matter as the three put in an honest and heart-felt performance.
Although initially blighted by technical problems, opener Wazoooo certainly got the crowd’s attention with its distorted bursts of violin and Blues Brothers-esque riff. Big Man followed, the song’s menacing feel and bouts of manic violin ensuring momentum wasn’t lost.
Part of the reason Davies’ violin worked so well was his ability, with the help of various pedals, to make his fiddle sound almost unrecognisable. On High Waister it became a mutated harmonica while during Dumpamundo it took on a distinctly synth-like feel.
Sound issues did make his vocal indecipherable throughout but ultimately it suited an introverted delivery, especially when it came to set highlight James Le Main.

ABC1, Glasgow, January 16 * * * *

Last night’s torchlight parade from George Square to the steps of the Concert Hall marked the start of the sixteenth Celtic Connections. Tonight however the eighteen-day event really kicked off with Glasgow playing host to numerous gigs across the city. Undoubtedly the pick of the bunch was the appearance by Drever McCusker Woomble.
The trio, accompanied in part by Heidi Talbot, guitarist Boo Hewerdine and Ewen Vernal on double bass, played a crowd-pleasing selection of songs from both their individual repertoires and last year’s collaborative effort Before The Ruin.
After gentle opener Silver and Gold, the packed ABC1 crowd were introduced to Irish singer Talbot. It didn’t take long for the striking singer to make her presence felt, her distinctive vocal providing the perfect foil to Roddy Woomble’s restrained delivery and giving new single Into The Blue real depth.
The highlight of their eleven-song set came courtesy of All Along The Way, John McCusker’s wistful violin coupled with Woomble’s more emotive vocals helping elevate the song.
A couple of fairly non-descript folk numbers could have derailed proceedings somewhat but ultimately they did little to dampen the spirits of what was a hugely receptive and appreciative crowd.

Stereo, Glasgow, January 17 * * * *

Bands preaching the virtues of Glasgow crowds is nothing new. Often these platitudes feel rehearsed and unnatural, but even the most ardent cynic would have found it difficult to stifle a smile every time Strokes drummer Fabrizio Moretti told his Little Joy band mates and the crowd at large, how amazing it was to be here. As it turned out the feeling was very much mutual.
Thanks to the camaraderie of their performance, the strength of their songwriting and the infectious enthusiasm of singer/guitarist Rodrigo Amarante, it really was a night to remember at Stereo.
Full of energy and with a very natural presence guitarist Moretti, Amarante and third member multi-instrumentalist Binki Shapiro clearly enjoyed themselves throughout but especially on the stripped-down, jazz-infused Unattainable, the song ending in a fit of giggles. As the set progressed the three, complete with backing from excellent tour support The Dead Trees, got more and more relaxed, as a result the music flowed with an effortless cool.
Before a rousing and hugely entertaining encore of Paul McCartney’s Eat At Home the band, numbering eight by the end, had trooped off stage to the kind of adulatory response usually saved for hometown heroes – little wonder given the huge joy experienced by players and watchers alike for “final” number Brand New Start.

King Tut’s, Glasgow, January 14 * * *

It seems odd that someone would pay £8 to go to a gig, then spend the entire time chatting at the bar. Fair enough if Metallica are playing in the background it’s fine to talk loudly but when the band’s a folk-pop duo capable of spellbinding audiences with their otherworldly lullabies, well there’s just no excuse.
Tonight it was hard not to feel sympathy for Damon & Naomi whose performance fell on certain oblivious ears. As a result what could have been something a bit special ultimately failed to live up to the expectations of those patently irked punters who for an hour or so shot dirty looks in the general direction of the bar.
There were moments when the noise subsided, moments you could fully appreciate the native New Yorkers’ performance, and their at times beautifully crafted songs. Ueno Station, described by mild-mannered singer/guitarist Damon Krukowski as “a whisky-drinking song” was the first to hit the mark while New York City proved a compelling five minutes.
That said the combination of one clueless female’s yapping during the penultimate number and a final offering which erred on the A Mighty Wind side of folk, meant it was to be a less than captivating end to a set destined to be remembered mainly for the wrong reasons.

