Once a year the Scottish music fan gets an insight into how Homer Simpson would feel if he found the keys to a donut factory when Go North gathers some of the best (inter)national talent around. Small in scale but big in ambition, previous Go North events have played host to such disparate talents as My Latest Novel and The Law, as the tides and trends in Scottish music are laid bare for all to see. This year hosted by the fine city of Dundee, Is This Music? leaped head-first into two days of music fuelled debauchery. Here’s our top ten tips from this year’s event (make that your top 10 🙂 – Ed) – who to track down and who to stay clear of.
These post-rock giants hail from Dingwall, a town so small the entire population can sit in the local football stadium and still have room left over. Whilst indebted to legends in the field – such as Mogwai and Slint – Shutter have a clear metal edge, a sign that some Highlanders like their Sabbath to be Black. Their set in The Doghouse was well received by an audience more used to the latest skinny jean clad sensation. With orchestral guitars plunging into one another, Shutter begin to resemble Wagner with a touch of feedback.
Aberdeen ex-pats, The X-Certs are one of the more recognisable names on the bill due to the sheer scale of their touring. By now a well-oiled machine, The X-Certs are a chart-bound package that recall the charm of the early, independent, Biffy Clyro. Playing to a packed Westport Bar, they prove to be anything but x-rated judging by their ecstatic reception by the youthful audience. Tighter than Jimmy Nicholson in a pair of skinny jeans, The X-Certs may just be the band the Granite City has been waiting on.
Rush Hour Soul
Now that the View-inspired fuss around the city is beginning to die down, it’s perhaps time for the next Dundee group to make their stab at fame without being compared to the superstar tradesmen. With a pocket full of melody and a heart full of soul, this group may just capable of doing that. Combining the melodic touch of The Las with the crunch of prime era Idlewild, Rush Hour Soul had the audience eating out of the palm of their hand with a set that reminded you there’s plenty left to explore in the City Of Discovery.
Despite a decent musical pedigree in recent years (KT Tunstall, King Creosote and more) Fife remains one of Scotland’s more unfashionable nether-regions. Perhaps due to its size, the kingdom has never quite been the hotspot of cool. But with bands such as The Draymin, Fife may be about to put itself on the map. With a set of tasty terrace anthems that recalled The Stone Roses and Kasabian, The Draymin can put the swagger into the high streets.
A heroine due to her exploits with mid 90s electro-poppers Bis, Manda Rin’s latest project raised a few pulses in the run-up to Go North. However, the actual performance itself caused more than a few heart attacks. Perhaps due to an abrasive obsession with Japanese pop, Juno employ tinnitus causing synths – but the effect is less The Boredoms than just, well, boredom. Sad to say it, but a collective sigh of relief washed against the stage when the end credits went up on Juno.
Dan Against The World
Opening the second night, these Forres-based geek rockers were just the breath of fresh air we’d been looking for. Remember when Weezer were more than just a bunch of middle-aged blokes playing bad power pop? So do Dan Against The World, and prove it with a collection of witty, self-effacing songs. A band for anyone with an overused library card in their pocket.
The West Coast is the best coast – but not judging by Twin Atlantic’s poor efforts. Hopes were raised after coverage in the national media, but this performance flat-lined in front of a stern faced Dundee audience. Grating Glaswegian accents aside, what this band lack are tunes, riffs and charisma. Still, cool name lads.
Local heroes after several years of paying their dues, Avast! attract a crowd of friends and well-wishers that makes for a special atmosphere. In-jokes prevail, as the band plunge into a set of pristine rock classics. Heavier than balancing an elephant on your head, yet melodic with it, Avast! have it in them to break out of this city and give the world a good seeing to – but I doubt if they will. Remember “It’s A Wonderful Life”? Avast! are the George Baileys of rock ‘n’ roll.
Signed to the same management team that launched teenage Dundonian upstarts The View, Broken Records couldn’t be more different to that act if they tried – and trying doesn’t seem to be on the agenda. A set of dark and delicate folk songs delivered with inescapable ease, Broken Records recall their Glaswegian cousins The Twilight Sad but with a crisp, rockier edge. An impressive set, from an impressive band.
Come Back Next Year
Take a tip from us: Go North never fails to disappoint. With more gigs and showcases than you could possibly handle, Go North will fill your diary with more fun-filled activities than a free pass to Codona’s. Infesting its host city with a unique sense of fun and vitality, Go North allows the tastes and habits of that city to come gushing forward in a well-spring of musical adventure. Forget about the bright lights of London – Go north!