There is always something special about a dark night in Glasgow as you walk up the Gallowgate and see the neon Barrowlands sign lit up. When you areRead More
I must begin this review with an apology to Acoustic Butterfly; not because I’m about to slate them viciously, rather that I missed their entire set through a combination of events which I won’t bore you with. I mean, I’m sure you’re all too well aware what can happen when a leaking oven, burst front tyre and a phantom guestlist place come together. Not for the first time, I digress...
Back in the day, I used to quite enjoy jumping about like an idiot whilst a huge black man remixed 2Unlimited with the Shamen, and perhaps not by coincidence, I have never really thought of the Arches as a gig venue. First Charge Of The Light Brigade were in the middle of this three band bill. A five piece formed from the remnants of several Glasgow bands gone by, they set their stall out with a professional and polished delivery of their opening few numbers; the subtle work of Greg Barnes on keys working well with the groove of the band, and at times we were treated to four part vocal harmonies. Halfway through the set, the chap to the left of the stage (John Carson) took over lead vocal duties and what a soaring delivery he possesses, so powerful in fact, that I could actually hear it over the ferocious noise of the band. I have always regarded sound engineers as the referees and lineswomen of live music, so in light of recent events, there is no way that I’m going to criticise The Arches’ finest. The only issue I had was the volume; it did genuinely seem like perhaps this could be the world’s first mixing desk with a master volume that went all the way up to 11. So, after retreating to the back of the room, I was able to appreciate one of First Charge Of The Light Brigade’s cleverest tracks ‘Postcards’. For me though, they lack a focal point to their stage presence, and the interchanging of lead vocals did nothing to help this. But for sure, they are a well drilled unit with some catchy songs. Look out for forthcoming single ‘The Angels Share’.
As the large crowd poured back through to the bar en masse, thoughts of explaining the offside rule to the sound engineer drifted from my mind, and I became aware of a set of jigs and reels emanating forth from those tortured front of house speakers. Ah yes, this gig, you would have been forgiven for missing, was part of Celtic Connections, hence the interlude music. Now, it’s not often that I’ll use this most upstanding of online journalistic organs to (try to) make a serious point, and as someone who considers themselves fairly ignorant of genre definitions, perhaps this is just another poorly constructed comment, but if you pinned me to a wall at knifepoint and asked me what type of music the band I’d just witnessed had been playing, I don’t think the first word to my mind would be Celtic, or anything remotely connected to it. Do those who seek comfort in identity tags perhaps risk looking a little silly? Maybe by next year Celtic Connections will have relaunched as ‘Music Festival in Scotland #347’.
But wait... lasso me forth from my high horse... I see a cello, and a violin. Here - I suppose - we have our celtic connection for the evening. Top of the bill tonight is the seven strong Aerials Up, and following a dainty little intro, they tear into opener ‘Stay Awake’ as if the end of the world is nigh. Indeed, the first three songs of their set are an all out aural assault, and the raucous sea of punters literally roared their approval. However, due to aforementioned volume issues, there was not a hope in hell of hearing much else than the electric guitars. It’s one thing having more strings than an Ocean Finance loan in your band (I made it 24), but knowing how to use them takes talent and guts, so when the band drew breath for ‘Last One To Follow’, we could finally hear what the bow wielding ladies to our left were up to. Cat (violin) and Ruth (cello) added a real touch of class, sliding and swerving nervelessly over the backbeat of another catchy song. Frontman and songwriter in chief Kemy provided a charismatic focal point for the band, and in ‘Superglue’ and ‘First In The Fire’ demonstrated that he has the knack of anthem writing down to a tee.
Aerials Up have some impressive notches on their bedpost to date, including supports with Snow Patrol, Ash, The Futureheads, and Paulo Nutini, plus appearances at T In The Park and Wickerman. Oh, and as Kemy cheerfully informed us, they have also performed several times on national radio. So, all things being fair, they should be very famous and getting paid handsomely for what they do. But this is the music industry where all things are not fair. Undetered, the Aerials bulldozed on through another festival singalong in waiting, ‘All Your Mothers’ Daughters’, and they were rightly afforded an encore. They chose to close their show in surprising (and once again brave) fashion, with Kemy playing solo on an acoustic guitar backed up by a choir comprising four of his bandmates. And we could hear, better late than never, his voice clearly for the first time, and it is one of great character and quality. According to Kemy, Aerials Up’s EP will be out ‘at some point in the distant future’, so I can’t exactly point you towards a release with any certainty, but keep your eyes peeled for the Aerials’ next move.
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