Archive for March, 2011

Will Haddow Fest stumble and fall?

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

Organising HADDOW FEST, the multi-venue festival landing on Edinburgh’s doorstep this weekend, must be a nightmare since there are more than 100 acts appearing and 10 venues to juggle – The Picture House, Liquid Room, Bongo Club, The Caves, Electric Circus, Maggies Chamber, Whistlebinkies, Banshee Labyrinth and The Store.

There are worrying signs the promoters may have bitten off more than they can chew.

The entire event was pushed back a week from March 26/27 to April 2/3 after the first batch of early-bird tickets had sold out. Just a fortnight ago, headliners Razorlight were moved from the Corn Exchange to the Picture House “to keep everything more central”. If that was indeed the genuine explanation (and not, say, because slower-than-anticipated ticket sales made it more sensible to switch it to somewhere with half the capacity), you do wonder why they picked a location 3.5 miles outside of town in the first place given the one-ticket-does-all-venues nature of Haddow Fest.

While non-priority (i.e. no guarantee of entry to see Razorlight) day tickets are on sale at £25, the organisers haven’t been shy in promoting discounted £15 tickets, which are available to anyone who makes a request by emailing as well as to students. Another telling sign that all is not quite going according to plan is that tickets for the Razorlight gig alone recently went on sale, which would seem to defeat the purpose of calling it a multi-venue festival.

The most bizarre story of all, though, is that local band We See Lights are scheduled to appear at Maggies Chamber on Sunday from 4.45pm-5.15pm despite never having been asked to play. They directed this message to @Haddowfest on Twitter last night: “I know in Wayne’s World they said “booked them’ and they will come…” but you ain’t booked Wsl but you have us down as playing!”

Putting all those logistical problems aside, the festival does have some fine Scottish talent on show, such as the ever-enjoyable live spectacle that is Broken Records (Sunday, 3.45pm, The Caves), The Dykeenies (Saturday, 7pm, Bongo Club), The Pop Cop favourites Sebastian Dangerfield (Sunday, 5.35pm, Maggies Chamber) and Little Eskimos (Sunday, 4.15pm, Banshee Labyrinth), talented newcomer Michael Cassidy (Sunday, The Caves, 1pm) and Strawberry Ocean Sea (Saturday, Maggies Chamber, 9.40pm) who have a Glasvegas-meets-British Sea Power sound that could serve them well.

There’s also no doubting Razorlight (Sunday, 9.30pm, Picture House) are heavyweight headliners, but the bill probably could have done with a few more medium-sized bands. Hopefully the organisers can get over the teething troubles and make Haddow Fest a recurring feature in Edinburgh’s annual music calendar.

Download full running order: Saturday / Sunday

Razorlight – Stumble And Fall

Broken Records – The Crumbling Wall

The Dykeenies – Sounds Of The City

King Charles – Love Lust

Strawberry Ocean Sea – Today’s The Day

Michael Cassidy – Everybody’s Scared

Little Eskimos – Would You Think About It?

* Check out Little Eskimos’ live appearance on The Pop Cop’s Subcity radio show last weekend here.

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Give me one reason why this band aren’t famous

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Photo: Takeshi Suga

There are two schools of thought when it comes to predicting which qualities a band needs to make it. (To avoid getting bogged down in a first-paragraph debate, let’s define this as popular enough to make music for a living.)

A. A combination of factors coming together: employing a well-connected manager / being championed by influential people / spending more time on the road than an escaped prisoner / establishing a sizeable fanbase / picking the right band name / sporting twattish haircuts.

B. The more romantic theory, which says a band will become successful (even if they have none of A) as long as they make Great Music.

I’ve always subscribed to B since my all-time favourite records were made by artists who have enjoyed fruitful careers. However, one band and one album is making me doubt the validity of this perspective more than any other.

ENDOR, both the name of the band and their 2010 debut album, is such a complete, angelic, smart, melodic proposition. The more I listen to their extraordinary record, the more I question why they’re not widely regarded as one of the finest acts Scotland has produced… unless A really does hold true since Endor don’t employ a well-connected manager, aren’t championed by influential people, don’t spend more time on the road than an escaped prisoner, haven’t established a sizeable fanbase, didn’t pick the right band name and don’t sporting twattish haircuts.

