BBC Radio 6 Music Festival Fringe with Man of Moon, Catholic Action, LUCIA, American Clay at Oran Mor, 23/3/17

Ahead of the BBC 6 Music Festival proper, assorted smaller venues play host to some of Glasgow’s most venerable musical talents; tonight is the turn of Man of Moon, Catholic Action, LUCIA and American Clay.

First to perform is American Clay, in which vocalist/guitarist Martin Johnston – erstwhile drummer for Pronto Mama and Emma Pollock, among others – finds himself in front of the kit, rather than behind it.

American Clay demonstrate great aptitude for unexpected dynamic shifts: scratchy, Blackened Sky-era Biffy Clyro chord wonk abruptly gives way to shimmering, Loveless-esque fuzz on ‘Gutted’, in a way which feels fluid, not forced.

And while they would certainly benefit from laying a more confident claim to their own sonic identity (they do, at times, come across like a du jour cluster of 90s alt-rock reference points), American Clay are nonetheless a very promising prospect – especially given songwriter Johnston’s tender age of 23.

LUCIA (stage name of singer Lucia Fontaine and band), on the other hand, are no shoegazers – their dirty, direct punk-pop shoots a beeline straight from guitars to feet, and they look cool as hell doing it.

Fontaine is a born performer, her unique vocal inflections breathing a real originality into her surgically precise pop songs.

With a bit of Pixies here, and a bit of BIS there, there’s a lot to love, and LUCIA certainly whip the crowd up into livelier spirits.

Hot on their heels – and fresh from the searing Texas sun of SXSW – are Catholic Action, who are almost impossibly tight as a live band; testament to their jam-packed touring and rehearsal schedule.

They rip through all the hits – ‘Rita Ora’, ‘Breakfast’ – and find time for a few new ones too (one mellower track in particular is announced as “the next single…maybe,” and from where I stand it sounds ebullient).

By the time they close with a turbocharged rendition of ‘L.U.V.’, one is left wondering why Catholic Action aren’t yet scaling the giddy heights of Franz Ferdinand and CHVRCHES before them – they certainly deserve to, as they’re easily the catchiest guitar band in the city.

Edinburgh’s Man of Moon headline, making an impressively moody entrance to the foreboding tones of Suicide’s classic ‘Ghost Rider’.

Unfortunately, that sets the bar a little too high for them to reach.

Man of Moon’s dirgier, meandering tunes and more muted stage presence feel like a bit of a dial-down in comparison with the acts preceding them.

Their set ticks all the boxes for fans of Chemikal Underground’s back catalogue – they have a clear affinity with Mogwai, while the spoken word intro to their set is a beard and a beanie away from a tribute to Aidan Moffatt.

So it’s not to say they’re a bad band at all – they’re just not on quite the right bill here, and are overshadowed by the more energetic acts before them.

Nonetheless, I leave the Oran Mor feeling extremely positive about the future of Glaswegian music, which seems now to be entering an especially exciting and audacious period.

More Photos

Words: Graham Neil Gillespie
Photos: Allan Lewis

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