Putting on a festival where 60% of the music is largely instrumental takes a great deal of ingenuity, daring and perhaps even a little bit of insanity, a festival of this stature was never going to be easy to pull off, nor would it be a hit with the mainstream populace of the city of Glasgow.
However the people over at Chemikal Underground, had exactly what was required; good taste, willpower and a healthy respect for fostering local brands (in both brewing and live music) and a sense of community spirit.
The East End Social have been largely responsible for taking over cafes, church halls and local boozers, largely in the Dennistoun area, in order to host a string of art installations and live musical performances.
All have been greatly received, and The Last Big Weekend was to be the pinnacle of EES’s efforts, however overcrowding at the bar and grumblings about there being not enough food, hampers the day.
The venue itself, Richmond Park isn’t the easiest to find, especially if you are Sat Nav reliant, this reviewer was taken away to a housing estate on the opposite end where, after a short encounter with a local ‘hard guy’ type, who happened to be out walking his Pomeranian, kindly directed me to follow a dirt path through some shrubbery and over a wee bridge, I finally managed to come out near the small box office and official entrance.
Once inside I am greeted with a fantastic mixture of people, there are the old East End boys out and about, proudly pea-cocking around the arena sporting The Wedding Present t-shirts that hadn’t been taken out of the drawer since 1991, there are fresh faced fan boys here to catch their local heroes – Mogwai and The Twilight Sad, there is an influx of trendy beards clad with drainpipe jeans and brogues and lastly, there is a bunch of shoe gazing kids wearing parkers – all of which are here for a good time.
The jovial atmosphere is palpable from the start, with most people sitting outside on the green grass absorbing what I’m almost sure would be the last of the summer sun that Glasgow is likely to see this year.
Young Fathers are the first band ravechild was able to catch playing live and they play a high energy set consisting of songs largely from album Dead, which was released earlier this year, the band hop around energetically and take it in turns to jump on to the bass speakers on front of the stage as if to get closer to their audience.
It’s hard to pigeonhole a band like Young Fathers, instantly electronic laced, soul tinged, hip-hop strewn pop comes into mind but the band seem so much more, being a fan of 2013’s Tape Two, after today I can say I’m honestly ashamed that I had never seen them play live before.
The vibrant bounce of ‘Get Up’ has the crowd swaying their arms in the air while, the more lo-fi gentle thrum of ‘I Heard’ offers an insight into a more sombre side of the band.
It is only, after the last Young Fathers song that I realise my companion had not returned from his venture to the bar in order to retrieve libations, I venture out to find him ‘almost’ at the front of the queue.
West Bar brewery where in charge of proceedings here and I wasn’t disappointed with the range of drinks on offer – excellent craft beer, malt whiskey, the most crisp apple cider I have had the pleasure to enjoy, alas, it was the rate at which the bar staff where being able to dispense drinks, a secondary tent really was called for.
After retrieving our first round we decided that we ought to queue up again for secondary drinks and by the time we had waited in the line we missed the start of The Twilight Sad‘s set, which is an absolute shame because by the time we get into the big top tent, they are absolutely ‘smashing it out the park’.
Again, being a fan ever since 2007’s Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, it really is criminal that this was the first time I’ve been able to catch this band live, exactly why Glasgow needs a festival, that celebrates great local acts and serves them up, fresh to you, packed away neatly and tidy – lunch box style.
James Graham’s gutteral wail and convalescent, Iain Curtis style dancing during ‘And She Would Darken The Memory’ serves to encapsulate exactly what the bad are great at; Scottish accented vocals, fussy reverberating guitars and mesmerising synths, a dark and beautiful song somehow made hopeful in its live embodiment.
Another stark, yet stand out track is 2012’s ‘Nil’, however it is the final song, ‘3 Seconds of Dead Air’, to which lead singer Graham states: “this is a song we never play”, that seems to be the most dreamlike and romantic of them all, a rousing live performance that seems to be enjoyed by both hipster and shoegazer alike.
The Wedding Present come onstage to rapturous applause, and by now the tent is filled with a lot more men wearing black; David Gedge (also wearing head to toe black), who the late John Peel would site as having written some of the best love songs ever, took no time at all striking up a jovial rapport with crowd, making in-between song quips and jokes.
The band race through a set of indie, punk-rock songs reminiscent of Gang of Four and The Jesus and Mary Chain, with stand out tracks being ‘Brassneck’ and ‘My Favourite Dress’, the band even dof their caps to their live predecessors, The Twilight Sad, by playing a cover of ‘Suck’.
James Holden comes on stage to a flurry of strobe lighting and fog machines, although the tent seems to be half full at this point – as everyone else was waiting in line for a pint, he also becomes the harbinger of the lyric free portion of the festival.
Playing a live set, for anyone more akin to playing in clubs behind a series of turntables, would be daunting, but for James Holden all he seems to need is what appears to be a telephone operating system (you know the one in old movies that looks like a big board of wires that get connected every time a call is placed), he is also accompanied by live drums and a gentleman on saxophone, who seems to enjoy sitting down among all the equipment every time his services are not needed.
There is a problem earlier with the live visual projections, but this seems to be remedied by the time Bristol based Fuck Buttons waltz on stage, drenched in green light, hammering away on a range of keyboards, synths, effects pedals and other indistinguishable electronics, the duo release a volley of scuzzy noise during ‘Brainfreeze’.
It isn’t until ‘Sweet Love For Planet Earth’ that the set seem to down its tempo, to a more tranquil, xylophone filled lullaby, an excellent prelude to headliners; Mogwai.
Having recently re-released (in deluxe edition albeit) seminal album; Come On Die Young, the Glaswegian, post-rock masters seemed to play tracks mainly from this and also Rave Tapes, there is a nod to the more melancholy soundtrack they released as part of, creepy French TV drama Les Revenants in the echoing disembodiment of ‘Hungry Face’
‘Heard About You Last Night’ continues in the sombre line of beauty, until ‘Remurdered’ brings with it a more dance enabling crescendo, at which point most of the crowd start to move around in a more lively fashion, there is even an all instrumental (obviously) version of Nina Simone’s ‘Feeling Good’, given the odd Mogwai makeover in parts.
All in all, the EES has been successful in providing Glasgow with an eclectic line up of home grown talent and utterly perfect mind bending progressive rock, a few teething problems are bound to seep through considering the size of the project, here’s looking to a fresh deluge of great live music in the East End of Glasgow – ‘for the times, they are a changing’.
Words/photos: Angela Canavan