Stag & Dagger (Glasgow), 23 May

Feature by Chris Duncan | 27 May 2009

After a successful inaugural run-through in London’s East End in 2008, Stag and Dagger – a one-ticket, multi-venue music festival – decided, in 2009, to expand to Glasgow, bringing with it a cavalcade of musicians and DJs to entice northern revelers.

The cost-effective festival gave punters access to over 40 acts across six venues, bringing together international touring bands (Cold War Kids, Cursive, Black Lips), Scottish heavies (Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad, The Phantom Band), local up-and-comers and savvy record-turners.

The highlights arrvied as a barrage, with Cursive returning to the UK for the first time in what seems like ages, Dananananaykroyd delivering a spastic set to the hometown crowd fresh off dropping their shit-hot debut while much buzzed about bands like Mika Miko took to the stage. Those who could hack it caught DJs from Optimo and Warp Records spinning at the Glasgow School of Art, Stereo and Nice N Sleazy until feet could dance no more.

Several brave writers for The Skinny ventured forth that fateful Saturday for maximum coverage. This is their story:

Local duo Over The Wall kick off Stag & Dagger 45 minutes earlier than initially scheduled, but the gig is still packed and many more disappointed punters arrive later. They missed a set hampered slightly by technical difficulties, but nobody left feeling short-changed. Over The Wall's cheery humour is infectious, exemplified by their final song, which rounds off a lament about the inevitable death of a beloved keyboard with a suitably flaggelating solo. [ab]

Drawing an early crowd are Boycotts, starting off Stag for the Sleazy clientele. Whilst playing a enjoyable set of upbeat dance-punk, hung around singer Stina Twee’s unassuming vocals, the band exhibited a certain restraint in their playlist. Possibly facing jitters due to opening the night for the oft-revered Cursive, one couldn’t help but think they might go down better if they were the main course. [jm]

A two-piece variation of Selkirk stalwarts, Frightened Rabbit, rattles through semi-stripped back versions of a handful of songs, Scott Hutchison’s distinctive voice breaking away from the well-furrowed melodies familiar from repeat plays of Midnight Organ Fight and at times bordering on a delightfully incomprehensible wail. However, sound issues and lack of new material make this set redolent of token gestures, enjoyable mainly due to widely held adoration more than anything else. [lm]

There's a pretty sparse crowd at Stereo for St. Deluxe, which is just as well because its Woodenbox With a Fistful of Fivers who take the stage instead. Woodenbox aren't particularly original, with an American-influenced folk-rock sound precisely halfway between The Band and Creedence Clearwater Revival. But they give it plenty of energy, which makes the regrettably small attendance more frustrating: there'd be a rip-roaring hoedown going down in a smaller or busier venue. [ab]

Forced to play solo after her band get mislaid on a train, the last-minute change of plans doesn’t seem to worry Blue Roses’ Laura Groves - probably because her melodramatic arpeggio-ballads suit being stripped back and laid bare. Victorian floriography (coded communication through, er, flowers) linked blue roses to mystery, and there’s certainly a note of intrigue to her vocal contortions and tempestuous piano recitals that is genuinely affecting. [cb]

The always-brilliant Findo Gask fill the basement of Nice ‘n’ Sleazy’s to the point where it may present a fire hazard, but nobody minds as lead singer Gerard Black’s angelic voice captivates all in earshot. Despite a run of bad luck during their set (monitors acting up and the drum kit falling apart) their set is still dazzling, proving that whilst technology plays a large part in their songs, it is their sheer polished and undeniable talent that makes them so successful. [cd]

After the day’s most amusing sound-check (English sound guy: “give us a blast of those drums” American drummer: “what?” “play the drums!” - “eh?” “those bloody things you play! Hit em!”) Miles Benjamin Antony Robinson’s set proves a multi-string bow, firing off guitar solos and glam-rock struts as well as the expected Micah P Hinson-meets-TV-on-the-Radio-unplugged mournful laments. Best learn (all of) his name - you’ll want to start dropping it… [cb]

Packed with usual beautifully dirty waves of sound and heartbeat tribal drums, the Twilight Sad’s is a set of well-rehearsed oldies from 2007’s Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters, new material on show etched to the same painfully high standard and Graham’s vocals on point. Irrevocably loud, the sound which so often fought the control of its makers and countless sound technicians in previous years seems to have been harnessed, the only incidence of ear-offending My Bloody Valentine uber-noise arriving at the finale- Fat Cat’s reverb abusers aren’t ready to be too commercial just yet. [lm]

The hype machine has smiled favourably upon the women (and man) of Mika Miko, and with good reason – at their gig on Jamaica Street, they know how to keep things short and sweet. They jam at least 10 songs of infectious, buzzed-up noise pop – like a tuned down Be Your Own Pet or less brash Vivian Girls – into their half-hour set, eliciting a frenzied reaction out of a more-than-willing crowd. [jm]

Heading over to Sleazy's for more of the American contingent, the Gay Blades deliver an unexpected measure of fantastic bluesy rock. Showmen to the highest degree, the New York two-piece mix bizarre soliloquies, soulful crooning recalling the Caleb Followill of yore, and falsetto squeals with dirty riffs and arm-flailing snare work, producing beat-filled filth to put hair on the most pigeon-esque of all chests. Wry, dry, and really, very good. [lm]

White Denim are balls-out rock n' roll in a time when that has been done too much to ever want to bother counting. However, the intensity and energy put into beating the shit out of their instruments and shaking like they're channelling the spirits of the greats at this very moment, adds a much-welcomed level of excitement to watching this band - mistakes n' all - storm a boozed-up Art School crowd. [rd]

