Scottish Gig Highlights – January 2016

We cast an eye over a few treats from the central belt's live music calendar this coming month, featuring mini-festivals Celtic Connections, King Tut's New Year Revolution and the return of Bristol's finest.

Preview by Claire Francis | 04 Jan 2016

While it’s basically impossible to separate the New Year from the dreaded attendant guilt that those resolutions inevitably bring, we say balls to that – in 2016, it's time to take a fresh approach. Focus on the things you promise to do, rather than things you won’t. And if there is one thing you should certainly do as this year gets underway, it’s surveying a few of these winter warmers.

Beckoning us into 2016 with a rather tantalising lineup, the good folk at King Tut’s have conspired to draw music lovers out into the winter-eves, with their annual New Year’s Revolution boasting yet another solid array of grassroots musical goodness. Over 80 bands will take to the venue’s well-trodden stage across 16 nights in January, with black-clad Edinburgh rockers The Phantoms early contenders for an energetic start to the month (9 Jan).

In similar fashion but with a slightly more spidery, math-rock bent, Highlands four-piece Bloodlines will also be hitting Tut's (17 Jan), while Fast Camels take a pure psychedelic turn on 11 Jan. The revolution continues with the expansive, exhilarating synth melodies of Glaswegian duo Apache Darling (20 Jan), as Stefanie Lawrence lets loose with the vocals that earned them a well-deserved T in the Park show last year. And if you add one more to your list, make it fast-growing local favourites Enemies Of The State, whose unrelenting anthemic rock rounds off proceedings on 23 Jan.

Of course, a new year is always an opportunity to familiarise yourself with a few up-and-comers, and two piece garage-punk hybridists Slaves are a case in point (O2 ABC, 11 Jan). Coursing mouthfuls of lyrics that are clever and current, they’re freshly major-label signed and already renowned for their live shows – Isaac Holman, one half of the duo, is a stand-up, singing drummer, and you just don’t see that every day. Ded Rabbit are another one to keep on the radar – last year’s EP Moving In Slow Motion is an exercise in funk-tinged indie, with more than a slight early Arctic Monkeys nod – catch them at Sneaky Pete’s on 28 Jan.

There’s also further reason to brave the winter climes when beloved articulators of love lost Daughter bring their hushed tones to The Queens Hall (23 Jan) – Elena Tonra’s heartfelt vocals guarantee to warm the coldest of bones. Scottish rock stalwarts De Rosa show how it’s done (with support from Kid Canaveral) when they launch their startling return LP Weem at Summerhall on 30 Jan, and over at Oran Mor, Minus The Bear add a quirky indie-pop touch on 25 Jan when the Seattle group bring their electro-synth fanfare to our shores.

And for something completely different, and rather legendary, how about a little bit of Black Flag's punk rock attitude? Okay, so it’s not the band per se (or in any way, actually!), but the inimitable Henry Rollins himself takes to the stage solo at O2 Academy on 18 Jan when he hits town for a ‘talking show’ as part of his Charmingly Obstinate UK tour. Expect political food for thought and witty anecdotes aplenty.

Of course, it wouldn’t be January without a firm and favourite fixture of the winter calendar: Glasgow’s Celtic Connections returns once again for its two week run from 14-31 January, celebrating both folk traditions and its modern day influences. The annual festival is now into its second decade and with over 300 concerts, talks, workshops and star-studded collaborations, this year promises as many heavyweights as you’d come to expect from the grand ol’ dame. Underscoring the jamboree’s enduring knack for linking traditional Scottish folk fare with analogous acts from across the way, a top pick is American born, Iceland-based virtuoso John Grant. Album number three, Grey Tickles, Black Pressure was one of 2015’s unique musical moments, combining humour, pathos, razor sharp social commentary and some damn danceable tunes into one idiosyncratic package – he plays Glasgow’s Concert Hall on 26 Jan.

Other notables in the long list of Connections highlights are young Mancunian maestro Kiran Leonard (14 Jan, The Hug and Pint), who at a tender 20 years of age has already drawn comparisons to both Jeff Buckley AND Zappa (no mean feat indeed), and at the same venue on 28 Jan, The Phantom Band’s vocalist Rick Anthony steps out as Rick Redbeard (and Friends) with his collection of hauntingly lovely ballads.

Former Delgado and longtime Scottish singer-songwriter Emma Pollock makes an appearance at Oran Mor (29 Jan) ahead of the release of her upcoming third solo record; Fife native and one of the brains behind the iconic Fence Records label, James Yorkston, teams up with The Pictish Trail and Withered Hand (28 Jan, Mitchell Theatre); plus there’s an appearance by post-pop creatives Monogram (30 Jan, The Hug and Pint). And if you just can’t decide, there’s the Roaming Roots Revue featuring a host of artists as diverse as Glasgow duo Honeyblood, Virginian new-soul guru Matthew E White, Alabama blues-pop newcomer Anderson East and Edinburgh’s Blue Rose Code (Glasgow Royal Concert Hall, 23 Jan).


Massive Attack / Young Fathers @ Glasgow O2 Academy, 22-23 Jan  

Trip-hop would likely cease to be without the pioneering influence of Massive Attack; the Bristol group’s rise throughout the 90s lead the charge for a genre that carved out its own niche away from traditional hip-hop to become something quintessentially British. Currently comprising original members Robert Del Naja and Grant Marshall alongside a rotating cast of seasoned players, their soundsystem mentality paved the way for contemporaries such as Portishead and Nightmares On Wax, and made music that was ambient, atmospheric, and damn sexy – never has a more beautifully breathy, crystalline vocal been heard than that of Cocteau Twins' Elizabeth Fraser on the iconic Teardrop.

It’s rumoured that the tour heralds new Massive Attack material on the near horizon, and with support from the brilliant Mercury Prize-winning Young Fathers, an act who are taking their own 21st century spin on hip-hop (as solidified by last year’s White Men Are Black Men Too, voted #7 in our best albums of the year round-up), how could these shows be anything other than, well, massive?