The small basement venue is packed as tonight’s support takes to the stage, Sarah J Stanley is an all round aficionado of the creative arts with music, filmmaking and art at her helm.
Stanley’s most recent musical endeavor, HQFU delivers a punchy and melodic brand of electronica that is impossible not to dance along to.
Her voice is both haunting and powerful, bolstered by slick beats, the resulting sound is a full and synth-laden set delivered by an undeniably talented musician.
There’s a palpable buzz in the Hug and Pint’s basement venue this evening, and I can sense that this is a room full of devoted “Hubby” fans.
As RM Hubbert takes to the stage, I swear you could hear a pin drop.
“I’m Santa’s edgier brother, I’m what happens when you’re bad,” he remarks, in the spirit of all things festive.
The room falls silent again as he begins to play; the notes of his flamenco guitar dance menacingly around the sinister lyrics of ‘I Can Hold You Back’; a track originally recorded with Kathryn Williams, tonight is rendered emotively by Hubbert.
Aware that the night has got off to a somewhat musically sombre start, Hubbert introduces his next song “A happy one,” called ‘Buckstacy’ a love letter to Buckfast and Ecstasy.
The driving beat which pounds throughout ‘Buckstacy’ is – I imagine – comparable to the palpitations one may experience during such a Glasgow-themed cocktail of caffeinated tonic wine and empathogenic drugs.
It is however a happy song, and there’s a lot of warm and smiling faces around the room.
Happiness is the elephant in the room tonight, as most here will be familiar with Hubbert’s well-documented struggles with anxiety and depression.
He takes a bit of time out in the middle of tonight’s set to talk about how music has been both a cause and a cure for his problems with his mental health.
He states that thanks to music, he’s come to the realisation that connecting with people is really important to him, and that playing live gigs allows him a platform to connect with new people, and in turn, feel emotionally well.
This perhaps is very evident in the collaborative nature of Hubbert’s records, and although he is on stage alone tonight, he seems content in a crowded room full of friends.
There are audible sighs around the room as he introduces ‘For Joe’ as if people are preparing for the heartbreak he is about to bestow on them.
It’s a gorgeous song that ebbs and flows gently, and regardless of your knowledge of the context in which it was written; delivers a steely punch in the pit of your stomach as the tempo peaks at the end.
As we move to the end of his set, he’s joined by HQFU for a song, and it’s clear from their on-stage rapport, that Hubbert is at the very top of his game when he is sharing his love of music with other like-minded people.
The intimacy of the venue, coupled with Hubbert’s self-deprecating humor, which permeates both his lyrics and his short, sardonic musings between songs, is why tonight’s show is one of those perfect couplings of time and place.
His bad Santa act isn’t fooling anyone, because by doors, there’s nothing but joy around.
With Doune the Rabbit Hole coming up next weekend we thought we’d give you a run down of some of the acts to check out, problem was we felt the line up so strong that we couldn’t limit it down to a certain number, here’s a wee day by day effort to keep you occupied:
Headlined by Liars, a band that now has a fairly hefty and still consistent back catalogue, and featuring a DJ set from snooker legend Steve Davis Friday opens the festival in the evening til the wee hours of Saturday morning, here our recommendations outside of the headliner:
BDY_PRTS (16.00, Jabberwocky)
The colourful duo, now turned trio of BDY_PRTS, Jill O’Sullivan (Sparrow And The Workshop, James Yorkston), Jenny Reeve (Strike The Colours, Arab Strap, The Reindeer Section) and Jonny Scott (The Kills, Chvrches), returned this year with new with subtle harmonies and avant pop of new single ‘Rooftops’ and if the single is anything to go by we can expect big things from a band that have been slowing building for a few years now.
Playing two sets over the weekend, the duo that we consider one of the most exciting acts around just now start with what would be there pop set that will set you with as much compulsion to dance as it will intrigue at their beautiful mix of bleeps that borrows sounds from as far as Italo disco, 80s synth pop, acid house, through in a few gorgeous vocal hooks to boot and hugely entertaining live show they’re ones not to be missed.
Over the course of the last ten years Adam Torres has attracted much critical acclaim for his gorgeous vocal, now his songs have grown into something more wild and growing a lovely chill slot to ease you in or calm you down when things get too wild.
With costume changes almost every song and still some proper great, weird punk pop songs to boot Fallope & the Tubes could the one that sticks with you. Expect loads of fun and the girls dressed as giant vaginas at some point.