Listening to their album is an abundantly fulfilling and continually rewarding undertaking. The faster songs remind me of a more harmonious Pavement, especially All Your More Buoyant Thoughts and Without The Help Of Sparks, while their immaculate indie-rock ballads wouldn’t look out of place on an REM greatest hits compilation. The acoustic Chapel Doors, in particular, possesses the same unquantifiable simplicity that makes a song like Fake Plastic Trees so special.

Fly Straight And Always Wear Sensible Shoes is definitely my favourite Endor song, though, and has several moments of genius scattered throughout it – there’s the interlude of handclaps at 3:17, the bursts of harmonica, and the irresistible chorus which finds David McGinty (known universally as Jarv for reasons I’ve yet to discover) singing the lyrics as a two-way conversation between a girl and a guy, with their opposing points of view broken up by a subtle backing vocal of, “He comes back with…”.

McGinty’s songwriting varies between poetically abstract and intensely personal and poignant, the latter to the fore on Two Lovers (“Two lovers holding hands make our love look dead”), a lament which has a sudden mid-song tempo shift led by a brief flurry of a cappella and then a dreamy piano/guitar instrumental at 2:00 – it’s probably my favourite bit on the entire record and gets me every time.

If you don’t already have Endor in your life, you really are missing out.

March 31, Captain’s Rest, Glasgow (tickets) – supported by Randolph’s Leap, Esperi and Amber Wilson

Endor – Chapel Doors

Endor – Hold On

Hold On was their first single, released via Say Dirty Records back in 2006 and long sold out. Their second single, We Live In Doors, is still available on iTunes.

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Spare me the public displays of disaffection

Wednesday, March 23rd, 2011

A few weeks ago, I was talking to a youngish man extensively involved in Scotland’s underground music scene who let slip that he went through a major Coldplay phase, an admission which was delivered with a heavy dose of hesitancy.

The conversation made me wonder why some music fans feel embarrassed about liking certain bands… and I came to the conclusion that journalists are much to blame. Every day I encounter snide, condescending remarks from writers with a strange impulse to publicly announce which bands do not fit into their bubble of existence and expect their readers to fall into line.

Take this excerpt from an article published by The Fly magazine last year, in which the introduction to an interview with Two Door Cinema Club is centred around the author’s dislike of a completely different band:

For two years the nation’s perception of indie bands such as TDCC changed. No longer were they the cool, gun-slinging icons of rock’n’roll aspiration. They had become boring, saturated and generic… released songs about backfiring at discos… these guys just were not cool. It’s a shame, because it means genuinely promising bands such as the Northern Ireland three-piece are tarred with the same brush as… “The Wombats?!” splutters guitarist Sam Halliday from across the table, “no, no way.” If it’s any consolation, offers The Fly, sitting opposite in a Leicester Square boozer, you’re a far more credible, not to mention better, version.

Successful people are easy targets, which might explain why Mumford & Sons-bashing seems a particularly favoured past-time for rock critics at the moment. This is a band who, a fortnight after playing at the Grammys with Bob Dylan and finding themselves at No.2 in the American album charts, kept a two-year-old promise to return to the Scottish Highlands for a tour, braving snow blizzards and horizontal sleet in the process.

So why all the resentment towards them? Given that Mumford & Sons are still only one album old, such outpourings of bitterness can’t be motivated by a deterioration in their music output or accusations of ‘selling out’. According to those I know who have had personal dealings with them, they aren’t a bunch of cocks either.

However, they have become very famous and thus, it would seem, ripe for bad-mouthing from critics who wouldn’t have the spine to express similar sentiments about lower-profile musicians (who, you never know, might actually benefit from some constructive criticism).

The GuardianThe unanimous approval which greeted Jon Savage’s recent pithy description of Mumford & Sons as “Tory rock-lite” was a measure of the antipathy which currently hangs over these waistcoat-wearing pseudo-troubadours.

Music journalists aren’t the only ones guilty of telling other people who they should be ashamed to like.

