Tag Archives: Public Service Broadcasting

Electric Fields 2016, Day One, 26/7/16

Back down in Dumfries for another Electric Fields and this year the festival has seen a whole load of new investment, resulting in a stronger, less Scottish oriented line up, an extra day of music, larger stages, better food and an all round bigger feel.

And it all seems to pay off, at less than £100 a ticket this festival is bargain when you consider the acts on display; and the whole thing feels a lot less thrown together.

Not that the festival in previous years had been thrown together, you can just tell there’s a much higher budget this year and it has been put to good use.

Musically we start with what could potentially be the pinnacle of the weekend as Glasgow’ rioters Sweaty Palms open the Tim Peaks Stage, and lift the oddly couch scattered space quickly with evil sneers, dirty guitars and pure sleaze filled gothy garage rock.

The five-piece are kitted out in an array of hooded cloaks, along with a military hat and the now compulsory toplessness from at least 2/5 of the band; this look cements the slanted humour to their sound and set, which has increasing become something that you can’t really know what to expect from, well except a full on unruly experience.

These guys are deserving of a bigger stage, but they do play to a fairly healthy crowd and deliver a set that gets the festival off and running in the perfect way, as they put you in a trance with their psych touching vibes and let loose with a give a fuck attitude that is much better utilised here than it was in the ridiculous slot they were handed at T in the Park.

This is my first time experiencing Glasgow based duo Elara Caluna in a live setting and from this showing in won’t be the last as they, joined by two other musicians, deliver a flowing set of lackadaisical indie pop with darker undertones.

Calm, yet unsettling vocals allow intricate percussion and lulling synths to ease into an almost dystopian landscape without any restraint and leave you with an eerie yet comfortable feeling.

Elara Caluna’s set is a subtle mix of the sweet and the creepy that drags you into a trap, but you’re too drawn by the beauty in to even care.

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Due to an unfortunate interview mix up I find myself sadly missing the delightful Tuff Love, and the novelty of catching Sugarhill Gang is killed off by the band being caught in traffic and completely missing their set, so next up is a trip to the Stewart Cruickshank Stage, named in honour of the recently deceased radio DJ who did so much for the Scottish music over the years, for former Delgados singer Emma Pollock.

Pollock clearly familiar with commanding a crowd and relaxes the nerves with a driving rock set that fully demonstrates her well honed pop rock tracks that quite rightly were shortlisted for this year’s SAY Award on In Search of Harperfield.

There’s a real confidence to her vocal, which compliment the strong and enchanting songwriting that comes with an overriding pop feel.

Still, this year’s festival has been marred by the tragic recent passing of The Lapelles frontman Gary Watson, and Pollock is the first of a few artists this weekend to mention this as she takes to stage in the slot Watson’s band were set to hold, her words are a fitting tribute the talented young man, talking about how the whole Scottish music scene has been rocked by his passing.

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On the Main Stage Public Service Broadcasting look like they’re ready to set up a science lesson at a posh school in the 70s, but instead they inject the evening with glitchy tropical beats and quirky samples of old broadcasting transmissions.

There’s no doubt they’re an odd ball act, but what they’re doing remarkably impressive and gets the crowd moving in the early evening.

Using samples to make a stuttered personalised thank you to the festival, comes across rather cheesy, but hindsight it could also be played out as a joke at the expense of bands praising crowds without really knowing where they are, only further emphasised by the knowing expressions on the band’s faces.

This is a set packed with technical talent, but what’s even more pleasing is the fact that band seem to be having as much fun as the crowd, as they dance away on stage in their shirts and ties and tweed jackets and bow ties, it’s a engaging stuff that more than justifies their main stage billing.

As darkness falls I catch a burst of Wild Beasts; I haven’t yet heard new album Boy King, meaning a lot of the material is unfamiliar, but what is on offer still has plenty of attention grabbing hooky synths and that addictive, potentially Marmite high reaching vocal of Hayden Thorpe.

On stage they appear your standard alt rock band, but there’s so many pop undercurrents to Wild Beasts’ sound that it differentiates them from that image and elevates them above their peers, however during a crazy moment of crossovers I have to head elsewhere.

That elsewhere is back to the intimate Tim Peaks stage for Manchester four-piece Horsebeach, cos well I’m a sucker for that dream pop sound.

The of the band drift beautifully somewhere between that dreamy guitar pop sound and the shoegaze bracket; the subject matter of the set seems bleak at points, but the floaty nature of their sound elevates them and has a growing crowd in a lulled hypnotic mist.

It’s true that Ryan Kennedy’s vocals might not hit the heights of some of the best of the genre, but it’s still early days for these guys and there’s plenty of charm to both his delivery and their set in general that warms you right through and puts a nice end to proceedings before I head off to have a touch too much fun at the Bowie and Prince Disco.