LYLO (17.00, Baino)
Another band that have allowed themselves time to grow are LYLO and they are beginning to show the sign of blossoming into something that could be much more than the Glasgow scene favourite they currently are. Live the guys are formidable, delivering jazz enthused post punk vibes and plenty of presence upfront, a perfect catch for any time of the evening.
Sarah J Stanley’s electro alias HQFU will thrive given the right slot, last year her set got a little lost in the rain and chatter at the at times sound affected Parabola Stage, but trusting the festival have found her a more suitable setting her sets can be truly infectious and hypnotic experiences. A perfect pick me up for those late evening lulls or one to hit the dancing to late on.
It only comes around once a year but Oran Mor’s All Dayer is one of the West End Festival’s most coveted musical events, this year boasting 17 bands across three stages and offering something for everyone, from pounding Scottish rock to electronic acts and dad-friendly acoustic nostalgia (it is Father’s Day after all).
Kicking things off with a mid-afternoon slot in the Whisky Bar is Ayr’s Flew the Arrow, aka Lee McGilvray.
Fresh from a slot at Eden Festival, Flew the Arrow fills the room with the warm timbres of his acoustic guitar, a soft voice that bristles just slightly with an Ayrshire twang, crafting earnest narratives of love and loss from Romantic landscapes whose imagery weaves through each song like a subtle and haunting poem.
Flew the Arrow cuts a friendly, laid-back presence in the bar, introducing each of his songs with genuine enthusiasm.
‘Inner Space’ is a highlight, with intricate finger-picking painting various tints of emotion; there’s definitely a feel of Mike Nisbet and The Tallest Man on Earth to his lyrical pastoralism, overlaid with rich acoustics.
The set includes a beautiful cover of Fionn Regan’s ‘Abacus’, and you can’t help but feel that this is a perfect match; met somewhere between the Firth of Clyde and the Irish Sea, as Regan’s tenderly wistful lyrics, his Dubliner’s lilt, is taken to a rawer place with McGilvray’s somnolent, whisky-cut delivery.
Continuing the rural theme, I pop downstairs to the Venue for Campfires in Winter, who immediately lift the sleepy and sweaty room with tunes which veer between mesmerising and simply invigorating, boasting sharp riffs, brooding bass and images of decay and fade.
With Robert Canavan’s sonorous voice and the transmitted despair of lush atmospherics on standout ‘Free Me From The Howl’, it’s easy to make comparisons with We Were Promised Jetpacks, or All Dayer veterans, The Twilight Sad.
The band sound best when they push the alt-rock boundaries, expanding their angst with poppier melodies, subtle harmonies or layers of smooth dark brass.
As the afternoon pushes on, the whole building is more or less dripping with sweat as June offers up its sultry heat; however, when Indigo Velvet take to the Venue stage their vibrant brand of tropical pop cuts easily through the fug.
The Edinburgh quartet have really been honing their live show of late and today they bound effortlessly through the likes of ‘Blue’, ‘Easy Love’, ‘Sunrise’ and new track ‘Rug Rats’.
With all those tight, bright and knotty wee rhythms, fresh melodies, sunny percussion and overall Afrobeat influence, Indigo Velvet have an easy appeal that earns its merit from youthful spirit and a commitment to having fun with music—they’ve kept that endearing greenness but now feel ripe for the big time (or at the very least, this year’s festival circuit).
The next act in the Venue is Sarah J. Stanley, aka HQFU, who performs a totally hypnotic solo electronic set with the help of a drummer to provide some live beats.
With that crystalline voice, the darkly ethereal guitar, house-inspired rhythms and the energy of 90s dance classics, HQFU’s songs translate perfectly to the basement venue and provide that much-needed late afternoon pick-me-up, the hand-clap trills of ‘Dust and Dirt’ being one standout of many.
There’s something a bit grungy about HQFU’s take on her ecstasies of influence; the scuffed Docs and smudged eyeliner to your neon-hued happy hardcore.
Among the jagged synth-lines, glitches, stormy billows of feedback and bleeps, her reverb-heavy feminine voice recalls Poliça—but Poliça with a hefty adrenaline shot added to the mix.
In search of fresher air I head upstairs to catch the end of Rick Redbeard’s set in the Auditorium.