ABC2, Glasgow, January 9 * *

Reviews of their debut release may have been positive but tonight live at the ABC2 it proved hard to muster any real enthusiasm for a band whose music felt one-dimensional and devoid of ideas. Their efforts weren’t helped by a real lack of stage presence as the trio earnestly worked their way through an inoffensive eleven-song set.
Taken from their new double A-side single, the three-piece kicked proceedings off with Bowl Of Cherries and while it proved a promising opener ultimately it was to be one of few highlights in a performance that failed to catch the crowd’s imagination in any meaningful way.
The linear nature of many of the songs aired coupled with the kind of introverted by-the-numbers delivery you’d expect from a school band made caring about Cuddly Shark for thirty or so minutes difficult.
Without a spark of passion and no discernible band dynamic it was a wholly unremarkable display from the three-piece. Songs like A Nod To Weezer, Hails Of Bay and Woody Woodpecker sounded dated and largely lifeless and although The Sheriff Of Aspen Terrace had its moments it too failed to ignite and salvage what was at best an average set.

Sabai @ The Ark 04-01-09

January 20, 2009

The Ark, Edinburgh, January 4 * * *

January is never the busiest time for gigs. While the music business shakes off its festive hangover, local bands are left to fill the void left by their touring contemporaries. It’s a good chance for those groups on the fringes to make their presence felt – tonight that opportunity fell to Edinburgh-based quartet Sabai.
Being bottom of a four-band bill on a cold wet Sunday night inevitably meant it was a small crowd that watched on as the four-piece took their positions on The Ark stage.
As it turned out the band showed most promise early on with second track Black Dog, the song’s sudden but effective change, strong melody and less convoluted feel helping Sabai produce their best moment.
By comparison what followed, although delivered with honesty, energy and not without the odd moment of charm, did little to further their cause. Without a real band dynamic or presence and with melodies lacking any discernible hooks, more often than not their folked-up pop got bogged down in repetition.
Throughout their set audience numbers did continue to rise but tellingly interest levels in the band didn’t follow suit, the majority of punters more concerned with chatting than listening to the band.

King Tut’s, Glasgow, December 27 * * * *

2008 hasn’t been the easiest year for Greenock’s My Latest Novel. Work on second album – Deaths and Entrances – has been a protracted affair but with financial issues resolved their sophomoric offering should get its release within the next few months.
After an extended studio hiatus, the five-piece returned to live performance tonight with new material to showcase. Happily it was to be a triumphant return and one which suggests My Latest Novel is heading for a memorable 2009.
After a faltering start the quintet found its stride on A Dear Green Place, singer Chris Deveney’s folky vocal perfectly straddling the line between anguish and anger. Lacklustre proved anything but, while emotively-charged I Declare A Ceasefire with all its twists provided an uplifting four minutes.
Overall however it was Hopelessly Endlessly that afforded MLN with their brightest moment. Its brooding and darkly-atmospheric feel transfixing the vast majority of punters. But sadly not all, as the one detracting factor throughout tonight was the small but exceedingly vocal section of the crowd intent on chatting and heckling the band. It came to a head during the encore with one oblivious punter’s shouts prompting an early end to an at times captivating display.

Captains Rest, Glasgow, November 14 * * * *

In the past the intimate confines of the Captains Rest’s basement have made gig-going a distinctly unsatisfying experience. A full house usually means the majority of punters can’t see while sound often deteriorates when the volume gets cranked up to eleven.
Tonight however the tiny room was the perfect location to witness and enjoy a glowing performance from Glasgow indie-folkster Jenny Reeve’s band Strike The Colours.
During the course of their all too brief six-song set multi-instrumentalist Reeve and her interchangeable band put in a thoroughly assured and at times captivating display.
One constant throughout was Reeve’s natural, heart-felt delivery – the gentle anguish in her voice thoroughly convincing particularly on songs like Cat and Train Of Thought. The latter undoubtedly provided the night’s best moment, the song’s simple yet effective riff and meandering nature proving an irresistible combination.
With its more folksy vibe and lullaby quality, River – aptly named given the song’s gentle flow – provoked another rousing reaction from the small but hugely appreciative crowd and ensured Strike The Colours left the stage on a high.