Archive for the ‘Local Music’ Category

972156_10152116601064657_1450276369_n

As soon as the beat of the nineteen-track behemoth’s opener The Lazarus Project reaches its operating velocity – by way of a poignant Jacques Fresco sample from the conspiracy documentary Zeitgeist: Addendum – Loki sets out his steadfastly uncompromising stall, hurling forth bar after bar of intelligent, witty and distinctly passionate lyricism. As the elapsed track time approaches two and a half minutes, inevitably marking at least the third instance of the listener gasping for respite from the weight of the verbal onslaught, the narrator imparts:

“I retain a fresh autonomy, a skeptic obviously,

Developing an odyssey of relevant, effectual intellectual property,

That walks the plank the day I die,

When Darren says goodbye and breaks the barricades of life.”

This declaration, a manifesto delivered in ten seconds and exhibiting a grasp of language and internal rhyme that would proudly top the pedestal of a lesser artist’s track, makes up just one of the opening salvo’s numerous cues for sharp inhalations of breath.

Next up, the listener is granted a brief respite as a string section leads into what is undoubtedly the most radio-friendly (which is to say that the hook – provided by Becca Starr – is off the scale in terms of catchiness, rather than that the material is even close to being tame enough to be entertained by the mainstream) number on Edging God Out, sporting the title Sinister and thereby doing a fine job of encapsulating the overarching feeling conjured up by the album.

As impressively proficient as the lyrics, flow and production of the album are, one could be forgiven for entertaining the concern that Edging God Out may rely too heavily on the showcasing of wit and braggadocio and not enough on the conveyance of genuine feeling. Forgiven, that is, until they reached the gritty but ultimately motivational Jump which wraps complex verses laden with confessions of an unhappy childhood around a simple refrain of ‘It’s no’ me against the world, it’s us.”

Elsewhere, Arlington Road sees a genuine storyteller in his element, as the listener is pulled along through a night of drunken paranoia, and The Wall – kicking off with a Charlie Kaufman quote that perfectly foreshadows the song’s content – exposes a captivating inner monologue that seems to seep out of the speakers and surround the listener, leaving the air pregnant with the malevolent threat of imminent suffocation, especially as the narrative comes to a close and the track fades out to the sound of distressed breathing accompanied only by fading echoes of the beat.

Interesting headphone listening…

Now, to go any further without addressing what is a truly mesmerising force behind this album would be wrong and, as such, a minute must be taken to talk about just how furiously angry some of this material sounds. This sense of barely restrained rage permeates the release to the extent that, on certain tracks, the moments when Loki isn’t rapping seem to pulse with the impression that he is having to consciously hold himself back in a concerted effort to channel his rage enough, just to stay on beat. Of course, the speed at which the rhymes peel out between the beats only serves to enhance this. Don’t Gee Me That Patter sees the needle on the anger scale hovering somewhere around the “fuckin’ ragin’” mark – perfectly complimented by an truly filthy sounding bassline – but, as he seethes through album highlight Loki’s the Name, the delivery takes a turn towards the positively venomous.

A large segment of Edging God Out evidently serves as catharsis for its purveyor and this is as clear on the album’s more reflective tracks – a la Smile at the Sky and Focus – as it is during the moments of unshackled verbal chaos, such as during the passages on title track Edging God Out where betrayals past are laid bare and What Time is it in Melbourne which stands as a compellingly transparent exorcism of personal demons.

As such, there aren’t a great deal of relevant negatives to be dealt with here. Sure, there are some tracks that may not stand up to the test of repeated listening but these are few and far between and such an outcome is an inevitable consequence of releasing an album nineteen tracks long.

One could then, of course, argue that prudence should have dictated a need for a more ruthless editing process but a fair amount of the original mix has already been dropped (available here) and, as mentioned before, the work as a whole gives the impression of serving as a release for emotions bottled up for too long and to cut it down any further would perhaps be to lose some of what is so captivating in the first place.

Being brutally realistic, Scottish hip hop is still very much a niche market and, like any work of genuine passion disseminated throughout a small scene, it would be easy for the cynical to dismiss the level of effort poured into this release as a misuse of energy that might yield greater rewards elsewhere. In addition, the deliberately provocative nature of lines such as “I’m not sexist but reserve the right to call you a cow” coupled with the prolific bandying about of the word ‘cunt’ also serve to keep the risk of Loki’s output achieving mass appeal fairly slight.

For the already initiated and those with their finger anywhere near the pulse, however, this is well worth a listen or twelve. The pages of Sixteen Sixteen Six have made no effort to hide a wealth of admiration for Scots rap duo Hector Bizerk and any fans of theirs who aren’t already familiar with Loki are guilty of a tremendous disservice to themselves. If Hector embody the swagger and flash of the Scottish hip hop scene, Loki embodies the heartfelt passion and painfully gritty realism.

Overall, with Edging God Out, Loki shows himself to be a hugely gifted storyteller with a staggering ability to channel a genuinely charismatic rage. The work feels honest and the sheer volume of material comprising this project is admirable in itself.

And who gives a fuck about the haters anyway, eh?

Edging God Out is released on Saturday 15th June and you can catch the album launch show on Friday 14th June in Glasgow’s Nice N Sleazy.

Loki on Facebook

Lokis’ the Name music video

Being that the album isn’t officially released until 18th February and considering how much effort, money and deliberation has gone into the finished work, it seems only appropriate that any seminal listen of the debut Rose Parade record be as careful, private and thorough as possible. Despite most of the songs having been publically available in live or demo form over the past couple of years, this moment is sure to be a milestone in the burgeoning Ayrshire independent music scene and deserves to be treated as such.

Consequently, one finds oneself digging out one’s highest quality pair of headphones and sitting down on a dreary Scottish Sunday afternoon to absorb the eponymous work from start to finish, the only distraction being occasional pensive sips from a mug of steaming coffee.

And one is not disappointed…

rp

Midnight Wine provides an absorbing and atmospheric opener, allowing approximately twenty seconds of gentle wavering feedback and plucked strings to guide the listener gently towards a window to the mind of the Rose Parade quartet, before an unrepentant trifecta of assured chords, jolly glockenspiel and stomping kick drum ushers in a distinctive and instantly congenial vocal, thereby hauling said listener through said window and permitting no option of escape until the boys have had their say.

—–

Now, when you have an album that flows from start to finish, as one complete and considered work – which, let’s face it, is the mark of a quality offering – it’s generally desirable to set an enduring tone, for the entire piece, with the first lines and Midnight Wine’s contribution is no exception…

“Summertime has got me crazy, sitting laying in the sun.

I took my love and we got crazy but now I’m sitting by, by my loaded gun.”