I was a big fan of Mogwai back when they were releasing genre-defining albums such as Ten Rapid, Young Team and Come On Die Young. I remember getting sucked into their ‘Blur: are shite’ campaign but, looking back, I now realise it wasn’t about anything other than blatant music snobbery. It certainly couldn’t be described as a David versus Goliath battle given Blur’s refusal to dignify this one-way rivalry with a public response.

If you think well-known musicians are immune to such criticisms, consider this exchange. Earlier this month, the man behind terrific Scottish music blog Favourite Son got more than he bargained for after tweeting this message to his followers:
guy from starsailor can’t get a visa for SXSW either. maybe they do kno sumfin bout music after all + wil let WH in #witheredhandforsxsw

Within 10 minutes, James Walsh tweeted back his own public reply:
Why do you have to insult me? You’ve probably not heard anything I’ve done in the last 2 years at least. Uncalled for

To wrap things up, allow me to introduce you to Carly Connor, a teenager from Easterhouse in Glasgow under the same management as Paolo Nutini and recently signed to Atlantic Records.

Her song Ca$h is a rasping, modern twist on the Motown sound, a sort of Amy Winehouse/Duffy hybrid. It will inevitably be a hit and make Carly a household name, so enjoy it while you can before someone tries to make any pleasure you feel a guilty one.

Please don’t misinterpret this post as a paean to the joys of mainstream music. I just think that if a fan’s feelings for an artist or a group are a source of personal embarrassment, it should be because the quality of their music has gone downhill, not because he or she has succumbed to the influence of those who are trying to make their mind up for them.

Carly Connor – Ca$h (clip)

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Wide Days: Broadening your musical horizons

Wednesday, March 16th, 2011

The second annual WIDE DAYS takes place at Edinburgh University’s Teviot House on April 7. The music seminar and showcase event is a spin-off of the more regular Born To Be Wide events in the capital, which in the past year has covered engaging topics such as music photography, gig promotion and booking, and even a German-themed night.

The project is headed by Derick Mackinnon and Olaf Furniss, well-known figures in Edinburgh’s music scene through their work on The Scotsman’s Under The Radar column (not to be confused with the Radar blog) and New Found Sound.

The line-up for this year’s Wide Days features leading industry figures and is a mixture of discussion panels, workshops and live music.

Here’s a rundown of the seminars:

How can an impoverished band build a fanbase by taking to the road. Panelists include:
Robert Hicks [Beyond Promotions], Jason Edwards [13 Artists], Keren McKean [Manager / We Make Music Work], Caroline Winn [Hebrides Ensemble], Moderator Michael Lambert

Which showcase events do not involved visas, can be reached by van or budget flight and will still leave you enough money to record and tour an album? Panelists: Shaun Arnold [goNorth], Ruth Daniel [Un-Convention], Martin Elbourne [The Great Escape/Glastonbury]

How to bridge the gap between film makers and musicians, it will cover legal aspect and rights, as well as the artistic and technical aspects which need to be considered. Panelists: Caroline Gorman [Rage Music], Nigel McCune [Musicians Union]

New online services are launched every month, but what do they really offer and can they substitute the role traditionally associated with labels? Can the artist get the best of both worlds and do these services work for labels as well? Panelists: Stewart Henderson [Chemikal Underground], Joe Porn [Music Glue]

The workshops are as follows:

Dan Millington [PPL]
Scott Cohen [The Orchard]
Neil Cooper
Inner Ear

Although Wide Days will primarily appeal to those involved in, or keen to be involved in, the music industry, several Scottish actsRachel Sermanni, Withered Hand, Capitals, Letters, GoGoBot and Paws – will be playing short showcases at Cabaret Voltaire, Electric Circus and Sneaky Pete’s, which are free for fans to attend. To get on the guestlist, just email your name to the appropriate address: or or or or or

Tickets for Wide Days are available to purchase here.

Rachel Sermanni – Eggshells

Capitals – Hello World

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Music Alliance Pact – March 2011

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Welcome to the 30th edition of the Music Alliance Pact, which has been arriving on the 15th of every month without fail since October 2008.

As ever, bloggers around the world have vouched for one song from their respective home countries, all served up as free, legal mp3s -yours to download either individually (right-click on the song title) or collectively (via MediaFire).

