Music review: The Great Western, various venues, Glasgow

The Great Western festival is a new one-day urban musical adventure, with one ticket allowing access to a strong debut line-up of acts from across the alternative rock and pop spectrum playing in ten venues strung out around the west end of Glasgow, from established spaces such as Glasgow University’s Queen Margaret Union to the compact and bijou Doublet bar.

Gerry Love PIC: Jason Sheldon/Shutterstock
Gerry Love PIC: Jason Sheldon/Shutterstock

The Great Western, various venues, Glasgow ****

The equally trim Burnbank Bowling Club had probably never seen the influx of wrapped-up music fans hoping to gain entry to Avocet’s popular late afternoon slot. This Glasgow trio, fronted by singer/harpist Iona Zajac, are named after a Bert Jansch album and followed through on that reference with mellow psychedelic folk music to soothe the soul, even if the technical issues of setting up in a temporary space were never quite resolved.

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From the quietest band of the festival to the loudest: Black Sabbath-loving quartet Holy Mountain played their first gig in two years at Oran Mor, delivering consistently, dynamically heavy metal, whether played at turbo-charged velocity or slow and stentorian. Demonstrating that it is never too early to encourage an appreciation of sludge rock, a baby wearing ear defenders appeared to dig their deep vibrations.

Basement venue The Hug & Pint was the southern hub of the festival, and packed to capacity for London quartet Dry Cleaning and their cool combination of jagged post-punk guitars, penetrating basslines and the deadpan semi-spoken narrations of frontwoman Flo Shaw.

The staggered line-up across two rooms at Maryhill Community Halls was a festival in its own right, drawing a predictably large and supportive crowd for Gerry Love’s first live appearance since departing Teenage Fanclub at the end of last year. An eager fan misidentified one intro as the Fanclub’s I Need Direction but there was no plan to revisit the back catalogue in his revived Lightships band.

First conceived as a channel for his quieter songs, this iteration of the group, once again featuring Fanclub guitarist Dave MacGowan, Beĺle & Sebastian bassist Bob Kildea and flautist Tom Crossley, were a firm indie rocking proposition with Love’s disarming melodies at their core.

Sacred Paws took that warmth and layered on their joyous combination of Afrobeat guitar, relentless rhythms and terse but melodic DIY pop tunes while, in the smaller room, demented one man band Apostille, aka Michaael Kasparis, entertained with chunky bass and wild man whoops.

Up the road at the atmospheric Mackintosh Church, the Start to End collective tackled the ultimate in Glaswegian urban romance, covering the entirety of The Blue Nile’s second album Hats with Admiral Faĺlow frontman Louis Abbott, pictured left, conveying the bruised wistfulness of Paul Buchanan.

They captured the dreich evening perfectly with a bonus Tinseltown in the Rain before US singer/songwriter Cass McCombs and his three-piece backing band whipped up a closing set of stormy Americana and rock’n’roll interspersed with softer, more seductive croons.

Back at the Hug & Pint, black feminist punk trio Big Joanie brought good spirits and tough talking across a set which encompassed short and sharp punk funk and long and winding jams. A strong start for the Great Western in a city not wanting for festivals. Fiona Shepherd