Gig review: Stag & Dagger

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HAVING outlasted the London festival of the same name from whence it originally sprang by several years, Glasgow’s Stag & Dagger presents an increasingly unique and improving proposition as a venues-based, one-ticket music all-dayer.

Stag & Dagger - various venues, glasgow

***

For the first time taking place on the Sunday of the May Bank Holiday weekend (previous instalments have been on Saturdays), there was an extra-celebratory – read: extra-beery – sense of a party being snatched from the jaws of the working week. With few immediately recognisable names among the 50-odd acts performing, this being a festival of discovery more than anything, it felt like the real headliner was the setting. With the newly-refurbished Art School slotting in perfectly alongside Broadcast, Nice’n’Sleazy, the CCA and the ABC, it was encouraging to note what a large number of high-spec music venues now co-exist just a short stumble from one another.

There was even room for a pop-up stage throughout the afternoon at hairdressers Coda, where artists who would later play fully plugged-in sets elsewhere did 20-minute acoustic preview turns with the shop’s glass frontage providing a panoramic backdrop view across Sauchiehall Street (until the windows steamed up, anyway). Highlights included Stina Tweeddale from much talked-about young Glasgow indie duo Honeyblood, and wistful English alt-folkie Johnny Flynn. From Stag & Dagger’s smallest stage to its largest, at ABC1, Brooklyn heartland rockers of caustic wit The Hold Steady then drew probably the most populous crowd of the day for a full-throttle showing, which, judging by the relative anti-climax later of the festival’s effective headliner Albert Hammond Jnr, suggested they should probably have been higher up the bill.

Ezra Furman and The Boyfriends were this reviewer’s undoubted standout. Doing joyous vintage rock’n’roll with punk snot and power, the Chicagoan didn’t so much perform songs such as Anything Can Happen and My Zero – from his must-hear album Day of the Dog – as channel them through every fibre of his being, replete with wailing Clarence Clemons-indebted sax solos from Tim Sandusky. Over at Nice’n’Sleazy and risen from the ashes of Glasgow’s much-missed Mother and the Addicts, the ghoulish new wave-minded Casual Sex offered a trashier, more jagged kind of thrill.

Hammond Jr – better known as guitarist with multi-million-selling New York band The Strokes – proved much less of a draw than might have been imagined, though the lack of a new solo album since 2008 could easily account for that. A cover of The Buzzcocks’ Ever Fallen In Love and the darting 101 were as exciting as his surprisingly joyless set got. The real anticipation seemed to surround The Fat White Family downstairs in ABC2 – a ragged bunch of young London garage-punk tearaways enjoying buzz-band status and notoriety not radically unlike that which Hammond might recall with mixed emotions from The Strokes’ salad days. As stripped-to-the-waist and howling frontman Lias Saoudi waded into the mosh pit during the shady Is It Raining In Your Mouth?, band and crowd at last came together to give this year’s Stag & Dagger its defining moment

Seen on 04.05.14

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