Festival review: Eastern Promise, Platform, Glasgow

The annual Eastern Promise festival in Easterhouse's beautiful arts centre Platform has this year expanded its programme beyond music to also embrace theatre, film, performance and visual art. One wonders what the members of the local community photographed in Colin James Tennant's Paint It Red exhibition might make of all the metropolitan fun and games.

RM Hubbert PIC: John Devlin
RM Hubbert PIC: John Devlin

Eastern Promise ***

Glasgow Platform

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The highlight of Saturday’s shenanigans was acoustic guitar virtuoso RM Hubbert’s live soundtrack to the silent Soviet western, By The Law, a tale of greed and desperation among poor gold prospectors in the Yukon for which he deployed all the timbres in his repertoire. Mellow, mesmeric flamenco-inflected passages were punctuated with occasional bursts of fiery flourishes, scratchy picking was leavened by plangent melodies, the occasional doomy chord was struck and there was a relentlessness to his minimal figures as the characters battled through harsh conditions and delivered a curious twist on frontier justice, but Hubbert’s fleet-fingered playing and calming pace pierced the gloom with shards of light.

The performance and sound artists behind multi-media performance Pauline and the Matches had gone to a great deal of effort to say not very much at all. This bonkers audio-visual installation in Platform’s studio theatre was loosely inspired by one of the cautionary tales in German psychiatrist Heinrich Hoffmann’s Shockheaded Peter collection and performed using a complicated yet lovingly hand-knitted patchwork of living props.

The fate of careless Pauline was sealed using an interactive doll death lottery, which was painfully soundtracked by an impressive-looking steampunk one-man band kitted out with a variety of percussion and horn elements to create a sound approximating a wounded animal, while another player switched between less-than-soothing harp and a giant set of bellows. Meanwhile, on the other side of the room, a swishing bacofoil-wrapped duo intoned everyday warnings and instructions which came too late for the crushed corn dollies, as the perimeter of the space was stalked by cyborg creatures mounted with spotlights. Outsider art for art’s sake.

Such eccentric DIY maximalism contrasted starkly with Ewan Downie’s solo rendition of the legend of Achilles for the Glasgow-based theatre group Company of Wolves, whose sober mix of unflashy but sadly also undramatic storytelling, Arabic song and movement, never entirely convinced nor conveyed the torrid emotions at the heart of this classic tale of vengeance and brutality.

No such earnest serious intent from The Sexual Objects, the current art rock outlet for ex-Fire Engines/Nectarine No.9 wag Davy Henderson. This former purveyor of the Sound of Young Scotland kicked off their set by addressing “teenage Easterhouse”. Teenage Easterhouse was, as he well knew, elsewhere, but the Objects’ uplifting mix of sophisticated yet utterly punk guitar wrangling had the grown-up kids wigging out in front of the tiered seating, and crowdsurfing without the crowd.

Henderson’s deathless chiming melodic guitar sounds blatantly referenced New York legends The Velvet Underground and Television, joyous, ramshackle new single Sometimes was pure acid Beach Boys and the Midwest got its moment of recognition via Ron Asheton, their caveman rock paean to The Stooges guitarist.