Glasgow’s been a long time in waiting for Alex Zhang Hungtai aka Dirty Beaches to come to town and today’s greeted with the best weather we’ve seen this year.
But it’s not out in the sun or indeed taking the gamble over the road, that is watching The Fall, it’s here in the Sleazy’s basement with immensely talented Hungtai.
Opening proceedings though are hometown five-piece The Yawns, who lean towards the sound of some member’s former band Copy Haho than any of the diverse list of bands they’re members have leant their hand to, or still do.
They provide a warm summery feel reminiscent or some of the less in your face Brit pop acts but with a deep reverb filled sense that sparks thoughts or Glasgow’s more famous indie pop sons.
They supply a delightful start to proceedings before the tragic tale of Supreme Dicks comes to the fore.
Supreme Dicks came to prominence as an experimental rock band in the early 90s, after forming in the mid-80s, supporting the likes of Neutral Milk Hotel and achieving somewhat of a cult status.
They were originally booked as headliners for tonight, after the band regrouped for a short while last year, but were dropped down the bill when Dirty Beaches became available.
A stroke of luck maybe, as if Supreme Dicks had been headlining tonight it would have rather unfortunate, their frontman and guitarist fell out the night before and didn’t make it to Glasgow, leaving them with just the three guitarists all low on sleep.
It is maybe the ultimate tour nightmare or a lesson to never have couples in a band, but credit to the trio that make it as they play with seemingly everything against them.
Tonight their stripped back set comes across pretty bleak but they are not without interest, as they produce some haunting soundscapes and baffling effects occasionally leaving you questioning whether they’d be better without them.
Ultimately it’s an understandably withdrawn set, but it does come with the unique soundbite of “the guy who sings that isn’t here” following a request from the audience.
Then it’s time for Dirty Beaches as the ultra intense but never unsettling Hungtai hugs his two bandmates before they build a powerful, bass heavy wall of noise before he lets himself loose.
Indeed once he’s started the Taiwanese-born Canadian is hard to take your eyes off, as he allows himself to be carried away by the more improvised sound of his live band that although garners similarities is far away from the sample-based lo-fi of 2011’s Badlands, the record that essentially gathered him worldwide recognition.
And it’s also a pretty safe bet that his new album, Drifters / Love Is The Devil, which is on sale tonight, doesn’t sound much like the live set either, however its promo description as “the nightlife of bright neon temptations and hedonistic values, and that of the inner world, one of remorse and lovelorn tragedies,” could mean we’re in for a surprise, but everything with this guy is anyway, right?
That’s not to say the live sound isn’t good, it’s more than that it’s an experience as Hungtai powers around the stage constantly pumping his fists like he’s a boxer limbering up for a fight, in between adding guitar and launching assaults on the mic.
There’s a certain humbleness about the man too as he sympathises with Supreme Dicks and encourages the crowd to give them a warm hand as well as exchanging of hugs with the crowd both mid song and between songs, the latter to a particular crowd members request.
It’s a great thing to witness when a performer puts this much into a show especially when his recorded tracks could have been produced solemnly behind some synths and samplers, tonight we’re treated to some commanding noise that bridges more a danceable aesthetic that harshness.
Hungtai is a well-travelled individual and has lived in many cities that have had a clear influence on his somewhat genre-hopping sound, but whatever future avenues he follows he would be welcomed back to Glasgow in an instant.
Words: Iain Dawson
Photo by Daniel Boud