In just a few bars, the listener is handed a perfect summation of the Rose Parade modus operandi – the opening line conveying happy and contented connotations of an easy life made up of long, hot, lazy days tying in with the pleasant and cheerful foot-tapping rhythms forming the calm and measured surface of the sound, juxtaposed with a nod to an unsettled mind and abrupt ruminations on violence which point to the darker depths of the band’s occasionally murky, often longing and nostalgic, lyrical content.

As the song progresses, the continuation of this lyrical theme melds with a timeless quiet-loud aesthetic and a guitar tone harking back to the golden era of the rock scene. As well as providing a succinct outline of intent, track one succeeds in emanating what is sure to be a cross-generational appeal and giving subtle rise to the notion – in the mind of anyone within earshot – that picking up a guitar might just be the perfect idea.

On the subject of Rose Parade’s cross-generational appeal, it is impossible not to notice the similarity of the track titles A Better Pill to Swallow and The Dark Side of the Sun to those belonging to The Jam and Pink Floyd, respectively. At first glance, this is easy to interpret as either coincidence or an acknowledgement of the influence of iconic bands of the past on their own sound. However, after hearing the album several times over and feeling the resultant assurance of this band’s prowess and bright future, this nod to the work of such iconic bands begins to feel more like a subtle acknowledgement and confirmation of their own confidence that this is the first major step on an exciting and fruitful upwards trajectory.

—–

A song-by-song analysis would only serve to cheapen the first-listen experience for others, so prudence suggests that the way forward is to examine some of the more obvious standouts and then look at the work as a whole.

The majesty of the album opener aside, looking to The Sea of Lights and Grace will exhibit material destined to, someday, warrant a slew of main stage festival appearances. Grace, in particular, feels like the track people will point the unconverted to in future, as they relate the story of the time they saw Rose Parade perform in the kitchen of an Ayr flat, long before their success.

Appearing just past the halfway mark, the instrumental Friday Night Fight provides a welcome pause for reflection, while keeping the pace going as it leads towards the captivating pairing of upbeat rhythm and doleful lyrics that is Sue.

Violent Tides and closing offering The Dark Side of the Sun serving to showcase the more sparsely introspective end of the material, the latter’s claustrophobic vibe, equal parts beauty and menace, warning that “time won’t heal too deep of a wound” and closing on the cryptically chilling refrain of “totally honest, totally honest.”

To go back to the idea of an album working as a whole, the achievement of this admirable feat can be seen in the way track one tails off effortlessly into the opening of Awake Tonight and even the later inclusion of the glockenspiel is vaguely – yet knowingly – reminiscent of the opening offering. As the album progresses, subtle lyrical throwbacks to previous tracks combine with the group’s own signature melody and consistently accomplished guitar and vocal work to ensure the continuation of this seamless eleven track journey.

There are moments which evoke long nights of lonely reflection, choruses which provoke sing-along moments while getting ready for a night on the tiles with the mates and tunes that perfectly soundtrack an exhausted but cheerful Sunday teatime, looking back over a weekend well spent.

Rose Parade’s debut is the sound of Scottish Indie rock and roll ticking all the right boxes.

It would be wrong to do them the injustice of spending too long comparing their sound to that of more established acts. With that in mind, let’s just say that their pop sensibilities should appeal to consumers of the more mainstream branches of rock and indie – there are actually, as much as this is a potential bone of contention, echoes of Be Here Now-era Oasis, which are certainly not unwelcome and are subtle enough not to be derivative – while the wistfully introspective lyrical moments and incorporation of quirkier elements into their sound should serve as a draw for the more involved or refined music fan.

—–

As far as criticisms go, for this offering very few are possible. That said, there are consequences of creating such a thematic and whole-sounding debut record which so perfectly encapsulates the sound previously plied on the live circuit.

From an outsider’s perspective, it is difficult to see where the band will go from here. As much as what is displayed in this first record is a most impressive achievement, it would be a tragic waste of Rose Parade’s talent and innovation if they didn’t now seek to push their sound in a new direction. How well this goes, only time will tell.

For now, however, the band should be riding high on a wave of success of their own making.

Such a triumphant debut must be celebrated and there could be no better way of doing this than to play the shit out of it at every live opportunity.

Rose Parade is officially released on 18/02/13 through the band’s website, iTunes, Amazon and Play.com.

The band will play an album launch show in Glasgow’s 13th Note on 01/02/13.

Rose Parade on Facebook

Rose Parade on Soundcloud

When last Bellow Below graced these pages, ample amusement was derived from the, at the time constant, misspelling of their moniker.

Now, two days after the release of their Hooks EP – and resultant resounding echo of wild praise – Bellow Below are worlds away from the relative obscurity that once left them at the mercy of semi-literate promoters and blasé pub chalksmiths. With the quartet’s current profile – aided by the tangible evidence of their prowess provided by the aforementioned release, a growing reputation for shows doused in volume and passion and a stalwart live following – and confidence, billing them inaccurately would be tantamount to career suicide for anyone remotely invested in the local music scene.

A quick pre-show word with Su Casa owner Lucas Barraud yields the revelation that the band are not here to fulfil a request from the coffee shop but, in fact, as a result of their opting to book the venue themselves. Given Su Casa’s status as a chilled out, cosy and almost exclusively acoustic venue, this seems a distinctly odd choice and appears to give potential rise to a drastic mismatching of artist and setting. It seems that all assembled may be in for what bassist Darren, when quizzed, jovially describes as “Diet Bellow Below.”

Nonetheless, such reservations are part and parcel of the review process and more often than not – possibly due to the same phenomenon that deems the nights out not eagerly anticipated as the most enjoyable – results in a very pleasant surprise.

For the moment comforted, carryouts are sparked, the BYOB policy is raucously praised and the surroundings begin to settle into relaxed focus. Intimate to the point of being cramped, the living room-sized venue is rammed to the gunnels and, although this lends the event a pleasing vibe of unity and kinship, the unwieldy number of seats and tiny ‘stage’ area make it clear that little movement is to be expected from the performers.

Guitarist and vocalist Jamie, whose foremost stage position seems to deign him tonight’s frontman, kicks off proceedings with the words “We’re Bellow Below and we’re usually pretty loud,” suggesting that he shares the same sense of disorientation in this setting as the more dedicated of the band’s followers in the audience.

Thankfully, from the beginning of the set, the output proves typically impressive, if slightly quieter than usual and punctuated by much less energetic gesticulations.

A moment of unwitting profundity will, in fact, come between songs, when Jamie will whimsically intimate that he feels “like Kurt Cobain except less suicidal,” delivering a musing that suggests an unsettling similiarty between this removal of Bellow Below from the sort of surroundings in which they are most comfortable and Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged performance. Given how effortlessly and impressively this transition is handled this evening, such a comparison is far from inappropriate.

