Foxface, launching tremendous new album This Is What Makes Us, shouldn’t be seen to be playing second fiddle to the actual venue their show is in. That said, and even although that they live up to expectations with a storming live set, (New) Stereo does rather take centre stage… even given its various teething troubles (or, if these are actually ‘features’, eccentricities).
First, the location – even my father’s 40-year old street map can’t quite locate Renfield Lane, though it is pretty far from where I eventually am able to dump the car. And, as it turns out, it’s very close to Central Station. One up for the environmentalists – and since the club is of course part of the same operation as Mono, Glasgow’s infamous vegan cafe/venue/record shop, probably deliberate.
As it turns out, the city centre location – far from the ‘old’ Stereo, now rechristened ‘The 78’ – is one I’m a little familiar with. An ‘acquaintance’ was once arrested for having a pee up Renfield Lane. Anyway, in keeping with the hard-to-find theme, it’s opposite where Listen Records once was – ask your dad (or indeed, Big John out of the Exploited).
The venue – without signage but easily located by the considerable crowd entering – is an underground cavern, though there will be an upstairs bar in future. The impression is that the place isn’t quite finished, though the lack of decor may be a ‘feature’. Down in the bowels, a club with at least 300 capacity is probably exactly what Glasgow has been crying out for, especially given its very affordable hire charge. Projections and plants form the ambience, and a rather muddy DJ set lasts for what seems like (and is) hours – the place has, it turns out, a 3am licence.
Eventually, the MC – and sometime member of Tattie Toes , apparently – announces that Nightjar will be performing in the ‘Woodland Area’ – which turns out to be a narrow corridor stage left, and which seats approximately 3 punters who strain to listen to the short acoustic set. If Norris McWhirter or the director of the Edinburgh Fringe are in tonight then top marks, but otherwise…
Eventually we’re treated to the second support, Snakewalker, which appears to be two guys and backing tapes. Turns out First Bloke is just there to turn the iPod on and off, so it is a solo appearance, a bit like Gareth Gates or Pacific Avenue might do in a shopping centre PA. Happily, Bloke #2, who we take to be Mr Snakewalker and who may or may not have been the same person behind Nightjar, delivers a good if slightly shaky vocal performance, with half-a-dozen rather neat electropop tunes in the vein of Swimmer One, Eyeless in Gaza and Firebrand Boy. (I spend the next interlude talking to friends about how everything these days sounds like everything else).
Foxface, of course, sound like many other things. Who doesn’t. However, their influences are widely drawn, any act whose drummer doubles up as accordionist (yes, at the same time, that’s the point) automatically earns respect. But they’re no novelty act – their barnstorming opening numbers (the album’s title track and ‘Monster Seas’) set the scene for a set which threatens to run off the rails at times, before winding down towards beautifully-constructed folk-ish harmonies over a jangling drone of guitars.
When they’re done, it’s a signal for may of us to hit the streets, although what will be a pleasing number of punters remain for whatever club DJ delights are in store. Stereo promises much, but Foxface are already close to perfection.