STAG & DAGGER
Various venues, Glasgow, May 22 * * * *

With fifty acts playing across the city it’s reassuring that Scottish bands provided much of what was good about this year’s Stag & Dagger festival.
Glasgow’s Olympic Swimmers kicked off 12 hours of music with another compelling set of folk-infused indie-rock – the crowd’s reaction no doubt adding weight to their ‘ones-to-watch’ status.
Hot on their heels, Sparrow and the Workshop didn’t disappoint – no big surprise given the strength and depth of Jill O’Sullivan’s vocals and songs like I Will Break You and Into The Wild.
However with the exception of The Unwinding Hours, who once again delivered an emotionally-charged set where Knut, Peaceful Liquid Shell and The Final Hour made themselves felt, much of the evening’s line-up failed to live up to expectations.
For Erland and the Carnival an absence of presence made their performance a rather dull affair while The Antlers’ succumbed to sound issues which annoyingly rendered the sublime Sylvia ineffectual, it’s euphoric vocals lost under torrents of synth-generated bass.
They may not have caused a stampede at the merch after their rapid-fire set but for sheer energy and exuberance Jaguar Love were untouchable.
Led by strutting singer Johnny Whitney, who throughout danced about like a camp Iggy Pop, the trio’s pop-metal undoubtedly split the crowd but there’s no denying it was an entertaining watch.
Elsewhere Wild Beasts put in an earnest and largely uninspired set that overall fell flat due to the repetitive nature of tracks like Fun Powder Plot, Still Got The Taste and Devil’s Crayon.
Topping the bill, We Were Promised Jetpacks’ relentless guitar attack, although never short of passion, failed to elevate what was a predictable set – the inclusion of new track Hard To Remember did little to suggest they have the ability to emulate the success currently being enjoyed by pace-setting label-mates The Twilight Sad and Frightened Rabbit.
All in all it was a day of two distinct halves and one where making the effort to catch the lesser-known bands on the bill paid off.

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THE BRIAN JONESTOWN MASSACRE
ABC1, Glasgow, May 18 * * * * *

Anton Newcombe’s band the Brian Jonestown Massacre may have released a new record this year but tonight there was no room for material from Who Killed Sgt. Pepper. Instead it was the music which so succinctly sound-tracked acclaimed warts-and-all documentary Dig! that made up a trance-inducing psychedelic rock n’ roll set which, bar the odd moment of histrionics from the temperamental frontman, only served to confirm the prolific Newcombe’s undoubted song-writing talents.
Being the leader of a band that at times tonight possessed no fewer than five guitarists, and in total numbered eight requires ‘people skills’, sadly for what has always been an interchangeable line-up Newcombe is unfamiliar with the phrase, as demonstrated tonight when the a faulty snare drum caused the petulant singer to lead his band off-stage.
Still with songs like Servo, When Jokers Attack, Anenome and truly hypnotic show closer Swallowtail at your disposal, it’s easy to forgive the ego behind the music – especially after a show like this.

BIG PINK
G2, Glasgow, May 9 * *

The signs were ominous for tonight’s performance by Big Pink before the band had even arrived on stage. Poor ticket sales meant instead of the Garage it was G2 that played host to the Londoners. But even in the smaller venue it was still a patchy crowd who bore witness to a set where the lighting often proved more entertaining than the music.
Trooping on stage through a purple wall of smoke, the strains of Cypress Hill’s I Wanna Get High blasting out the PA, the duo, joined by a drummer and bassist, launched into Too Young To Love. Waves of distortion, relentless bass and brooding, ethereal synth combined to hypnotic effect, well initially at least
The spell was soon broken however as the song, like much of what was to come, degenerated into a rather repetitive dirge. They did deviate occasionally, but poppier numbers like Tonight and set closer Dominos felt disposable and in the case of the latter, annoyingly catchy. The shouts for an encore that never came were half-hearted and short-lived, undoubtedly a telling reflection on what was overall a disappointing experience.

