Hinterland Festival 2009 - The Review

Article by Victoria Davie | 08 May 2009

From the outset Hinterland has an air of excess, the product of pre-recession economy multiplied by a post-recession target audience. There are bonuses (bonii?) for the punter: a chance to see some heartstoppingly good bands in venues that aren't even touching capacity, plus half of us, it seems, got in for free. Pushing politics aside for two nights, five Skinny writers (and two photographers) report back on the action from the inaugural Glasgow event.


Leeds post-rock quintet These Monsters aren't doing a great job of convincing the approximately seven people in the crowd that they wouldn't have been better off going to see Manda Rin instead. It's all a bit phallic, really. The singer whoops derangedly at the beginning of each feedback-driven dirge in an attempt to whip up an audience enthusiasm we don't really feel, while a saxophonist who looks as if he wandered onstage by mistake (and might as well have, for all the impact his pitiful squeaks have on the sludgy sound) thrusts along gamely with the rest of them. A poor start. [gw]

Leeds outfit Winterminute have been hotly tipped for some time and, from their professionalism and solid musical arsenal, its obvious that they have put the time in to gaining that reputation. Tight, well-written pop music filtered through a childhood of post-hardcore, that unfortunately meets with only a lukewarm audience. Shame really. [cc]

85 Bears (count them, there's only three) churn grooves through copious time signatures, all looping crescendo's and tight drum blasts. Apparent advocates of reintegrating finger tapping back in to acceptable society, they tastefully slide guitar patterns back with a subtle ear, with the tunes to prove that maths can indeed be fun. [js]

"We usually play to bigger audiences than this" gripes Plugs' frontman. Though when faced with a small crowd, they can still sing like they mean it. Honeyed jets of shallow electro mix Kele Okereke with Esau Mwamwaya, which is pleasant enough, but not enough to send the assembled into the fits of dancing that they desire to inspire. [js]

Remember Remember main man and eccentric genius Gronald works his band like puppets, hooked up, as they are, via a maze of cables to his myriad of pedals and machinery. The crowd are rabid, the music cyclically engrossing. Violins, synths and a trio of guitars merge in one electronic cloud of post-Mogwai excellence. [cc]

Dressed in drag and channelling the spirit of a fallen icon, Edie Sedgwick takes to the stage in front of a scattered early evening crowd at The Admiral. Fallen punchlines and a general lack of response aside, audacious lyricism and intensity shines through any cracks in this criminally under-attended performance. [rd]

Imagine Arctic Monkeys with a greater emphasis on effects pedals and you're close to capturing the sound of Sheffield's The Lines. This band are promising: what seem like perfunctory indie-rock songs push outwards into the slightly spacier realms of a restrained Yo La Tengo instrumental or Deerhunter's Microcastle, avoiding our attempts to pin them down to a genre. Although they struggle to be transcendental in the genial surrounds of Macsorleys, it's clear they'll be something special when they lose their Britrockisms. [gw]

Combining bizarre video displays that more often than not have absolutely nothing to do with the music, this bizarre show from laptop wizard Geordi La Force mixes these visuals with densely layered backing tracks and near-ridiculous guitar shredding ability much to the delight and confusion of anyone in attendance tonight. [rd]

This review would probably have best been written by the girl DeSalvo vocalist P6 throttled during the awesome Tongue Scraper. She seemed pretty damn happy about it. But that's a DeSalvo show. Huge riffs, dazzling light, jutting on-stage shapes and a large man, dressed as a butcher choking out members of the audience. Brilliant. [cc]

Getting down to Galchen's motornik post-rock power is unfortunately obscured by a sea of chairs and tables, but no matter: shimmering projections and drum heroics capture and engage. The crowd is big, the sound is bigger, and now we're finally cooking with gas. [js]

Due to unstaggered stage times, there is only time to catch the latter stages of the Wave Pictures, but their lyrical indie pop gems inspire smiles all round. Reeling guitar solos, planted between squeaky verses and rolling sing-a-long chorus's all convey enjoyment, and when on form, this band are irrepressible. [js]

It all goes a little country during Foxface’s set, with stomping rhythms and blended vocals, it’s almost surprising when a Glaswegian voice - and not a southern drawl - moves through the microphone. However, impressive folk with an ethereal edge makes this an inspiring live proposition. [vd]

There's a racous reception for Micachu and the Shapes. Cowbells with clout, guitar buzz and brain shattering synths just about bear resemblance to their Skinny album of the month, as Micachu's shrill, simple melodies and fractured rhythms continue to reveal this gem of originality in the rough. [js]

Stonehaven pop rockers Copy Haho prove their mettle with another energetic live performance. These boys know geek chic and aren’t afraid to use it, playing their twee-edged indie rock with a joyful exuberance. Certainly, they're a lot of fun to behold. [vd]
The Fall's set has this scribe feeling guilty and decidedly uncool. Surely Mark E Smith has built his reputation as a post-punk maverick through messy and spontaneous live performances and basically doing whatever the fuck he likes. But you begin to wonder when audiences can stop cutting the big man so much slack. Smith's band pound out an enjoyable keyboard-driven racket but his own contributions contain none of the spirit and style you'd expect and all of the irritation factor you don't need. Disappointing. [gw]

Its truly tragic that Sleazy's almost completely emptied before Carlisle trio Manatees unleashed their devastating doom-heavy, post-rock on it. Glasgow certainly deserves a slap on the wrist for that one. The sound is crushingly huge and the band put in a raging beast of a performance to virtually nobody. Tut tut tut. [cc]

