A Hinter wonderland

Published

Oisín Kealy

Guardian checks out the host of bands playing Glasgow’s first Hinterland festival

My relationship with Hinterland begins a rocky one, heading to Stereo to see Three Trapped Tigers on Thursday when in fact they had cancelled. Not a stellar start, but I’m the forgiving sort so a brisk walk up to Nice ‘n’ Sleazy it was– whether or not I needed the exercise, I had to get used to such nomadic wandering for the rest of the festival. Leeds four-piece Wintermute were busy entertaining the basement as it slowly filled up, most people seemingly expecting to find Remember Remember on at this time, but despite the departure from the arranged timetable, the band managed to convince the entrants to stay. Their songs ring clear and catchy, and while they cannot be faulted for the energy put into their performance, they do lack the sense of fun exuded by bands such as Dananananaykroyd who deal in the same kind of wide-mouthed, angular riot pop.

Expecting an oasis of calm after the plugged in performance of the previous set, the inhabitants of the Sleazy basement instead find themselves dancing to the first song by Remember Remember; funnily enough, entitled ‘The Dancing’. Frontman Graeme Ronald joins in as the rhythm picks up, jumping and bobbing with barely restrained glee that becomes infectious. He makes full use of his loop pedals and what can only be described as a wizardy box (because I don’t know how else to describe it) on the floor to flesh out the texture of his songs, but he is not alone tonight, accompanied by piano, saxophone, violin and guitarists. This adds a much appreciated organic element to the set and saves him from becoming another static knob twiddler. The only problem is that he stays for a mere three songs. These may be three beautifully unfolding, subtly epic songs which reach beyond the seven minute mark, but it leaves the audience looking very bemused as he says goodnight. Not as bemused as the audience who he leaves on the second night at The Arches, however, when he spills his water over the much coveted wizardy box leading to a dramatic pop from the speakers; A smooth exit indeed.

The first full set I manage to catch on Friday is Slow Club’s spot at The Arches. The cavernous venue seems too large for them as they wander onto the stage, but launching straight into the almost Johnny and June sounding ‘Giving Up On Love’ they fill the space tenfold. Becky gets surprised by the delay effect applied to her vocals as the slow burning ’I Was Unconscious, It Was a Dream’ echoes back on itself, and both she and Charles play with the fact as they deliberately repeat their words to draw a laugh from the crowd. The unpolished set is not marred by lyrics spluttered through laughter, but breeds an intimacy that wouldn’t be expected in this cave. This is compounded upon by an acoustic version of ‘Wild Blue Milk’ played from the audience as the battery pack on Becky’s guitar dies. With an album coming out in July there are big things predicted for this band, and I managed to get a quick chat with them earlier in the day, asking them their plans and what they think of the music scene up here. “It’s great, People really seem to enjoy the music instead of standing there and judging you” Charles reckons, and while I often find the Glasgow crowds to be happy standing still with a pint of Tennents in their hands, I have to say he is right about the audience attending this gig.

I then tresk uphill to the The Flying Duck to catch The Voluntary Butler Scheme, aka Rob Jones, for what may be the most undeservedly thin crowd of festival. Another industrious chap, he loops himself on vocals, drums, guitar and uses various knick knacks to conjure a phantom band to aid him. That is, when he isn’t playing solo piano songs, a medium which he believes makes him look like “Myleene Klass battling demons” despite their jovial nature. Comparisons could be drawn with Jim Noir or Noah and the Whale, and even back to The Beatles in their more lighthearted moments. As much as such cross-referencing often suggests nothing new to offer, the opposite is in fact true and every new tune is a summer hit waiting to be found; if only more people found their way to his set.

