Steg G, Grand Ole Opry, Glasgow ****
This year’s Govan Music Festival, five days of collaborative shows spearheaded by community orchestra The Glasgow Barons, came to a close in eclectic style with a spirited creative collision of hip-hop, classical and folk fusion in a country music venue.
Rapper and activist Loki, aka Darren McGarvey, set the pace with "15 minutes of rapid fire hardcore hip-hop" – a brief suite involving namechecks for Giant Haystacks, Rabbie Burns and Arab Strap against a recorded backdrop of quaking bass and klaxon calls, rounded off with a smart, angry, targeted a cappella.
Next, a succession of guest rappers performed with the Four Barons string quartet on arrangements worked up over the course of the preceding week. Freestyle Master hailed the "Hielan swagger" of their folk-influenced melodies, Solareye flirted with folklore on a rap about a Trident submarine wanting to become a kelpie and Empress, wearing a lurex cloak, went down the disco strings – and Adagio for Strings – route for her mini-set on empowerment.
However, the main event was the launch of rapper Steg G’s new album Demons, a moody meditation on mental health challenges conceived during lockdown and created in collaboration with the Glasgow Barons, manifested here as a ten-piece backing ensemble conducted by their Artistic Director Paul MacAlindin.
Barring a few B-movie samples and a loop of Gerry Cinnamon singing “I got different voices inside my head“ on Voices, this was a rare all-live hip-hop show, with Steg joined by fellow rhymers Freestyle Master, Empress, Solareye, Jam and Mcroy for a rather joyous rendition of such potentially heavy duty material.
Star turns from the orchestra included Sergio Vega’s lonesome oboe on Voices, and Andy Mitchell’s electric bass grooves propelling the title track but the performance was most potent as a collective effort, culminating in the sights and sounds of massed rappers, eerie pizzicato strings and stealthy street dancers.