Image courtesy of Julie Dunabie

The guys pick their way, deftly, through a technically impressive and entirely instrumental opener which segues – via Jamie’s quip “Thank you! We are drums and Bellow Below!” which serves as an appropriate paean to Joseph’s ferociously tight sticksmanship – into their first single Southern Opal, a majestic swirl of ethereal guitarwork, complex time signatures and wistful, Scots-tinged vocals that sets the drinks flowing merrily and enhances the close-quarters nature of tonight’s musical exchange.

As the evening progresses, a positive set highlight – and undeniably significant contributor to the Bellow Below sound – is Jamie and Richard’s fulfilment of dual vocal duties, into which both guitarists throw themselves with gleeful abandon. Jamie, in particular, looks like he is having the time of his life as he barks out his contributions, occasionally leaning away, backwards, from the microphone and descending into a cacophony of manic shouts which lend the material a certain je ne sais quoi positively lapped up by the subsection of the band’s following more inclined towards the heavier, less compromising end of the musical scale.

In keeping with the boys’ renowned penchant for complexity, there are parts where intricate pedal fuckery and impeccably timed bursts of amplified mirth see proceedings take a turn towards the Mars Volta, by way of The Pixies’ Black Francis.

Over a year ago, when this bunch were just beginning to make a name for themselves, this review posited the idea that they should “continue to embrace their wide array of varying influences and strive to showcase this diversity in their own musical output … The only hurdle left to overcome is to further develop their sound, until it is distinctively theirs.” Well, tonight can be safely seen as infallible evidence that they have managed to do exactly this and both the Hooks EP and lead single Southern Opal serve both to showcase what could now fairly be described as the Bellow Below sound and to cement their reputation as formidable alt-rock Glasgow stalwarts.

As a breathless voice heralds the onset of their last song, there is the sudden striking realisation that the evening has comprised no gimmicks, dramatics or moments of outright show-offery. However, equally poignant is the settling awareness that such things aren’t what Bellow Below have ever been about.

From the outset, they’ve been concerned with mastery of a craft towards which each member is unswervingly passionate, all the while waiting patiently for the payoff they know they deserve, and tonight has been a simple hometown show that slyly tips a hat to the tacit understanding that said payoff has now arrived.

Bellow Below on Facebook

Hooks teaser on YouTube

Churches aren’t really an unsigned act. Their line-up comprising members of Aereogramme, Blue Sky Archives and the Twilight Sad, they are a group who have enjoyed keen label attention since day one. Add to this their purposely sparse online output (one song made available, to date) and secretive demeanour (reportedly under instruction to limit the amount of interviews they grant) and you have a recipe for frenzied hype and extensive expectations.

As such, the excitement proves difficult to contain as the descent of the staircase leading to the Stereo basement culminates in the discovery of a venue already packed to capacity, giving rise to the feasible musing that support act Churches have perhaps served as more of a pull for tonight’s gig than headliners School of Seven Bells.

The cavernous space buzzes with eager chatter and excited conjecture, as skinny-jeaned obscure indie t-shirted types swig from cans of Foster’s and wait for what they clearly hope will turn out to be their very own version of the Sex Pistols’ 1976 Lesser Free Trade Hall gig.

—–

The electro pop trio emit fairly nervous vibes as they make an entrance completely devoid of aplomb, pausing for a second in front of their keyboards and microphones to furtively take in the swelled audience before them.

From the moment Iain and Martin begin to bash out the first notes of the group’s synth-based ditties though, frontwoman Lauren appears to find her ease and sink into the relaxed pursuit of matching her undeniably excellent vocals to the atmospherics provided by her male counterparts.

For reasons which will be outlined later in this feature, it wouldn’t be appropriate to describe any of the members of Churches as being in possession of an onstage persona, per se. However, in saying that, Lauren has certainly made an effort to look the part, resplendent as she is in Lily Allen-esque dress and gold chain combination with eye make-up paying homage to the likes of Adam Ant and David Bowie.

Unfortunately, Lauren is where any regard for appearances or aesthetics comes to an abrupt halt, the other two members clearly preferring to let the music do the talking. Drably dressed and seemingly uninterested in their outward appearance, the guys could easily be two audience members who entered through the wrong door.

It’s not until the second of the songs that Lauren’s Scottish accent begins to shine through and this is one of Churches’ definite positives. Although the vocalist’s origins are plain to hear and she makes no attempt to modify or conceal them when she sings, it is subtle enough that it compliments rather than defines the music of which it forms a part.

It is hugely refreshing not to have the same old clichéd Scottish accent aurally foisted upon you (something numerous West of Scotland bands have recently been guilty of) throughout every song, with all the subtlety of an ALBA bumper sticker, to the extent that the artist actually seems to be putting on their native twang. For their refusal to participate in this despicable crime against the Scottish music scene, Churches are to be applauded.

For the crowd’s part, they appear rapt throughout the performance. However, even the most basic powers of deduction would provide one with niggling doubts as to the trigger for this state. Given that, by the end of the third song, no one onstage has spoken a word and the trudging tempo has remained stiflingly monotonous, it seems that either the crowd are simply ecstatic to be at the epicentre of the Churches hype machine or patiently awaiting the rendition of the one song they’ve already heard and approved.

To return to the aforementioned absence of onstage personas is to highlight the biggest gripe with tonight’s performance. It isn’t just that the members of Churches don’t transform into modern-day Ziggy Stardusts when they take the stage; it’s that their collective performance is bereft of any stage presence whatsoever. When the fortune and speedy rise to fame of the threesome is considered, this lack of vigour feels like an insult to the multitudes of other unsigned Scottish acts who have been plugging away for years in hopes of gaining this sort of profile. Lauren, Iain and Martin should be ecstatic tonight! They should be bouncing off the walls of a room charged with crashing synths and the feeling of a grand unveiling. As it is, this feels more like a shoegaze resurgence for the iTunes generation.

As lacking in momentum or volatility as the performance may be, the first few songs are still fairly enjoyable and, from this, one is spurred to consider that perhaps the chagrin being experienced is just the inevitable disappointment that comes with seeing an enigma made flesh.

After the generation of such mysterious hype, limited interview exposure, secret live appearances under different monikers and the restrained decision to release only one (absolutely mind-blowing) song, the in-person unveiling of Churches – replete with beards, baseball  caps and Sub Club chic – is a sobering sight indeed.

Perhaps if the group hadn’t been so hyped up by all and sundry – before they really got their foot in the live performance door – tonight would be a much more impressive spectacle.

Fuckin’ music bloggers, eh!?

All such ruminations aside, by the penultimate song the hipster melancholia has become inescapably wearing. This is a rainy Sunday night in Glasgow and, the performers being natives of this fair city, they ought to be as aware as anyone that people require a soothing and uplifting antidote for the imminent onset of the Monday comedown. What they don’t need is hipster posturing and post-emo phrase-mongering, à la “there is no violence in your heart.”

