Stag & Dagger’s annual multi-venue music festival returned to Glasgow’s very own version of the Vegas strip in Sauchiehall St on Sunday, promising a multi-faceted mix of live sounds from national and international acts.
Having been a fixed date on the social calendar since its inauguration back in 2009, admittedly, this year’s line up seemed a lesser beast than years past, having played host to acts of the stature of Warpaint, Mac de Marco, Albert Hammond Jr, Courtney Barnett and The Hold Steady.
However, of the 51 bands across 8 stages to choose from over a 12/13 hour long Sunday afternoon/evening, there was plenty to encourage folk out of their scratchers and into a pub or venue, pint in hand, to check out new or known talent.
Disappointingly, a failure to work off the previous night’s excesses meant missing out on 2 of Glasgow’s brightest in the form of Pinact and their anthemic fuzz-rock and pop punk chanteuse Lucia, both of whom played early slots in Broadcast.
However, after arriving at the back of three, our disappointment subsided somewhat thanks to equally sweaty, stellar sets from Shredd and then Rascalton, the latter turning the subterranean venue into something resembling a pit thanks to their raucous, crowd-surf happy, eager following.
Next up was the short jaunt next door to Sleazy’s to catch Bluebirds. To a packed basement, (we had to almost beg to get let in) they really put the squeeze on us, with a strobe-heavy psychedelic, punk sound that resembled the Glaswegian bastard child of The Black Angels, especially in the form of new tune ‘Subcultural Love’. An early highlight, perhaps also given the far superior sound quality in Sleazy’s compared to next door.
With the high, came a perhaps inevitable blip. Back in Broadcast, Taman Shud done nothing to warrant staying more than a few songs, before Delphi in The Priory (which could do with a few actual lights to see your pint hand) enjoyed even less of our time, in no thanks to our arrival coinciding with a Britney Spears cover.
The Vegan Leather, playing to the busiest crowd we’d saw so far that day, showed that it is possible for the two previously distant words of ‘Paisley’ and ‘art-pop’ to come together in fun-filled matrimony, in most part thanks to frontman Gianlucca Bernacchi’s contagious energy and highly infectious debut single ‘Shake It’.
A subsequent first walk up the c*nt of a hill to The Art School brought with it its own form of recompense, in the form of Roxy Agogo.
To a Vic Bar at bursting point, the ex Kassidy and White guitarist illustrated his ridiculous capacity for continued reinvention with a captivating performance, showcasing a vocal range and quality that, dare I say it, brought a certain Bowie comparison to mind (especially on track ‘Hide Your Crimes’), reawakening the senses and chewing up the famous chequered floor in equal measure.
A delayed Shogun (more later on that) meant a quick jaunt back down the hill to catch a portion of London five-piece Swimming Tapes’s set in the ABC 2, who’s luscious, melodic pop tones welcomely washed over those who made the effort to see them.
Next up was a nip upstairs to see Baby Strange in the vast confines of the ABC 1, scene of many a Stag & Dagger crime/nourishment over the years. Pulling in an impressive crowd, the local three-piece seemed no stranger to such a big space, giving an intense, intoxicating set backed by piledrivers in the form of ‘Motormouth’ and ‘Pure Evil’, one more than worthy of their surroundings.
A quick look at the end of Aussie indie-rockers Gang Of Youths’ vibrant, fine-tuned set downstairs in ABC 2 left us wishing we caught more, before we headed back up the hill to be treated to a triple bill of solid performances in the Art School, starting off with the achingly cool electronic dream pop prowess of Marnie upstairs in the Assembly Hall, showcasing work of her upcoming second album Strange Words and Weird Wars, including incredible new single ‘Lost Maps’.
From there we got caught up in the joy projected by London’s Makeness’s minimalistic house/techno soundscapes in the Vic Bar, being treated to the hilarity that was a few over 40’s looking bams pulling shapes in the process.
Finishing off our quite lengthy stay under the Art School roof in the company of the Manchester based masters of jangly, atypical math-pop, Dutch Uncles. Performing songs off fifth studio album ‘Big Balloon’, they went down a storm, with frontman Duncan Wallis’s penchant for hand and body contortion making for quite a spectacle.
Leaving a tad early meant we were able to make our first – and only – venture into the CCA to have our heartstrings pulled and emotional balance upset by the charm, unquestionable beauty and supreme talent of Scotland’s own Kathryn Joseph. Playing a wurlitzer for the first time, she was obviously enjoying herself, her smile between songs juxtaposed with the fragile state of her audience in the face of such delicacy.
Next up was a beeline back to Sleazy’s, to catch one of our most eagerly awaited sets of he day, from South London indie rockers Childhood. Sharing a management with crackpots SHAME, we felt we better check them out, and thank god we did. Pulling off perhaps the (joint) show of the festival, they breezed through a 70’s soul tinged catalogue of groovy hits, one that left the (lucky) few in attendance in marked disappointment when their allotted half hour seemed to finish all too quickly.
Doing so, however, gave us time to head back up to the Art School to see the blissful transcendence of DJ/producer Derwin Schlecker, aka Gold Panda. His live show , drawing heavily on the fertile Japanese influences found on recent album ‘Good Luck and Do Your Best’, had us back in welcome shape-pulling Makeness territory.
Nearing the end of the night, we were 16 down and with 2 to go. The first, the much-hyped HMLTD, who were recently regarded by NME as being ‘the UK’s most thrilling new band.’ Thrilling they were, and then some. Like Adam & The Ants on acid, the avant-gard six-piece turned The Vic Bar into their own private dungeon, replete with fishnet vests, knee-jerk riffs and a helping of brazen originality that will no doubt see them climb the ladder of further recognition in no time.
Tearing ourselves away from the hedonistic madness we found ourselves in, we left early seek refuge in amongst the throng who had congregated in the ABC 2 to catch one of Scotland’s most promising acts in recent memory, Neon Waltz. Hailing from Caithness, and counting a Japanese super fan (who had flown over from Tokyo to see them) in the front row, they exuded wave after wave of youthful charm, albeit with an outward assurance and polish that places them on a par with the likes of cohorts The Coral.
As the clock struck midnight, Cinderella’s feet began to feel the strain, and a few pints back in Broadcast served to reflect on what was a pretty splendid day out on Scotland’s musical half mile. Perhaps not up to the level of previous years, but still well worth the £30.
Our plan to stick around for Shogun’s rescheduled slot of 2.30 am downstairs in Broadcast was blown out the water due to his cancellation, which was pretty annoying given the original re-schedule.
While only further gripe was that, like in years past, we didn’t have a Crash Club or The Amazing Snakeheads type late show to really lose our shit too and properly sweat out the 10 hours of pints before we decided to head for the hills.
cover photo of HMLTD by @Simurnie