Summer Showcase at The Ironworks, Saturday 26th July 2014. A review.

"they [Caroline and Co.] manage to create a surprisingly full and generous sound"
“they [Caroline and Co.] manage to create a surprisingly full and generous sound”
This evenings opening ceremony is entrusted to Caroline Truslove. Flanked by her usual collaborators Ian Mackenzie on guitar and Calum Chisholm on cajon she seems far more relaxed and at ease than her last showcase outing. Between the three of them, they manage to create a surprisingly full and generous sound due in no small part to the backdrop created by Ian.

From the opening song ‘See Right Through’, he’s creating ambient grooves that compliment Caroline’s voice particularly well. I can’t be sure what he’s doing, at one point I’m convinced I hear keyboards. Caroline’s acoustic guitar sits perfectly in the mix, late in the set she hit’s a bass run that if I am to be stupidly picky alerts me to the one thing missing – acoustic bass would complete the sound for me.

Lyrics are important to Caroline, what I tune into most tonight are those with an existential or ecological content such as the plaintive appeal ‘peace and love unites us all’ in the song ‘Peace and Love’ (funnily enough). We are treated to two new songs, ‘Sing to the night’ and ‘The Great Unknown’ – both slot seamlessly into a cohesive and sophisticated set. Material from Caroline is of course available on-line, personally I’m hoping for an EP release sometime soon. You can catch Caroline at Belladrum playing the Free Range Stage at 215 on the 9th of August.

"The eleven long-haired friends of Jesus in a Chartreuse microbus were two men short"
“The eleven long-haired friends of Jesus in a Chartreuse microbus were two men short” – Penniless Moth

The eleven long-haired friends of Jesus in a Chartreuse microbus were two men short as Penniless Moth, no doubt attracted by the bright lights, took to the acoustic stage (the lighting on the acoustic stage was just a tad harsh). And what a blast; Topher looking and sounding like James Taylor but generating the intensity of John Lydon (no, seriously) let rip, opening up the guitar with his fellow lepidopteran Neil Mackenzie to good effect.

A stomp box and the acoustic qualities of the guitar bodies were used to the full and helped drive the songs through some complex and varied melodies (although maybe a smidge over-elaborate at times). Just when you thought you had a handle on the sound Neil switched to bass. But, it is all about the guitar, generally alt-folk but with some jazz sensibilities every now and then a strong psychedelic flavour crept in (Yes unplugged?). There was so much going on that I need to head on over to Soundcloud to have a listen to the lyrics, I’m betting they’ll be worth hearing.

Summer means Shaped. Stepping straight off the brilliant NME C86 three disc box set, they’ve really hit on a sound and attitude that belongs to the 80’s but one which they have dragged into the here and now, revamped, updated, put it through a contemporary rinse on full spin and now they can call it theirs. I’m not sure they would even know what I’m rabbiting on about here – “Enemy, who, what, is that a newspaper?”

"They really do embody that original punk attitude that alas has been watered down so much"
“They really do embody that original punk attitude that alas has been watered down so much”

They really do embody that original punk attitude that alas has been watered down so much, a sort of ‘we don’t care what anybody thinks, we’re shit but we really want to do this’ kind of thing. And they clearly love what they’re doing, and, they make me smile. A truly raucous glorious racket, replete with lead bass and slightly off key guitar breaks; the drums take a damned good thrashing to boot. At one point the bass drum tries to make good an escape off the riser – no chance.

No low-lights to be found, loved SOS, a real echo of ‘Head in the Clouds’ from the wonderful Roundabouts but ‘Summer’, ‘Jesus’ (their slow one – yeah right) and ‘Please Hold’ are all songs I want to hear again. “Come and hear us at Bella!” – will do.

Ewan McConologue. Q: If sumbody sings in thi vernacular, dae ah huv tae review thum in thi vernacular? A: Naw. Ah but then what a can of worms! Which vernacular? Would it be Byrne, Burns, The Broons or Welsh? Of course it’s a bit of a non-question, because I think we all recognise the Scottish Indie Vernacular (SIV) when we hear it.

A lot of acts are being fed through the SIV, I guess it’s simply a matter of musical choice, maybe it’s a trendy thing, or maybe it’s so that fans have an instant point of reference, the comfort zone of ‘sounds like’ – as in – ‘sounds like Frightened Rabbit . . . must be good’. Of course we all know it differs from the Scottish Traditional Folk Vernacular, and most of us surely appreciate that it can be traced back to The Sensational Alex Harvey Band at least, or, the Proclaimers! I remember the first time I heard The Proclaimers, they supported The (Bastard) Housemartins at the Glasgow Barrowland.

Aye, those four Hullpoppery indie sell-outs kept an enthusiastic crowd waiting and waiting and then waiting some more before gambolling gleefully on to the stage to announce they were late because they had ‘had’ to go and mime for Top of The Pops. Wrong thing to say – few crowds are more hostile than a Barrowland crowd with a grudge and a mouthful of spit. As we trooped out heads down after hearing only three songs because we couldn’t afford to miss last trains and buses you knew they wouldn’t be back.