The absolute highlight of the evening comes when Fix Up, Look Sharp… – Sorry… Lies – kicks in. The performance of this absolute party-starter of a tune is almost worth the entry fee in itself and very nearly makes up for the drudgery that preceded it, as the volume and impact levels ramp up and the room-quaking bassline and carefree vocal-play see this finale stand in stark contrast to the rest of the set. The motions of the crowd make it clear that this is what everyone here has been waiting for and, if Churches can produce more material of this standard, they are onto a definite winner.

Infinitely superior to the rest of their output and undoubtedly destined to top any ‘Best Newcomer of 2012’ list, this portion of electro pop genius – witnessed in a live setting – makes the move to only release Lies seem suddenly all the more shrewd. Was the limited availability of material actually because they knew that Lies is, to date, their only exceptional song?

There is certainly no denying that it is an absolute banger but, if tonight’s recital can be used as a legitimate marker, the live Churches experience is simply below par for those who like their stage shows lively and their musicians awake.

The vast majority of the material showcased would be better experienced as part of a background playlist in the car, rather than as filler for a live show based around one (albeit phenomenal) hit.

Of course, it may well be the case that Churches are destined to unleash many more hits like Lies and that they’ve naively succumbed to the demands generated by their own hype and embarked upon a stint of live performances before being equipped with enough strong material to back them up.

For now though, the earlier comparison to the ’76 Sex Pistols gig seems like an outright slap in the face to the punk icons (even considering Mr. Rotten’s latter-day transformation from aural terrorist to purveyor of margarine) as, in contrast to the much-documented danger and excitement of that performance, this one is entirely benign.

To invoke Public Enemy’s Chuck D…

“Don’t believe the hype!”

Churches on Facebook

Lies Music Video

Upon reaching the peak of the well-trodden King Tut’s staircase, the first thing that strikes you is how much more open than usual the venue feels, as there are no barriers in front of the stage or guarding the steps up to the sound desk. This gives the already very intimate setting an even more personal feel for the evening and the Hector Bizerk logos adorning every wall serve to remind you exactly why you’re here.

Tonight is the official album launch for the, of late, hotly-tipped duo’s freshly-pressed Drums. Rap. Yes. offering and, as such, now seems as good a time as any to provide some coverage of how far the pair have come in the eight months since their last appearance in these pages.

“Are you ready to go Hector!?” challenges frontman Louie, instigating a deafening chant of “Hector! Hector! Hector Bizerk!” which reverberates around the room until the group see fit to strike up the first track from their new album, also titled Drums. Rap. Yes. Although this – along with selected other cuts from the album – was only leaked this week, both crowd and entertainers immediately enter into a flawless call and response routine which sees the set’s first offering quickly metamorphose into a sort of rallying call for the ferociously fanatical fanbase which has amassed throughout the group’s journey towards where they currently stand. Even at this very early stage in the proceedings, it is perfectly clear that King Tut’s belongs to them for tonight.

By the time the second number (the inimitable Burst Love) punches into life, the aforementioned lack of barriers has become absolutely impossible to ignore, mainly due to the onstage presence of Louie. Exercising his customary command of the room, tonight he immerses himself in a performance that evokes a persona even more captivating and confrontational than usual, seeming to push further into the collective face of the audience with every beat. With no barrier between frontman and crowd and such a volatile atmosphere of barely-restrained mania, the interaction – visually, at least – bears more resemblance to a street brawl than a gig.

Meanwhile, Audrey weaves her typical effortless mastery of the beat, with a resolutely self-assured and professional air. Where Louie is the born frontman of the two, Audrey is the calm and collected driving force to match, and this idea echoes in their stage positioning which sees Louie launching his lyrical assaults from the frontlines as Audrey maintains rhythmic control from the rear.

—–

Already, a couple of developments are apparent since last time. For one, the self-referencing which permeates their set suggests a massive progression in self-belief. No five minute segment of stage-time goes by without a chant of “Hector Bizerk” or the tossing around of the “Drums. Rap. Yes.” credo and, although this would be an embarassingly limp display if the crowd’s response wasn’t up to scratch, Louie and Audrey’s loyal subjects do exactly what is expected of them with absolute gusto, each time positively roaring back whatever the moment calls for.

The other, perhaps even more blatantly obvious, change from the Scottish hip-hop outfit’s earlier days is that the duo appears to have – in some instances, at least – become a foursome. For selected live dates (tonight included) and some of the tracks featured on their new album, Louie and Audrey are joined by Jen Muir, for keys and percussion, and Fraser Sneddon on bass. The original impetus for these additions was a result of the confirmation of T in the Park and Wickerman appearances, where it seems the duo were concerned their original line-up wouldn’t sound sonically full enough. As such, the occasional inclusion of these other members appears to be more the equivalent of taking a backing band on tour than a genuine alteration to the group’s permanent set-up.

Nonetheless, it would be easy to succumb to a mixture of feelings, as regards this – albeit tentative and impermanent – shake-up of musical personnel. The intention behind it is understandable enough and, if tonight’s performance is anything to go by, it seems to work in a live context. However, when it comes to recorded efforts, it could be suggested that moving away from the admirable and innovative ‘one MC, one drummer’ set-up also acts as a movement away from their roots and the raw, visceral sound that came from such a stripped-back arrangement.

Drums. Rap. Yes.  works just fine, without letting it turn into Drums. Rap. Keyboards. Bassist. Etc.

In fairness, if looked at objectively, it is plain to see how the Hector Bizerk blueprint could generate fears of a sound that is a bit sparse or empty but, subjectively, Louie is a gifted enough lyricist – and Audrey a talented enough stickswoman – that each bar hits with such unparallelled force, as to make any other input – however adept – surplus to requirements.

—–

The crowd has become a seething, frenzied rabble by the end of Burst Love and, as Let it Go strikes up, the ominous shaking of the second-floor venue is becoming more than a niggling concern. As the song progresses, though, unperturbed and kind-hearted volunteers begin to work their way through the uproarious throng of bodies, distributing Hector Bizerk masks which are willingly snapped up and immediately held aloft by all recipients.

The remainder of this already treacherous task is rendered completely futile, however, when there is a sudden furious surge backwards, as Louie – seemingly out of nowhere – brandishes a flag that is simply much too large for the confines of a space like King Tut’s, bearing the legend:

DRUMS.

RAP.

YES.

HECTOR BIZERK.

This heralds the arrival of what is undoubtedly the evening’s most poignant and uplifting moment, as Louie alternates between waving the flag with reckless abandon and standing rapping with with it propped up over one shoulder. Against their best intentions, all present are immediately part of a moment of pure patriotism and pride as the forerunners of Scottish hip-hop literally fly their flag. It is the poetic nature of this scene, coupled with the sight of a frontman so utterly devoid of the slightest shred of self-doubt or inhibition, that turns the already insanely rowdy crowd almost feral and gives rise to a certain excited concern that the good-natured swaying and stumbling of the more inebriated contingents could turn slightly nasty. This is not to suggest that the atmosphere becomes unsettling, so much as it is an acknowledgement of the materialisation of the familiar, and almost welcome, sense of danger that comes with the emergence of anything exciting from the underground to the mainstream.

