XpoNorth Showcases, Inverness, 9/6/16

The showcases for day two start once again in the Ironworks and this time the free drinks are coupled with music; firstly The Pictish Trail and as Johnny Lynch enters the stage air boxing you know you’re in for a treat.

This is first time I’ve managed to witness Johnny Lynch playing in a non solo capacity, tonight he’s joined by Tuff Love’s Suse Bear on synth and bass duties and it adds a real lift in Lynch’s musician offerings.

 

Gone is the 30-second song hilarity, but the same mid song banter keeps things light hearted amidst the uplifting but full on dream-ridden tracks that are delivered.

There’s a new album on the horizon and you get the impression this could be something really special with a full band behind it.

By the time tonight’s special guest, Rachel Sermanni, is introduced the networking event has become just that, and it’s difficult to hear most of Sermanni’s delicate, hypnotic and dreamy laments.

Sermanni nonetheless is an impressive artist, and while this isn’t the perfect setting we know all too well what she’s capable of.

Forever is a band that we thought had gone, well forever, and despite being booked on a few festival lineups I was still unconvinced as their online presence was still nil, but turns out they’re back and with a rather new direction.

The now trio have switched up to an enjoyably glitchy electronic sound, which flows nicely, however one thing is a constant and it’s something I’m still on the fence with and that’s the vocal

Thing is though, it’s one thing that is going to win or lose Forever fans, there’s no doubting the twitchy accented delivery is unique, but as I said of them in their previous incarnation, there’s a real touch of Marmite about it; I can’t decide where I love it or hate it, guess I’m waiting for new recorded material then…

The biggest clash of the showcases comes next and I find myself in a mad dash, attempting to visit three venues in 30 minutes to hopefully catch 15-minute bursts of three artists.

The first of these acts is also my first visit to cocktail bar come temporary acoustic venue Scotch and Rye for beautifully intricacies of Chrissy Barnacle.

Sadly most of Barnacle’s delightfully intricate guitars, Joanna Newsome touching extravagances and generally hilarious mid song banter is lost in the cacophony of the noisy cocktail bar, which seems to have become the go to venue for those not interested in the live music on offer.

Over at the Market Bar is a different matter, as everyone is crammed in to the tiny space solely to hear the music as Mt. Doubt delivers a set that’s warm and captivating, while also managing to grasp the hugeness of The National’s live set and somehow squeeze it in a cosy living room; these guys seem to be doing everything right just now and this set only cements that notion further.

Sadly my mad dash mission fails slightly as when I arrive at Hootenanny’s The Youth and Young have nearly finished.

It’s a slower number that the band haves chosen to close their generally rambunctious set, however this short glimpse they manage to maintain that high octane energy that their set has become renowned for; these guys are one of the best folk rock acts in Scotland right now and their live show is one of the main aspects in that.

Following this I decide to give Scotch and Rye another go, sadly this proves a larger futile trip as Laurence Made Me Cry suffers the same fate Chrissy Barnacle and no doubt everyone else in this venue had before her.

I do manage to squeeze close enough to the front to hear a little bit of her set over the mire and what I get a hint of Jo Whitby’s hypnotising array of soothing electronics and smooth, enchanting vocals, well worth seeing at a venue where you don’t have to make a concerted effort to hear her.

Following this I was initially torn on whether to catch Breakfast Muff or not having seen them a couple of times in the past week, however a combination of the drink taking effect and just the fact that they are bloody brilliant makes up my mind and they don’t let down pulling out what might just be the set of the weekend.

The trio’s instruments swapping high-energy riot pop is a joy to behold, and new track, sporting the repeated line of “you’re not a feminist”, stands out as a future mainstay in a set that’s just bags of punk tinged fun.

Upstairs at Madhatters and Halfrican keep that same high-octane punk touching energy running as their reverby pop ticks all the right, riotous boxes for this time of the evening.

Halfrican is fun, addictive and make you want to fucking move; they’ve been promising bigger things for some time now, hopefully that elusive album will appear soon.

Popping downstairs for The Van T’s and I’m greeted by a mobbed venue, so there’s absolutely no chance of the seeing the four-piece surf rockers, but they are rightfully the reason why this place is so packed as they quash the venue’s questionable sound to irrelevance with their fuzzy guitar sound that oozes as much rock ‘n’ roll attitude as it does pop chops; we can’t recommend these guys highly enough.

Back over at the Ironworks I find myself bewildered that the bar staff have deemed tins not allowed and decant their cans of Red Stripe into a plastic cup. I. Only. Bought. It. So. I. Could. Have. A. Can… Raging.

Still, that coupled with a rather underwhelming set from reformed 90s Glasgow guitar pop act Astrid are soon forgotten amidst a night crammed with some brilliant acts and plenty of great people.

Words: Iain Dawson

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