There may have been something formulaic about the reasoning behind this mini-festival in support of the V&A Dundee’s opening over the weekend – the three “D”s in question were, apparently, “Dundee, design and Discovery” – but the execution of the whole thing was perfectly staged in order to allow the thousands outside on the public park and concert space Slessor Gardens to feel as though they were part of the celebration happening within Kengo Kuma’s new landmark building.
3D Festival, Slessor Gardens, Dundee *****
Friday night’s event was a proper urban festival bill with a diverse, one-stage line-up featuring singer Tallia Storm, Dundee’s own about-to-break indie-pop star Be Charlotte, aka Charlotte Brimner, and the contemporary style of Lewis Capaldi, a young vocalist from Whitburn in West Lothian whose 2018 has exploded to the point that his two consecutive dates at the Barrowlands later in the year sold out within minutes. Capaldi’s style is very much in keeping with that popularised by last year’s Edinburgh Hogmanay headliner Rag ‘n’ Bone Man, with stripped-back instrumentation giving way to the gruff and lived-in quality of his voice, a kind of sleek contemporary fusion of the blues’ raw vocal tone and blue-eyed soul’s earnest pop hooks.
This merging of the authentic and the purely pop is also something we’ve come to expect from the latest incarnation of headliners Primal Scream, a group who always found inspiration in a search for rock’s sense of “authenticity”, but who are canny enough these days to know that packing the set with hits and giving the crowd what they want is their safest and most entertaining bet.
Their look on this stage was all about impact – with singer Bobby Gillespie going for a bright red suit with lightly flared trousers and bassist Simone Butler wearing sequined leopardprint – and their setlist was equally built to grab attention. The euphoric rockers Movin’ On Up, Jailbird and Can’t Go Back opened, with a finale which matched their very best songs to one another; the blissed-out acid house psych of Come Together and Loaded, and the irresistible party rock of Country Girl and Rocks. Yet Gillespie and co. remain just subversive enough to slip a song about industrialised state oppression (Swastika Eyes) in there, as well as dedicating Shoot Speed Kill Light to the Associates’ Alan Rankine and Billy Mackenzie, “heroes of ours and sons of your city”, in Gillespie’s words. Of the V&A, he said “we hope it’ll inspire a new generation of young artists – that’s what we want, right?”
For the occasion, friend of the band and well-established Scots artist Jim Lambie had created a gorgeous set of backdrop visuals, while the evening ended with a stunning lightshow by Dundee-based creative agencies Biome Collective and Agency of None protected on to the V&A itself, with a sublime club soundtrack – mixing in tracks by the Communards, Eurythmics and Simple Minds – from Edinburgh-raised DJ and designer Clair “Éclair Fifi” Stirling.
For Saturday’s far more low-key, family-based afternoon session (with interactive events from Beano Studios and Abertay University), the musical focus was on Dundee itself, including the soulful dream-pop of St Martiins; Andrew Wasylyk’s elegant, baroque songwriting; sometime View frontman Kyle Falconer’s more downhome solo set; and Be Charlotte once more. The afternoon – and the weekend’s entertainment – ended with a poignant set from Gary Clark, former frontman of Dundonian group Danny Wilson, who paid respect to son of the city Michael Marra and closed with his old band’s Mary’s Prayer, backed by community choir Sistema. - David Pollock