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The Phantom Band

West End Festival All Dayer – featuring The Phantom Band, Bill Wells & Aidan Moffat, We Were Promised Jetpacks, RM Hubbert, Tuff Love, De Rosa and ULTRAS – Oran Mor, Glasgow – Sunday 21st June 2015

It’s been a hectic week so it’s taken me this long to get the chance to sit down and reflect on Sunday’s West End Festival Alldayer at the Oran Mor. And, boy, there’s plenty to reflect on.

This was the first chance I’d had to see the Auditorium at the Oran Mor and it’s an impressive setting for a show. Whereas the Venue in the basement is dark and claustrophobic, the Auditorium, effectively the top part of the former chart is grand and roomy.

One imponderable as a first timer was how easy it would be to move between the stages. As it turned out the level of sales made it quite possible to see what you wanted although the smaller Venue was pretty crammed by the time of Wells & Moffat (and correspondingly it subsequently took a while for the Auditorium to fill up for the Phantom Band).

Whilst it would be therefore possible to pretty much see at least a part of every act performing, our approach was more geared around seeing as much of the bands that we wanted to see as we could. So the likes of Stanley Odd and Remember Remember missed out on an MPT presence whilst the one serious clash of the days – the Phantom Band vs Wells & Moffat was resolved in favour of the Phantos.

So let’s start at the end and the Phantom Band’s quite astonishing headline set. Whereas at times some of the earlier acts struggled to fill the huge spaces of the Auditorium the Phantos managed this with no bother. Instead it rather felt more like the room was struggling to contain them.

Although the crowd was initially comparatively meagre due to the aforementioned clash (Rick thanking those present for being ‘up here’ rather than ‘down there’), there was a huge energy about the performance with the likes of ‘The Kingfisher’ sounding more than a little unhinged whilst ‘Sweatbox’ got a serious groove on.

In fact a lot of the performance was about the groove and to illustrate just how good they were there was some unlikely MPT dancing (although no alcohol had been consumed) and even a severely improbable Manic Pop Pogo during the closing ‘Throwing Bones’.

The best set I’ve ever seen them play – and that’s saying something.

The Phantom Band played:

1. Tender Castle 2. The Wind That Cried The World 3. Doom Patrol 4. Local Zero 5. Sweatbox 6. The Kingfisher   7. The Howling 8. Into The Corn 9. Clapshot 10. Women of Ghent 11. Throwing Bones

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De Rosa

The Phantos weren’t the principal reason for finally getting to an event that I’d been tempted by in previous years. No, that was the second live performance by the reformed De Rosa albeit with a different line-up from the Baubles show at the end of 2013. Stripped back to the original trio the sound was bolstered by the addition of Gill Fleetwood on keyboards and backing vocals with the latter something which the band have lacked in the past.

It was a sombre set in a lot of respects and initially a little tentative. A downbeat ‘New Lanark’ opened the show whilst the set also featured the likes of ‘Pest’ and ‘Tinto’ and no obvious pop tunes.

But the performance was really energised with the electro double header of ‘In Code’ and ‘Nocturne’. That built everyone up perfectly for  the undoubted highlight of the show – a spine tingling ‘Spectres’ to close – real hairs standing on the back of the neck stuff.

It’s great to have them back.

De Rosa played:

1. New Lanark 2. The Mute 3. Tinto 4. The Engineer 5. In Code 6. Nocturne for an Absentee 7. Pest 8. Spectres

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Tuff Love

It’s only been a couple of weeks since I last saw Tuff Love but if anything they’ve got better in the interim. The set was similar to the Dundee show and with most of the hits at the back end a real sense of momentum was built up. But sound-wise it was a step up even from that impressive show.

The most memorable thing about the show though was the Wall of Death when Suse convinced the audience to split into 2 halves then basically charge into each other. I suspect that the results were rather more genteel than at any metal concert but it was thoroughly entertaining.

Similarly R.M. Hubbert’s performance was notable for more than the music. In this case rather than forcing the audience into a kamikaze maneouvre what sticks out was the combative way in which Hubby took on the folk chatting through his songs. Berating them for their rudeness was appreciated by the vast majority of the folk in the room even if they were somewhat terrified that they might inadvertently interrupt the maestro.

The music, of course, was pretty great too with the highlight being the first time we’ve seen Aidan Moffat join Hubby on stage for the closing ‘Car Song’.

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We Were Promised Jetpacks

Fresh from a tour of the continent, We Were Promised Jetpacks set their stall out rather differently from normal with a ‘stripped back’ performance. In practice this meant not just less noise but also less velocity with a remarkably controlled performance.

They’ve previously demonstrated that this approach can work on record (on the ‘The Last Place You’ll Look’ E.P.) but nevertheless it’s still impressive how tunes like ‘It’s Thunder, It’s Lightning’ and ‘Short Bursts’ work in this format.

Most of the noise in the set was reserved for a terrific take on ‘Peaks and Troughs’ from the last album but, particularly with MPT energy levels starting to flag, the overall effect of the slower approach was less satisfying than a regular show. Whilst I do think the approach is worth persevering with, perhaps dropping slower versions of songs in amongst the adrenaline of a regular set would work better than as an exercise in its own right.

Opening act ULTRAS were the only discovery of the day. Based around Gav Prentice formerly of Over The Wall, ULTRAS retain OTW’s knack for a great tune but presented in a harder edged package.

Interestingly unlike many of their contemporaries they don’t shy away  from taking a political stand with their material. Slightly ironically the most overtly political (and somewhat metallic) tune  ‘The Path To Being Paid’ was probably the song I enjoyed the least. But my overall impressions of the set were very positive.

Other than the full sets described above we did manage to catch a chunk of start of the Wells and Moffat set in the Venue before the Phantom Band. This was the one clash that I wish could have been scheduled out but knowing we weren’t hanging around it was difficult to get into the gentler songs from the back of the floor although ‘Lock Up Your Lambs’ was stonking.

What we saw was also slightly marred by folk talking at the bar (where was Hubby when we needed him?) but it was still enough to make us regret that we couldn’t have seen more.

Sometimes these events don’t quite live up to the sum of their parts and turn into tests of endurance but it’s fair to say that Sunday was one of the very best. Roll on next year!

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ULTRAS

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A fearful Auditorium trying to stay quiet for R.M. Hubbert

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The not particularly terrifying other half of the Tuff Love Wall of Death!

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