Kate Nash @ The Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh, 1 Aug

kate nash

Originally published for The Skinny.

Teasing us early on with a brief version of Foundations (it is the second song on Made of Bricks after all), it’s pretty evident there are more than a few ex-indie kids in the room: the type who, ten years ago, carried copies of the NME around in their Gola satchels and were still trying to come to terms with The Libertines splitting up. It’s clear Nash is saving the full version for later though, once the crowd has been fully warmed up.

Following this up with an epic, punk rendition of Mouthwash, any disappointment at Foundations being cut short is quickly forgotten. Nash thrashes around the stage, belting out the words in an exuberant scream, making it clear she’s no longer the delicate piano-playing indie princess she was ten years ago.

Coming towards the end of her set, we finally get the full version of Foundations we are all waiting to hear and it can only be described as suitably rapturous. Not for the first time tonight, the crowd sing every word back to Nash at the top of their lungs, in between turning to their friends to do the same.

With the encore largely made up of Nash’s newer material, it’s clear to see how much she’s grown as an artist. Behind her cute exterior, there is a real punk within Kate Nash and those who doubt that simply need to witness her live to be proven wrong.

http://www.katenash.com/

 

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Priests @ The Hug & Pint, Glasgow, 22 May

priests

Originally published for The Skinny.

★★★★

Don’t be fooled by frontwoman Katie Alice Greer’s cutesy pastel pink raincoat, her freshly manicured nails or her bleach blonde pleats because as soon as Priests’ first song starts, you’ll quickly realise that looks can be very deceiving. There could not have been a more perfect venue than the dark basement of Glasgow’s Hug & Pint for tonight’s gig. This is the kind of punk rock show most people can only dream of and Priests are the perfect band to be at the centre of it.

Playing tracks from their new album Nothing Feels Natural, as well as some “deep cuts”, as Greer refers to them, her voice takes a serious beating throughout the show, as does drummer Daniele Daniele’s drum kit. The band seem to be fond of upping the pace and the noise for their live performances. Staring menacingly at the crowd Greer leans into them, stretching her hands out as though attempting to grab them, she really does have everyone in the room eating out of the palm of her hand; and they’re close enough to manage to.

Punk rock lesson number one: play your instruments so hard that your band are forced to do some DIY work mid-show to keep them in place. Punk rock lesson number two: impersonate and misquote American presidents to the mass confusion of the audience. Punk rock lesson number three: play every song like it’s the last one you’ll ever play. Priests are punk rock, deal with it.

 

The Japanese House @ The Liquid Room, Edinburgh, 10 May

the japanese house

Originally published for The Skinny.

★★★

Amber Bain, aka The Japanese House, takes to the stage at Edinburgh’s Liquid Room looking like the fourth member of Hanson, with her denim on denim attire and wispy blonde hair covering her face, announcing that she’s ill but will “try not to cough.”

Luckily Bain’s vocoder masks any sign of illness in her vocal, as she plays through songs from her three EPs with almost no interruption. In fact, the only between-song chat we get from Bain is to introduce the next song. What Bain lacks in charisma, however, she makes up for in songwriting ability: particular highlights include Teeth, Saw You in a Dream and Clean. The performance of the latter is sadly ruined though by the distracting and unnecessary strobe lights, but the band seem to think it’s cool and headbang along to the track’s clichéd dubstep-esque break.

The difficulty with Bain’s music is that, at its core, it is bedroom music. It’s minimal, ambient and best listened to alone with headphones in; live, it just doesn’t quite have the same effect. But this doesn’t stop her droves of teenage fans, many of whom will be aware of her music from the 13 Reasons Why soundtrack and from her ties with The 1975, gazing up at her admiringly and singing along to every word.

There is something undoubtedly captivating about The Japanese House but if Bain intends to move on to playing headline shows in bigger venues then she’s going to have to come up with something more exciting than a few strobe lights.

PWR BTTM @ CCA, Glasgow, 15 Apr

pwr bttm cca

Originally published for The Skinny.

★★★★★

PWR BTTM’s Ben Hopkins makes a crucial observation about the difference between British and American crowds halfway through tonight’s show at Glasgow’s CCA: that Americans will scream in your face and maybe even throw a cheeseburger at you if they enjoy the show, whereas British people will tell you ten reasons why they found it interesting.

To begin, there are two very important things to be taken from the show: 1) Support band Orchards are about to be your new favourite indie band and 2) PWR BTTM are the most exciting live band around right now. Here are a few more reasons why the show was interesting.

Hopkins shredded the life out of his guitar and his vocal cords throughout most of the show but particularly during performances of Silly, from new album Pageant, and Ugly Cherries, from the duo’s eponymous debut. When Liv Bruce takes over the mic, the biggest singalongs of the evening occur, to fan favourite I Wanna Boi and recent single Answer My Text.

