JEFFREY LEWIS AND THE JUNKYARD
Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, August 31 * * *

The last day of the Edge Festival brought a sold out crowd to the Cabaret Voltaire for Jeffrey Lewis and his intermittent backing band the Junkyard. Part of New York’s so-called ‘anti-folk” scene, the diminutive singer/songwriter showcased his quirky blend of lo-fi indie-folk during the course of an entertaining hour in the basement venue.
There was an endearingly shambolic air to his performance tonight. No doubt heightened by Lewis’ decision to forgo a soundcheck, it served to embellish rather than impede songs already skewed by a somewhat ragged edge.
As well as being a musician, Lewis is also an established cartoonist. On The Story Of The Mayflower and A Low Budget Detective Flick he married the two mediums, singing his quirky comedic lyrics while flipping through pages of illustrations. Both certainly provoked chuckles from the crowd but second time around it did feel slightly earnest. As did the gentler more folk-inflected tracks that interspersed tonight’s set.
However where Lewis did excel was on the more upbeat full band numbers. Garage rocker Slogans, Posters and Good Old Pig Gone To Avalon bustled with chaotic energy and urgency but overall it was the whimsical Mosquito Mass Murderer that truly stood out. Fusing rap and beatnik-isms it proved a delightfully quirky three minutes.

Advertisements

DINOSAUR PILE UP
Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh, August 26 * *

Edinburgh’s got numerous unusual spaces that have been, for better and for worse, converted into music venues. The latest to join the ranks is Sneaky Pete’s, a fairly nondescript bar save for the massive pillar rising from the middle of the floor. Tonight with numbers struggling to reach fifty the obstruction was easily negotiated, sadly however the issue of sound was harder to ignore.
Ironically the sound was at its best behind the pillar – not an ideal vantage point from which to view headliners Dinosaur Pile Up. To actually see the trio ply their noisy trade you had to endure acoustics best described as atrocious.
Walls of distortion and overwhelming bass rendered singer/guitarist Matt Bigland’s vocals all but meaningless on most tracks. A couple almost survived unscathed, both Rock ‘N’ Roll and All Around The World showcasing the band’s post Nirvana style favourably thanks to the immediacy of the melody and their use of the quiet/loud/quiet dynamic.
However despite their passion and a broken snare drum, masterfully replaced without losing a beat by drummer Steve Wilson, there was a certain predictability to some songs, Melanin and Love Is A Boat the two main culprits.
After a thirty minute set it’s hard to tell what the future holds for the three-piece, but one thing’s for sure, they’ll never sound worse than they did tonight at one very Sneaky Pete’s.

BIFFY CLYRO
Corn Exchange, Edinburgh, August 21 * * * *

You don’t necessarily have to be a Biffy Clyro fan to enjoy and appreciate a Biffy Clyro gig. Their heart-on-sleeve honesty, raw passion and ability to whip a crowd, no matter what the size, into a frenzied sweaty mass makes them arguably one of the best live bands currently plying its trade on the road.
While venues continue to get bigger with every album, the band’s sound and intensity has remained constant, stuck on eleven and showing no signs of dropping. They’re a trio who thrive live and tonight in front of a vociferous sell-out crowd they did just that.
Every angular jolt of frantic guitar seemed to send shockwaves through the fifty-deep throng at the front of the stage, sparking the kind of fervor most bands can only dream of. Feeding off the crowd’s energy singer Simon Neil was like a man possessed, wrestling his guitar with an all-consuming passion between bouts of screamed vocals.
They were at their most potent on the colossal Who’s Got A Match, new single That Golden Rule and crowd favourite Mountains, but judging by the discussions post gig, for many it was the emotionally-charged phones-in-the-air Machines which provided tonight’s enduring memory.

FAITH NO MORE
Corn Exchange, Edinburgh, August 25 * * * *

The return of Faith No More was undoubtedly the most eagerly-awaited gig of this year’s Edge Festival. Eleven years on since they split, the pioneers of alternative metal reunited back in February, much to the delight of their legions of loyal fans. Little wonder then that tonight’s show sold out in a matter of hours.
They may have arrived thirty minutes late but ultimately the delay only served to heighten the sense of anticipation. The theme from Midnight Cowboy made for an atmospheric if somewhat sombre opener but as you’d expect it was the calm before the inevitable storm.
A whirlwind of sound erupted on cue with From Out Of Nowhere and Be Aggressive, both bursting out of the blocks with the help of a charged-up Mike Patton, the singer’s immense presence and maniacal delivery instantly galvanizing the packed crowd.
For sheer exhilaration there was no beating the colossal Midlife Crisis, complete with Eastenders theme, and the epic Epic. Played back to back they proved a potent reminder of just how explosive Faith No More’s music can be.
Overall the five-piece was simply unstoppable. Even the poor sound synonymous with the Corn Exchange couldn’t take the edge off what was a sublimely brutal barrage from San Francisco’s finest.

ANDREW BIRD
HMV Picture House, Edinburgh, August 23 * * * * *

In the wrong singer/songwriter’s hands, or rather feet, loop pedals can make shows feel gimmicky, regardless of the music’s sentiment. Unfortunately, for every innovator like say Laura Veirs, there’s a David Ford or KT Tunstall for whom the act of using said gadget often appears more important than the actual music.
For Chicago-born Andrew Bird, the loop pedal is a tool to bring his music to life on stage – it’s functional rather than a theatrical aid. He could use a backing band but it probably wouldn’t generate the same intimate, personal vibe that ensured a dedicated silence was observed for the duration of tonight’s immaculate 14-song set.
It’s little wonder such a reverent hush fell over the audience as at times his music and delivery left us speechless, reaching for superlatives during sustained bursts of applause after each and every song.
Nervous Tic Motion of the Head to the left and Fitz and the Dizzyspells with their layers of plucked, strummed and bowed violin, whistled samples and rounded off by Bird’s smooth versatile vocals dazzled early on while Natural Disaster, Effigy and crowd favourite Scythian Empires further enhanced an already sublime evening’s entertainment.