Self-consciously morose and rich with slightly mordant humour, Redbeard’s onstage persona is easeful and invites us into the lush melancholy of his acoustic ballads, lifted to so many poignant moments as his resonant voice ripples through the room.
There’s something quite special about the All Dayer; nobody really talks over anyone’s set, there’s no jostling in the crowd, no push to get to the front or to the bar.
Everyone’s there for the music; there’s a welcoming sense of community and mutual respect, with band members turning up in the audience to catch fellow acts in the lineup.
Kid Canaveral take to the Auditorium stage next with ‘First We Take Dunbarton’ and deliver a characteristically edgy and spirited set, despite being a band member down.
Trading in jokes, quips and sarcasm, singers David MacGregor and Kate Lazda power through the heat and maintain a certain momentum among synth beats and pounding drums.
They draw songs from across their back catalogue, with the languishing ‘Skeletons’ and bittersweet ‘Low Winter Sun’ complementing more recent, poppier tracks from Faulty Inner Dialogue, ‘Callous Parting Gift’ allowing Lazda’s vocals to sparkle among the flashing Auditorium lights.
After catching a bit of evening sun in the beer garden, most of the crowd migrates back upstairs for Mull Historical Society in the Auditorium.
Colin MacIntyre sits atop a bar stool and holds out an hour’s set with just a guitar, that high and serenading voice and a riveting career’s worth of eccentric pop songs.
Channelling those alt-folk vibes while remaining grounded in the upbeat possibilities of stripped-back indie, MacIntyre brings his parochial charm to a filled-out room who remain more or less entirely under his spell for the whole set, an oscillating journey through nostalgia, hope, love and loss, carried more-or-less entirely by MacIntyre’s candid and impassioned vocals.
MacIntyre’s songs are angsty, certainly: ‘The Final Arrears’ is torn with indecision and those internal rhymes are only a haunting comfort among all the melancholy.
It’s like the suburban slacker-pop of Pavement transplanted to Scotland’s rugged west coast; except while the former might aimlessly circle their neon-drenched 7/11s, MacIntyre reaches out for a different kind of light at the end of the bay.
On the subject of home, Oban-raised author Alan Warner (who also spent a childhood travelling back and forth to Mull) writes of a ‘shallow and secret glen’, ‘this place that has come to declare itself within me when I define home’.
Between songs, MacIntyre admits that pretty much all his songs ‘seem to be about finding home’; like Warner his sense of home is defined by the solitary appreciation of a place whose memory takes on a certain misty-eyed mythology, a deep and personal significance, a longing that plays out through his wistful lyrics.
He keeps the audience hooked on stories about recording at Abbey Road studios, seeing the lights of cities (well, Oban!) for the first time as a child born in the Hebrides, appreciating the beauty of ugly buildings–which feels ironic in the context of the Auditorium’s breathtaking interiors and Alasdair Gray mural.
Highlights include Mull Historical Society classics like ‘Barcode Bypass’, ‘Watching Xanadu’, ‘The Lights’ and more recent single, the mellow and steadfast ‘Build Another Brick’.
I leave towards the end of MacIntyre’s set to catch some of Bloodlines’ manic, ear-splitting rock down in the Venue, which is at this point considerably less packed than the Auditorium.
However, nothing affects the band’s energy and they deliver belters like ‘Mother’s Misery’ with showers of sweat, jarring math rock rhythms and acidic shivers of electric sound—there’s even a (short-lived) stage dive.
Closing the evening back upstairs is Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire.
Although Hart has been busy announcing the recent SAY Awards short list at the BBC Quay Sessions, he and his band manage a flawless set in spite of the wearying heat, reassuring us that normally they’re ‘not a sweaty band’.
Suit jackets or not, that level of professionalism is present in the music itself; this is a band at the top of their game, maybe not drastically pushing boundaries but nevertheless perfecting a seamless blend of Scottish indie, eighties-inspired pop and the more expansive Americana sounds of Springsteen and Kris Kristofferson.
While their style has a certain west end gloss, it’s also got the atmospherics of a dark and brooding rural landscape, all mountains and the trickling streams of silvery harmonies.
The set is overwhelmingly drawn from recent LP, Swithering, with favourites from their eponymous debut thrown in: these include ‘Queenstown’ and ‘Bright Light Fever’, which packs a rockier punch in the crowded room.
Although the Lonesome Fire are a 7-piece, the music never feels cluttered and the guitars and rhythms are smoothly layered and tightly held; the band, however, aren’t afraid to loosen up for some vigorous solos on the likes of ‘Dreamt You Were Mine’.
