Returning for its fifth year in Glasgow, Stag & Dagger 2013 boasted all the bravado and swagger of a really well run festival that knows how to have a good time. Perhaps there wasn’t the same calibre of international artists, which have played in previous years, (think Warpaint, White Denim, Milk Music) but don’t let that fool you into thinking the standards were anything other than outstanding.
As usual the festival spread its wares out over multiple venues in the city centre, and with the owners of the now defunct Captain’s Rest moving to the recently opened Broadcast, you could easily have re-branded the day ‘The Sauchiehall Street Festival’. Along side Broadcast, it’s neighbours Nice N Sleazy’s, The Art School, ABC1 & 2 and CCA, the Renfield Lane based Stereo completed the venue line up. Big tick for saving me walking great distances. Shame about the rain though.
Opening up proceedings at the ABC2 were the endearing Kitty The Lion, who drew an impressive crowd eager to check out their brass laden set. At the core of Kitty’s appeal is the feel good folk music that is given a pop reboot, creating insanely catchy melodies and leaving the crowd warmed in spirit and momentarily forgetting the dreich downpour outside.
With a bit of downtime before Fake Major took to the stage at the CCA, and with no desire to go back outside, there was time to check out South Londoners Filthy Boy. It’s a tell-tale sign of my ageing that the first, and lasting, thought I had was how young these lads looked. Lead singer Paraic Morrissey, growled Nick Cave baked vocals, whilst the band strained at the leash, treading that line between keeping in check the dark ‘60’s rock and roll vibe and the feeling that at any point they were going to let loose in a orgy of noise.
Over in the cultured setting of the CCA, Fake Major, duo Richard Ferguson and David McGinty were justifying just why they had been named on the 16 strong list for this year’s T-Break stage at T in the Park. Their PR material bills them as a four armed singer-songwriter, and it’s the most apt description one can give when trying to explain how linked and connected their performance is. Every string strummed, every harmony sung, is completely synced and complements the other perfectly. My companion for the evening remarked they possessed the kind of musical synchronicity last seen by a certain Messrs Simon and Garfunkel. New tracks, such as ‘Little Researcher’, sit side by side with Endor favourites such as ‘Chapel Doors’. “I said I loved you and isn’t that enough?” muse the duo on the latter of those tracks, displaying the kind of emotional yearning that sweep the crowd along, hanging on each and every word.
‘Technical difficulties’ meant a much latter than billed stage time for electro-pop trio Prides at The Art School. Hopefully that didn’t lead to people missing them as along with Fake Major, they were the undoubted standouts of the day. It’s not often that a band comes along and so early on is able to deliver a complete package. Live show, tightly worked instrumentation, and blistering vocal delivery wrapped up in so much heart and belief, it was impossible not to be in awe. Now some will rightly point out that Prides are themselves a rebirth of the band Midnight Lion, so technically aren’t brand new. Fair enough, but with this being only their third live set, and with most of the packed venue singing back the choral hooks of set closure ‘Out Of The Blue’, it’s evident that Prides have gone about things in the right way. With a tip from CHVRCHES, and airplay across several BBC Radio One shows already, (plus a certain community radio station too), you’ll be hearing a lot more of their striking drums, shimmering synths and anthemic electronica.
Returning to the venue they headlined back in December 2011, and also back in 2010 as part of that year’s Stag & Dagger festival, We Were Promised Jetpacks strode onto the stage at ABC1 hell bent on enjoying themselves. I’ve seen the band four times previously, witnessing their always impressive live set grow in stature. With no new material since last 2011’s sophomore effort ‘In The Pit Of The Stomach’ their set consisted of fan favourites played with unyielding fury and intensity. Mixing nerve-endingly raw emotions with maxed up guitars, it’s the perfect end to what has been a wonderful opportunity to revel in what Scotland does best. Music.