The chemistry between Bruce and Hopkins is unlike that in many other bands. The pair bounce off each other like a pendulum swinging at full force, exchanging banter back and forth between songs, making for a thrilling – and hilarious – punk-rock show from two performers in their absolute prime.

If all musicians could be as enthusiastic about being in a band together and playing their music live as PWR BTTM are music, and the world, would be in a far better state.

The Pigeon Detectives @ Electric Circus, Edinburgh, 4 Mar

pigeon detectives

Originally published for The Skinny.

★★★

For many 20-somethings, The Pigeon Detectives will bring back fond memories of a golden age of indie, the ups and downs of which are still very visible today.

In a packed-out Electric Circus, the indie vibes are strong. It’s small, it’s sweaty, it’s laddy and it’s likely you’ll be leaving covered in beer. The band open the show with Enemy Lines, a track taken from their new album Broken Glances. It’s much more mellow than their older material but that doesn’t stop the lads in the crowd thrusting forward in a surge to get closer to their indie gods – suspicions arise that frontman Matthew Bowman sees himself along those lines when he stands on the drum set, imitating a crucifixion.

The laddy antics continue during the band’s performance of I Found Out, from their 2007 album Wait for Me. Bowman goes full Coyote Ugly, crawling on the bar and taking a shot before proceeding to spit beer into the crowd. It’s all very rock’n’roll, or at least the frontman seems to think so, and indeed he whips his crowd of loyal followers into a frenzy, hanging from the light fixtures as he tries to get as close as possible to them.

If there’s anything to be said for the Leeds quintet, it’s that they know how to work their crowd. It may be a bizarre sight to behold for many, but The Pigeon Detectives’ devotees are certainly putty in their hands.

S U R V I V E @ The Art School, 20 Feb

survive-live

S U R V I V E live at The Deaf Institute, Manchester by Latisha Vasianna

Originally published for The Skinny.

★★★★

If live music is to be an experience, then S U R V I V E pull off exactly that at Glasgow’s Art School. Without a microphone in sight, it quickly becomes apparent that there will be no crowd interaction from the band tonight. Instead they focus on the music, taking us on a loud and cosmic journey through their synth and bass back catalogue.

Playing tracks from their most recent album RR7349, the music takes on a whole new life live; mainly because of the stunning light show that accompanies it. Seamlessly syncing with the music, lights alter between shades of blue and purple, fading into darkness and then abruptly flashing on cue: at times unsettling, but for the most part entirely fitting.

In the live setting, the tracks don’t feel as dark and eerie as they do on record. There are even moments where the music sounds euphoric and, quite frankly, danceable. Think more hands in the air, finger pointing than nonchalant head bobbing.

The band’s back to basics approach to performing live, where crowd and inter-band interaction is scarce, may not exactly be everyone’s cup of tea. However, their ability to put on a captivating live show which relies solely on their compositions is a true testament to their musicianship and shows that sometimes, music really can speak for itself.

https://survive.bandcamp.com/

Laura Marling & BBC SSO @ Glasgow Royal Concert Hall Review

laura-marling

Originally published for The Skinny.

Laura Marling & BBC SSO @ Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 19 Jan

Review

★★★★

Shining a light on female artists is very much at the forefront of this year’s Celtic Connections festival, so what better way to kick off proceedings than with a night full of incredible female performances?

Scottish singer-songwriter Karine Polwart shouts out ‘female power’ during her performance on the festival’s opening night at Glasgow’s Royal Concert Hall, acknowledging many of the women performing at the evening’s event and throughout the festival, as well as those working behind the scenes. This follows a bill of eclectic folk-based artists from near and far, ranging from young Scottish talents Rachel Sermanni and Adam Holmes to Sahrawi singer Aziza Brahim.

The evening’s headliner Laura Marling performs orchestral reworkings of tracks selected from across her five albums, arranged beautifully by Kate St. John. Accompanied by the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Jules Buckley, Marling begins with epic versions of the tracks that opened her 2013 album Once I Was an Eagle; Take the Night Off, and I Was an Eagle.

Marling tells the audience she’s learnt a lot about Glasgow’s history during her two days in town, and how much she has enjoyed her time in the city, before introducing Goodbye England (Covered In Snow). It’s a slow-burner, but as more audience members begin to pick up on the joke, ripples of applause break out and eventually lead to cheers. Patriotism is certainly alive and well at Celtic Connections.

Returning to the stage for her final song, Marling performs latest single Wild Fire, from her upcoming album Semper Femina, alone with just her acoustic guitar. The closer proves that Marling can put on a spine-tingling performance like no other, with or without the bells and whistles.


Part of Celtic Connections festival 2017