Stag & Dagger, Glasgow, 30 Apr
Since its inception as one of many festivals in London's trendy East End in 2008, Stag & Dagger emerged in the next year as Glasgow's premier music expo and has remained ever since. However, the festival's strength has always been sourcing the most exciting young talent in the UK (and beyond) and showcasing them to one of the country's best musical cities. In the past, the festival has also always been headed by top-tier acts to provide a healthy balance of established and new, which arguably is absent this year, given there is no real stand-out headliner (perhaps a result of BBC 6 Music Festival coming to Glasgow at the end of March).
Regardless, the Sauchiehall Street end of Glasgow is busy as ever this May Day Bank Holiday weekend, with many turning out early to catch the festival's openers, local grunge-rock favourites Pinact. The Glasgow trio have gone from strength to strength since their 2015 debut Stand Still and Rot and it's clear to see from the packed Broadcast that the band's popularity is only increasing. Musically, Pinact owe a lot to the grunge movement, but they have a melodic catchiness and energy to them that keeps them compelling.
Next up are London's psychedelic noise act Taman Shud whose abrasively loud and slimy sound has been blowing the capital's collective minds for some time now. Following up 2015's excellent Viper Smoke with last year's Oracle War, the band rip through a ferocious set which proves a little too overwhelming for some members of the crowd. Thankfully, those who do stick around are rewarded with more than just a healthy dose of tinnitus for the rest of the day, as their dark and alluring sound keeps the crowd in a trance long after they finish.
Berlin-based duo Gurr follow and are a captivating presence to the yet-again packed out Broadcast. They have a warming, B-52s-esque energy which enraptures the audience with such catchy songs as Moby Dick, #1985 and Walnuss. After a recent successful trip to SxSW, Gurr prove they are ones to watch on the basis of this impressive performance.
Similarly, London's Girl Ray keep up similar spirits of anthemic, female-led pop-rock to a terrific standard. The recently Moshi Moshi signed band have still only a couple singles to their name (most notably Stupid Things and Trouble), but their remarkably consistent quality throughout this set promises they have a bright future ahead of them. The band's musical interplay is especially impressive, with Sophie Moss' bass particularly shining.
A quick dash up Garnethill to The Art School proves our resting ground for the foreseeable, as Dutch Uncles have already taken the stage. Compared to the rest of the festival's line-up, the blue-black uniformed Manchester act are relative veterans, this year releasing their fifth album Big Balloon. They're full of energy and inventiveness in terms of musical prowess, but they feel a little too derivative of their '80s influences (Peter Gabriel & Duran Duran especially) to really stand out from being much more than a tribute act, especially when contemporaries Wild Beasts and Future Islands have already excelled at creating something original out of this style. Despite much hype, Dutch Uncles' act seems a little worn in 2017.
Downstairs in the Vic Bar, Norwich teenage girl duo Let's Eat Grandma are setting up to play their illustrious pop music which has been causing quite the storm since last year's debut I, Gemini. Let's Eat Grandma are a knowingly strange act comprised of two childhood friends who have been making music together for some time, despite only just being of a legal age to play venues like these this year. There is an undeniable intrigue to their dreamy and inventive pop music, but this doesn't really translate to this festival setting. The young band don't really do anything wrong, but the majority of the crowd's attention after a long day of music isn't really there for the mostly pretty whimsical yet understated duo.
Gold Panda by comparison is exactly what the festival needs as it heads towards its latter hours. It doesn't seem that long ago that the London-based producer was releasing his debut and being nominated for the BBC Sound Of... award, but that was 2010. Since then Gold Panda has been perfecting his craft, especially after a particularly productive 2016 in which he released long-player Good Luck and Do Your Best along with the Brexit-inspired Kingdom EP. While The Art School is never completely rammed for Gold Panda's set, those who are in attendance are much appreciative of his deep breaks and beats, giving a much-needed sense of relief and gravitas to proceedings with an excellent headline set.
Finally, closing 2017's edition of Stag & Dagger are London glam-punks HMLTD (Happy Meals Ltd) who provide a party atmosphere worthy of the festival's close. Their sound, for the most part, takes in early '80s post-punk/new romantic references. However, added elements of electronic breaks stand them apart from mere imitators of a time gone by. The band are currently riding a wave of hype, with a debut album expected later this year, and it's not at all difficult to see where the enthusiasm has come from.
Here are a band who on the face of it look like something we've seen many times before, but their vociferous performance and intriguing melding of styles makes for an interesting prospect going forward, to say the least. So while this year's Stag & Dagger may have lacked in "big-name acts" it unquestionably provided new, young, raw talent. After this largely positive day, there's a lot to be excited about in music in 2017.