The latest Scottish act on The Pop Cop’s list of must-hears goes by the name of LITTLE ESKIMOS, from Stirling. Hit it, boys…

To download all 36 songs in one file click here

Little EskimosStart It Up
You’d never guess that Little Eskimos’ anthemic debut album Are You Still With Us? (available on Bandcamp) is the work of just one man – chief songwriter Kevin Harper played all the instruments and recorded it himself before getting a band together. Little Eskimos clearly owe a huge debt to the West Coast slacker rock sound, and the infectious Start It Up will leave you counting the days until their second album comes out in the summer. Keep up with them on Facebook in the meantime.

April 8, Captain’s Rest, Glasgow

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The collateral damage of SXSW

Thursday, March 10th, 2011

Withered Hand should be heading for SXSW. Instead, moronic US immigration officials in Vermont froze his visa and challenged the Edinburgh musician to prove that their qualified assertion he is “not of extraordinary ability” was an inaccurate one. One can only imagine they came to such a conclusion after believing ‘Withered Hand’ to be a thinly-disguised pseudonym for Abu Hamza.

After incessant campaigning from fans and well-wishers on Twitter, Facebook and even a formal petition with 750 signatures, at 3.30pm on Thursday, 10th March – a mere 41 hours before Dan Willson’s transatlantic flight leaves Edinburgh Airport – his visa approval finally came through. However, with Dan having to rush to London for an interview at the US Embassy, it’s still touch and go as to whether this nightmare will have a happy ending. (UPDATE 13/03/11: It did have a happy ending. He made it to America, with just his first gig in New York having to be cancelled)

Dan told The Pop Cop just how much of a financial hit he had to take to arrange the ill-fated expedition, which included not just the SXSW music event in Texas, but flights between his various scheduled shows in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Dan: “The whole trip, solo, was costing me roughly £3,000. That included me staying with a host family in Austin to save on accommodation. My visa application alone cost $2,300. You don’t really make any money at SXSW so that’s a lot of money to cover from gigs and merch sales. Throwing that money away and not getting to play SXSW and my other shows will set me back years.

“It’s particularly galling as I have jumped through every hoop asked of me, and at the right time. I spent hours on all this and was feeling pretty pleased at having managed to tie in dates in NYC, San Francisco and LA around SXSW.

“The only reason I thought about going to SXSW in the first instance was to meet my US label, the tour bookers who had expressed an interest in working with me and needed to see me play, and to support the US release of my debut album Good News on Absolutely Kosher on March 15.”

Sadly, he’s not the only musician to suffer visa troubles this week, with Dam Mantle also in the same boat.

Officially, there should be 15 Scottish acts in total at SXSW – Admiral Fallow, Dam Mantle, Errors, Jackmaster, Kid Canaveral, Rachel Sermanni, The Twilight Sad, Unicorn Kid, Withered Hand, Bronto Skylift, Edwyn Collins, Jon Fratelli, King Creosote, Popup and Twin Atlantic.

The first nine of those have been financially supported by Creative Scotland, while Bronto Skylift, Edwyn Collins, Jon Fratelli, King Creosote, Popup and Twin Atlantic have had to fend for themselves.

In addition, two London-based bands featuring Scots will be at SXSW – Veronica Falls, who include two former members of The Royal We in their line-up, and the Oracadian-fronted Erland And The Carnival.

Austin-based Peej Reid, who runs Dear Scotland, a culture website popular with expats, explains the two major steps in the SXSW process for Scottish acts.

Peej: “First of all they apply for SXSW in the autumn. They usually hear back in November/December. Once accepted, they then apply for Creative Scotland funding. There is nothing to stop a band who is officially accepted by SXSW but denied funding from making their own way to Austin, but it makes things tougher. So it is quite common for bands to announce that they have been accepted to SXSW, only to later drop off. SXSW always accept more bands than they can accommodate because they know everyone won’t make it.”

Half-a-dozen Scots acts came into just that bracket this year – Django Django, Steve Mason, Unkle Bob, The Xcerts, Flood Of Red and Woodenbox With A Fistful Of Fivers were all invited but elected not to go. The latter two had claims for financial support turned down by Creative Scotland, while Django Django, Steve Mason and The Xcerts weren’t eligible for funding as they are now based in England.

