This was the first time in here for a while, since the restaurant/bar apparently self-destructed in an industrial dispute and presumably made it uneconomical to have gigs here (thirsty unhappy punters, no bar takings) – although still no upstairs bar there does appear to be plans for some further gigs so who knows. Tonight there were FREE DRINKS downstairs, a fridgeful of cans anyway, although spirits had to be paid for and charges were applied to everything towards the end of the event. Somewhat sparsely attended, and the seats in the auditorium maybe not the best approach given two of the three acts had some dancemove-inducing potential, but there you go, fair play to the organisers, because it was a great event and maybe something to build on in future years.
“Curated” by the Scottish-base Hen Hoose organisation (see previous review of Kelvingrove Park gig, and album ‘Equaliser’), this featured three acts who have been part of or associated with said collective of female/non-binary artists.
First up was Sarah Hayes, who played piano and sang a selection of original material and covers, including her Hen Hoose collaboration ‘A Change In The Light’, written and performed on the record with Pippa Murphy (written during lockdown 2, as she said, and “mildly optimistic”). The covers ranged from traditional ballads about Scots emigres in Canada, including some proto-feminist material to a moving musical adaptation concerning the death of a miner in Yorkshire. The set ended with a lovely cover of Kate Bush’s ‘I Dream Of Sheep’, Sarah’s vocal tones coming across as expressive, warm and rich.
Next up was Leith-based Shears – last spotted at Kelburn back in the summer this incredibly talented one-person musical phenomenon continues to hugely impress. Using a customised two-machines-on-stands set-up plus a massive cymbal-thing (?) she bashed the drumpads, sang, activated the beats and music, and whanged the cymbal every so often – all at the same time. And if that was not enough, the tracks were (again) non-stop electro-dancepop bangers. The quality and sophistication was extremely high, and BM is really not just saying because she looks so young – Becca really knows her shit and produces her releases as well. Confident onstage, putting some welly into the vocals, joking with the audience about “putting her phone in jail”, she really is the whole popstar package, and why some major organisation has not signed her is a total mystery… Familiar tracks like ‘Neighbourhood’, ‘Carbon Copy’ and ‘Afterthought’ were followed by newish track ‘I Look At You (It’s Over)’ – “a breakup song about my phone”…
Last act on tonight was Glasgow multi-instrumentalist and serial band member Ray Aggs, whose homemade collection of electronic samplers and other gizmos supplemented her great fiddle playing, guitar playing and singing. A similar set to the one BM witness at The Glad the other month, the sheer variety of facial expressions when performing is inspiring to see – dealt with a (mildly irritating) heckler with good grace, giggled when the equipment threatened to malfunction, and played a selection of tracks (hopefully from a forthcoming release?) which, kind of tracked mental health issues, from joy to frustration and self-doubt. There was reference to being “embarrassed” to say the Hen Hoose name in an English accent, or just generally being embarrassed about being English. As the slightly Afrobeat guitar lines darted around the room, then wibbled into solos and improvisations while the machines gurgled, the music sounded just great. The last track was perhaps a call to action for people getting angry (being the week of the Tory party conference many people including BM were furious on Monday, livid on Tuesday, spitting bile by Wednesday and well we could go on…) – and ended this rather fine evening, although with the extended electronic wigout in the last section, it was the machines who had the last laugh, as it were.