With minimal fuss and little in the way of fanfare, New York lo-fi punk trio Vivian Girls may have come across as unassuming as they did a quick line check before launching into opener Never See Me Again, but when it came to their music there was no holding back.

Although their output was often repetitive and vocal levels inconsistent and regularly obliterated by distortion, the trio’s energy and the immediacy of melodies on tracks like I Won’t Belong and Wild Eyes saw them through.

However it was the epic The Other Girls which stole the show with its dark twists and turns and extended psyche-tinged instrumental provoking the biggest response from a packed crowd.

Vivian Girls’ ‘I Heard You Say’

THE NIGHT MARCHERS
Captains Rest, Glasgow, November 17 * * * *

Two acts, one set and no change-over made tonight’s performance by Alabama rockabilly roller Dan Sartain and San Diego four-piece The Night Marchers an entirely seamless and ultimately unique experience.
Solo for a handful of songs, members of The Night Marchers joined Sartain one by one until climactic garage rocker P.C.B ’98 signaled the hand-over. From then on it was all about one man, former Rocket from the Crypt singer/guitarist John Reis.
Looking and sounding like a harder-living, harder-rocking Bruce Springsteen, Reis proved a charismatic force throughout. His enthusiasm and showmanship quickly galvanized the crowd and even made you forgive the odd moment when it all went a bit Status Quo.
Belting out songs with near blood-vessel-bursting passion he was particularly potent on Bad Bloods and Closed For Inventory, both of which zipped along at frenetic pace with the addition of Sartain’s more unhinged guitar.
There may have been a fair amount of repetition to the music but with hooks and honest rock n’ roll spirit in abundance, overall it was winning display.

FIONN REGAN
Captains Rest, Glasgow, November 9 * * * *

Parting company with his previous record label on artistic grounds allowed Irishman Fionn Regan the freedom to record the second album he wanted. Left to his own devices and armed with a wealth of material accrued from his two-year stint on the road, the end result was quickly snapped up by Heavenly Recordings.
Whether it can match the critical success of Mercury-nominated debut The End Of History will become clearer early next year when Shadow Of An Empire hits the shelves. On tonight’s showing there’s every chance he’ll repeat the trick.
Often when a set is predominantly made up of new material you can sense the audience’s eagerness for more familiar strains, but tonight the sold-out crowd didn’t seem at all fazed. Little wonder given the immediacy of songs like Protection Racket and Genocide Matinee.
The bar was set high from the start with openers House Detective and Coat Hook both showing Regan’s more robust leanings while Little Nancy flowed hypnotically thanks to his well-honed band’s ethereal playing.
Of course there was still space on the set list for crowd pleasers like Underwood Typewriter and Put A Penny In The Slot, both of which drew the expected response from a crowd only too happy to lend their vocal ‘talents’ to proceedings.

BOWERBIRDS
Glasgow, Captains Rest, October 31 * * * *

The last time Bowerbirds played Glasgow it was to promote debut album Hymns for a Dark Horse. That night the duo put on a captivating display at The Admiral in front of the smallest of crowds. Tonight they repeated the trick but sadly it was another sparse turnout for the North Carolina group.
They may have been dressed up, in singer/guitarist Phil Moore’s words, as “average Americans” for this their Halloween show, but there certainly wasn’t anything average about the band’s music or performance.
The charismatic Moore was undoubtedly the star of the show thanks to vocals that made you hang on his every lyric. Emotive, honest and on Hooves in particular, spellbinding, it was hard not to be drawn into Bowerbirds’ lyrically evocative world.
Fittingly, of the songs taken from recent second album Upper Air, it was Northern Lights that shone brightest although Crooked Lust came a close second.
Not missing a trick, halfway through Moore enlisted the audience’s help on a modified or rather spookified rendition of Ghost Life. It may have strayed into pantomime territory initially but such was the band’s enthusiasm for our participation it proved another endearing and memorable moment.

EMMA POLLOCK
Captains Rest, Glasgow, June 24 * * * *

A combination of the heat and, for most of us, an inability to actually see the stage made Emma Pollock’s long overdue return to Glasgow tonight something of an endurance test. It obviously put some punters off as, with the set reaching the halfway point, the crowd had notably thinned but at least it meant vantage points to actually see the former Delgado, and her three-piece band, became available.
Although not due for release until January, tonight afforded the diminutive singer/songwriter the chance to preview new tracks from her sophomoric album, and by-and-large her more dynamic approach seemed to work.
New tracks like I Could Be A Saint, Red Orange Green and Hug The Harbour, played alongside established favourites from her Watch The Fireworks debut, highlighted a more robust side to Pollock’s new material.
They may have lacked the immediacy of the excellent If Silence Means That Much To You, Adrenaline and crowd favourite Fortune but on the back of tonight’s performance it’s easy to imagine critics waxing lyrical come the new year.