Julian Deane, The Xcerts’ manager, knows just how agonising a decision it is for fledgling British bands desperate to play before the music world’s movers and shakers at events such as SXSW, yet faced with the prospect of racking up astronomical debts if they do so.

Julian: “We’re extremely creative when it comes to finding ways of doing things we can’t necessarily afford but this time SXSW was a step too far, even though we were chosen.

“One of the big problems is the US visa, which to me is a huge scam. We paid the best part of £2,000 in visas to get a three-piece band to New York for CMJ in October 2010 to ‘work’ for two shows which they weren’t getting paid for. The logic being that people are ‘paying’ to see them play, so whether they are being paid or not is irrelevant.

“The funding on offer falls way short of the real costs of such a trip. You need additional backing from a well-funded label, a rich patron, a good credit card, nerves of steel and an understanding bank manager. I’ll leave you to guess what we have.

“We’ll do these speculative trips when we can, and I think in the long-term they pan out, but you can’t expect solid business propositions in the short or even medium-term. We’ll keep our heads down, work as hard and as creatively as we can, and wait for people to take notice. Obviously it comes with its own frustrations when drivel is flavour of the month, but year on year we are winning.”

As you’ll no doubt have gathered, deciding who does and does not get funding is far from an exact science, so here are a few pointers any future SXSW hopefuls should take heed of, with some words of wisdom from Creative Scotland development officer Stuart Thomas.

– Earning an invitation to SXSW is not enough to secure funding
Stuart: “SXSW has to be part of a larger plan for the act and must dovetail into their album and touring schedules. It should not be considered as a standalone event. Creative Scotland’s international showcasing fund criteria seek to examine this and their plans for the event. SXSW is such a competitive showcasing environment that bands need to be well placed to achieve successful outcomes.”

– Successful applicants will never get their entire costs paid for by Creative Scotland
Stuart: “We make our awards at a standard per head rate. This year it is £750 per band member, with an additional £750 available for the band’s management if they are based in Scotland. This is broadly in line with our general approach to supporting artists to showcase (where we would usually pay a maximum of 55% of the costs).

– Make friends with Scotland’s major promoters (or at least don’t get on the wrong side of them)
Stuart: “The funding decision is made by Creative Scotland, advised by our SXSW steering group which consists of staff from DF Concerts, PCL Presents and Vic Galloway.”

Further reading:
List of Scottish gigs at SXSW
BBC’s Scottish team at SXSW on Twitter
Detour Scotland at SXSW (they will also have a live link-up at Glasgow’s Bar Bloc on March 16)
Creative Scotland international showcasing fund

Withered Hand – Love In The Time Of Ecstasy

The Xcerts – Nightschool (live at King Tut’s)

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Live review: Song Of Return, Letters @ King Tut’s, Glasgow

Monday, March 7th, 2011

If, like me, you went to this gig expecting LETTERS to be the great new hopes of Scottish music, you would have left sorely disappointed.

Their live show failed to live up to the huge promise shown by the Edinburgh newcomers in debut offerings Pipe Dreams and The Grand National – as strong a first impression from a Scottish band as I can remember.

While those recordings hint at a group with the dark, subtle broodiness of The National, on stage Letters reveal themselves to be more akin to early Idlewild.

Their thrashy instrumental opener felt rushed and erratic and it was followed up by a song that sounded like three different bands were playing at once, such was the lack of cohesion between their members.

Of course, it has to be put in the context of this being only their second gig to date, but with public statements such as, “No band I’ve seen that comes from our part of the world is better than us live” (theirs) and “the hottest new band in Scotland right now” (mine), the truth is that we’ve both ended up looking rather foolish.

SONG OF RETURN’S performance of poise and restraint couldn’t have been more timely, although singer Craig Grant did little to endear himself to neutrals in the crowd with a needlessly jaded introductory statement of, “It’s good to be here and aw that shit”.

Formed from the ashes of Union Of Knives, the group seem to have used the bitter experience of their abrupt departure from EMI to fuel their inventive, occasionally disquieting, electro-rock song stuctures.