IDLEWILD
ABC1, Glasgow, April 30 * * * * *

When Idlewild singer Roddy Woomble wrote on the band’s Facebook page “after this year it’s an appropriate time to take a break, a ‘hiatus’” it wasn’t a big surprise when the N.M.E, no doubt eager to fill their online news quota, jumped at the chance to announce the band’s imminent demise.
Thankfully the five-piece have no intentions of calling it a day, and why would they after such a positive response to last year’s Post Electric Blues? Instead they will embark on its follow-up after a bit of a “rest”.
Roared on by the sold-out crowd, tonight is was business as usual as the band powered through a rapid-fire and at times incendiary set, throwing themselves into songs like Readers and Writers, Idea Track and A Modern Way Of Letting Go with real conviction and passion.
However for intensity and sheer potency Post Electric, and more specifically its bombastic instrumental climax, was unrivalled, the crowd joining Woomble in looking on with pride at one of Scotland’s most important bands.

Ash @ ABC1 27-04-10

May 6, 2010

ASH
ABC1, Glasgow, April 27 * *

The talk in the run up to Ash’s latest tour was of the trio’s newest ‘member’, Bloc Party guitarist Russell Lissack. However his contributions tonight – rhythm guitar, a few synth-generated electro undertones, most notably on Neon, and an ability to stand still looking vapid – added little dimensional to the music while his presence failed to invigorate proceedings with some much-needed energy.
With the odd exception, the excitement on hearing songs like Goldfinger, Shining Light, Oh Yeah and Girl From Mars never really spread beyond the pocket of pogo-ing diehards front and centre.
With frontman Tim Wheeler restricting his chat to the odd platitude, the music was left to do the talking but what it said was largely forgettable.
Coming thick and fast, and with the band’s tired and tested punk-infused indie pop formula all too blatant, even the hits lost their sheen, their potency diminished and diluted by a swathe of filler.
After 24 songs over two gruelling hours what had been a largely soulless display devoid of abiding memories was over. At least on their next visit to Scotland and TITP they’ll only have half-an-hour.

THE JOY FORMIDABLE
King Tut’s, Glasgow, April 3 * * *

On previous visits to Glasgow when The Joy Formidable supported the likes of The Young Knives and White Lies it was hard not to be impressed by the explosive energy of their performance. For 30 minutes the trio, and in particular singer/guitarist Ritzy, were unstoppable.
Tonight’s hour-long headlining set on the other hand showed them in an altogether more realistic light. Full of passion yes, but with melodies and anything even vaguely resembling a hook noticeably absent at times, the music quickly became secondary to the delivery.
Playing songs from their recently recorded full debut album, the three-piece got off to a good start – The Greatest Light Is The Greatest Shade, Cradle and The Last Drop proving early highlights. But as the set wore on the lack of hooks began to tell.
Despite Ritzy’s best efforts, her love of distortion and an intensity and style of playing not dissimilar to Kurt Cobain, the longer the set went on the more they diluted and diminished their potency. By the end it was a whimper rather than a bang that heralded the end of a set that was as entertaining as it was disappointing.

THE TWILIGHT SAD
ABC1, Glasgow, April 2 * * * * *

If ever a band deserved wider recognition it’s The Twilight Sad. One of the hardest-working bands currently doing the rounds, tonight they played their biggest headlining show to date to a packed ABC.
Adding to the sense of occasion was the use of quadrophonic sound. Something of an audacious and costly move by the trio, rounded out to a five-piece live, it proved an inspired decision and contributed to making this a contender for gig of the year.
With sound being manipulated between the standard PA and two towering speaker stacks at the rear of the room, songs like Walking For Two Hours, That Summer At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy and I Became A Prostitute engulfed the crowd in a hypnotic cocoon of sound.
It was most effective on I’m Taking The Train Home, Andy MacFarlane’s torrents of distortion flooding the room while set closer Cold Days From The Birdhouse rounded off a display that had fans searching for superlatives capable of summing up what was a unique and mesmerising experience.