Monday, 8 September 2008

Connect 2008

festival coverage for the skinny

(photos to come)

The entire Skinny coverage is on the link above. Here's just what I did...

The Connect Festival – this year renamed Hydro Connect thanks to a sponsorship hook-up with Scottish Hydro Electric – has got everything going for it, in theory. The location – and the journey to get there – is absolutely gorgeous, being on the banks of Loch Fyne and in the grounds of Inveraray Castle, with steep hills rising behind both main stages. It’s small enough to get to know quickly, and so that traipsing from one end to the other should take no more than five minutes. And the ethos of quality food, and of supporting the environment, is something that everybody can get behind.

Unfortunately, in the two years it’s run so far, it’s been hampered by poor weather and the quagmire conditions that follow. At least this year the rain mostly held off until overnight Saturday, but waking up on Sunday with a hangover, wet clothes and a manky tent, and deep valleys and ponds of sticky mud outside, inevitably prompts the question: I paid how much for this?

But that’s all part of the British festival experience: it’s an endurance test which challenges you to overcome adverse conditions and enjoy yourself anyway because there’s no other choice. For The Skinny, the days after a festival are almost as enjoyable as the festival itself: firstly, getting home to a bath, a clean loo, and a warm, comfy bed; secondly, listening to music again with a fresh energy after seeing so many great performances over the preceding days. We certainly saw plenty of those at Hydro Connect 2008; now all they need to do is fix the weather...


SATURDAY

A painfully thin crowd greets Broken Records on the second stage, first thing Saturday. Is everyone still in their sleeping bags? It’s their loss, because among the sparse attendance couples and groups get dancing, and one song sparks enthusiastic cossack yells: "Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!" It’s another superb set from the rising Edinburgh septet, who make it mighty tempting to miss Bloc Party to see them again this evening on the much smaller Your Sound tent.

Glasgow-based trio Zoey Van Goey are so sweet, it’s almost impossible to be cynical. Birthday girl Kim Moore’s mellifluous vocals are what do it, but there’s no denying the careful craft of these songs too, disguised by gently weird beats. The versatile threesome swap instrumental duties a few times, drummer Matt gets distracted by “the giant frigging castle” behind the crowd, and we all help out with a freestyle handclapping solo at the end. Let’s leave the solos to the musicians next time, eh.

Just in time for the release of their self-titled debut album, Glasvegas go about winning over thousands of doubting Thomases in a crowd obviously more sceptical than the hysterical hoardes at T in the Park. Glasvegas sound brilliant, their feedback reverberating heavier than ever before, and it’s an unusually energetic show too – not from James Allan of course, who remains unmoved throughout – but from the guitarists, who wildly throw themselves across the stage as they squeeze everything they can from their instruments. Glasvegas aren’t just learning how to physically fill a big stage, but also how to use its amps and speaker stacks too.

Andrew Weatherall can do so much better than this, which boils down to the surgical extraction and implantation of a kick drum every 8 bars. And again – on the mark – on the thirty-two – there it is – there it goes – and again – and away – and again… is this some kind of experiment? But I don’t expect most here to notice, being in their own wee internal worlds.

Unfortunately the sound where we’re standing in the Unknown Pleasures tent is terrible: Black Thought could be reading out the Yellow Pages for all we can hear him. It’s like listening to your neighbour play The Roots through a brick wall. Somewhere along the line there’s an extended You Got Me jam with a crazy, virtuosic climax from the guitarist and ?uestlove on drums; which makes it all the more disappointing that we’re unable to hear it properly. Apparently it sounded great at the front.

Bloc Party probably have the sales but not the back catalogue to headline an event like this. The mid-set one-two punch of So Here We Are and Like Eating Glass is near jaw-dropping, but at other times it’s less easy to remember why this band attracts such a following: specifically, Two More Years and the climactic Blue Light, which works far better in its album track context than as a live finale.

SUNDAY

It’s like Scott and Grant Hutchison are playing to a nursery school in the Speakeasy Cafe, with Frightened Rabbit fans sitting cross-legged just inches away from them. The wee marquee is packed and all the lucky kids here see a special show, with Scott on great chatty form in-between a handful of stripped-back picks from Sing The Greys and brilliant latest album Midnight Organ Fight. Despite all the bells and whistles on the bigger stages, two men, two drums and a borrowed guitar provide one of the weekend’s biggest highlights.

When you need to take your mind off the brown puddles slurping around inside your wellies, Camera Obscura know how to help. A couple of breezy new songs set the scene for the very appropriate Let’s Get Out of this Country and Lloyd, I’m Read To Be Heartbroken, a duo which gets everyone singing and swinging and pogoing gently. Squelch squelch squelch. Utterly charming, but I'm not sure about that new squelch section.

On first appearances We Were Promised Jetpacks seem like earnest lads with a keen sense of rhythm, which mostly comprises a uniform kick drum with incessant motorik hi hits. Thankfully they make no attempt at funk whatsoever, which is a good thing because punk-funk is easy to learn but difficult to master, especially for young bucks. If WWPJ ever did try to sell you hair mousse, at least they’d do it with sincerity.

Accompanied by a Meatloaf-alike friend on voice box duty, Kraftwerk man Karl Bartos’ apathetic approach to mixing actually serves him well, because it allows he and his wingman more freedom to play with the pace. They never go for the easy option of a straight Kraftwerk song: only hints and flurries of recognisable hooks, interspersed with similarly influenced electro-retro deutsche-dance beats, is enough to keep everyone on their dancing toes.

Five new songs are premiered by Franz Ferdinand as they close the festival, several of which feature kazoo-toned synths much like Delia Derbyshire’s Dr Who soundtrack. The first stands out thanks to two unexpected but brilliant left-turns it takes, making it sound like a random sample from an indie-dance mix tape. Franz Ferdinand have always done that kind of thing well: it’s what sets Take Me Out and Do You Wanna up for their shakedowns, though tonight the latter is a little heavy-set. They know how to find a groove, and as Alex Kapranos introduces each band member for solos during closer This Fire, they briefly look more like a funk group than a pop group. Average white band? Somewhat better than average, I’d say.

2 comments:

JIMMYSHAND said...

"inevitably prompts the question: I paid how much for this?"

Did you no get a free ticket broon?

;)

Ally Broon said...

of course I did, but still

got to sympathise with the regular folk