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Words: Iain Dawson
Photos: Warrick Beyers / Martin Bone

Belladrum Tartan Heart Festival, 6/8/16

It’s déjà vu on the final day of Belladrum, as I find myself once again in the XpoNorth Seedlings tent at the crack of dawn (in festival terms anyway).

We Came From Wolves (2)

This time however it’s with far higher hopes, as Herald Unsigned winners We Came From Wolves are up to kick things off, a band whose moody alt rock has been on my radar since their first demo release in early 2013.

They’ve considerably improved in their craft since then, with far more compelling lyrics deeply rooted not only in strong Glaswegian identity, but also a longing to hit the road, as well as in their stage presence; frontman Kyle Burgess holds the attention of the small crowd with ease despite the early hour.

The highlight of the set comes in the form of new single ‘Ruiner’ (which Burgess self-deprecatingly describes as “about being a wee rat bastart”), a crashing storm of pop punk fury reminiscent of the best of early Twin Atlantic.

I realise I’ve neglected the Grassroots Folk heart of the festival and so spend my next few hours comfortably nestled among the elderly camping chair crew.

Tamzene (3)

It’s not quite my scene, but even then a number of acts stand out: the first, a singer-songwriter by the name of Tamzene appears to have walked straight out of an album cover, and puts on a performance that oozes professionalism.

Despite a powerful voice which could easily impress the likes of industry demon Simon Cowell, she’s instead taken the far more traditional route of recording her own music and building a fan base organically, and judging by the strength of the audience it already appears to be paying off.

Tweed (3)

Ceildh rock band Tweed also catches my attention with their raring traditional music.

Composed of a fiddler, accordionist and drummer, the trio whips the large tent into a frenzy with original compositions and even the odd cover such as Survivor’s ‘Eye Of The Tiger’, which, under the circumstances, actually sounds surprisingly good.

Admittedly, the gimmick of launching small packets of peanuts into the crowd goes somewhat over my head (literally) but you can’t argue with free snacks.

Man Of Moon (5)

Man Of Moon are the last band I catch before the mysterious main stage secret set, and it’s something of a change of pace; the sudden downpour has sent people flooding into the Hothouse Tent for shelter turning it into less of a ‘hot house’ and more an ‘uncomfortably roasting house’.

It proves to be perfect timing though as the Edinburgh two-piece’s dark and dreamlike sound goes hand in hand with the grey sky just meters away.

The brooding depth they produce within complex riff structures and simmering drums is incredible considering their tiny footprint on the stage, and just as the atmosphere builds to breaking point in Django Django cover ‘Waveforms’, guitarist Chris Bainbridge slices straight through it with a Showbiz era Matt Bellamy-esque guitar scream.

Elsewhere, a similar tension is rising as we wait to see who will take the empty afternoon Garden Stage slot.

Fatherson (16)

The answer, rising Scottish stars Fatherson, is hardly a surprising one: their name seems to appear almost every time the festival encounters a drop-out on its lineup.

The failure to amend the programs however sees the band playing to a crowd, which is initially one-third fans and two-thirds confused Bwani Junction seekers, who are now two to three hours off their initial time slot.

Friday’s sound problems continue to plague the set also as Fatherson enter the stage late and with massively under-mixed vocals, altogether making the decision to shoot a video for their new single then and there a curious one.

Still they deliver a set of their usual caliber to the rain drenched field, one which is nothing exceptional but provides just enough in the way of light rock to cry to, making donning your poncho worthwhile.

Indigo Velvet (13)

In the hunt for something to dry off to I discover Indigo Velvet, the perfect pick-me-up.

Their tropical bubble-gum indie pop is nothing short of addictive and I’m baffled by their low positioning on the Seedlings stage when similar bands such as the 1975 have enjoyed such a meteoric rise to fame with far less charming members; guitarist Jason Tucker in particular is a real pleasure to watch.

Bwani Junction (7)

The feel-good mood continues with Bwani Junction on the main stage performing Paul Simon’s classic album Graceland in its entirety, alongside original vocalist Diane Garisto.

There’s no shortage of smiles in the crowd as a conga line is orchestrated within the short space between opener ‘The Boy In The Bubble’ and ‘I Know What I Know’, rapidly followed up by a couple’s engagement just before ‘You Can Call Me Al’, which is announced onstage by a delighted Dan Muir and only serves to heighten the atmosphere for what is undoubtedly Graceland’s best known track.

It’s a shame to hear that the sound tech is still struggling and Garisto’s stunning vocals are only barely audible throughout, including during duet ‘Crazy Love, Vol. II’.

Still, Muir’s voice triumphs over the incredibly large backing band (featuring a full horn section and bongos) and does justice to Simon’s original.

Public Service Broadcasting (8)

Acknowledging that the festival is almost over with this next set is bitter sweet, and with Public Service Broadcasting’s absurdly long set-up process there’s plenty of downtime to think about it.