Concentric soars thanks to layers of controlled intensity in the vein of Six By Seven (remember them?) and guitarist Louis Abbott’s menacing backing vocals, almost unrecognisable from his mannered delivery on Admiral Fallow duty.

A crunching bass riff allows Black Sail to dazzle, while the comedown of One Million Hertz is paced to perfection. Song Of Return finish their set on the indisputable high of the beat-driven Trajectory (fans of Delphic are going to wet themselves when they hear it), which even a tortured soul like Craig Grant can’t help but raise a smile to.

Letters – The Grand National

Song Of Return – The Story Of A Cell

You can hear six songs from Song Of Return’s forthcoming debut album Limits on Soundcloud.

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Live review: Admiral Fallow @ The Arches, Glasgow

Friday, March 4th, 2011

The thing that most bothered me whenever The Delgados played in their hometown was that gaps between songs offered too tempting an opportunity for punters from the extended Chemikal Underground network to heckle the band with the sort of ‘witty’ banter that only a select few punters would find amusing, or even get.

Given how immersed ADMIRAL FALLOW have become in Glasgow’s musical landscape, with their members regularly moonlighting in friends’ bands and hosting gig nights in the city, there was a fear they might spend the biggest headlining show of their career to date fending off in-jokes.

Two songs in, a lone voice in the crowd shatters the quiet bit of Taste The Coast by screaming, “We love you, Kev!”. Lovable though clarinet player Kevin Brolly may be, thankfully such irritations are few and far between, with the band themselves more focused on putting on a performance of real substance and professionalism.

Augmented by a brass quintet, they play every song from their debut album Boots Met My Face with the exception of Four Bulbs, perhaps not wanting to come across as one-trick ponies by replicating the show-stopping a cappella, microphone-free version they did regularly at gigs in the past year.

The new songs more than make up for its absence. The Paper Trench is a joyous stomp and is as close as Admiral Fallow get to a duet, with Louis Abbott and Sarah Hayes working in vocal tandem. Burn Me Now, which has the lyrics “There’s trouble again on the east end trains”, revels in its tip-toeing melody, while The Way You Were Raised confirms just how far I’ve fallen under this band’s spell when I find myself singing every word to a song I’ve only ever heard live.

With 775 punters squeezed into The Arches’ largest room, Admiral Fallow have long gone past the point of being a band who just play to their mates, and there was no greater evidence of that than when Abbott took the opportunity to let the crowd sing the chorus of their signature tune Squealing Pigs. He also does a superlative solo cover of Switching Off by Elbow (while sounding even more like Guy Garvey, if that’s possible) during the encore to cap a fine night indeed.

Admiral Fallow – The Sad Clown Cast

May 21, Stag & Dagger festival, Glasgow (tickets)
August 14, Liquid Room, Edinburgh (tickets)

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Film reviews: You Instead and Upside Down

Tuesday, March 1st, 2011

I never thought the day would come that I’d find myself in Cineworld, popcorn in hand, watching a movie in which a horny couple get down to business in a tent as Frightened Rabbit’s intercourse anthem Keep Yourself Warm plays in the background. Such is the flawed genius of You Instead, shot entirely on location at last summer’s T in the Park festival and a rare treat for anyone wanting to play Scottish indie ‘I spy’ with the soundtrack. No Cigarettes by Withered Hand, you say? Mapped By What Surrounded Them by The Twilight Sad? If I Don’t Belong by Strike The Colours? Freaky Freaky Raving by FOUND? Step this way.

The film finds Adam (Luke Treadaway) and Morello (Natalia Tena), lead members of fictional rival bands – electro-rock duo The Make (think Editors meets MGMT, badly) and all-girl punk band The Dirty Pinks (featuring the charming Clare Kelly from Suspire on drums) – handcuffed together against their will as they stumble about from bar to Portaloo to stage to bed to shower… you get the idea.

There are brief (I’m talking blink-missable) cameo appearances from The Proclaimers, Kassidy, and Kyle Falconer from The View, with the most potentially career-affecting exposure given to Glasgow singer Jo Mango, whose angelic performance of her song The Black Sun to a small backstage gathering makes for one of the more tender scenes.

