Scotland Gig Highlights – April 2013

A roundup of the most unmissable gigs in the Central Belt, with the return of the Outskirts Festival and live appearances from James Blake, Echo & The Bunnymen, Trail of Dead, Malcolm Middleton, plus the brutal sonic assault of Death Grips

Feature by Illya Kuryakin | 01 Apr 2013

Beth Orton's latest album Sugaring Season was well received when we reviewed it back in September last year – it is worth remembering, too, that when Orton first came onto the scene, way back in 1996 with her breakthrough album the William Orbit-produced Trailer Park, the female singer-songwriter was a rare breed, seldom gracing the single or album charts. In this bountiful age of lesser songstresses – your Laura Marlings and Paloma Faiths – Orton is a shining beacon of studied, innovative songwriting. And ye gods, that voice. Catch her at the Liquid Room, Edinburgh on 9 April.

Can James Blake pull off the same crossover hit with sophomore album Overgrown as he did with his eponymous debut? He's certainly drafted in a few big-name guests, from Brian Eno to Wu Tang's RZA. Live, you can expect Blake to layer delicate, soulful vocals with abstract, intricately constructed post-dubstep beats – so you'll have the chance to croon along to Limit To Your Love, and perhaps even shake a tailfeather to early hits like CMYK. Catch him at The Arches on 11 April.

Two giants of '80s and '90s alternative rock unite at Glasgow's SECC on 13 April – Manc indie mob James have an epic sweep to their joyous, emotive back catalogue that lends itself to stadium-size gigs, and you can expect at least one heart-in-the-mouth moment of nostalgia as the crowd join in to sing their biggest hit, Sit Down. Echo & The Bunnymen, Ian McCulloch's Liverpudlian miserablists, plough a darker furrow – The Killing Moon and The Cutter provide their most singalong moments, through a lyrical veneer of pessimistic, yearning sadness and militaristic, pounding drums. 

When it comes to experimental music, there are few bands with a pedigree as strong and a back catalogue as revered as Ohio's Pere Ubu. Named after a character in Alfred Jarry's avant garde play Ubu Roi, the band have been pushing boundaries and redefining the borders of rock, industrial and arthouse punk since 1975. Their latest album Lady From Shanghai was evidence of a band still going strong after decades together, with cryptic lyrics and brooding, deconstructed garage rock jams. Still unique after all these years – catch them live at Mono, Glasgow, on 17 April. 

On 20 April, witness the return of Texan rockers ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, playing tracks from their eighth studio album Lost Songs, easily their most direct since the sublime heights of 2002's Source Tags & Codes. As always, the fireworks come courtesy of the clash of influences at work within the band – Conrad Keely's sprawling, epic, mystical concerns igniting on contact with Jason Reece's firebrand punk sensibilities.

Also on 20 April, a very special one-day festival is taking place at Glasgow's Platform. Outskirts features music, poetry, audiovisual performances and unique art happenings, featuring Albuquerque folk ensemble A Hawk and a Hacksaw, plus readings from revered comic and thinker Rob Newman and instrumental Golden Hour / Forest Cafe organiser and poet Ryan Van Winkle. The £15 ticket includes a meal, and the event runs from 3.30pm in the afternoon until late. Check the venue's website ( for the full running order.

The last twelve months have been prolific for Neil Pennycook's ever-changing troupe Meursault – playing at Celtic Connections, contributing to celebrated Arches group show Whatever Gets You Through The Night, and releasing their well-received third LP, Something For The Weakened being particular highlights. Last year's headlining show at The Queen's Hall saw the band trade synthesisiers for a string ensemble, bringing a refreshing new scope to their sound. Get reacquainted with their melancholic, anthemic brand of indie rock at Edinburgh's Liquid Room on 26 April.

As the month draws to a close, take the chance to catch Skinny favourite and king of miserablist musical experimentation, Malcolm Middleton, in an intimate gig at Edinburgh's Electric Circus. It's a one-off acoustic show and something of a shift away from his recent electronic guise as Human Don't Be Angry, with Middleton promising new material, plus a selection of cuts from his 2002 solo debut, 5:14.


The last time Death Grips blew through town, they played the tiny sweatbox environs of The Captain's Rest. Both the punk / metal fraternity and the b-boy contingent turned up in force, turning the 100-capacity room into a dark and sweaty moshpit. As drummer Zach Hill trashed a series of drumsticks, pounding seven shades of crap out of his kit with feet bare and head down, imposing frontman MC Ride dominated the front row of the seething pit, chest bare and emblazoned with occult tattoos, staring into the middle distance and howling "I am the beast I worship." Indeed.

Since those formative days, they've been signed and dropped by Epic Records, released two visceral, intense albums, and lost a member (keyboardist Flatlander). Recent excursions into video art, alternate reality games and ontological terrorism promise a more considered, but no less skull-crushingly in-your-face performance from the band. Their fusion of punk and hip-hop is utterly unique, fulfilling the early promise of fusion bands such as Rage Against The Machine and Bodycount. Brutal, punishing, ultimately life-affirming, they're the most exciting band in the world right now.