So, with the new no-go Scooter Tent, it’s just as well the organisers decided to put Wickerman faves More From Jim (Summerisle Stage) up on the big stage. Where, frankly, they’ve always belonged. The sunshine seems to think the festival’s over and we’ve got that weird misty rain thing that hits one day every couple of years. Thank god for this lot. For those not in the know MF-Jim purvey punky-ska. But, without any of the spiky posturing usually so evident therein. This band exist purely for the sheer-joy of the music. And, as such, they have 80% more bounce. We are now officially awake.
White Heath (Solus Tent) are marvelous. End of story. WH make epic folk music. Using a fairly eclectic collection of instruments they build a maelstrom of sound, underpinned by a deep melodicism. It’s hypnotic and ridiculously catchy at the same time. It’s like that big music you hear talk of. There’s a thin line between serious (both readings) intensity and pretentiousness. WH are not just walking that line, they’re doing back-flips down it. And artful and truly exciting band. A band that can only really bear comparison with The Phantom Band, insomuch as they’re making something truly unique from a solid folk base – the sound is completely different. It’ll take a lot to beat this as the best thing seen here this year.
Canada’s Grass Mountain Hobos (Summerisle Stage) play bluegrass. You know the kind that’s honed perfectly for events of this size. They’re damn fine too, thoroughly entertaining. You’re not interested? Ok, well move on then…
The worst name of the festival award has to go to The OK Social Club (Solus Tent). In fact, I’d already formed an opinion based on this and was going to give them a miss. But the rain came on. Thank you rain. They start with a number that seems unwise; its obviously their best. The big hooky beast. It’s usual to finish with the biggy. But, then they do another. And, another. I’ve been dragged to see The Wildhearts on numerous occasions. And, from what I was promised, I expected something like this – they never were. Every single one is a stone-clad first-in-the-air classic. Seriously. Honest, sweaty, rock and roll that passes the whistle test.
More bluegrass with Blueflint (Acoustic Village). No, come back! Been meaning to catch this duo for a while now. The judicious swapping of locations for the dance tents and acoustic village meant this wasn’t going to mean the trek it would’ve been in previous years. So, I have now sampled their gentle americana imbued with sweet tunefulness. A little one dimensional but its a nice enough dimension.
Conquering Animal Sound (Solus Tent) are a glitchy girl/boy – laptop/guitar duo. The use of multi-effects and loops on the vocals lends a character to this that lifts them slightly above the myriad of others messing about in this area. It gets rather hypnotic after a while. In the good way.
Devotional art can be transcendent. I used to visit a friend in Deptford and always be tempted to head for the gospel hall at the end of their street on a Sunday morning. It sounded so awesome. Who knows, maybe it could even turn me. The Glasgow Gospel Choir (Summerisle Stage) are the sound of the most cliched happy clappy vicar’s easy 70s MOR collection with the word ‘God’ thrown in here and there. Looks like satan still has me for a (dead) sunbeam.
What seems, initially, like another of the ATD-i acts, United Fruit (Solus Tent) (really, is there a dreadful name sweep going on this year?) reveal a lot more depth over their set. Mainly this is due to the jazzy interludes and storming bass-playing. Still, even with the wider influences, they seem to be pulling the shapes and making the sound but have yet to really find their own voice. But, I’m looking forward to them doing so.
Car trouble (oh yeah) means that Withered Hand miss the start of their set. A couple of the OK guys come on to lead the crowd in a rousing cover of Teenage Kicks while we wait. A few tracks in WH appear. Unfortunately, the hassles and rush seem to have taken their toll on the band. We get a stab at a few songs. They’re flat and distracted. All of which is completely understandable. Hats of for being troupers, we feel you pain.
Huzzah for Kitty The Lion! Fantastic kitchen sink drama lyrics (about not getting out of bed all day, having chewing gum in your hair etc). All deceptively mundane. And delivered with deceptively simple guitar parts. Slightly country tinged. Certainly the most dancing going on I’ve sen for any act in this tent yet. If this don’t put a smile on you face, your dead. They won’t thank me for this, but: It’s like Kate Nash if she was actually as good as the Guardian seems to believe. And Scottish.
What ever happened with Sons & Daughters (Summerisle Stage)? Remember when it all seemed like theirs for the taking? I genuinely couldn’t tell you how many albums they’ve released or if they have any credibility any more. Judging by the crowd reaction, their are still in the good books. And, understandably so. The swampiness that threatened to subsume some of their material seems to have been traded for a dark grooviness. Wave by wave, the crowd gets bobbing along. By the time Johnny Cash comes along you could be convinced its the best thing in Scottish music in the last five years, instead of just the best thing they’re ever likely to do.
It’s one of the things about these festivals that an act can be over-subscribed if they can bring good crowd of their mates in. Glasgow’s Alex Kapranos (Acoustic Village) must be a popular guy, he’s managed to stow out the acoustic tent. And, it’s understandable. He’s peddling a set of bouncy, squiffed pop numbers that seem destined for arena tours as soon as he finds the band to back him.
I’m guessing record labels are still looking for [INSERT TOWN HERE]’s answer to the Arctic monkeys. They could do a lot worse than Hip Parade (Solus Tent) as that quaint little fishing village on the Clyde’s candidate. In addition to delivering the huge instantly catchy punk-tinged tunes, they have swagger and great snotty attitude to them. I mean, what’s the point in having choruses if you’re not going to make them this big?
And, its another thing about these festivals that you catch as many acts on their way down as you do in the other direction. Always latecomers to the whole Big Beat thing The Go! Team (Summerisle Stage) seem destined to be the band that defined 2006. Of course, then they take the stage and they couldn’t be more relevant to right here, right now. You probably know the score, but to me this is a revelation. Let’s take this damp scots crowd and bounce them until the grin hurts. And, by god, they do. Some people pay good money for that sort of thing. they may have just come on and did everything you know they’re going to do, but the import of that needs to be experienced. It all makes sense and seems so important. Not sure I’ll ever buy any more of their records than I have, but I will camp out overnight to get tickets for the next Barrowlands gig. By the time they finish, I’m contemplating dancercise and WANT to be the Go! Team. Not in the band, not one individual, but the whole entity. How great would that be?
Is it next year, yet?