THE STRANGLERS
HMV Picture House, Edinburgh, August 7 * * *

After an eighteen year absence, punk survivors The Stranglers made a welcome return to the capital tonight for what, if rumours are to be believed, might be the last time. Charged with kicking off the second year of the Edge Festival, the quartet certainly didn’t disappoint the loyal legions of fans who packed out the Picture House.
A rousing rendition of Waltzin’ Black from accordionist Jock the Box ensured the stage was set and the atmosphere charged for the arrival of a band set to celebrate its 35th birthday come the autumn.
The four-piece didn’t waste any time getting down to the business at hand. In fact it’s fair to say no time was wasted at any stage during the band’s glitch-free 25-song set. However their machine-like efficiency involving little in the way of crowd-interaction ultimately worked against them as although momentum was never lost it was a performance that often felt routine.
A mixed bag of tracks and playing crowd pleasers like Peaches, Always The Sun and Golden Brown early on meant proceedings seemed to drag in the latter stages. That said however, it didn’t matter to the hordes of punters determined to revel in every last moment of a display best described as one for the life-long fans.

GLINT
Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, July 24 * * *

The signs weren’t promising tonight and that was before Glint even ventured out of their dressing room. A lack of interest in tonight’s show meant the New Yorkers’ first performance in Scotland became a free gig, but even instigating an open door policy failed to attract much of a crowd. Those that did venture into the basement venue witnessed a well-honed display but one which overall failed to leave any lasting impression.
A tendency to stretch songs to breaking point with repetitive protracted endings meant the urgency of tracks like Kernel Panic and Hold Still was diluted by the four-piece’s epic intentions.
It wasn’t just the band’s synth-infused indie-rock music which seemed over-egged at times. Frontman Jase Blankfort’s roots in theatre were all too evident throughout. His pleading hand gestures and tortured soul histrionics were such that, during Friends and Man Vs Man you half expected him to produce a skull and launch into a soliloquy. However it was the unremarkable nature of much of the set that ensured polite rather than enthusiastic applause trickled from the crowd.

ROGER MCGUINN
Queens Hall, Edinburgh, June 20 * * * * *

Tonight wasn’t just a gig. It was much more than that. For an hour-and-a-half Roger McGuinn, founding member of seminal 60s folk-rock group The Byrds, took the crowd on a musical journey through his life, regaling us along the way with stories and highlights from a career that blossomed during one of music’s most exciting times.
With seats taken and lights dimmed, and before he’d even stepped on stage, the unmistakable sound of McGuinn’s twelve string Rickenbacker guitar rang out, the warm summery twang of My Back Pages filling the old church and sparking the first of countless and enthusiastic rounds of applause.
Clad head to toe in black, it was with a smile and a glint in his eye that McGuinn informed the patchy crowd that he was going to take us through his “back pages”. From the first riff he learnt as a fourteen-year old through his “Beatle beat” explorations with The Byrds and concluding with a song he wrote with his wife, McGuinn was never less than captivating.
Not surprisingly it was Byrds’ songs like Mr. Tambourine Man, 8 Miles High and Turn Turn Turn which drew the most applause, the latter prompting the first of two justly deserved standing ovations.

THE VIRGINS
Cabaret Voltaire, Edinburgh, April 17 * * * *

New Yorkers The Virgins have the kind of back-story that PRs and certain music journalists love. Fronted by creative driving force and founding member Donald Cumming, a one-time male model who at the age of 16 was already well established on Manhattan’s cooler than cool club scene, the band was barely a band when Atlantic Records came knocking. Soon after, and with the US press on the lookout for a neat media-friendly label, The Virgins found themselves daubed the ‘new Strokes’.
Whether such an accolade will help or hinder the band remains to be seen, tonight they certainly didn’t have any problems making their first Scottish headlining appearance a success with what was an easy-on-the-ear set of funk-infused garage rock.
Undoubtedly there were shades of The Strokes on Radio Christiane but beyond that other influences took over – The Stones on the rockier One Week Of Danger and Blondie on Hey Hey Girls being the most notable.
Carrying the band through the less engaging tracks was Cumming’s natural delivery and the understated cool of his presence. Effortless yet passionate his distinctive vocal and seemingly heartfelt utterances bore out his contention that “we’re all friends here”, even if it was for only 45 minutes.

THE SPINTO BAND
Cabaret Voltaire, Glasgow, February 22 * * *

Returning to Scotland to make their first appearance in the capital, The Spinto Band took to the stage with minimal fuss and quickly got down to the business at hand, winning over a busy crowd with their blend of quirky pop-rock.
Delaware’s finest may not have drawn as big or as focused an audience as support act We Were Promised Jetpacks but that didn’t stop them from delivering what was an entertaining set of tracks lifted from their last two albums, and one particularly attention-grabbing cover.
In full flight the six-piece looked like a bunch of Napoleon Dynamite extras putting themselves through some kind of robotic-inspired aerobics class, jerking and twisting their bodies in time to the music.
It proved a joyous sight on the tracks lifted from 2006’s Nice and Nicely Done album, the fresh-faced Spintos giving their all on opener Direct To Helmet, Mountains and the irresistible Oh Mandy but save for Summer Grof much of the material taken from recent LP Moonwink came and went without leaving much of a mark on the somewhat reserved crowd.
They provoked the biggest response of the night thanks to their inspired reworking of I Think We’re Alone Now, delivered with charm and energy the band easily made it their own in typically idiosyncratic fashion.