It’s a well-paced set, with livelier numbers woven around more pensive, piano-driven tracks like ‘Violet’ and ‘Tiny Miracles’.
Throughout, Hart provides the welcoming and slightly flamboyant banter, highlighting his band’s knack for a strong harmony: “ladies and gentlemen, the Scottish Beach Boys”.
Although introduced as a “weird song”, ‘Low Light’ proves to be a set standout, with its new wave flashes of Aztec Camera, Talking Heads and Orange Juice showing a willingness to flirt with the quirky–Hart delivering some seriously good vibrato and singing with a more explicitly Scottish inflection.
The set’s penultimate track, a powerful cover of Neil Young’s ‘Revolution Blues’, delivers a topical and raucous kick at the establishment as Hart wryly comments, “it’s a very tough time to be a politician at the moment but it’s an even tougher time to be a human”.
Channelling Young’s lyrics allows Hart’s voice to really come into its own, acquiring a darker fury than his usual restrained cadence.
The set ends with ‘Berlin’, a U2-sized epic with shimmering guitars, subtle harmonies, snappy rhythms and fat, eighties percussion; the midway key/tempo change moving us through to the other side, this message of endurance which closes the day on a high: “you were my first love / you’ll be my only love / I’ll never leave you / I could never give you up”.
It’s not always easy choosing headliners for such an eclectic event, but Roddy Hart & The Lonesome Fire certainly top off the Auditorium’s lineup in style, garnering much applause from the audience.
All in all, another successful All Dayer: heartwarming, energising and a testament to the magic that happens when a venue of Oran Mor’s stature gives itself up to music for the day.
Tolbooth’s Strange Behaviours has two-day festival returns to Stirling for a third triumphant year.
With 18 acts to choose from, the event is a musical smorgasbord with a genre to please even the pickiest of music fans.
Living up to the events name, this year’s chosen aesthetics are just that – strange; broken and decorated mannequins are placed around the venue – some splashed with paint and one covered entirely in multi-coloured feathers.
A projector had also been set up in the Attic Stage showing scenes from Charlie Brown as well as footage of cakes being iced on a loop and other random background imagery.
Stock Manager kick off proceedings in the Attic Stage – having the most daunting slot on the bill being responsible for setting the tone for the rest of the night.
And they didn’t disappoint, they’re just a proper good rock band – complete with the behaviour (no pun intended) to match the sound.
Whether it be rocking out on the floor, knee slides as they jam together or knocking over parts of their set (sometimes accidently –but we’ll pretend it’s all part of their plan), the rock band persona oozes out of them.
Their music is complete with heavy riffs drops that are worthy of a good head-bang.
A new element has been added to the acts playing in the venue’s Gallery Stage this year – a versus battle but not like you know it.
First to put it to the test on Friday night is Chrissy Barnacle and December ’91.
Barnacle provides us with brutally honest tales of her own love life, filling the gaps between songs with quirky anecdotes and the history behind her tracks.
The personality that poured from her makes her entirely relatable – with a very 21st century view of love and relationships it is almost empowering to hear someone talk so openly about it and put it so eloquently to beautiful acoustic music.
Plus, anyone who can use a Tina Turner reference – “what’s love got to do with it?” – so effortlessly in her set is a hero in my eyes.
Once Barnacle had finished playing a few tracks, the audience had to shuffle through to the adjoining room – where Craig Ferrie aka December ’91 is set up with his guitar. Admitting that he’s not as good with the chat in between songs, he simply lets his music do the talking.
His songs run through a similar theme to Barnacle’s, with love and relationships being the key topic to both acts’ music.
Be Charlotte is up next on the Auditorium Stage – making the wee town of Stirling the last stop on her recent tour around South Asia.
A vision of the 90s in her sheer fluorescent top, oversized glasses and topknot bun, she showcases brand new unnamed material as well as live set staples such as ‘Machines That Breathe’.
Her flawless vocals flow effortlessly from rapping to singing without any backing music – stunning her audience into silence.
Don’t be fooled by her petite appearance, her vocals can encapsulate an entire room and she’s not afraid to call you out for talking through her performance either!
The band I have been looking forward to seeing on the Friday night are The Pale Kids and their set is filled with banter, with frontman Josh declaring “that’s close enough” whilst tuning his guitar for their performance.
