The West End Festival ended on a musical high note at Oran Mor, with a line-up that included We Were Promised Jetpacks, Bill Wells and Aidan Moffat, Remember Remember and RM Hubbert.
In Glasgow’s West End on the top of Byres Road, glimmers of sunlight reflect on the impressive Oran Mor building. Mutters of ‘taps aff’ can be heard amongst the crowd outside, as they swig their pints, ready for a day of top notch Scottish music. It may mark the end of this year’s West End Festival, but the summery vibes are just about to begin.
“Who wants a rummage in my ball sack?” grunts Drew Wright, aka Wounded Knee, walking around the main bar with his sack of numbered ping-pong balls (thankfully). At times it feels like Sid James presenting the National Lottery, but Wright rattles through an array of entertaining acapella songs with a distinctly Scottish folk twist. With one song a profanity-driven riposte to the BNP, he injects a bit of humour into proceedings, even if one barman seems less than impressed with the whole set, judging by his sour expression and cynical remark.
If he worked behind the bar at the Auditorium upstairs, he may have been more sympathetic towards four-piece Monoganon, who create brooding yet beautifully executed guitar rock, weaving intricate, folky melodies up and around the high walls of the Auditorium. Perhaps the music’s intimacy is lost in such a spacious setting, but it is lovely nevertheless.
Next stop is the Venue, where the John Knox Sex Club perform a stunning set. Opening with ‘Kiss the Dirt’, frontman Sean Cumming makes the stage his own, his dulcet tones sounding as if Morrissey had moved to Glasgow armed with a clutch of Mogwai and folk records. One enthusiastic person at the front is clearly entranced by the band; moving with such abandon. Imagine his delight when Cumming includes him in his orgy of hugs near the end of their set.
It’s clear that everyone in the Venue wants to hug the next act on stage, Glasgow guitar virtuoso RM Hubbert. If the music doesn’t work for him - which shouldn’t be the case - he could dominate the comedy circuit. His banter has such impeccable timing, and displays a dark humour; one song is about a Victorian headmistress who prowls around Barrhead Primary School as a creepy ghost snatching schoolboys in the toilets.
“Actually it’s about depression,” comes the punchline, prompting guffaws of laughter. The patter doesn’t diminish the impact of his beautiful flamenco guitar picking though, and his set is accentuated with the appearance of Venue headliner Aidan Moffat for last number “Car Song.”
It is time to warm up the retinas after remaining in the Venue’s dark room, and venture back upstairs to the Auditorium to catch Remember Remember’s set. Although it is a solid performance, it isn’t quite as appealing as their recent stint at Glasgow’s Contemporary Centre for Arts. But tracks such as Ocean Potion and Ghost Frequency nevertheless promote enthusiastic dancing from two audience members at the front.
Outside Oran Mor, it is shaping up to be a glorious summer night. Alas, the fun and festivities have to stop somewhere, and what better way to finish things off than with an intimate set from newly crowned Scottish Album of the Year winners Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells? Playing more subdued versions of tracks from Everything’s Getting Older, Wells’s deliciously melodic piano lines are nicely complemented by jazzy double bass and melancholy muted trumpet. With Moffat’s unmistakable spoken tones on the heart-wrenching ‘The Copper Top’ and sleaze-infested ‘Glasgow Jubilee’, it seems like a fitting end to proceedings.
They wouldn’t get the last word, however. We Were Promised Jetpacks are still dominating the Auditorium after Moffat and Wells bid farewell, cooking up a storm of sound which threatens to tear the roof off.
It’s difficult not to bathe this review with clichés chirping on about how good Scottish music is, but the birth of the Scottish Album of the Year award has certainly rekindled some flames, and hopefully the next festival will be just as good, if not ten times better.
RADAR: SHOWCASING THE BEST NEW MUSIC IN SCOTLAND
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Friday 24 May 2013
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