—–

You can almost hear the hearts of the crowd sink as Louie announces that The Rhythm Theory will be “the last tune of the night” and, likewise, feel the elation as the voracious requests for “ONE MORE TUNE!” are granted.

As Audrey jumps back astride the drums for a solo that sees the metaphorical spotlight focussed firmly on her, Louie takes the opportunity to introduce each member onstage in a gesture of professionalism that exceeds the group’s years and experience. The audience are then treated to an encore of Sometimes I Wonder, which feels as though it was made for this exact moment of triumph, dripping as it is with cocksure lyrics – “sometimes I wonder what other people’s problem is” – and knowingly faux-arrogant posturing, courtesy of the “what? what? what?” refrain.

At this precise juncture – with crowd in a seething uproar, drums reaching a crescendo, Hector masks waving frantically and frontman standing before his subjects, replete with billowing flag – Hector Bizerk feel like an act that long ago outgrew this size of venue and have merely returned to pay homage to their humble beginnings.

The conduct of the performers and response of the crowd make tonight feel like the inauguration of Louie and Audrey as bona fide superstars and it would be easy to attribute this boost in confidence and fan loyalty to their recent high-profile support slots and festival appearances. However, to do so would be to take away from how tirelessly the pair have worked to get to where they are. The Hector Bizerk legend has been built through their own sweat, toil and dedication and tonight sees that legend take the headlining slot it rightfully deserves.

Perhaps the most telling moment of the evening, in this respect, comes with the line “we like yer tunes but you sound like a ned” in the track entitled Niche II. Back when the twosome were starting out, this seemed a candidly astute observation of their biggest hurdle. Now, however, it seems like a whimsical throwback to an obstacle that’s been brutally kicked to pieces and then smashed in the chops with a Bucky bottle for good measure.

Listen to Drums. Rap. Yes.

Hector Bizerk on Facebook

First impressions of tonight’s headliners having been derived entirely from the experience of listening to their track Cynthia on a late-night drive home from a gig in Pivo Pivo, during which the atmospherics of the music seemed to perfectly tie in with the passing darkened scenery, a very high level of expectation has already been cemented.

With this in mind, there lingers the consequent concern that the live performance simply won’t be able to live up to this pre-set standard and said fear isn’t at all abated by the levels of hype that have quickly built up around the instrumental output of the post-rock four-piece.

In recent months, Vasa have been hotly tipped as ones to watch, but seemingly only in more involved musical circles. As a result, the boys seem to be the generators of a subtler buzz than others in the Overlook stable, coming across as something of the connoisseur’s choice of Glasgow Indie.

As bassist John, drummer Alex and guitarists Blaine and Scott ready themselves to perform, one microphone stand remains conspicuously on the stage. Presumably, this is intended to be used for nothing past introductions, between-song banter and pleasantries. These early gigs might, however, posit a stronger statement of intent and exude a higher level of confidence in their set-up if the idea of on-stage mics was dispensed with entirely.

Of course, the accuracy of such a musing remains to be seen…

Without an introduction, Vasa spark up their set and instantly succeed in establishing both a mellow tone and an atmosphere that seems to simmer with a sort of expert restraint, subtly suggesting the deluges of distortion that will soon flood forth. The ability to create an engaging atmosphere is, of course, something a strictly instrumental band could not possibly survive without and, although this first song holds the small crowd enraptured, there is the distinct impression that the absence of vocal hooks and post-10pm stage-slot on a Thursday night (the spiritual start of the Scottish weekend) mean they will have to pull something else out of the bag pretty soon.

Happily, they soon do just that as they lead wordlessly into a second song that eviscerates the previously mellow vibe with a veritable crash of sheer noise and lighting-rig insanity, which lasts just long enough to assert that this is not a set during which to rest on laurels, before the onlookers are just as abruptly lulled back into a calm slumber-like state.

This same transition is soon orchestrated again, as The Art School is pulled gradually but assuredly into a particularly grungy segment which soon sees eardrums assailed by guitars that whistle maliciously and seem to goad those gathered into downing the remainder of their drinks and crusading deeper towards the front of the crowd.

The next song is vocally introduced and, as predicted, this undeniably acts as an unfortunate detraction from the hitherto established mystique. As if in a conscious effort to counter this, however, the songs have been becoming gradually more atmospheric – undeniably aided by the simplistic yet striking lighting dynamics – and cavernous venue.

At one point in the proceedings, the drummer sees fit to dispose of enough garments to facilitate a scenario where each enthusiastic drumbeat threatens to set chebs a-shoogle and each break in rhythmic proceedings grants the opportunity to flex and set the ladies’ pulses a-quiver. Although this noticeably contrasts with the plaid-shirt and sensible t-shirt aesthetics of his bandmates, it serves as a gentle but decisive nod towards a rockstar mindset. This is echoed when the last song sees one of the guitarists abandoning the stage and backing a determined path through the small crowd, thereby exploiting a renowned Sixteen Sixteen Six soft spot and certifying a positive response with regards to Vasa’s capacity for showmanship.

In terms of professionalism, the guys handle their share of the technical issues – which have unfortunately plagued tonight’s gig – admirably and without any diva moments, even when a cymbal crashes from its stand and comes worryingly close to decapitating Alex.

It is notable that this same decorum was distinctly lacking in the members of one of the earlier acts on tonight’s bill who succeeded in sullying the evening with a disappointing display of supercilious twattery, in which other performers were openly belittled. As such, the maturity of the Vasa contingent wound up seeming all the more admirable, as their performance managed to neutralise the negative tone that could easily have continued to permeate the event.

If a band opts to entirely omit vocals from their repertoire, they have to ensure that the rest of their output does enough talking to compensate (as intimated in 2011’s As In Bear feature) and, judging by tonight’s performance, it seems safe to say that Vasa have given this careful consideration and prepared accordingly.

The fact that they choose not to make a song (no pun intended) and dance out of their instrumental tendencies shows they don’t feel they owe any explanation for this choice and this plays hugely in their favour. In all honesty, the inescapably haunting atmospheric guitar work that threads through their performance serves as a perfectly sufficient vocalisation of both meaning and intent.

Further to this, a definite upside to the lack of a vocalist in their line-up lies in the scope this allows for the challenging of the traditional stage set-up. Given the absence of an ostensible frontman, Vasa’s bassist doesn’t seem at all out of place in his centre-stage position and, visually, this provides a very welcome break from the norm.