Their angsty lyrics and heavy distorted guitars engulf the intimate room; The Pale Kids are definitely a band made for a big stage, it’s impossible not to want mosh along to their music – you should come out of their gig with a headache.
A good headache, like getting brain freeze from eating ice cream.
The Auditorium Stage becomes a calm haven with Hubby up on the stage sat on a chair with just his guitar and the audience mirror his set up by taking a seat on the floor to enjoy his performance as he captures their imagination with his heartfelt and soulful lyricism.
Never afraid to touch on dark taboo topics like suicide, the sometimes melancholic music contrasts with his personality as he chats openly and honestly with his audience between tracks therefore stopping his performance from getting too heavy – it is a Friday night after all.
Eugene Twist kicks off Saturday night on the Auditorium Stage, bringing his jazzy alt-rock to Stirling.
Twist is regularly compared to the likes of Bob Dylan for his vocal talent (I must admit, his appearance is slightly Dylan-esque as well), however he’s definitely a musician in his own right as he packs his songs with sophisticated lyrics and smooth melodies.
He treats his audience to a special stripped down version of ‘Halloween Drama Queen’ as well as new material to be featured on his upcoming album due in January.
Saturday night sees another versus set take place in the Gallery Stage, this time round it is C R P N T R and The Narcissist Cookbook.
At first look, you’d maybe be confused as to why these two acts had been paired together, but after a few tracks, it’s clear to see that they share a common theme.
As well as both being Stirling locals, their music shows them both to be lyrical wordsmiths.
If you squint a little and ignore the Scottish accent, you could mistake The Narcissist Cookbook for Ed Sheeran; either way, he’s definitely got the same level of talent.
At times, he resembled a one-man-band alternating between guitar and tambourine, whilst using the loop pedal to create a vocal backing track.
Although I can’t empathise with his feelings of distain towards coffee (portrayed through track ‘Sugar In My Coffee’), I have to admit I did find myself singing along to it days after the gig; he just makes damn good catchy music.
Moving through to the next room to watch C R P N T R’s (aka. Owen Sutcliffe) counter-performance, we are greeted by Sutcliffe and his companion donning a walrus mask.
An entirely bizarre set up, but Sutcliffe choses not to be restricted by his stage set up and brings his performance into the crowd as he energetically stomps around the room whilst professing about conundrums surrounding Tesco chicken Caesar wraps.
Sutcliffe creates an entirely immersive performance showing he won’t be kept back by boundaries – both literally and creatively.
Alt-folk musician and visual artist Sarah J. Stanley – playing under alias HQFU – brings the party vibes to the Attic Stage on Saturday night, bringing an end to the acts playing in the intimate stage at the top of the Tolbooth.
Stanley fuses her alt-folk roots with electro pop to create hazy, grungy dance music that’s perfect for a Saturday slot, a home-grown Alice Glass meets Jamie XX – Stanley is definitely one to look up if you like your electronic synth-heavy music.
The Tolbooth never fails to highlight the best Scotland has to offer and they do it best with their Strange Behaviours festival.
If you don’t leave after the two nights with a list of some new favourite artists then you haven’t taken full advantage of the great acts on offer to you.
After three successful years, Strange Behaviours doesn’t show any signs of slowing.
After the roaring success of the previous two years, Tolbooth’s Strange Behaviours festival makes a welcome return to Stirling for a third year.
This mini-festival celebrating the best Scotish music has to offer, spans two nights and three different stages with an array of genres to suit anybody’s taste.
Here’s a little preview of what this festival has to offer and who you should be fitting into your schedule for the two nights!
Dundonian Be Charlotte is known for her innovatio; an award-winning lady of many talents, not only does she have the flawless vocals to compliment her electronic indie pop sound but she defies stereotypes by rapping and beatboxing too.
The Pale Kids
A four-piece from North Ayrshire – their sound is easily compared to such indie legends of the 2000s such as The Strokes and Arctic Monkeys. The Pale Kids make this genre their own with their Scottish wailing alongside distorted rocking guitars and coupled with angsty honest lyrics.
Topping the bill for Friday night, RM Hubbert has been a part of the Glaswegian music scene since the 90s, playing under various guises but now rides solo and manages to create chills with just his guitar for company. Although mostly instrumental, when Hubby does use his voice it’s utterly enchanting.
