The Clock – or frontman Calum Stewart partnered by Holy Childhood guitarist Barry Lee, in any case – open proceedings at this press/promo night for the compact, cavernous basement venue on Great Western Road, The Roxy 171.
While busy waitresses divest themselves of platters of food, as well as trays of tequila shots (guilty), Stewart greets the mingling crowd, which fairly packs the floor, thronging that most glorious and near-mythical of areas – the free bar – and opens off with ‘Old Toys’, a song new to The Clock catalogue.
Ignoring the chatterbox crowd, which has yet to settle, Stewart’s ‘Old Toys’ is a tender-hearted opener, glacial and delicate as early Elliott Smith, with a simple yet compelling acoustic melody.
‘Fear of the Weather’ is similarly fragile, a vaguely continental little number with mucho finger-picking and an earthy ukulele feel about it.
‘Winter Dialogue’ is the real gem of the set, Stewart demonstrating considerable savoir-faire when presiding over the keyboard and Lee’s acoustic strumming creating an atmospheric fusion of instrumentation.
A truly beautiful song that deserves pin-dropping silence – for better or worse, that’s something no Glasgow venue can assure (especially not one offering a free bar on ‘student night’ in an area dense with tousle-haired undergrads).
Nevertheless, by this point in the set heads are beginning to turn, and Stewart finishes off with the 1-2 punch of ‘Birds’ and the upbeat ‘100 Hours’ before making way for (the rest of) Holy Childhood.
Holy Childhood also make use of the stage’s keyboard, though profess not to be able to hear it periodically throughout the set, even though it sounds melodic, expansive and entirely listenable to these ears.
Their set is an excellent mix of amiable banter with the crowd (anecdotes about a Las Vegas hooker on a boys’ stag are always welcome, particularly when free tequilas are slamming home) and clever songs that sit somewhere between the idiosyncratic charm of Malcolm Middleton and the slick musical countenance of bands like The Thrills, Phantom Planet and The Shins.
‘Get Up’ in particular sounds almost impossibly catchy (“i don’t know when i’ll be over/ to feel your skin against my shoulder”), the kind of tune you can imagine grasping you so much it begins to annoy you.
‘12 Floors’, meanwhile, demonstrates not only clever vocal hooks (“go find the life your heart is choking for”) but reminds me of one of my favourite bands, The Veils; perhaps it’s the softness of the keyboard, the measuredness of the vocals or even the band’s poise on stage – either way, the effect is quite striking.
Final act of the night is Becci Wallace, a rougher-edged KT Tunstall who sharpens her vocals on the whetstone of her Scottish accent.
Wallace garners many cheers and her soulful, almost Southern vocals are complemented well by a rat-tat-tat-tat acoustic guitar, with ‘Need To Be Around You’ being the highlight of her set.
‘One Foul Swoop’, meanwhile, is a sweeping tune reminiscent of Laura Marling or even Lana Del Ray.
All in all, a great little night at a superb music venue in the city’s West End -Captains, don’t Rest on your laurels.
Words: Ronnie McCluskey