"The big stage suits them and they don’t look the least bit of out place"
“The big stage suits them and they don’t look the least bit of out place” – Bite Night

Next time I saw the ‘Muchty Twins they were being supported by Deacon Blue at Motherwell Town Hall – in the fallout from The Shitemartins gig I had forgotten how much I’d liked their set. And there we had it – a decade and a half ahead of the curve the future sound of SIV right there, and in perfect contrast with the neutral mid-atlantic drawl of Ricky Ross. Don’t get me wrong, Deacon Blue were great and Raintown will always be one of the classic Scottish albums, but we all know Ricky wished he was Springsteen.

The curtains swish to reveal Bite Night. They always take care to have a cohesive ‘look’ going any time I have seen them and tonight is no different, it’s often sadly neglected so I for one appreciate it. The big stage suits them and they don’t look the least bit of out place.

The sound is big and full and pop laden. I’m still not sure that they have settled on a sound that is theirs – having influences is I guess unavoidable, but they need to have something about them that is uniquely Bite Night and I’m not sure they are there yet. I’d love to have a look through their collective record collection -‘record’ how very retro, but then the set reflects that.

They have been listed before but I’m going to do it again. I’ll bet you’ll find Arctic Monkeys, Dire Straits, Dexy’s, Thin Lizzy and the Hendrix version of ‘All Along the Watchtower’ in there. They do have a consistently strong following and clearly, on the evidence of this evening, are bound to be attracting more gigs and more attention. Good luck to them, they deserve it.

" He does subtle, he does sombre, he delivers mid-tempo ballads and anthemic tunes with ease." - Michael Cassidy
” He does subtle, he does sombre, he delivers mid-tempo ballads and anthemic tunes with ease.” – Michael Cassidy
Great to see and hear Michael Cassidy back in these parts – he’s a talent. Strong resonant, melodic vocals with shades of Father John Misty or Paddy Casey about them, but still distinctly Michael’s voice. He’s not a man to shy away from a memorable melody, a lively rhythm or a hopeful lyric. He does subtle, he does sombre, he delivers mid-tempo ballads and anthemic tunes with ease. Started with ‘The Road” and that caught my attention and held it – even over the incessant chatter at the back (what is that all about?).

Michael is someone who drifts in and out of the vernacular but to good effect, as for example on ‘No One Else Is Mine’ – a song that guitar wise sounded like classic Paul Simon. On that note, guitar work is flawless, he’s producing a lovely sound with a fine picking style and somehow – maybe I was hallucinating – but I was certain I heard cello. Wishful thinking maybe. We were lucky to have him back – great set.

"Jake the peroxide Oxide. He is extremely watchable; absolute pixel fodder."
“Jake the peroxide Oxide. He is extremely watchable; absolute pixel fodder.”
The curtains open again, this time to reveal Jake the peroxide Oxide. He is extremely watchable; absolute pixel fodder. The band put in a pile of work on stage although as with the summer of 2012 there is a gremlin-induced intermission. Tuning problems? Mikey Duncan wrestles with his machine heads as sad to say a fair few punters and a lot of the hard-won vibes leave the hall. Archie doodles on bass, CD’s are thrown out frisbee style to the crowd (Finlayson, 2012), it’s a real pity because they had generated quite an atmosphere up to this point. The end result – probably about two songs shy of a full set.

Through all of that what I’m wondering is this; is naming all of your references up-front (The Jam, Oasis, The Beatles, The Libertines, The Who) a strategy for diluting the inevitable comparison games? They say, “We are a 60′s inspired Mod/Grunge band”, what I hear on the night is Brit-pop with a twist of rock. The Hussar jackets might be a visual reference to Sgt Peppers but the aural references are filtered through the Gallagher brothers – I was never a fan of Oasis so it’s not going to resonate with me.

That said I think I might have been in a minority of one on the night and it is undeniable that what they do they do extremely well. They are well rehearsed, have a significant catalogue and are great to watch: I suspect you don’t have to scratch the surface too deep to reveal an ambitious professional outfit. But, they’ve been the ‘next big thing’ since 2012 and that’s a long engagement, if they want to tie the knot then something has to shift.

These Showcases are a great idea and thankfully appear well embedded in the town’s live calendar. This was the usual showcase mix and although they’ve never quite cracked how to manage the ‘quieter’ acts I don’t want them stop now.

With stage times announced via social media the crowd ebbs and flows depending who is on and, once again, too much chatter over the acoustic sets (imho). But hey, where else can you catch seven acts for a fiver? Where else can local bands (and invited others) get the opportunity to perform with great sound and on a big stage with the full rig?

Band of the night for me – Shaped while Michael Cassidy, of course, gets the Top Troubadour award.

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Life-long engagement with music and a truly eclectic taste (although prog-rock and metal will usually have me scrambling for the off button). If pushed, I would have to say the Velvet Underground are one of the most important band’s of all time. Although I consider myself first and foremost a photographer, as regards reviewing I guess I cut my teeth in the vibrant fanzine scene of the 80’s. Around the same time I started taking photographs and, to be brief, performance and photography were made for each other: perfect match.