Playing under the alias HQFU, Sarah J Stanley’s set will be a sensation for eyes and ears as her electronic-trance music is often paired with psychedelic lighting and visuals. Both her musical style and appearance creates the sense of a Scottish Alice Glass.
You won’t need to hit the local clubs on Saturday night to get into the party vibe.
The Cosmic Dead
Describing themselves as a “psychonautal cosmodelic buckfaustian quartet” definitely reflects the music of The Cosmic Dead as, like their apt description, none of it seems to make sense but somehow it works. They push the boundaries of music with their trippy space rock sound and epic saga-length tracks. Most musicians give you an insight into their mind but with this band, you’ll be taken to a completely different planet.
Doune the Rabbit Hole is now been pretty high our list of summer events, the family friendly vibe, typically diverse and entertaining line up and an array of delightful food, plus the influx of dogs make it one of the most delightful festivals of the summer.
Sadly my experience this year is smattered with illness and severely cuts short my festival experience, illness coupled with the rain drenched conditions weren’t the best pairing, but that’s no disrespect to the festival just an unfortunate scenario.
My weekend begins on relatively well footing at the Jabberwocky Stage with Glasgow favourites Babe, after a long and painful, but completely necessary set up, get people moving from the off with glitchy synths that twinkle above the soggy field.
Still it’s rewarding stuff as Gerard Black, kitted out in green trackies and umbro training top, lets his soft yet high-pitched tones drift and sooth, never failing to put a smile on your face.
The band is joined later on by the delightful Rozi Plain who brings an extra touch of charm to set simply oozes it.
Hoping for a bit more glitchy brilliance we head over to the Parabola Stage to catch a bit of HQFU, sadly the stage suffers from a host of sound difficulties and the set’s low volume becomes somewhat lost in rain and chatter.
It’s a shame as Sarah J Stanley’s performance at its peak is an infectious experience, sadly this isn’t quite the ideal setting and the tunes simply meld into the surroundings.
12-piece Scots-Irish folk super group, Treacherous Orchestra fill up the Jabberwocky Stage as they treat the crowd to an engaging, high-energy musical showcase which encompasses bagpipes, guitars, whistles, fiddles, double bass, banjo and drums alongside many others.
Their cabaret style set-up complete with outfits that could stand up to the likes of My Chemical Romance creates a truly entertaining performance, which encourages not only foot tapping from the crowd, but also some full on ceilidh dancing.
Both Treacherous Orchestra’s style and sound is the perfect fit for the eccentric Doune The Rabbit Hole and just what is needed to get you in the mood to dance the night away.
We’re in high-sprits as we make our way back to the Parabola to catch personal favourites Bossy Love.
At first I’m worried Bossy Love’s huge sound will suffer the fate as HQFU did earlier in by appearing on this smaller wooden stage, however Amandah Wilkinson’s sweet, thick vocals and catchy chants power through showcasing her true talent.
Per usual Wilkinson holds an enormous presence on the stage encouraging the audience to dance their hearts out as she leaps off the stage to join the in the crowd.
Bossy Love possess everything you could possibly want from a RnB/pop duo as both Wilkinson and her partner John Baillie Jnr.’s immense energy, catchy melodies and defining facial expressions create a highly entertaining performance.
By the time Blanck Mass takes to the Baino Stage it’s getting a bit late, but such is Benjamin John Power’s mastery of this drone-y experimental dance sound that it’s something that keeps you dancing to entrancing end.
Every part of the set seems to fall into the right place without ever needing to hint a big drop; it’s expressive, glowing and immersive stuff and the perfect end to an evening before things take a downward turn that sees me spending most of Saturday in the medical tent.
Leaving Iain behind to get some much-needed rest I head to the arena in time to catch some of Admiral Fallow‘s uplifting set.
The Scottish folk ensemble treats the crowd to tracks both old and new as their soaring guitars, tender harmonies and atmospheric melodies feel perfectly at home.
The highlight of their set comes in the form of personal favourite ‘Guest of the Government’ as even those not familiar to the band can not help but move to its catchy beats.
With a temporary change in lineup Polarnecks are the next on tonight’s list, providing a darker emotive sound than tonight’s previous performances, the trio act as a refreshing change to the festival’s scene.
Combining gloomy melodies, thundering guitars and echoing vocals with a touch of unnerving distortion Polarnecks live show truly showcases their strong musicianship, which, alongside thought-provoking lyrics, create an overall a distinctive sound.