Thankfully their novel sample-filled electronica is worth waiting for.

Entirely instrumental, tweed clad keyboardist J. Willgoose, Esq. doesn’t open his mouth once throughout the set, choosing instead to communicate through a text to speech program and add vocal depth to the music using clips from propaganda material and old public information announcements.

It’s bizarre, and hopefully not stagnant on repeat viewings, but they don’t rely on this gimmick to carry them instead crafting genuinely atmospheric and powerful tracks about everything from the space program to airplanes.

I leave early to catch the headliners, but as the band are introduced one by one, the strains of a trumpet cover and deafening sing-along to ‘Flower Of Scotland’ follow me out.

Madness (29)

Said headliners are, of course, Madness, much talked about by almost everyone I’ve spoken to since the site opened.

They pull the biggest crowd of the entire weekend by far, stretching all the way from the stage and up the hills towards the massive glowing metal heart erected at the back of the Garden arena, and I reckon about eighty percent of those people have had a little too much to drink.

Despite lacking the nostalgia factor and not really understanding the hype around Madness, I’m determined to give them the best shot I can.

And it starts off relatively well with almost exactly the same setlist I saw back at Glastonbury: ‘The Prince’ in all its saxophone solo glory and ‘My Girl’ with its cresendo-ing intro go down a treat, as do the bits and pieces of London banter peppered in from frontman Suggs.

However, I seem to have chosen the worst place possible to view the rest of the set from, and once I get there I’m stuck: security are trying to avoid a full-scale riot on the stairs by insisting on a one-way system in which you can come down, but you can’t get back up.

Perched on the steep hill, slick from the day’s rain, I enjoy what I can of the tracks I recognise: ‘Baggy Trousers’, ‘House Of Fun’ and ‘Our House’ are as foot-tappingly infectious as ever, but encourage a more active crowd, leading not only to multiple trips down the slopes but also a loud argument between staff on the stairs and irritated patrons.

This continues for most of the rest of the show and by time I’ve escaped, the band have been replaced by a piper who plays, what do you know, ‘Flower Of Scotland’ for the second time that night.

Madness eventually return and finish up with a grand display of fireworks and light, but through no fault of their own the mood has been ruined somewhat.

I wander back to my tent in the rain, for the last time, with an overall positive impression of the weekend but a slightly sour taste in my mouth.

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Words/Photos: Aimee Boyle

Public Service Broadcasting at O2 ABC Glasgow, 2/5/15

When Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin successfully orbited the earth on 12 April 1961, little did he know the impact that that first successful lap of our planet would have.

He almost certainly never anticipated that five-and-half-decades on, his name would be immortalised in song as a dancing astronaut jived next to a trio of brass players under Europe’s biggest disco ball.

Such is the loveable madness of Public Service Broadcasting, whose potentially kitsch musical adventures – samples of news bulletins and public information films, reels of stock footage and sleek space(ship)-rock – have become a remarkable musical phenomenon.

Selling out the sizeable O2 ABC, the suitably pseudonymous J. Willgoose, Esq. (guitar, banjo, samplings) and Wrigglesworth (drums and percussion) are joined by a live bassist, a “video manipulator” and, at times, the afore-mentioned brass trio.

The premise of the night is simple: track introductions and thanks are provided by suitably plummy sampled vocals, black and white footage flickers over the two large screens placed centre stage, the band plug into tight (and at times surprisingly funky) electro-rock grooves and the sampled dialogue lends each track its theme; tying the drama of the past to the music of the future.

Over two albums and two EPs, Public Service Broadcasting have tackled everything from road safety adverts to the ascent of Everest but their latest record sees them tackle the Race for Space on a suite of songs that bring a new sense of stark drama to the band.

Live, ‘The Other Side’, in particular packs genuine emotion into the tale of Apollo 8 and its journey across the dark side of the moon.

There is a palpable tension as the music fades into silence as the spaceship passes out of radio contact, leaving only the whispers of the flight co-ordinator back on Earth, only for the band to leap back into action as the ship emerges from the darkness and contact is restored.

With their tweed jackets and stacks of old school televisions, the group have obviously done their best to make PSB the most immersive experience it can be and there is a winning sense of humour to their cheerily daft stage announcements – “Here’s one you were looking forward to. It’s a song about ice skating in Dutch”.

Best of all though is still the track, which for many people represented their introduction to Public Service Broadcasting: ‘Spitfire’.

As RJ Mitchell’s flying machine takes to the sky, Willgoose rockets through a looping guitar figure over a metronomic dance-punk beat and the crowd bob enthusiastically along.

Offering a singular musical experience that successfully transcends their potentially kitsch aesthetic, Public Service Broadcasting are a unique live act and one that deserve to be seen in their element.

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Words: Max Sefton
Photos: Stewart Fullerton