Touching upon surf-rock, beat-heavy indie-dance and Siouxie-esque vocals courtesy of yelping New Jerseyite Jennifer Paley, Paper Planes’ magpie sound runs the risk of sounding derivative or confused. But somehow it’s neither, and a full Captain's Rest is testament to the excitement their meld of influences can generate. Not for the first (or last) time tonight, here’s a band who won’t play mid-bill in miniature venues for much longer. [cb]

Headlining for the second time this year in Glasgow are the contentious Black Lips. This time, they rely more heavily on the down-beat psychedelia of 200 Million Thousand, and to varied effect – the songs work well on record but seem more of a pause for reflection during the set. The Lips provide a better live experience with Drugs, O Katrina and a set-closing Bad Kids, though, recapturing their normal rambunctious attitude. [jm]

You can tell Chew Lips are from London just by their aloof demeanour. They're discovering that Glasgow's crowds are more naturally skeptical than their hometown's. Like a worst case scenario version of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in five years time, Chew Lips' synth-heavy art-pop doesn't seem to be convincing anyone that it's really as cool as it wants to be. It's no fun, so we leave after just ten minutes. [ab]

Saddle Creek’s most raucous export, Cursive, are an undeniable feast, their wonky brand of riffery bringing Sleazy's evening of rock action to a high-octane close. Splashes of organ and mariachi trumpets are juxtaposed against possibly the most interesting drumming ever to come out of Omaha, the ferocity of Kasher’s wail proving that Cursive may be older but have lost none of their fervour or originality. Dorothy at Forty and an encore appearance of Art Is Hard nestle among the many high points of a truly great set. [lm]

With banter and guitars turned way up, Tubelord’s massive choruses and erratic time signatures resemble a more haphazard Biffy Clyro, without managing either the pop or rock quite as well. But they aren’t without appeal: Night of the pencils sparks a sing-along, while forays into the crowd from AFI-throated, Chesney Hawkes-haired singer Joseph Prendergast get people moving their feet - even if only to avoid his scary man-bear-pig masked visage… [cb]

Upstairs at the Art School, the Phantom Band's sound is a lot clearer than that for previous band White Denim. But an attempt by frontman Rick Redbeard to sing one of his quiet, tender solo songs suffers because the crowd's by now too drunk and excited to stop chatting. The louder songs drown out the blather, but it's still there. Despite their ever-intriguing style, it's a little too prosaic tonight to win over the late crowd. [ab]

Amazing blah fun blah - live Dananananaykroyd are so consistently joyous that reviewers might as well use an ‘OMFG!’ template saved to Word. If anyone knows a way not to shout, dance, and grin constantly at anything and everything the band do tonight, they don’t let on - Dananananaykroyd are awesome, and when playing a tiny stage that'd barely house their name in a 14-point font, they slay. [cb]

The Joy Formidable's tiny blonde singer looks like a madwoman. With an unblinking stare she seems to be quietly raging, so she's taking out her anger on her guitar while she holds back the tears. It's a short, intense set of short, intense power pop songs, and it's electrifying, actually, like Ash used to be when they were kids. The Joy Formidable's fast and furious stormbringing shows huge promise. [ab]

With queues of disappointed Daggerers unable to squeeze into the Captains Rest’s stifling confines for the Mae Shi, a growing excitement from the lucky few, mingling with the sweat collecting on walls and ceiling, helps to remedy the urge to collapse. Once underway, that urge evaporates entirely, replaced by unbridled pleasure - even down to three members, they exude an infectious energy that tops off the Rest's Stag and Dagger bill magnificently. [cb]

Alas, no President Obama inauguration speech mash-up from Tim Exile this evening (see Youtube for a previous example). Instead he performs a stripped down set comprising of just a laptop and a microphone, stretching samples through effects to breaking point whilst distorting his vocals beyond recognition. Dividing opinion like so many Warp Records artists do, those curious about his sounds seem pleased with the results. [cd]

Art of Parties unleash a relentless set of fresh-off-the-blogs electro, fidget and b-more bass. The chequered floor of the Vic Bar is obscured from view as the dance floor becomes a quivering sea of humanity. The PA is given a workout beyond its usual Thursday night RPZ level as a finely tuned and well-practised set pleases most in attendance. [cd]

The utterly bewitching sound of Knox Om Pax successfully captured the attention and hearts of everyone above the ground floor of the Art School. A severe departure from the sounds emitting from the Vic Bar, this is a sublime, ivory key driven experience. An utterly wonderful and beautiful sound that easily stands out as one best performances of the evening. Criminally under-attended but those present are assured that they have witnessed something very special. [cd]

One half of Dolby Anol commands the DJ booth for the final stretch of the evening, joined briefly by Cereal. With Dolby Anol’s new EP on the horizon the opportunity is seized to test out new material on the city’s clubbers. The Lavender Marriage remix of Frankmusic’s Confusion Girl is debuted and well received, proving that you can indeed polish a turd. Quite possibly one of the last chances to see them in action before their inevitable success further afield. [cd]

Upstairs Warp Record’s Clark performs a well-honed and intricate set of material mostly taken from forthcoming release Totems Flare, due to appear this summer. His sound divides opinion, with some people opting to explore the goings on downstairs instead of hearing Clark’s entire performance. His sound of ‘man and bizarre machine’ marriage is difficult, if not impossible to put into words. Which is exactly why he is a label mate with Aphex Twin and Squarepusher. [cd]