Having only recently arrived back in the country after some months away in Thailand I am excited to see the effects travelling have had on December ’91‘s sound.
Playing solo tonight doesn’t hush frontman Craig Ferrie’s booming vocals as he gives a truly heartfelt and powerful performance.
Ferrie’s onstage presence is as endearing as always, as he continually cracks jokes with his intimate audience.
Even though smaller than most crowds this weekend, its size works in Ferrie’s favour allowing him to deliver a set more than capable of sending shivers down your spine.
By the time I make it to along to Whistleblower Stage for Shopping‘s set the night is beginning to become quite blurry, however the trio still manage to make quite a memorable impact as they bounce around the stage and encourage the crowd to do the same.
Combining lo-fi guitars, angular riffs and yelping vocals Shopping treat their audience to a variety of catchy upbeat tunes from a mix of their albums, which truly showcase both their showmanship and musical skill; a wonderful end to an excellent evening of live music.
Sadly the aforementioned illness means we only make it along to one of Sunday’s performances, however we have saved the best to last as the incredible TeenCanteen serve as the highlight of the weekend.
Covered in glitter and dressed like they’ve just come from a fairy themed-fancy dress party, TeenCanteen’s aesthetics perfectly match their sound as they deliver a set packed full of catchy beats, heartfelt lyrics and elegant harmonies from the band’s three frontwoman.
Their sickly-sweet indie-pop melodies are the perfect soundtrack to this afternoon’s sunshine, and being able to sit on the grass by the Jackerwocky Stage brings back good memories of last year’s better health and weather.
Day two and the bus issues don’t reoccur, we are however met with a rather more rain soaked affair after torrential rains last night hit the festival site hard, still the news that Tom Odell and Bay City Rollers have switched sets, meaning I get to see some our local heroes for a fun time later on, sets my spirits that little bit higher.
Over at T Break Domiciles are already in action and the Fife based five-piece deliver a powerful garage tinged psych rock sound that sets the early mood and gets a few heads nodding, while also bringing a few familiar faces as it seems a large portion of Glasgow’s music scene has descended on Strathallan Castle.
There’s a hypnotic feel to Domiciles’ set that you would imagine would mesmerise in a packed venue, still the band adapt to the big stage admirably and play a set as loud as anything I’ve heard on T Break so far.
My first trip to the BBC Introducing stage is for the act that opens it, and it turns out to be the set of the weekend as CABBAGE open things in rip-roaring fashion; screeching guitars collide with powerful rhythms and an in your face sneery chanted vocal that serves up an attitude packed set from the Manchester five-piece.
Their vocalists’ look comes across a little John Cooper Clark dressed as the cast of Friends, with the baggy trousers, shirt and shades get up, still he possesses bags presence and it’s hard to take your eyes off him as he spouts highly satirical attacks on the flaws of the country right now.
There’s a distinct punk vibe to the whole set, from delivery down to lyrical content, and it’s a refreshing thing to see this kind music taking a stand on a stage at one of the UK’s biggest festivals.
A frontman switch and removal of the shades doesn’t quell the energy, and the alternative vocalist goes taps aff and delivers an almost half spoken half screeched track, before rocking on a jaunting rockabilly sounding track about “death to Donald Trump” that culminates in the singer rolling around screaming; enthralling stuff.
Back over at T Break and Redolent is already on, allowing their bizarrely sunny sounding, despite the overriding emo feel, tracks to float effortlessly across the crowd.
The Edinburgh four-piece seem comfortable on the bigger stage as twinkling guitars and bleepy synth loops build huge sounding instrumental tracks that sees the band at their upbeat, expansive post rock best.
Following Redolent, other Edinburgh residents Mt. Doubt open their set with quite possibly their best track to date in the encapsulating, huge sounding ‘SOAK’ and it does the trick, engrossing the T Break crowd as the band, playing today as a full six-piece, sound massive and fill the tent with soaring synths and Leo Bargery’s enchanting bellow, which is complimented perfectly by Annie Booth’s dimension creating floaty vocal input.
Recent single ‘Afterglow’ follows in the same pop edged indie rock glory, it’s a real testament to Bargery’s songwriting that having only listened to their debut album, In Awe of Nothing, a handful of times that the words already seem to be sticking.
With a bit of luck these guys will continue to progress and could easily make the next step up at a festival like this.
