Ruby Gaines @ Mono, Glasgow, 30 Sep
Two very different special guests help launch neo-soul EP Heavy Good – but without a doubt, Ruby Gaines is the shining star of the evening
Doors for tonight's gig are 8pm, which means, for one of the first times since spring, it’s already night when we reach Mono. There’s no better tunes for this change in seasons than those of India Blue, whose melancholy vocals, accompanied by guitarist James Mackay, greet the early arrivals in from the dark.
There’s not a lot of mobility in this first set – it’s rainy-day, shoegazing music, and the most action happening on the stage is the hard work Mackay puts into jumping around the frets and switching between pedals. Blue’s dreamy, ethereal performance might seem too tranquilising for a Saturday night, but the breathy lyrics come into concert with looped echoes of her own voice, creating something quite thunderous. Even with such a lo-fi, autumnal sound, the evening’s openers make a splash.
Martha May and the Mondays are up next, and there’s an immediate gear shift. A much bigger band begin lining the stage, replete in dark and dishevelled formalwear. They play hard and fast, and quickly running up to join them is their lead singer, a moving rod of dynamite in a sharp grey suit.
After some originals, Martha takes a swig of wine right from the bottle, and leaps down into the crowd for a cover of Wolf Alice’s Formidable Cool. The violinist can’t quite be heard over the thrash, Martha has to power her way through a low mic, and the band almost walk off having forgotten to do their showstopper. They’re undressed, edgy, and a little unorganised, but their particular kind of grit – exclusive to local gigs – wins the audience over.
Ruby Gaines sparkles the second she steps on stage, and not only because of the bright blue sequins in which she’s costumed. Her voice is the crown jewel of the evening, and, from the way she strains to reach those impressive octaves one after the other, it takes a royal amount of effort to deliver the songs from Heavy Good in a way that honours her debut EP’s eponymous ideals – loud and lustrous.
She has a dazzling range, but we’re not so starstruck that we fail to see a dichotomy happening on stage. When Gaines sings, she’s all glam, but between tracks, she’s unassuming – cheeky, but soft-spoken, even monotone. She modestly apologises for an imperceptible hoarseness; “Sorry about my voice, but that’s what’s happening.” What’s happening, we learn a while later, is that she strained her larynx rocking a BBC radio recording session the night before.
Tracks like Holier Than Cows, Heavy, and Woo are lively funk numbers, and when our entertainment hits the high notes, she shines like a disco ball. Her instrumentalists seem bigger and better beyond their years, and when Gaines asks, “Is it time for my wee ladies?” she's joined by backup vocalists whose harmonies give the music the retro polish it deserves. By the end of the launch, the crowd at Mono are of one mind – Heavy Good has ended September in style.