Music review: Connect Festival, Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston
Connect Festival: Friday, Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston ****
Round two of the revived Connect festival made a slow but steady start under glowering skies on Friday, catering to an older audience of discerning music fans with its evocatively named stages and fancy food offerings.
Ethan P Flynn’s spindly indie folk struggled to break through on the Guitars & Other Machines stage, where his former uni mates Jockstrap broke the ice with their leftfield electro charge and pumped finale with masked rapper. There were more masked players in Brisbane outfit Confidence Man – veiled drummer and keyboard player Clarence McGuffie and Reggie Goodchild supplied the exultant dance grooves over which playful singers/dancers Janet Planet and Sugar Bone pulled off some witty, wiry moves.
The dance party continued on the Unknown Pleasures stage, with a small audience in safe hands with crate-delving DJ David Holmes and the usual reliable Slam celebration, while the tiny Speakeasy tent provided some respite from the rain and comedians battling to be heard against the Edinburgh airport flightpath rumble – and the braying of Future Islands frontman Samuel T Herring on the main Grand Parade stage.
The day finished with two of Scotland’s most seasoned festival pleasers. Franz Ferdinand turned in their usual turbo-charged all-killer set, whether ramping up early track Darts of Pleasure – now a trim 20 years old – or camping up Love Illumination with Julian Corrie’s baroque synth flourishes. The urgent dispatch of Michael was delivered from stage risers, while newest member Audrey Tait led the carnival drumming breakdown of Outsiders.
Primal Scream have been at the indie coalface a good 20 years longer and at this rate they'll be celebrating the 30th anniversary of their classic Screamadelica album until its 40th birthday, its trippy house-infused strains garlanded with gospel vocals and a bagpiper playing the refrain from their classic single Loaded before they rounded off with some cathartic retro rocking. Fiona Shepherd
Connect Festival: Saturday, Royal Highland Centre, Ingliston *****
From the moment during Young Fathers’ set when they addressed their homecoming crowd as “Edinburgh… you bunch o’ radges!”, something became clear that went beyond the perfection of the brilliant, uncategorisable trio’s astonishing new live set.
This is a festival, now in its second year at Ingliston, which has got everything just right. Targeting a wider and more generationally diverse crowd than its sister festival TRNSMT, it’s very far indeed from being a nostalgia event. Saturday’s bill produced a flurry of great moments which demonstrated how well it has fulfilled its own brief.
Young Fathers were the ideal case in point, blending visceral ferocity on Queen is Dead and Get Up, clear-sighted, redemptive soul on I Heard and jittery, mutated electropop on Shame and the closing Toy. They were vital, current and gloriously well-received, while earlier, Roisin Murphy had offered a perfect example of how an artist can remain evergreen through musical and personal reinvention.
Amid dazzling costume changes (a smart suit, fedora and shades, a headdress in the shape of a large microphone, a blue kimono with an insect-like fascinator), she cycled through the smooth disco funk of Overpowered and Incapable, a minimal, drum-led version of Moloko’s Sing It Back, and the jittery carnivalesque Ramalama (Bang Bang), a brief sample of her more expansive non-festival set.
Elsewhere, Friendly Fires’ Paris remains a timeless song of youthful optimism and adventure, soul singer Olivia Dean’s set featured a pristine cover of Kelis’ Millionaire and Glasgow DJs Optimo (Espacio) remain vital and exciting. A capacity crowd, meanwhile, gathered for headliner Fred Again (aka Fred Gibson), whose career working with George Ezra, Demi Lovato and Ed Sheeran has mutated into his own albums as an electronic producer.
Fred’s show here offered the same ground-trembling electronic power as the Chemical Brothers’ last year, but his VJed samples of found sounds from personal conversations and online clips brought it unexpected intimacy. His presence showed Connect’s potential with a truly A-list star in the headline slot; this festival has to return. David Pollock