Hinterland 2009 review

A 7pm start time is asking a lot of your seasoned gig-goer. The Thursday evening sun is still burning bright and the mince ‘n’ tatties have been barely digested but this is the inaugural HINTERLAND and our festival schedule tells us that CASSIDY are due on in the bowels of Pivo Pivo, a basement bar more famous for its pizza offers than its pedigree as a live music venue.

Cassidy may be relative newcomers on the Glasgow circuit but folk in the know tell us there’s a real industry buzz surrounding them. It doesn’t take long to see why. When the four shaggy-haired young guys start strumming in unison and each member sings an alternate line of Americanised blues-rock, you can almost see a thought bubble of “Kings of Leon meets Take That” floating above the head of the A&R man perched next to us. All of which counts for zero if you haven’t got the songs but Cassidy score highly here too, with some delicious harmonies and melodies that you’ll be whistling on your way home.

But this is no time for home. Next on the agenda is a five-minute power walk to the Classic Grand to catchORPHANS & VANDALS, who are completely new to us. Dressed all in black except for the quite wonderfully unhinged drummer throwing Karen O-esque facial expressions from the back, the English band seem to have a dark magic about them.

They have a song that sounds like Mercury Rev, one like Nick Cave and another like Sons And Daughters, but they hit their peak early into the set and Al Joshua’s limited singing voice becomes a noticeable weak link that dulls any long-term appeal.

BEERJACKET has drawn the short straw of the 15 venues, his quiet acoustic songs lost among the spit ‘n’ sawdust surroundings of MacSorley’s and a room full of pub chatter. He wisely ups the tempo with Tongue from his forthcoming album Animosity and even DJ Jim Gellatly is moved to shove a camera phone in singer Peter Kelly’s face from three feet away. The Radio Scotland man later persuaded Beerjacket to record an impromptu song in the pub stairwell, which you can download at the end of this post.

Back at the Classic Grand, young pups BRIGADE are making a deafening racket to a hardy bunch of followers. Their best song, Stunning, is drowned out by a screaming mush of feedback and squalling amps but they’re playing with smiles on their faces, so we get into the spirit of the chaos it until the ringing in our ears gets too much.

Upstairs, the beautiful orchestral indie sounds of FANFARLO are cruelly played out in front of barely 50 people. To their credit, the Londoners don’t let it dampen their enthusiasm, with songs such as Luna and Fire Escape perfectly showcasing bow-tied singer Simon Balthazar’s fondness of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah.

Across town, TOMMY REILLY initially looks uneasy in his role as headliner at King Tut’s and he’s not helped by his new guitar “misbehaving” and constant heckling from a group of morons in the front row. But they were counted as minor blips with the Glasgow singer-songwriter, much to his credit, taking both annoyances in his stride and his angst-fuelled pop songs go down a treat with the packed crowd.

On to Friday, and Sheffield duo SLOW CLUB are the perfect accidental find that makes this random band-watching business totally worthwhile. With Charles Watson on guitar and Rebecca Taylor predominantly on standing-up drumming duties, the ‘rowing couple’ interplay between the pair at The Arches is almost as entertaining as their music, which is pitched somewhere between Mates Of State, The White Stripes and The Moldy Peaches.

Some unexpected reverb sets Rebecca off on the giggles and when more gremlins strike her acoustic guitar during Wild Blue Milk, they both walk down to the pit in front of the stage and deliver the song unplugged, endearing themselves even further to an already smitten audience.

The same room hosts SONS AND DAUGHTERS, who seem like household names in amongst a blizzard of newcomers and wannabes at Hinterland. Perhaps it’s this over-familiarity which makes their performance a bit of a non-event. There’s no denying they have a heap of killer pop tunes to call on – Taste The Last Girl being a standout tonight – but even though they draw one of the biggest crowds of the two days, most people seem apathetic about it all.

Round the corner at the Classic Grand, Edinburgh seven-piece BROKEN RECORDS are on their relentless drive to win the hearts and minds of Glasgow. Oddly, it seems like half the audience have decided to take up amateur photography, with the front two rows flooded with lenses and flashes. Honestly, you’d think Barack Obama was on stage.

But no worries. When opener Nearly Home kicks in (really kicks in), it’s impossible not to immerse yourself utterly in the grandiosity of the marching drums and swaying strings. Unfortunately the snappers didn’t capture the moment my previously skeptical gig buddy’s jaw lowered in awe. Seeing Broken Records live for the first time tends to have that effect.

However, with the venue filling up nicely with latecomers, disaster strikes when Jamie Sutherland loses his voice. “Does anyone know these songs? Does anyone want to sing them?” he asks. It’s heartbreaking to watch. Despite the obvious discomfort as he strains to hit his notes, he soldiers on heroically, even responding to his manager’s suggestion he call it a night by telling the audience: “We’ve never quit a show… we’re not about to start now.” They make it to the end, finishing with the divine Slow Parade. Even a Broken Records with half of their powers is better than anyone else.

Our Hinterland experience is wrapped up by local heroes WE WERE PROMISED JETPACKS, who are in fine form at the ABC2, smiling insanely from the outset as they take epic to a new level with Conductor, all crescendos and instrumental bliss before it turns into an indie-disco stomp thanks to Darren Lackie’s famed “party drums”. Quiet Little Voices is just as raucous, with much of the crowd singing back every word – proof that the people of Glasgow are ready to back these boys all the way to the top.

All photos © The Pop Cop

4 Beerjacket – Drum (live at Hinterland)
b May 18, King Tut’s, Glasgow (supporting Kristin Hersh) (tickets)
b June 17, Oran Mor, Glasgow (tickets)
4 Cassidy – Stray Cat
b May 5, King Tut’s, Glasgow (tickets)
b May 29, The Loft, Dunoon
b June 11, The Admiral, Glasgow
b June 25, Captains Rest, Glasgow (tickets)
4 Orphans & Robbers – Strays
4 Slow Club – Christmas TV

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