FRENCH WIVES
Captains Rest, Glasgow, June 18 * * * *

It’s still early days but French Wives are definitely a new Glasgow band worth keeping an eye on. Sure there’s still work to be done – constructing a set list for starters – but there was more than enough potential on display tonight to suggest a bright future for the Glaswegians.
Buoyed up by a good turn-out, the five-piece got proceedings off to great start with Small Time Crooks, its simple trombone hook and frenetic bursts of violin and guitar making for an urgently melodic three minutes.
If their opener recalled shades of Okkervil River then on Capilano it was the influence of Arcade Fire that shone through. Thankfully however they managed to avoid the pitfalls that all too often catch out those who draw inspiration from the Canadians.
Throughout, frontman Stuart Dougan was a commanding presence. Towering over the crowd he was at the peak of his powers on Romeo & Genevieve, his natural delivery reminiscent of a young Evan Dando.
On the down side, the absence of any patter policing and a tendency to muck about with tuning between songs meant momentum was seldom maintained, while ending with an acoustic rendition of Sleepy Head from the midst of the crowd made for an underwhelming and slightly odd finale. But overall it was a promising performance from a band actually worthy of the much over-used phrase “ones-to-watch”.

MITCHELL MUSEUM
Captains Rest, Glasgow, May 14 * * *

Slowly making a name for themselves thanks to nationwide interest in their debut single Warning Bells, Glasgow’s Mitchell Museum may still be, to all intents and purposes, without a label but it looks like the quartet won’t remain unsigned for too long. Positive press and a fair amount of airplay should make a deal forthcoming and on tonight’s display they certainly deserve a crack at the big time.
The re-release of Warning Bells was the pretext for this the first night of their debut UK tour, but even though they gave a good account of themselves you couldn’t help but think how much better it could have been if not for poor sound.
The mix throughout was patchy to say the least but it still couldn’t lessen the immediacy or infectious spirit of opener We Won Second Prize, the song epitomising the band’s energetic brand of indie-pop.
No. 5 and Tiger Heartbeat did much to ensure the four-piece’s enthusiasm spread through the crowd, the latter in particular proving a firm favourite while the inappropriately-named Room For Improvement, with its Grandaddy vibe, again showed the band’s knack for weaving a melody.
Above all it was an honest performance and one which on another day could have sounded a whole lot better but still there was much to enjoy tonight.

DIE! DIE! DIE!
Captains Rest, Glasgow, May 13 * * * *

“We’ve had a couple of bad days” declared singer/guitarist Andrew Wilson after a particularly manic rendition of Britomart Sunset. No doubt funnelling the frustrations that arise when the police wrongly impound your equipment, and leave you stranded a £100 taxi ride from your next gig, Die! Die Die! – thankfully reunited with their gear – were on fine form from start to finish tonight.
For once, the limitations of the Captains Rest actually played a positive part in proceedings. The lack of a stage, and for that matter a crowd, allowed Wilson and bassist Lachlan Oliver the chance to get up close and personal with the twenty or so curious onlookers.
It never felt staged as they roamed the floor and with Wilson the intensity of his delivery never waned – the frontman yelling his lyrics and frantically shredding away at his guitar as if his life depended on it.
The New Zealand trio rattled through their set at a blistering pace, hardly pausing for breath let alone applause. On Blue Skies they were at the peak of their noise-pop powers, perfectly marrying a more melodic feel while still retaining a visceral edge. By the end and like all good performances it was one which left you wanting more.

THE BALKY MULE
Captains Rest, Glasgow, May 10 * * * *

Returning to the UK three years on since he upped sticks and headed down under, Sam Jones – better known as The Balky Mule – has been making and recording music for close to a decade now. In that time the former Bristol resident had amassed a wealth of material, the best of which found its way on his debut album proper The Length Of The Rail.
Released on FatCat Records, it’s an album full of lo-fi charm, strange instrumentation and subtle melodies but how the songs would translate live was the question.
As it turned out Jones and his two-piece band, although not always on the same page, put in an endearingly shambolic display which overall served his music well. It’s a shame then that it was such a meagre crowd that turned up to the Captains Rest.
After a couple of quirky and at times impenetrable opening tracks Jones showed his more melodic side with Jisaboke, a joyfully meandering song crammed with quirky twists and turns and a typically fragile vocal.
Unconventional throughout, at times it was the honesty of his delivery rather than the music that stood out – jazz-infused instrumental Ant Learning one such example. Overall however it was penultimate number Wireless that provoked the biggest response thanks to its more immediate melody and less idiosyncratic style.

BADDIES
Captains Rest, Glasgow, April 3 * * *

They may have only released one single but already Southend outfit Baddies is being tipped for great things. Of course given that the main source of adulation is the NME, you’d be forgiven for approaching tonight with a certain degree of scepticism.
Despite the growing hype it was a poor turn-out for the band’s Captains Rest appearance. To make matters worse the crowd noticeably thinned over the course of their 45-minute set – by the end only twenty punters remained and they seemed far from convinced.
A mix best described as unsatisfying didn’t help matters but neither did the breakneck speed at which much of their material was delivered. Song after song came and went in a blur of frenetic guitar, pounding drums and overpowering bass. As a result Michael Webster’s aggressive vocals were rendered ineffectual.
Still it was a lively display and one which on another night could have provided an altogether different experience.
For support band Jack Butler, the only real sound problems came courtesy of a very vocal idiot element determined to shout randomly whenever the opportunity presented itself. The Stirling quartet’s use of accentuated rhythms and angular guitar parts worked best on Are You A Hustler but without any stand-out track they may well toil to capture the music-buying public’s imagination.