Over the years, Stag and Dagger has become one of the primary fixtures in the musical calendar in Glasgow.
While this year’s line-up isn’t the most eye-catching in the festival’s history, part of the festival’s fun in years gone by has been discovering young talent, and this year’s event doesn’t disappoint.
Kicking off the Nice ‘n’ Sleazy stage at 4pm are recently re-packaged UNDO (formerly Great Cop) who play a set entirely derived from their debut album, which the band plan to release later this year.
They get things going in excellent fashion, ripping through their freshly recorded songs with aplomb.
The Glasgow band has just the right balance of explosive energy and catchiness to shake the cobwebs off any lingering long weekend hangovers the crowd may be fighting.
Coming straight after UNDO and London pop-punk trio Kenneths bring a much more fun feeling to proceedings.
Kenneths are an interesting case of being hugely talented musicians with a huge amount of charisma, who have perfected the conventions of 90’s, largely California-based, pop punk, a la Green Day, and are currently on tour with ska-punk stalwarts Less Than Jake.
Kenneths are at their best when their songs sit at the punkier end of things, which they both open and close their set with, providing a much appreciated warm energy to their sound, but are less successful when going a bit more glam rock, American Idiot era infused style.
Overall, they manage to make a massively derivative sound pretty enjoyable despite its unoriginality, one just wonders how far they can realistically go doing just that.
Speaking of stalwarts, We Are Scientists take the teatime slot at the main stage of ABC regardless of their only really successful record, With Love & Squalor, being released over a decade ago (feel old yet?).
This is due to a couple reasons: first, We Are Scientists have never taken themselves too seriously, even when they were at their creative and commercial peak, they always looked like they were just having fun with it, and that reflected well towards their audiences.
And second, that aforementioned major label debut record still largely stands up as one of the best of the era.
This is painfully clear tonight, as the four tracks from that record (more than any of the rest of their back catalogue) stand head-and-shoulders above the rest of their set, which never rises to the same dizzying pop-rock heights of that early material, and judging by the audience’s reaction to them, this seems to be a consensus view.
The New York-based band do not seem phased by this, as they have retained that refreshing sense of humour about themselves, but it is clear from the peppering of “the hits” throughout the set, this is all they will ever really be known for.
I catch the end of Sheffield emo-grunge two piece Nai Harvest next, a band who have been working wonders on the underground scene for years now and are just starting to break through into a potentially major audience.
While Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’s isn’t packed for them, those who stick it out to see them are collectively in awe of the band’s noise-making capabilities, while also garnering a knack for writing catchy, inventive hits.
The queue for Edinburgh’s indie-rock noise merchants We Were Promised Jetpacks is by far the biggest seen all night, which isn’t surprising given the band’s recent rise to success scoring some highly prominent support slots, so instead I go to see punk band Bad Breeding based on quite a few word of mouth recommendations, and my, they do not disappoint.
While not really fitting in with the rest of the line-up, Bad Breeding is an extremely exciting, visceral band that is merciless in their aural assault.
Coming from the hardly fashionable midlands town of Stevenage, they possess and intriguing blend of new and old hardcore punk, blending old Oi! stylings with more modern, challenging stuff with real prowess.
The band is very impressive, especially in what isn’t traditionally a very punk-geared festival, not that it stopped those in attendance from making it feel like a classic punk show for 20 minutes.
Finally, we get to This Will Destroy You, who is booked pretty strangely in headlining The Art School stage after the aforementioned We Were Promised Jetpacks.
Had it been the other way around, the audience could have closed the night with a local(ish) celebration from a band that plays more immediate, party music.
Instead, TWDY have to fight to keep the now diminished crowd engaged at the end of a long night with their slow-burning post-rock.
It is a shame because the Texan four-piece has quietly announced themselves as masters of the genre since releasing their excellent debut EP a decade ago.
And there is absolutely nothing wrong with their performance tonight, they hit all their usual loud-quiet dynamics and soundscapes clinically, it’s just the wrong time and place to really keep the tiring audience on board, as quite a few make their collective ways out into the night to keep their buzz going.
So, an understated but still successful festival.
What’s always fun about Stag and Dagger is that there will be plenty of people who had entirely different experiences from mine, but overall it is a great and necessary event.
Words: Adam Turner-Heffer
Photos: Paul Storr