This is, however, not to say that certain precautions should not be taken. Although tonight’s gig worked very well, it has to be considered that it fell on a night when the audience were free to move on to their choice of club afterwards. This is fortunate because Vasa definitely don’t work as the crescendo of the evening.

By no means is this intended as a slight against their performance, which was outstanding. It is merely an acknowledgement that this is not music to go apeshit to. Sure, there are blindingly heavy moments but they’re utilised as part of a running theme of intelligent musical contrast, rather than as a call to arms for the exorcism of the week’s pent-up rage through flailing limbs and thrashing heads.

The material, although proficient and engaging, comes across more as something to be enjoyed pre-night out, whilst one readies one’s self for a chaotic trawl of some seedy club, or post-night out, as heads nod through smoky senses and trance-like mind states.

As such, Vasa should continue to monitor their placement on prospective bills and ensure that they continue to be given the chance to perform in segments where there music will function best.

That said, tonight was exactly what one would expect from Vasa – based on their recorded work and growing reputation – and, as a result, it seems currently safe to believe the hype.

They should definitely dingy the microphone though!

Vasa on Facebook

Listen to Vasa

Of late, this blog has been conspicuous by its inactivity. The reasons behind this, although manifold, amount to a severe dearth of inspiration.

Countless trips to countless gigs started off with the eager distribution of promotional cards, the considered selection of a position yielding the perfect combination of strong vantage point and feeling of inclusion within the crowd and the casual imbibement of the token solitary pre-review pint, followed by the impatient and restless doodling of phalluses and small houses in the margins of countless dog-eared notebooks.

Prepared and ready, the sight of the targetted artists taking the stage crossing field of vision, preliminary scribbles would allow for the commitment of early ideas to paper and nurture the steady evolution of a feeling of brewing excitement.

And then…

Nothing.

The act would fail to inspire, neither impressing nor drastically under-performing to an extent worthy of extended comment, and the evening would be narrowly rescued by some brief socialising, a quick scran and a drive home to disappointedly deposit wasted paper in recycling receptacle.

I sincerely hope that the recent run of middling bands I’ve had the misfortune of witnessing commit any future releases to eco friendly packaging, in order to make up for the amount of trees destroyed – in vain – as a result of their decidedly shitey live output!

Thankfully, enduring faith in music and an unextinguishable passion for local efforts provided the assurance that inspiration would return and that it was just a matter of tapping into the right niche once more.

Being that recent mysterious communication appears to have beckoned directly towards that niche, pulling flowery phrases forth once more, it seems appropriate to utilise the experiences of Sixteen Sixteen Six’s ‘wasted months’ in a way that may just save other aspiring performers from dipping into the same pool of mediocrity as those responsible.

Three things that serve as an outright insult to your prospective fans

1) Making no effort to entertain

Yes, certain more established and mainstream acts are deserving of respect for their no-nonsense, frill-free approach to performing and that’s all well and good because either:

i) their music, in a live context, stands alone as being worthy of the entrance fee

or

ii) they are simply too old for theatrics and tearing about the stage like maniacs, but have provided their fanbase with enough of these sorts of shenanigans in the past to garner a loyalty and respect that has left said fans content with just their mere presence as an accompaniment to the tunes.

You, on the other hand, apparently hold aspirations of success – on whatever scale – within the performance industry and should therefore be overflowing with youthful vitality and momentum. There is no conceivable scenario in which it is okay for you to take the stage and then stand stock-still for thirty minutes, bashing out number after number without a word in between. It is difficult to pinpoint just how ridiculous it is to put yourself in front of an audience and then make it apparent to everyone present that you seemingly have no desire to be there. How dare you monopolise the leisure time of the people who have come out to see you, without giving them a decent show in return!?

2) Sets full of cover songs

A well-chosen cover song, performed as part of a strong set of a band’s own material, can go down an absolute storm. If your audience are impressed with the first four fifths of your five-song set, belting out an enthusiastic version of Go With the Flow is certain to leave them reeling.

On the other hand, pissing out five half-arsed renditons of generic rock/metal anthems is essentially the equivalent of making people listen to a poor-quality jukebox selection and charging them four times the price for the privilege.

If you don’t have your own material and you aren’t a dedicated tribute act, you have no place on a stage.

3) Not looking out for your following

There is a venue in Glasgow with a handmade sign on the door that forbids the distribution of flyers for other events, during its gigs. This is surely the single most disheartening and uncooperative notice ever to have been displayed, in a live music context. It is absolutely diabolical to charge people – who, themselves, are most likely active members of the local music scene in some way or another – an entry fee and then not allow them to promote their own efforts and events or find out about the endeavours of others. It’s not as if patrons are going to up sticks and leave there and then; Obviously, anything being flyered is going to take place at a later date.

What fault is this of the performers though?

Quite simply, they just shouldn’t be playing that venue!

Unsigned music is about networking and mutual respect and, as Louie of Hector Bizerk astutely observed in the June issue of The Skinny, the Glasgow scene is currently such that, more often than not, you are playing to fellow musicians. If you’re going to accept a gig and allow the venue to charge your fans entry, it’s your responsbility to reward their loyalty by ensuring they’re looked after.

With chests now clear and in interests of ascending towards a more positive note for the ending…

It should be noted that two bands whose gigs are never missed and who never fail to impress are Sigma Logic and Rubber. Given existing relationships with band personnel, and in the interests of journalistic integrity, full reviews on them are unlikely to appear on these pages. Nonetheless, both are definitely worth checking out!

—–

Next week’s feature will be on Crusades, recent signings to Glasgow’s indie Overlook Records label, who – according to their Facebook page – by September 10th, will have played 35 gigs in 6 months. It would be reasonable to anticipate a lengthy appraisal of their dedication and pro-active stance.

Until then…

Crusades on Facebook

Listen to Crusades

Sigma Logic on Facebook

Rubber on Facebook

It’s a welcome, but rare, deviation from the norm when artists take the time to create a bit of a spectacle and build a bit of warranted buzz around themselves. It’s even rarer when the target audience for such a spectacle is a wisely selected local scene, rather than a stab in the dark attempt at reaching too wide a market at too early a stage.

Taking some shrewd inspiration from the likes of WU LYF and Nine Inch Nails circa Year Zero, an anonymous collective of (presumably local) musicians have set about the incognito distribution of a couple of concise tasters of music, artwork and – the most substantial of the materials, thus far – a composition that could conceivably be
viewed to serve as a sort of manifesto.

The impeccably intelligent aspect of this is the fact that absolutely no one knows who is involved in the collaboration (or that it even is a collaboration) and, as a result, everyone currently aware of its existence is immeasurably intrigued.

Such calculated planning and ambition shows real initiative and the wilful sidestepping of the oft-quested path to instant wide recognition points to eyes steadfastly trained on the long game.

