After one of the most curious evenings entertainment I’ve ever witnessed last night, I figured that trying to compete would be a bad thing. Thus, it was back to The 13th Note but with a very different proposition in hand – a couple of direct, noisy trios – and a bit of acoustic singer-songwriter stuff thrown in for good measure. There’s something pretty special about turning up to see three acts you’re either only tangentially aware of – or perhaps have never heard of – with an open mind and the safe knowledge you’ve only invested a few quid and might just have unearthed a gem or two. It’s this kind of speculative, turn-up-on-the-night whimsy which has defined my Glasgow gig going in the past, and it’s mostly been a pretty successful approach.
I’m certain there must be thousands of singer-songwriter types plying their trade around the country on any given Wednesday evening, and its equally certain that they’ll be propping up the bill as some sort of support. Something gentle to play in the background while the band’s mates drift in and chat excitedly. It’s always going to be tricky to sort the wheat from the chaff in these situations, and there was every indication – with a crowd made up almost entirely of friends and family it seemed – that this would be one of those occthsions. However, they hadn’t reckoned with Patrick Bullen and Emma Joyce who steadfastly refused to be the musical backdrop for meeting and greeting. In fact, from the start of their set they managed to command the audience’s full attention – something that even managed to wrong-foot Patrick a little, as he genuinely wondered why everyone was being so quiet! The set consisted of mostly Bullen‘s own material, delivered confidently enough and with a whole heap of commitment which is often lacking in such acts. Bullen‘s voice has the ability to suitably soar into big choruses, but is perhaps most effective at its quietest and when duetting with Emma Joyce‘s equally powerful, clear and countrified tones. On these slower, quieter numbers it all fits together somehow and the audience are spellbound. While Bullen‘s own songs are perhaps a little too close to the edge of textbook ‘regret’ at times, a very well chosen closing cover of Ryan Adams “Oh My Sweet Carolina” sets the agenda they are striving for, and I’m fairly sure they’ll get there with a little exposure. I couldn’t find out much about this pair on line, but it seems that they’re fairly present in the folk scene around Glasgow which no doubt provides them with the easy confidence they exuded here. Tonight though, they kept an excitable audience who’d come for noisy bands both interested and entranced. No mean feat at all.
There is something special about trios – about stripping back a band to it’s absolute basic core, and still managing to make a heck of a racket. Whilst I’m sure readers will baulk at the comparison, I remember seing Buffalo Tom in a support slot in the early 90s. They wandered on stage carrying their own amps, plugged in and launched nonchalantly into a noisy, layered, emotionally charged set – before packing up and leaving with their kit. Something of this self-sufficient simplicity of the three-piece set up was captured by The Streetlight Conspiracy this evening, who sauntered on stage amiably and proceeded to blow away a probably already converted audience completely. This appears to be second time around for the band too – as they seem to have had a previous incarnation and some fairly positive press in the past. They’ve certainly been around long enough to have a MySpace page, but aren’t quite quick enough off the blocks to have made the inevitable leap to Facebook or other social media. The three-piece stormed through a set which harked back to some of those earlier songs, as well as capturing where the band is right now – a more direct, pared-back approach which still manages to provide some wonderful spiralling highs and some menacing quieter spells. This is classy, confident Scottish pop music in the Ambulances or Attic Lights mould, but with a slightly tougher edge, in no small part due to some dizzyingly good guitar playing at times.
Finally, We Came From The Sea took to the stage – another trio, and a frighteningly youthful one at that. It was also pretty clear that they’d set up, promoted and managed tonight’s show largely themselves, a DIY spirit which has to be admired. Starting with a quietly building post-rock meander, they escalated things to the inevitable explosion which, when it arrived was a pleasant surprise with squalls of hollow but explosive guitar noise not unlike the Steve Albini-era Wedding Present. In the quieter sections there was just a hint of the grace and simplicity of Codeine too, which perhaps indicates that these guys have thought a little beyond the increasingly dull quiet/loud/quiet post-rock dynamic and know their way around the construction of a song. Lyrically, the songs were at times a little unsubtle and simplistic – but considerable time and effort certainly appear to have been invested in the music where they create a suspense and menace which the words just don’t quite capture yet. But then again, what do I know – the home crowd cleared loved them, and with the guts to go it alone and the support of a growing fanbase, there’s not much that could stop these guys from getting a name for themselves.
Having spend the morning listening to a rather maudlin shopkeeper explaining why all young people were computer game, reality TV and social networking obsessed losers who never did anything or went anywhere, it was good to see enthusiasm both on the stage and in the audience tonight. I wondered at first if I’d picked a lean week for gigs up here in Glasgow, as there seemed to be little going on until the weekend – when as ever, things tumbled over each other for attention. It’s true that arriving a week earlier or later would have presented me with a whole other set of priorities. But that would also have meant I’d miss this evening. It’s just a shame the shopkeeper couldn’t have been there too.