The warm summer’s night on the 19th of May made waiting on the doors to open at Stirling’s Tolbooth a pleasant experience, and as always with the venue, we were not left waiting long. The bar filled up with people as everyone got the pre-gig rounds in. As the first band took the stage, the auditorium doors closed and we were about to be encapsulated in sound and light…
At first, The Barents Sea seemed very shy with a simple introduction. However, when they burst into the first post rock-tinged song, the sheer weight behind their music made up for any shyness in the opening seconds. The band’s name also bears some significance to the sound that blasts out of the PA – there are softer calmer moments, and without a seconds hesitation, walls of sounds smack you in the face, much like a wave washing over you. There wasn’t any box this band did not tick for me. Perhaps the banter was a bit dry, but at least they made an effort to communicate with the crowd, which is something most bands who are first on the bill would fail to do.
Finish With Fire had an odd, offbeat and random sound that put me in mind of fellow Scottish band, Dead or American at the beginning of their set. However, as the set progressed, the genres hopped about a bit, with songs hitting the pop punk rock and generic pop pigeonholes. This could either be viewed as a weakness, or a show of versatility. It made it pretty difficult to get into the feel of things for me. However, the band shined when their drummer broke the drum kit and their natural charisma came through by chatting to the crowd and keeping us occupied.
Toy Fires received a mixed reaction as some people in the crowd left after the first song and others pushed forward. They had a very filled out sound for a three piece and the middle tones never appeared to be dropped, as often happens with three pieces. At points it felt like the performance was being forced out, and the crowd banter was not for the faint-hearted as every second word was a profanity.
Finally, headliners The Xcerts walked through the stage door and up in front of the crowd. The audience surged forwards to the point where the only thing stopping people falling onto the stage was the monitors. We were all treated to a plethora of new material, such as ‘Slacker Pop’ and songs the set list referred to as ‘Skatter Brain’ and ‘I Scare Easy’. The lights were impressive and really added to the crushing sound. One high point of the set was Murray standing on the edge of the stage listening to his audience screaming the words to ‘Crisis in the Slow Lane’ at him. There was great crowd banter going on, and Murray dealt with a heckler without missing a beat, stating “I don’t have to do what you tell me, I’m sticking it to the man”. Overall, The Xcerts were a great live band, with it being clear they felt the music they were playing. With a totally impartial mind, I would find it difficult to pick a flaw with this band’s live performance.