Braving the Rain and cursing my distinct lack of an umbrella, I dash to King Tuts to make Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard. The set is mostly comprised of new material, but the audience laps it up. A highlight is their full band performance of runaway Youtube hit, ‘A Complete History of Punk Rock’. The crowd becomes more of a congregation, no one being told anything they haven’t already heard but all too eager to have it affirmed by Lewis in person. It is a mostly upbeat set despite the dips into suicidal and existential subject matter on songs like ‘I Couldn’t Take It Anymore’ and ‘If Life Exists’; Somehow, ‘Broken Broken Broken Heart’ is the most uplifting song of the night. The ability to step outside of himself and appraise his life with a wry smile is what makes Lewis’ canon an endlessly enjoyable one. He finishes by showing us a ‘low budget movie’, a film noir narrative told over about fifteen pages of ink on a sketch pad, complete with double crossing dames and a cliffhanger ending that leaves the crowd clapping their hands raw for an encore that isn’t to come. I don’t mind, my legs are just glad to finally get a rest.

Sucioperro / We Were Promised Jetpacks
Neil Cowan

It seems lazy and all too easy to compare Sucioperro with Biffy Clyro, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t warranted. Both tread the same musical ground, with quiet/loud guitars, soaring melodies, and a few screams thrown in for good measure. Both emerged around the same time, and both involve three hairy Scotsmen. Whilst Biffy have been rocketed into the big time world of arenas and the obligatory Jo Wiley sessions, though, Sucioperro have yet to make the breakthrough.

Which is maybe why there was such a thin crowd to see them power through an enjoyable if a little repetitive set at the Classic Grand. ‘The Final Confessions of Mabel Stark’ was a highlight, along with a barely there version of ‘Apathy=Inaction’. Newer material like ‘You Can’t Lose’ was well received, but too many songs simply blended together to make a sometimes rousing but ultimately interchangeable hour or so of sweaty rock. Whilst ‘Dialog on the 2’ provided a thrilling climax, somehow resembling Weezer on a disco-metal freak-out but without being the musical armageddon that it sounds, it was hard to shake the feeling that you’ve seen and heard it all before.

The same can’t be said for We Were Promised Jetpacks, who played a packed ABC2 on the second night on through to the a.m. From opener ‘Keeping Warm’, its easy to see why so much excitement surrounds Glasgow-based four piece. Dense atmospherics, rich melody and urgent vocals combined to make a thrilling sound that showed off exactly why they have recently been signed to FatCat Records, home of Frightened Rabbit and Twilight Sad. They draw comparison to both in terms of the former’s ear for a tune and the latter’s wonderful cacophony, but walk their own distinctive path.

Recently released single ‘Quiet Little Voices’ was like a glorious, post-punk punch to the gut, whilst ‘It’s Thunder and Lightning’ has a patient build up, culminating in a wonderful Mogwai-esque racket. With debut album ‘These Four Walls’ out in June, this served as a tantalising taster of what is to come.

The Fall
Catriona Reilly

The Arches appears to be fairly full, with a bipolar audience of balding older men and jaunty students with fake glasses. When the band finally takes to the stage, Mark E Smith lurching in their wake, the audience emits a gentle roar rather than furious screams of admiration. Opening with ‘Strange Town’, it becomes apparent that Mark’s legendary acerbic snarl has faded to an unintelligible slur. This continues song after song, fired at the audience in furiously quick succession with no interaction, small talk or even pause for breath. This is no surprise as The Fall are not celebrated for their stage banter, but it creates a cynical atmosphere of performance by numbers and fails to get the crowd moving.

As they continue to plough through a selection of tracks from 2008s Imperial Wax Solvent’ , such as a shortened version of ‘50 year old man’ and ‘Tommy Shooter’, a general sense of dissatisfaction grows , with many people leaving in search of better quality entertainment from the festival’s other offerings. This is further exacerbated by the deteriorating sound quality, which stifles Mark’s vocals under a wall of noise, making the performance seem even more apathetic, albeit through no fault of their own. However the night has some saving grace with an energetic and musically flawless performance, displaying impressive musicality on the instrumental ‘Senior Twilight Stock Replacer’. Even from behind the keyboards Elena usurps her husband Mark, barking out vocals. Unfortunately, this has little overall effect in dispelling the feeling that Mr Smith didn’t really want to be there and especially did not want to entertain anyone. After forty minutes The Fall left the stage, having completed a set list devoid of classics and passion, while the crowds left devoid of satisfaction.