Scotland Gig Highlights – May 2013

May offers a diverse range of musical treats, from the intense post-punk of Savages to the lo-fi rock aesthetics of Dirty Beaches; not to mention outdoor and indoor festival fun at Kelburn Castle and Stag & Dagger

Preview by Illya Kuryakin | 30 Apr 2013

On 2 May, all-female post-punk innovators Savages come to Glasgow’s SWG3. Anticipation is building for their debut album Silence Yourself, due out on 6 May. Many modern bands with a post-punk bent will simply ape the sounds of the late 70s and early 80s, but lack the artistic flair and spirit of sonic adventure, not to mention the challenging, often confrontational political leanings, of those early scene-setters. Savages however are the real deal – as likely to hit you with spoken word intros or experimental noise as they are to deploy their distinctively chopped, urgent guitar riffs and snarling, powerhouse vocals. A strong highlight in a month that offers an embarrassment of riches.

Edinburgh gets its first taste of festival fun at Electric Circus with Big Day In. For a mere tenner, you can enjoy arty indie-rock liberally sprinkled with complex time signatures and poptastic flourishes courtesy of Dutch Uncles, FOUND experimentalists Lomond Campbell + River of Slime, smooth disco-and-synth-pop-meets-indie rock from Auld Reekie's Jonnie Common and Discopolis alongside Glasgow's Machines In Heaven, plus DJ sets from the likes of Errors, flanked by BBC Radio's new music gurus Vic Galloway and Ally McCrae. 5 May, this is bang for buck. 

Nice ’n’ Sleazy's plays host to Dirty Beaches, aka Alex Zhang Huntai, a Taiwanese-Canadian musician whose album Badlands impressed fans of avant garde, lo-fi and no-wave music in 2011. Revered for his early releases on early cassette labels, his contributions to the four-way split LP Statement on Clandestine Records in 2012 were excellent, and anticipation is building for the planned May release of two new albums, Drifters and Love Is The Devil. Support comes from fellow lo-fi travellers Supreme Dicks, and local garage rock / shoegazer hybrid mob The Yawns (7 May).

Kelburn Castle will reverberate to the sounds of the Psychedelic Forest Disco – the first of three musical outings at the site over the course of the summer on 11 May. With a powerful lighting rig, booming soundsystems, and the no doubt esoteric and multifarious range of intoxicants ingested by wide-eyed ravers in attendance, it's less of a psychedelic experience on offer; more of a hedonistic one. Regardless, the proceedings can only be helped by the DJ talents of JD Twitch, John Morales, NoFace and Taz, a live set from muscular neo-Italo dons Den Haan, the hipster-friendly house of Mia Dora, plus up-and-coming garage producer Fault Lines

London trio Vondelpark make electronica-tinged indie pop which draws on influences from R’n’B, shoegaze and post-dubstep, while never managing to let that stew of diverse sounds obscure their deliciously-fresh pop hooks. They are, quite simply, irresistible. Catch them at Sneaky Pete's in Edinburgh on 17 May.

Ninja Tune stalwart Bonobo returned this year with a rather fantastic album, The North Borders. Whereas 2010's Black Sands and 2006's Days To Come seemed to suggest a move deeper into Cinematic Orchestra territory, ...Borders saw Simon Green embracing elements from bass music and dubstep alongside the jazzier, more cinematic moments. It also featured a few high-profile guests, such as Erykah Badu. See how it all turns out in a live context on 25 May at the Picture House, Edinburgh. Those unable to attend can see the Ninja Tune stalwart when he returns to Glasgow's O2 ABC on 4 October.

Sugar and Husker Dü frontman Bob Mould is one of the songwriters who dominated alternative American music throughout the 1980s and 90s. His influence on later musicians such as The Pixies and Nirvana is well established, but his wry, acerbic lyrics and keen way with a melody continue to reverberate with up-and-coming musicians. His solo work is nothing to sniff at, either, with last year's Silver Age proving that the Sugar-man is still capable of hitting the alt.rock sweet spot. Catch him for an intimate solo show at Òran Mór, Glasgow on 18 May.  

The festival madness kicks up another notch on 23 May with the start of the Knockengorroch Festival – the 3-day binge of folk, rock, techno, dub and... well, pretty much everything, has a whole host of highlights on offer, including agit-prop rap-rock-jungle fusionistas Asian Dub Foundation, jungle legend Congo Natty, multi-faceted Warp Records star Luke Vibert, hotly-tipped folk and hip-hop purveyors Dizraeli & The Small Gods, alongside local legends such as Glasgow dub crews The Mezzanine Allstars and Mungo's HiFi, master of the hard techno, bass and breaks Morphamish, and some live graffiti from the Too Much Fun Club. More fun, then, than you could shake an unfeasibly large stick at.

Ghostpoet returns to Scotland to ply his new album Some Say I So I Say Light, the follow-up to his Mercury-nominated debut. Now imbued with an even more infectious electronic sonic palette thanks to the collaboration of co-producer Richard Formby (Darkstar, Egyptian Hip Hop), and with a solid year or so of touring and performing under his belt, we expect the ceaselessly inventive Obaro Ejimiwe to be on top form at Glasgow's Broadcast on 24 May and Edinburgh's Electric Circus on 25 May.

For hip-hop fans, the coming of A$AP Rocky to the O2 Academy in Glasgow on 26 May will either cause deep joy or scornful outrage. The Harlem rapper and leader of the A$AP Mob has been attracting attention along with the likes of Flatbush Zombies and The Underachievers as part of the (very) loosely affiliated 'Beast Coast' movement, but his focus on swag, swag, and more swag, and his propensity for summarily-dispensed fist-based justice to perceived enemies, place him firmly on the more gangster-inclined side of the rap divide. Conscious rap and 'backpacker' hip-hop fans might want to dodge this one – everyone else, get ready to throw your set in the air.


The annual Stag & Dagger outing is a gloriously shambolic affair, langorously spreading itself out across the breadth of seven of Glasgow's best-loved music stages. It is half gig, half endurance contest, as increasingly pint-afflicted music fans stagger from venue to venue, attempting to cover all the bases.

And what a range of bases... there's almost too much to choose from. Decide for yourself, picking between Scottish causes célèbre and crowd-pleasers such as We Were Promised Jetpacks, neo-folk rising star Rachel Sermanni, our favourite avant-punk weirdos Divorce, muscular post-hardcore crew United Fruit, intimate folk-pop troubadors Randolph's Leap, and visiting dignitaries such as electronica-tinged star Phosphorescent, ethereal R&B supremo How To Dress Well, and the trippy psych rock of Wolf People. There are still more names to be announced – keep your eyes on our website for more details as further announcements are made.