A busy music venue at the end of the first back-to-work week of the year, when most people are usually averse to a night out after all the excesses of the festive period, is undoubtedly a healthy sign for the Scottish music scene, if not necessarily bodies in need of a good detox.
King Tut’s New Year’s Revolution | Rating: *** | King TUt’s Wah Wah Hut, Glasgow
A regular January fixture, King Tut’s New Year’s Revolution is clever business on the venue’s part – invite loads of new, typically young local bands to fill bills in the absence of much touring traffic around this time of year, and encourage them to invite as many of their pals along as they can, with the incentive of being placed higher up the running-order relative to how many tickets they sell.
There’s an element of a popularity contest about the format, which is never preferable to seeing music discerningly judged on merit. But the opportunity for novice artists to blood themselves at such a prestigious venue early in their gigging lives makes the self-promotional hustle worthwhile.
Hustle which, in any case, is probably useful experience in an ever-more saturated industry (nearly 70 acts will play KTNYR 2016 in all, four bands per night across 16 nights).
The two bills I caught on the opening Thursday and Saturday nights demonstrated a not especially inspiring preponderance of very tried-and-tested styles of guitar music. But there was enough variety, musicality and excitement at the simple fact of playing the famous Tut’s stage in evidence to leave me rooting for most of the bands, some of whom may go on to bigger things.
Courier’s Club were probably the best of the bunch on the first night – a four-piece channeling the chiming guitars, atmospheric drones and shrewdly anthemic songcraft of American indie-rock totems like Death Cab For Cutie and The National, with vocals sung in broad Scots accents (one for fans of Frightened Rabbit, then). Graeme Quinn and The Graeme Quintet brought things down a pace with their finger-picked acoustic guitar and piano-dappled Americana, and sounded well-drilled for what was their first ever gig.
Thursday headliners Little Waves espoused the commonplace post-Mumfords indie-folkie tropes of billowing wordless vocal hooks and foot-stomping drum beats, albeit given their own twist with a bit of surging Celtic post-rock dynamics and liberal applications of triumphant trumpet.
Saturday’s bill spoke to how doggedly entrenched an inspiration the Oasis-Libertines-Kasabian axis of bloke-ish indie-rock remains.
You could practically tick off The Beatles, Paul Weller and Noel Gallagher-ian reference points in Proud Honey’s no-fuss rock’n’roll. Ayrshire’s The Ranzas looked barely old enough to be served behind the bar, but that never stopped Dundonian scallywags The View back in the day, the group to whom these fearless, if also still pretty tuneless young scruffs were most obviously in thrall.
The Phantoms’ were full of swagger, as well they might have been considering the vast majority of the crowd were evidently there to see them (you could tell from the number of T-shirts they’d sold).
Much as fresh ideas were again found to be sorely lacking – think Editors playing Kasabian – there was an intensity about this moody monochrome Broxburn foursome that made them worthy headliners.