At BBC Introducing I catch a flamboyant burst of The Mirror Trap, the show is full of flailing hands and camp hip shakes and while explosive at points, it does seem a bit too cheesy on the whole, so I head back over to T Break for JR Green’s guitar/accordion led set.
The Highlands based brother have a real modern take on what is essentially tradition music and chants of “my youth is on fire” have the potential to be a real festival staple.
The Green brothers possess a real likable quality that’s driven on by the addition of percussion that adds another bow to their already engaging quality, ‘Nigerian Princess’, from their debut EP Bring The Witch Doctor, is the set standout, but unfortunately the set is severely disturbed by the chatter of a Main Stage crowd sheltering from the rain; apparently Jess Glyne ain’t worth getting wet for.
Back at BBC Introducing and HQFU is blasting us with clattering, glitchy electronics and it would be a real defining set had the outside clatter not been more audible than the quieter portions of the set, as a result it feels like a constant fight for audibility between the promising producer and a set of dodgems; sad reality of playing a smaller stage at a big festival.
It’s a shame as this disturbance seems to really affect the set, which is full of blindingly glimmering beats that would ordinarily see many a dance floor filled, but today, well it’s ruined simply by proximity and despite a number of signs being handed out encouraging people further forward and perks things up a little, but this is one set we’ll have to put down for another day.
Be Charlotte’s set on the same stage suffers a similar fate and for a set that hosts a series of impressive acapella sections, it’s hard for the brash sounds of the shows not to disturb.
Shame because young Charlotte Brimner’s voice is spectacular, still it’s credit to her that she manages to raise her set above it and the dancier numbers shimmer above the mire.
The set itself is full of the ever impressive and chart teasing delights we’ve become accustomed to; go see her in a better setting, you will not be let down.
The Van T’s seem to do no wrong these days, well drummer Shaun Hood’s hair and get up today is pretty questionable, but tonight they headline the BBC Introducing Stage and raise the volume up to levels that any outside disturbances are drowned out in fuzzy glory.
The four-piece has the same bounce they possessed when they played T Break last year and with impressive new EP, A Coming Of Age, in the bag, along with a couple of banging surfy garage tinged anthem singles this year is looking pretty rosy.
Tonight their set reflects exactly this as addictive harmonies and pounding rhythms punctuate reverberated guitars to produce a set that grasps your attention and never lets go.
And as the three glittered girls up front look as much the part as they sound it, and their drummer maybe even more so, it seems the only way is up.
Following this I drift off over to the King Tut’s Tent for a bit if the Rollers, get taught The Slosh and have a wonderful time; I also get pulled along to The 1975 and Catfish and Bottlemen but neither set catches me as anything of real note.
MØGEN, new electro-pop act from Dumfries, open the night by bringing ambient sounds and soft vocals through a loop pedal and a synth.
At one point they slip into ‘Heaven’ and the duo bicker over whether it is a cover of Bryan Adams or DJ Sammy.
The young frontwoman has an ethereal voice reminiscent of Purity Ring and Daughter, as heard on first single ‘Anchor’.
The back room of the Southside’s Glad Cafe is covered in DIY banners and tape, with “HQFU YES U” scrawled on every space and a merch table stocking the self-titled debut album launching tonight on vinyl, t-shirts and, of course, socks.
TYCI, feminist collective and promoters, bring an amazing atmosphere of community to all of their events.
Tonight there is champagne popping in front of the stage, enthusiastic dancing and a lot of love in all corners of the packed venue.
Sarah J. Stanley is the Glasgow-based musician and producer behind HQFU, and a talented visual artist.
She has a fierce attitude and aesthetic to match the bitter and mantra-like lyrics, which get better with every listen, like the repeated declaration on one track, “you should feel like shit too”, and the cynical chorus “too much of a dreamer / it will fuck you over” on ‘Dreamer’.
HQFU is dark but electrifying techno-house, euphoric and intense rave music to soundtrack hedonistic antidotes to angst.
Very 90s-influenced and a little Crystal Castles, by halfway through the set The Glad Cafe could just as well have been the Sub Club, particularly on tracks ‘Sat Nite’ and ‘Ca$hle$$ Lips’.
New single ‘Good Reason’ moves frantically through keyboard riffs and drum machine sounds to a crescendo that gets every last person in the crowd twitching their shoulders.
With a summer of collaborations and festivals lined up, catch HQFU in small venues like this while you can – the fever this album brings to the launch will keep spreading like fire through the Scottish music scene and beyond.