In fact, much of You Instead is shot backstage, fenced off from drunken hazards, so if you were at last year’s festival then don’t go into a screening with high expectations of spotting yourself unless you work in security or happen to be the young lad in the Main Stage crowd who was holding a homemade sign reading, “I’m alive, mum”.

The Make – You Instead by YouInstead

In saying that, directory David Mackenzie certainly doesn’t offer a sheltered portrayal of the T in the Park experience – far from it. Everything you’d come to expect is happily present – the mud, the wastedness, the fast-food monstrosities, the Slam Tent, the campsite that never sleeps. The most striking scene of all sees hundreds of scavenging seagulls screech terrifyingly over the site in search of abandoned food. Alfred Hitchcock, eat your heart out.

It’s such a pity the spine of the film is found wanting. The two leads are so devoid of charm that their hate/love relationship just feels like a major irritation as both actors give lame performances with what is already weak dialogue and a tissue-thin plot.

Gavin Mitchell, in the role of The Make’s American manager Bobby, delivers one of You Instead’s few laugh-out-loud moments when warning his band about Scottish crowds (“Watch out, they’ll deep fry you”) but ends up trying too hard to look like he’s having The Best Time Ever.

The long-awaited big finale performance from The Make is a complete cringefest, which really does make you wonder whose idea it was to name the film after a sorry, lyrically-limp excuse for a song.

Withered Hand – No Cigarettes

Suspire – King Of Absolutes (acoustic)

Suspire’s new single Salvation Sister will be released on April 30.

Jo Mango – The Black Sun

You Instead will be in cinemas on general release this summer.

Danny O’Connor’s excellent, attention-grabbing documentary film provides a fascinating insight into what went on behind the scenes at Creation Records. Revealing and frank interviews interspersed with music from the Creation archive take us from humble beginnings in Glasgow to the biggest rock concert in British history.

Fittingly, the film begins with The Jesus And Mary Chain’s first single Upside Down, laying a marker for the next 100 minutes. It’s a gritty, no-holds-barred sound that doesn’t relent as the director manages to get all the major players to give a blow by blow (pun intended) account of the label’s history.

Creation took off thanks to the profits generated by the Mary Chain, whom McGee managed. From a dingy little east London office, he set about signing acts such as Primal Scream and The Loft. McGee knew Bobby Gillespie from his days in Glasgow, but it was his passion for music and belief in the artists themselves that enabled him to land these bands, something Noel Gallagher later alludes to.

Despite having some successful acts, Creation continued to have financial difficulties, partly because of the prolific intake of drugs McGee was consuming. It nearly ended the company, it nearly killed him, yet perversely it opened the door to opportunity. McGee relocated to Manchester when The Hacienda was in full flow. When asked by Tony Wilson in an interview why he moved, McGee replies, “A better class of drug”. It was these ecstasy-fuelled nights which led McGee to introduce Gillespie to that scene, in turn leading to Screamadelica.

A few years later, we are back in Glasgow and the much-told tale of Oasis at King Tut’s. No need to go over that again but it was the narcotics on tap as well as the people at Creation HQ that helped Gallagher sign to the label. In the space of just a couple of years, Oasis were proclaimed the biggest band in the world.

Yet the peaks (Knebworth) and excess (McGee and Noel at 10 Downing Street) ultimately led to the fall of Creation. McGee’s drug habit saw him hospitalised in America. His passion was never the same and it led to a sell-out to Sony, something Dick Green, one of the founders of Creation, gives an emotional account of. At the end of the film, the video for Live Forever is played. We see a wreath being laid – the band that took Creation to new heights ultimately responsible for its demise.

The film as a whole, though, is an uplifting watch, full of refreshingly candid interviews from the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Ride, Teenage Fanclub and Seymour Stein. It provides a timely reminder of a time when the little guy could be king. However, those who rule can be dethroned, as Creation discovered, although much of it was self-inflicted. McGee looks back and calls himself deluded. But without delusional people like him, what sort of music scene can we look forward to?

Graeme Broadley

The Jesus And Mary Chain – Upside Down

Upside Down will be shown at the An Lanntair Arts Centre as part of the Celtic Media Festival in Stornoway on April 13.

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