The Great Western Festival, Glasgow, 23 Nov

We don our finest raincoats and hit the slippery streets of Maryhill for the debut edition of the Great Western Festival

Review by Niamh Carey | 28 Nov 2019

Some things in life are easy to predict: November is dreich, Glasgow has great venues, and we want good music. Ticking each of these boxes this weekend is The Great Western Festival, 432 Presents’ latest venture that proudly hosts 50 bands in 10 venues dotted around the West End. 

The festival’s lineup is a testament to the traction Glasgow holds for musicians both close to home and further afield, and with venues including a church, two pubs, a student union and a converted glue factory, GWF is a celebration of spatial, as well as musical, diversity. 

We begin our Great Western odyssey at the Macintosh Church, where Heir of the Cursed delivers a spine-tingling set of soulful vocals and reverberating guitar. There is a fittingly sacrosanct hush in the audience as HoTC offsets entrancing vocals battling self-doubt and identity, paired with stage chat that is delightfully deadpan (the towel she uses on stage is called Barry, FYI). 

We head to Glue Factory next, where electro/pop/folk act Callum Easter performs a set that is as unusual as it is captivating. Easter adopts a somewhat glacial gaze as he wanders the stage, accordion in tow with catchy, unadulterated lyrics about love. His inscrutable charm is well-suited to the haunting pop melodies he weaves with his eclectic array of instruments, and there is a tangibly moreishness to his set. The Glue Factory gives the festival a good slice of industrial atmosphere, put best to use when everyone’s favourite electro couple Free Love take to the stage and perform a set that is somehow meditative, camp and euphoric in equal measure.

On to Maryhill Community Centre, for the typically vigourous Sacred Paws. Rachel Aggs' colourful guitar riffs are twinned with Eilidh Rodgers' wild and raw drumming, which make for an irresistible energy that has every member of the audience dancing tonight. They are followed by long-standing Glasgow legends The Pastels, who deliver their indie rock with a passion and diligence that hasn’t dwindled in the 38 years since the band formed.

Meanwhile, The Hug and Pint’s basement is teeming with talent young and old. The delightfully-named Peaness offer a solid grunge pop fix, while ultra-cool London four piece Dry Cleaning keep things crisp with bassy beats and tension-building punky vocals. Art School Girlfriend gives us a good dose of lo-fi angst-ridden electronica, and the unmissable Big Joanie go down a treat. Upstairs the venue offers culinary respite to venue-hopping ticket holders taking shelter from the dismal rain.

As the evening dies down, the rain persists, but not even Glasgow’s capacity for dreichness can put a dampener on the talent displayed tonight. It’s only a shame that Songhoy Blues and Warmduscher, who were both forced to pull out last minute, couldn’t be here to ramp up the variety further. Still, tonight GWF provides 10 pockets of shelter bursting with surprising sets and acts on the verge of well-earned success. So be sure to pop in next year – fortuitous discoveries guaranteed.