A further stroke of genius can be seen in the way the materials have been distributed. At present, the select few people with any knowledge of this musical X File are themselves involved in the local scene and all correspondence has been conducted via unsolicited emails from addresses that appear to give no tangible clues as to the identity of their administrator. Sixteen Sixteen Six, for our part, only became aware of it via the loose lips of a decidedly up and coming act who have recently signed to a label set to feature quite heavily in these pages in future. Otherwise, up to this point, the tracks and artwork remain elusive outwith a certain circle of musicians.

Also decidedly admirable is the service that will be provided to the other artists caught in the crossfire of the hype that is sure to follow these first whispers. It seems inevitable that the chosen recipients of this anonymous act’s initial sparse output will see an increase in publicity for their own musical endeavours and, being that the only people currently in the know are musicians, something with this much potential for hype could go a long way to countering the recent blow Facebook have dealt against potential traffic levels of artists’ pages. When your band knows something hardly anyone else does, it follows that a lot more people are going to wilfully include your page in their news feed, in anticipation of further updates.

It would be easy to write this whole thing off as a misguided, flash in the pan sort of scheme. However, those with a bit of faith and a propensity for curiosity will doubtless agree that this is exactly the sort of innovative thinking that is needed every now and then to shake things up a bit. As local scenes don’t have astronomical promotional budgets, bypassing the regular channels requires clever networking and dedication and these are qualities that will undoubtedly take any aspiring musician far.

When this is considered, the identity of the person behind their ingenious marketing campaign becomes as pertinent as that of the musicians themselves. If the responsibility for this is their own, it is undeniably impressive. However, it seems more probable that such an effort is the result of the combination of various people with various skillsets and a glance at some of the leaked artwork would suggest the same.

Being that we have heard one of the tracks – albeit via a smartphone – it would be remiss of us not to appraise the musical aptitude and inspiration that succeed in streaming forth throughout the composition’s short duration. However, as much as their evident skill does serve as an endorsement for the orchestrators of this melodic conspiracy, the real catalyst for the seemingly imminent explosion of excitement is their cloak and dagger approach to what should be a fairly run of the mill first step for a new act – getting the first samples of their music out there.

Where artists making no effort to publicise themselves can sometimes show a firm faith in their own abilities, the conscious decision to meticulously conceal your identity at the beginning of your career is something else entirely. It is an act that exemplifies utterly unshakable and self-assured conviction that you are capable of blowing everything else around you out of the water, as soon as you decide it’s time.

So, what do we know so far?

A new musical force exists on the Ayrshire/Glasgow scene, a cross-section of local musicians are in possession of snippets of tracks, sparse communication has taken place via anonymous email addresses and the name of the files (30072012) appears to point to the 30th July as some sort of significant date.

This piece can be taken as a confident prediction that, come that date, the local scene will be awash with rumour and the hard drives of anyone with even a passing interest in unsigned music will play host to a file named 30072012.

Until then, eyes peeled!

The gig is billed as an evening of Scottish hip hop, with Glasgow duo Hector Bizerk a prominent feature of the bill.

Arriving a few minutes before their stage slot, you step into Ayr’s cosy but cramped Courtyard Bar and a quick scan of your surroundings instils a degree of trepidation. The stage area is an alcove at the back of the bar which is separated from the main part by a waist-high wall with a metre-wide entrance, essentially rendering the performers invisible to all but those in the front row.

In addition to this, located within this alcove are the male toilets, meaning that any performance is destined to be peppered with interruptions and further negations of visibility as members of the audience make the journey through the aforementioned entrance and across the stage to relieve themselves.

As if this wasn’t enough to put one off one’s Friday evening pint of frosty ale, just as Hector Bizerk take the stage, into the breach stumble two highly inebriated females set firmly upon some sort of drunken dancing crusade who proceed to position themselves directly in front of the entrance to the alcove.

It seems that they are of the opinion that whatever the audience originally arrived to see will pale in comparison to their own unique brand of same-sex bumping and grinding and wilful displays of flesh. Even the ad hoc insertion of the refrain “put some fucking claithes on; naebody is watching” into one of the hip hop team’s earlier numbers is lost on the self-appointed backing dancers, who are so deep into their own rhythm that the scathing couplet merely serves as further soundtrack to their flaunting.

It is, however, noteworthy that also present, in addition to this sort of amateur pub burlesque troupe, are the altogether less salubrious – but possibly even rowdier – Hector Bizerk entourage who, unperturbed, show their fierce support for the purveyors of gritty lyricism and accomplished percussion.

The performers, for their part, although understandably miffed at this fairly inconsiderate attempted upstaging, manage to respond to the display in a fairly humorous manner as Louie invites the crowd to check out their mailing list and intimates his hope that they are able to “maybe come to a gig where yous can… you know… actually see us.”

As well as the obvious regrettable implications of a drastically impaired view of a performance which already had a very ‘tunnel vision’ type vibe, this type of spectacle is most unfortunate as, if you weren’t already familiar with the work of MC Louie and drummer Audrey’s and your arrival was such that this appeared as an intentional inclusion, it might just lead you to dismiss Hector Bizerk as some quirky chavsploitation sideshow.

This is a risk that exists even without the undesirable gyrations of a pair of sozzled wenches, due in large part to how uncommon it is to find a credible Scottish hip hop act whose output isn’t restricted to YouTube videos of a bunch of bams in tracksuits using bottles of Mad Dog as microphones for their renditions of latter-day Eminem offerings.

It is also a risk clearly not lost on the artists themselves, with their track Niche seeing Louie impersonating the reception they have garnered from radio stations with the line “we like your tunes but you sound like a ned.”

Humorous as this undeniably is, it showcases a viewpoint that must be guarded against by any means necessary, as the putting aside of any initial scepticism and bemusement will invariably lead to the revelation that the duo are a truly exciting, original and inspiring talent.

The Hector Bizerk experience, in a live context where you can actually see them, comprises a decidedly sparse stage set-up – Louie with mic in hand at one side of the stage and Audrey keeping in careful charge of the drum kit occupying the other side – but this doesn’t in any way hinder their creation of an intensely captivating soundscape.

The lyricist’s calm, almost glazed look belies the summoning of a wealth of talent and his hands slash at the air in front of him as he layers distinctly working class rhythmic musings over equally accomplished bars of percussion and the room immediately becomes a sea of nodding heads, all exhibiting the same expression of awe and admiration. From the moment they take the stage, Hector Bizerk are in complete control of a sonic output that demands nothing short of captivation from the listener.

The material’s lyrical content ranges from the gritty to the humorous to the obscene but remains, at all times, thoroughly intelligent. For the Record contains verse after verse of seemingly throwaway rhymes which flow with an astute self-assurance and exhibit a tendency to elicit a knowing grin from those listening:

“Life’s a work in progress of self-empowerment, 

You can eat your own words if it’s time you’re devouring,

 Till I’ve got the hunger and I can’t crawl cowering, I stand tall towering,

The seeds of the roots of the tree are flowering,

I never rain on a parade, evaporate water you’re showering.”