Theophilus London schmoozes over a montage of lush synthesized left field RnB. He stalks the stage behind DMC glasses and buckets of Buckfast-infused sweat as his shirt buttons loosen, and his seductive spits spilling through the haze as DJ Melo X brings sensuous vibes to the table, where the party just won't stop. [js]

Team Waterpolo have their shovels firmly in hand as they proceed to dig up the decaying corpse of 'dance-rock' for the millionth and hopefully last time. However, the half-filled crowd at King Tuts, which rounds off the venue's bill on this first night, doesn't seem to hinder the band's own excitement. [rd]



Glasgow's Miss The Occupier are the hidden gem in the festival's line-up. Their sound is as bold and colourful as singer Roz Davies' bright pink bob, but there's real substance here; Davies reclaims glamour and casts it in a feminist mould, while her bass-playing provides a solid foundation for her group's sound. It's perhaps a bad idea to ask this fan of B-52's-style girl-boy vocal interplay and Sleater-Kinney's surfy, sinewy guitar lines for an unbiased opinion on this band, whose sound is built on those foundations, but take it from an aficionado: they're excellent at what they do. [gw]

Fey and a little overly polite, Zoey Van Goey's gentle pop fails to inspire the audience. Their cover of "I'm Sticking With You" is indicative of their cutesy appeal, muted tracks that flower into bursts of bubbling acoustic joy, but tonight just doesn't seem to be their night, despite their enthusiastic urges. [js]

Leeds' Sky Larkin are becoming known for their relentless touring schedule and it's clear from their performance tonight that it's paying off: they're incredibly tight, producing inventive guitar music that defies exact categorisation and is much more than the sum of its parts. However, there's a certain primal aspect missing in the small indoor venue, where drum hits so loud they make you blink chop through guitar lines, cutting off their potential to sound epic. Really, this band belongs on an outdoor stage. [gw]

Elks seem to have gotten the short straw here tonight with a near-empty King Tuts welcoming them to Glasgow. However, undeterred, the remaining spectators are treated to a blinding set that is catchy, clever, and as experimental and progressive as it is danceable. [rd]

Gruelling and dark, Phantom's macabre rockabilly is offset by that great elusive character: the female Morrissey. Inventive and stoically playful, they do lean a little too heavily on image in place of substance, but as Elsie Martins hold the audience at arms length, they remain intriguing throughout. [js]

The ambient sound of iLiKETRAiNS lends itself well to the fading grandeur of The Classic Grand. David Martin’s statuesque voice fills the room while the pulsing drums and melodious guitars act as a haunting soundtrack to their morose lyrics. Their trance like rhythms create a spine tingling intensity. Beautiful. [vd]

Ignore the painfully misguided piece of nomenclature, and Ming Ming and the Ching Chings are a surprise hit. A ragtag band of scruffy Glaswegians who take forever to tune up between songs, they win us over with their fast and furious racket. There are very few reference points for this band: imagine a carnival version of the Zutons (except much less shit than that sounds), or Madness if they'd been more anarchic. Their secret weapon, perhaps, is a percussionist/saxophonist with lively facial hair whose all-or-nothing performance makes him the real focal point of the gig. A triumph against trendiness. [gw]

From somewhere between slacker punk anthems, folky rumination and comic book genius, comes Jeffrey Lewis and the Junkyard. With a set heavy on new album 'Em Are I, he also delievers A Complete History of Punk on the Lower East Side of New York, a new as yet unfinished detective comic, and plenty of oddball observational lyrics. Rapturously received by an audience that, genuinely thirsting for an encore that never comes, remain stamping and clapping long after Jeff has left the stage. [js]
Glasgow's Sons and Daughters have been kicking around for a while now but having them headline Hinterland's last night is a bad idea. The drop-off in the size and enthusiasm of the crowd between The Fall's set on Thursday and theirs tonight, while not astonishing, is noticeable, and besides, their brand of saloon-bar indie rock deserves a more intimate venue. Adele Bethel tries her hardest to dominate proceedings, but I'm not convinced, while the muting of her co-vocalist Scott Paterson dulls the confrontational element of their sound, rendering them upsettingly unexciting. [gw]

My Tiger My Timing look engagingly like a lower-budget version of the Long Blondes, minus some of their serene female self-assurance and plus some severe indie-boy gawkiness. Their curiously mismatched look could have added to their charm, but their sound wastes this potential: dated-sounding synth-based indie that's frustratingly bland and whose attempts to be a bit sexy fall flat. A tiger without claws. [gw]

The epic instrumental display from This Will Destroy You is a bold and heavy way to enter the late night action and amongst the feral noise and beautiful soundscapes, the band demonstrate a restless energy and passionate performance that would satisfy anyone that chooses to end their night here. [rd]

Although Isosceles's quirky art-pop occasionally sounds thin and clunky on record, they're a remarkably energetic live act. Singer Jack Valentine's teenager-with-ADHD onstage persona is capable of galvanising a crowd and renders some of their material much more appealing, while the rest of the band hold everything together without being reduced to mere dull sidemen. Although they aren't remarkably innovative, they're great fun to watch, and the character and energy evident in some of their zippier tunes means you discredit this band at your peril. [gw]

Last on and clearly surprised by another of the very few fire hazard inducing capacity crowds, Fat Cat golden boys We Were Promised Jetpacks provide everyone a chance to get jumpingbefore the drunken debauchery of the forthcoming after-parties. And with this entirely danceable set (comprised of songs that some have predictably labelled the missing link between Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad), they show why many are touting these guys for huge success. [rd]