Last year’s Wickerman Festival had a preponderance of young bands deeply in the thrall of Win Butler and chums. If the trend round the clubs and smaller venues if anything to go by, this year it’ll be all jaggy riffs and ATD-i’s back catalogue. To be honest we didn’t really expect it from the first band on offer. Yes, Call Me Ishmael (Solus Tent) are all skinny jeans and wrestling with guitars as if they’re possessed snakes. And, they’re pretty good at it. We wouldn’t fault their delivery. They certainly got the coterie that made the effort bounce around. But, ultimately, it’s empty and just seems like a big game of dress-up. Why wouldn’t you just form a tribute act? Or maybe it’s too early and I should’ve gone back to bed.
Polarsets, however, are in a strange place; they’re very evidently influenced by the clutch of vaguely 80s bands (Killers and their ilk) so big a few years ago. So, too late for jumping the bandwagon and too early for a revival (or do these things come round sooner now?). Hopefully the latter, cause god knows they need the time to work on material.
To my ears, we take a step back to last years bands with Galleries. Only there’s not a stupid beard or fiddle in site. Instead they take all the massive epic bits of Arcade Fire and instead of emulating them do something new with them (pay attention at the back). Delivering this stuff as a straighter rock band gives it a completely different edge. They step on the toes of James and Muse with the size of the noise they make – but in a good way. No, that is possible. A band you want to see on a much bigger stage with a massive. They’re reaching for the sky and we celebrate their ambition. Plus they have a song about The Wombles.
Panda Su’s recorded output has always suffered from a strange schizophrenia. One of ‘those’ vocal deliveries, you know very singer-songwriter. But, rather subtle instrumentation always made the stuff never less than worth-a-listen. In the live arena, the dichotomy is just magnified. A girl with a guitar and a bunch of avant knob-twisters and never the twain… It just doesn’t gel at all. There’s much to commend each of these parts, but when the whole is less than the sum of the parts you’re doing something wrong.
And, nearly completely opposite is Edinburgh’s Black International. An underwhelming recorded output gives lie to what turns out to be a serious kick-ass old school power-pop trio. There might be great songs in there, but it doesn’t matter we’re carried along by the sheer drive of their energy. Fine stuff. Now, let’s see if you can get that recorded.
The bars of Duncan of Jordanstone will be empty tonight. Here come Dundee’s The Lost Torodovs an eastern European folk tinged troupe mixed with surreal burlesque. If you can’t imagine that I can’t get any more accurate. We are treated to some rather lovely laments and just as it’s threatening to be a bit one-dimensional (musically) it blummin’ well kicks off. If I could do that kicky dance thing, I would’ve been, instead I had to make do with hading off for a few good shots of vodka.
This is really what we need just now. A bit more colour, More glamour. More fun. And, Dundee? I’m sure that’s only because it’s where the family settled when driven out their home by cossacks.
It’s food time, so we decide to check out I Blame Coco (Summerisle Stage). Ok, the bar’s down that way too. Ok, I wasn’t really holding out hope for some top pop star in the making. But, I really wasn’t expecting the abominable 6th form type band that was up there. Seriously, I had to get close to the stage to confirm those were bona fide old session musicians. As for the songs…. I know parents are meant to support and encourage their kids, but sometimes the truth would be kinder.
All of which I mention because next we catch (a slightly stripped down) Aerials Up (Solus Tent), who peddle a particular kind of poppy rock that – to me – seems very Glasgow. Big gregarious songs with no pretensions. Hearty backslap of a tune. I can assure you L’il Ms Sting would kill for half of one of any of these numbers. Fine stuff. The rumour going round is that Be A Familiar have knocked it on the head just as it was about to happen for them. The perfect opportunity for these guys to nip in and fill the gap, IMO.
Och, I know we’re meant to be above the raw fun of Goldie Lookin Chain (Summerisle Stage), but c’mon it’s a festival. GLC was, as the do. The (really young) kids loved them.
I wish I could be as positive about Tony Christie. I’d like to think he was taking the money and not caring about the half-assed pub crooner performance. Even so, you think he’d have the self-respect to care that folk seemed to be enjoying it as joke. Remember he’s not here for all the good work Hawley et al may have did to rehabilitate his name. He’s got the gig because of Peter Kaye. It’s woeful and quite painful to watch.
Which is pretty much the exact opposite of what you could say about Mitchell Museum (Solus Tent). Debut album The Peters Port Memorial Service has been universally lauded and the guys seem to be determined to celebrate that. The sizable (biggest in the Solus of the weekend I reckon) are quite happily to go along with the sentiment.
On return from visiting the facilities on site (and let me say they seemed to be much better cared for this year) I spot a freak chance to nip into the Scooter tent. Last year on the closing night they had imposed a one-in-one-out policy for the last night closing act Bad Manners. This year it seemed to kick in mid-afternoon. So, when I see a gap I reckon I need to at least take a look at Ed Tudor Pole (Scooter Tent). Coz you do, don’t you? And, he was fantastic. Just him and an acoustic guitar that appeared to be held together by gaffer tape. We get treated to a mix of old standards, new songs by him (mainly about how rubbish so/self-called punks are these days) and the ‘hits’. All sprinkled with anecdote and gentle ribbing of the audience. But the most surprising thing is that he’s an astounding rockabilly guitarist. And, the instrumental he wrote for Malcolm played entirely on the open guitar is rather touching.
Far from what the name would suggest Midnight Lion (Solus Tent) do a kinda 80s synth thing. It’s quite reminiscent of the good bits of Ultravox. And, they do it well – the audience are loving it, just not me. So, I go check out the other 80s tribute act: The Futureheads (Summerisle Stage). What can I say? They’re damn slick on a festival stage these days. They have some corking tunes. And they even have the crowd pleasing comedy cover version (replete tonight with gender specific backing vocals for the crowd). If anyone asked me, I’d say I really like this lot. But, I never listen to their albums I’ve bought and the live set didn’t have me rushing back to them.
It’s possibly the most glorious day of the summer so far. So what could be better than a little Teenage Fanclub? I think they may have finally had the official national treasure stamp this year. They get a huge crowd who seem to just be exuding nothing but good feeling toward them. It’s a hits heavy set and there’s dancing and bouncing and singling along from the off. But, I think the slipped in more from the new album than they normally would at an event like this. The crowd don’t mind: A stranger’s just a friend you haven’t met yet. No, really, it was like that.
Then it gets a bit chaotic. Having made the heartbreaking decision to skip Buzzcocks (Scooter Tent) due to the probability of not getting in. It was off to see Django Django. But they seemed to be late starting, so I thought I’d take advantage of he big screens over at the scooter tent for a bit. Then I ended getting herded about with the crowd as they were all at the exit not the entrance. Got back to the Solus and the band seemed to be playing the most interminable and dull intro. So I went back for more ‘Cocks. Of course after failing to get in or seeing anything it struck me that I should go back and check DD. got there for the last number and it was completely blinding. Damn. Shoulda stuck with the first plan – always the best policy
Day one down.