The prior suggestion of the existence of a ‘Hector Bizerk entourage’ of fans and fellow musicians who appear at every one of their gigs illustrates the admirable savvy of the two musicians. Evidently aware that their musical style positions them within something of a niche market, they are taking all the right steps towards building up a loyal following. An active mailing list and social networking presence are maintained, a range of merchandise is readily available and ticket runs are duly embarked upon prior to gigs to try and ensure the maximum attendance and exposure for each appearance.

With all of this considered, this is an act who could well serve as the harbinger of an era of credible Scottish urban music. Hip hop is an immensely popular genre around these parts and, as anyone who tried to catch The Streets in the Slam Tent at this year’s T in the Park will attest, an immense deal of respect exists for those in the London scene who took the style and made it their own. Just like their counterparts in the South, the Scots have their own identity, their own culture, their own slang and their own social problems that need addressed. It could well be time that they stamped their own signature on the genre and claimed a branch for themselves.

It does seem only right that, now that a strong scene is showing signs of emerging on the home shores of Scottish urban enthusiasts, an equally huge amount of support should be forthcoming. Hector Bizerk are a duo with genuine talent and passion residing within an immensely interesting and forward-thinking genre of music and it is truly heartening to see them resist the temptation to take their cue from other established scenes and, instead, create and work with a sound and content of their own.

It’s just unfortunate that their rhythm holds such an irresistible allure for steamin lassies.

Hector Bizerk on Facebook

[Continued from previous entry…]

With the groundwork for the more established portion of the evening having been set, the consistently fantastic Rose Parade follow the furore of The Hostiles with a slightly more mellow approach to music.

The inclusion of this eclectic collective in any sort of Ayrshire Showcase is an absolute given and their placement on the bill is such that they serve as a welcome breather from the more chaotic and riotous recitals which lead up to their spot.

As Ari, Ed and Stuart meander through an anthemic setlist that necessitates the use of banjos, harmonicas and glockenspiels – as well as the more standard guitars and drums – their folk-tinged indie pulls the crowd together into a cheerfully beery sort of mutual consciousness, as feet tap and heads nod to the calm but emotive soundscape they create.

Rose Parade are an undeniably unusual act but the beauty of it is that this impression is conveyed without ever seeming contrived. There is no great emphasis put on their set’s incorporation of the unconventional; It is merely a part of what makes Rose Parade who they are – purveyors of fantastic and quirky music which succeeds in not insisting upon itself.

And, of course, there are a smattering of more tradtionally mainstream rock moments when the foot tappers become foot stampers. The aptly-titled Grace proves a particular crowd favourite, due in no small part to its simple but ridiculously infectious ‘da da da, da da da’-style chorus, and their recent run of plugging new track Midnight Wine online pays off when its live rendition goes down an absolute storm.

By the time the applause has subsided, Bellow Below appear to kick things back up a notch with their set which succeeds in maintaining the standard set by their recent Bar Bloc performance.

The boys are possibly even more self-assured this time around, with everyone on the stage looking like they absolutely belong there, as Richard establishes the set’s tone by instigating a back-and-forth chant of “waayyyy” with his audience before the band charge through a technically-impressive set which seems to delight in presenting those watching with grave potential for neck injury.

Jamie visibly relishes his position of frontman, for this gig, as he seizes every opportunity to stride out on As In Bear’s makeshift guitar/drum platform, which has now found its way to the front of the stage and undergone a transformation into a catwalk of sorts, and thrusting his face into those in the front row as the band pick, strum and shout up a euphoric racket.

Although all of the members have enjoyed fairly lengthy tenures in the Ayrshire and Glasgow live music scenes, the group’s current incarnation, as Bellow Below, is a relatively youthful one. It is therefore all the more remarkable that they find themselves so high up on a bill littered with pretty prestigious acts and fail to look even remotely out of place.

Bellow Below - Photograph by Kenny Bates

Filling the two headlining slots are thisfamiliarsmile and The Darien Venture who are very much the crowning glory of the event, both being signed to indie labels and enjoying hugely positive levels of recognition. There will be a more appropriate time to take an in-depth look at their impressive live output in future and, for today, it will suffice to say that they placed the cherry firmly on top of a spectacular occasion.

As much as the artists are a veritable credit to the Ayrshire Showcase and manage to do themselves, the organisers and their fans – old and new – proud, it is impossible to overlook the fact that an astounding amount of thought and planning has also gone into this event, yielding equally fruitful rewards for all involved.

Throughout the day, there is a merch stand set up in the corner which, as well as giving everyone playing the opportunity to ply their various wares, provides a high-profile sort of feel. The provision of the option to go and browse demos and t-shirts afterwards is a definite stroke of minor genius which makes each performance seem just that little bit more authentic and meaningful.

The organisers’ shrewd utilisation of networking skills and well-maintained personal relationships with band members mean that all acts are present and correct for the duration of the showcase, happily sipping on complimentary beer and wolfing down pizza as they show support for their peers. This has the desired effect of ensuring that, at no point in the day’s proceedings, the place feels empty or half-full and crowds of people arrive at various times to an ever-more-burgeoning venue.

For today at least, Pivo Pivo feels like the hub of the Ayrshire music scene as the different bands and their respective entourages and hangers-on make the place their own for the evening. The Hostiles tourbus sits proudly in front of the venue as they are interviewed for local radio inside it, familiar faces from As In Bear’s previous gigs join them in scoping out the rest of the talent and the Bellow Below boys hold merry but boisterous court in the smoking area between acts.

Where the performers are concerned, Sunday 5th September is a day of simple considerations and gestures that are lapped up by a willing crowd. For organiser-in-chief Kenny Bates, sound aficionado Michael Butler and the rest of the Pivo Pivo staff, however, it is the successful culmination of months of hard work, not only in the creation of this event but in the tireless pursuit of making their venue the go-to place for unsigned talent in the West of Scotland.

Perhaps the single most telling indication of today’s success is the difficulty it presents those who are present with the intention of documenting and reviewing. Such is the energetic, passionate and ultimately involving vibe throughout the event that it is nigh on impossible to remain just an impartial observer. A difficult person to imagine is the one who would be able to remain in the background watching this spectacle unfold without their enthusiasm and shared passion for local and unsigned music get the best of them and take on the role of yet another ecstatic participant.

Pivo Pivo on Facebook

Rose Parade on Facebook

Bellow Below on Facebook

—–

[N.B. It is indeed regrettable that some bands received less in-depth coverage in this review than others. However, where the Ayrshire Showcase has excelled has been in the presentation of several acts greatly deserving of recognition and worthy of coverage, who will be the subject of full features in Sixteen Sixteen Six in the very near future.]