No Mean City is a bit of odd odd festival… that is if we can really call it a festival, it’s more a collection of gigs put on in Glasgow over the course of three weeks designed to celebrate the city’s ties to American roots music.
A glance at the line up doesn’t automatically give suggest same vibe, yes there are acts over from the States, Grandaddy being the stand out, and a show celebrating the work of American folk legend Woody Guthrie but whether Perfume Genius’ ambient indie or Beirut almost Balkan sounding folk fit this Americana bracket is questionable.
The links with Glasgow are also slightly tenuous, yes the festival is based in the city but the majority of artists on the line up lie away from here, in fact tonight’s show is one of only three headlined by Scottish acts.
There’s plenty of connections you can draw between tonight’s headliners Woodenbox and American music so it’s kind of fitting they’re on the bill even though the band see this as simply a gig rather than part of a festival, everyone here has paid for a ticket to this gig, there’s’ no access to any others.
After catching up with the headliners (for an interview to feature shortly) I unfortunately miss The Second Hand Marching Band, who I’ve seen plenty of times before, not in a while though so it would have been interesting to catch how the seemingly ever expanding collection of musicians are progressing.
I do arrive in time for folk rock five-piece The Seventeenth Century though, and they play out rousing show to an audience still relaxing in the comfy seats in the back of the venue.
Violin toting frontman Mark Farmer is, as ever, the focal point of the band as his unique dress sense and powerful vocal twang, strong enough to carry a listenable shanty never mind front an up beat baroque folk act, are the lasting memories everyone has of these Scots.
However, there’s much more to this band, the other member throw in their own vocal styles and their uplifting, commanding music sets them out from the waves of indie folk bands that seemingly emerged from the city at the same time as them.
They’ve got a new record on the way too, the one they’ve got for sale tonight you won’t hear anything from in their set, and it’s easy to see them becoming one Scottish folks big hitters in the future.
It’s been a long time since I last saw tonight’s headliners, so long that I can’t exactly pin point it, it’s a tragic state of affairs really as they’re pretty damn good.
They’ve been on adventures this year too, with jaunts over to SXSW along with laying down a new EP as a taster for an upcoming album.
Tonight they play what frontman Ali Downer claims to be the last gig in Glasgow for a while, a line which draws groans from a happily dancing crowd and prompts the reply “don’t worry we’re not splitting up or anything”.
Good thing they’re not as Woodenbox are hitting their stride, the last time I saw them live they were a group of musicians seeming playing one man’s songs, now they’ve made them their own and have added a good few more to the mix.
Every song, whether old like the heart wrenching sing-along ‘Draw a Line’ to new like rip-roaring, leg moving new EP opener ‘Everyone Has a Price’, receives a joyous response from the newly located front and centre crowd.
Indeed Woodenbox are a band that are loved for what they do and it’s blatantly obvious from watching them that they love what they do, as Downer along with bassist Fraser McKirdy and guitarist Jordan Croan thrash around the stage while the brass section add an extra dimension to this band that set them apart on the scene.
They’re tight, powerful and filled with funky folk beats that just keep your feet moving and your spirits lifted, I for one can’t wait to hear what’s next from these guys whenever it is they play Glasgow next.