Four acts, all very diverse, in the shadow of the seismic return of Depeche Mode to the Barrowlands (their gear artics and BBC live broadcast vehicles fairly blocked the entire Gallowgate on a sunny and warm Sunday night in what is now official BST, heard they were crap anyway – only joking…).
This smaller and more perfectly formed event took place at the converted St Lukes church, scene of several BM previous reviews and definitely nothing to do with Tennents Lager, oops ok, they have the “T” in red in the venue signage, and serve the T as well as their own stuff – well everyone needs a bosom from below, as the saying goes, and this venue is making a distinctive contribution to cultural life in Glasgow, whoever gives it the financial backing, and they run things their way…
So BBC6Music had their own, smaller, vans outside and as the evening sun fell, there was a very wonderful backdrop shining, nay rotating, on the front of this blond sandstone building (opened, 1814 or something?).
And it fell to BBC6 (other stations are available) legend Mary Anne Hobbs (a real BM favourite, such a wide knowledge and influence) to introduce the first act tonight, Kadhja Bonet, from LA, California. With just one guitarist (BM is told the album ‘The Visitor’ is far more expansive – ok, just took a listen and yep it is) she went through seven or so songs with an incredibly sweet and expressive voice, channelling classic soul singers. Highlights were probably ‘Honeycomb’ and (BM thinks) ‘Go Out And See The World’ (not on the album) – anyway she really laid herself bare here, starting with a guitar herself then putting it away for the last few tracks, just her accompanist playing while she sung her heart out. She struggled with her mic flex, quite funny, but she is the real deal, very focused and quite lovely and wonderful.
Next up was Forest Swords, who has had a recent history of collaborations, not played Glasgow as far as BM can tell, new material out shortly (single track ‘The Highest Flood’ was played tonight) This guy does bleeps and the samples, with a mighty live bassist (the excellent St Lukes sound system beginning to get a workout here) and also plays live guitar licks as necessary. There were some religious sounding noises, built up all the better given the stained glass and massive organ pipes (nah, BM did that joke at first St L review and cannae be bothered now…is what it is…) and at one point he said “we are all it church on a Sunday”, yes we were….! There were some great bass notes shakin here, some doomy melodies recalling Blanck Mass and other such artists, and he danced and gesticulated like a gibbon on heat. The place was by no means full (it did fill up later but not to capacity despite being “sold out”) but the atmosphere was rising and BM will look out for his future activities… based in Liverpool so bandcamp tells us.
Next up (oh and BM must mention the interlude, so outside the venue the sun is setting, security guys are discussing previous night’s menshies, some maddie with a lighter and BBC types brandishing passes like “do you know who I am” etc, when an auld guy has his dug aff the lead, a white Staffie type thing, no threat at all, till it makes a rush for the main door, and almost makes it through! It took two of St Lukes crack team to restrain it, then the owner put it back on lead. BM was loafing across the way and said “yer dug must be a music fan”. “Naw, she knows there is food in there” says the guy, finger to his temple, like “she is a bright dug” – hilarious, and could only happen here. So reports of this dug in the audience having avoided the £700 gate fee at Depeche must be taken seriously…
So really next up was Brixton based rapper/artist Gaika, who appears with two other guys on computers, percussion etc and makes a doom-laden and shuddering cacophony in the room. Clearly troubled by recent events, his repeated refrain of “your streets” was relevant and resonated for BM, for one. There were organ-thudding frequencies, impassioned vocals, again Young Fathers come to mind but also Massive Attack and many other reggae artists, plus On-U sound. There were several Dancehall- influenced tracks and this guy is so super talented, the rapping speed, the toasting… He was deadly serious but when he cracked a smile he looked like there was also a wicked sense of humour. Ok, so easy references but Burial also, the instrumentation so sophisticated, so much respect due, Glasgow does not usually get this kind of artist appearing so fair play to BBC6 music for bringing him to us, BM is still digesting some of it. And so charismatic…
There was then quite a long pause, no further dogs, Stuart Braithwaite and Mary Anne Hobbs were on the decks as we passed the official end time of 10.25pm but who the hell cared, BM also had a word with Vic Galloway who had “introduced” BM at the Barras… Meanwhile the heavy artillery was being assembled for the headline act.
BM’s readers may know that BM is one of AM’s biggest fans and this gig was always going to be an absolute treat. There was a lengthy pause, after AM herself and others had tested their equipment, then consultations with tech people, a final chat with Mary Anne and then, at around 10.40pm they gave us the lot!
The sound system at St Lukes was louder and better than the CCA (only last month, ffs after 18 months you are now spoiling us Anna, and Electric Fields coming up as well…) , the build up was better and the playing was more manic. At the end of a long night BM is actually unable to go into details, overcome with emotion, but let us just say that the key tracks from outstanding album (SAY winner ‘Varmints’) were played, better than ever before, and the guitar monitor problem probably led to better solos. The tuba tubba-ed us to death, AM herself beat the crap out of her drums, the singing (AM and the rest of the band) was amazing, the synths chittered, the cellos worked, her oboe rocked, bloody everything rocked the place, to the rafters, and BM thinks AM won a few more converts…. BM cannot praise this ensemble more highly, AM has still not done a Ten With Betty, only possible beef!
There was no time for the traditional cheesy, or otherwise encore, BM tottered out around 11.15 or later (on a school night, BBC?) and could not have had a better night, so thanks BBC6 Music and all the above artists – still buzzing even now.