erasing clouds

Live Review: School's Out featuring Belle & Sebastian/The Trashcan Sinatras/Camera Obscura/V-Twin/Mother & The Addicts/The James Orr Complex, West End Festival, Botanic Gardens, Glasgow, Scotland, 12th June 2004

by anna battista

The day starts with a few sparse and threatening clouds, but by the time Belle & Sebastian's Stuart Murdoch shyly gets on stage to introduce the first two bands who will play this afternoon for this free music event part of the West End Festival, the sun is shining high and hot, in fact a bit too hot for Scotland. Chris Mack, the man behind the solo project James Orr Complex (and also behind local band Eska and friend of Mogwai) is the first today, and I feel a bit sorry for him because his fragile, gentle, soothing and beautiful melodies such as "Ambassador", from his latest album Chori's Bundle, and "A Million Men", taken from his 2001 work Figa, seem to be ignored by the crowd. Most of us are indeed having picnics, chatting, playing or sunbathing to be too worried about him, which is a shame since he's absolutely flawless.

Mother & The Addicts, introduced by Stuart as the "new Glasgow darlings", manage to attract the audience's attention with some angry garage rock graced with synthesizers and samples. Currently on Chemikal Underground, this band that combines Dr Feelgood with the Velvet Underground and The Upsetters are at present working on their debut album, but seem to have already quite catchy hits such as "Serious Superstar" and "Oh Yeah You Look So Nice". They are followed by city rockers V-Twin, with frontman Jason Macphail looking like a cross-over between Bobbie Gillespie and Elvis. This afternoon they sound more like Screamadelica-era Primal Scream and less like Sun Ra. Sporting a colourful jacket adorned with tigers and with 'Okinawa' embroidered on the back (while one of the guitarist is wearing a sailor shirt that looks very Orange Juice - circa 1980), Jason sings "Pink Slip" and "If You Don't Touch Me, I'm Going to Have to Touch Myself", that sounds like Primal Scream's "Loaded" and "Medication" rolled into one. The band concludes with "Delinquency", for which I'm simply grateful.

I feel invigorated by their music, but the effect doesn't last long since Camera Obscura arrive armed with their twee melodies and clad in pastel colours. For many of us it is time to have a break, go to the toilet, buy an ice cream and realise that the botanic gardens are getting more and more crowded as minutes pass. Indeed by the time The Trashcan Sinatras are on, there are already more than 10,000 people here. Introduced by Stevie Jackson as "the fantastic Trashcan Sinatras", they open with "The Country Ayr" followed by "Got Carried Away". Tonight they play a gentle and downbeat set which includes only one of their hits, "How Can I Apply…?", and most of their new songs, such as "What Women Do To Men", "All The Dark Horses", and "Weightlifting".

Then it's the turn of tonight's headliners, Belle & Sebastian, who are trying with this gig to shake off once and for all the "twee" label stuck on them since they started their career (a friend told me this gig could have been rechristened "Twee in the Park"…). After thanking Glasgow City Council for giving them the chance to play here, the band (now with 12 elements in it) launches in greatest hits such as "Judy And The Dream Of Horses", "The Model", "The Boy With The Arab Strap", "Like Dylan In The Movies" and "Jonathan David", but also in new songs taken from their latest album, "Step Into My Office Baby" and its B-side "Love On The March" (very apt since this is in Glasgow the season of the Orange Walks…), "Stay Loose", "I'm A Cuckoo", "Roy Walker" and the new single "Wrapped Up In Books". A ball bounces here and there among the audience and is kicked on the stage, the band plays with it for a while, launches it back to the crowd and is cheered. I turn around and think it is quite scary to see all these people jumping around and dancing like crazy on B&S' tracks or to hear people screaming when Stuart puts on his sunglasses. Either B&S aren't twee anymore or the botanic gardens have been invaded by thousands of twee people.

Highlight of the day is "Lazy Line Painter Jane", B&S' 1997 single, for which they call on stage the original singer who featured on it, Monica Queen. It's a shame you don't hear much about her nowadays, because she's got one of the most powerful voices around, as she shows us tonight. The gig concludes with the classic "Sleep Around The Clock" and on its last notes, while thousands of people are swarming down Byres Road towards bus stops and the underground, you realise there's something strange hanging in the air in the botanic gardens, it could be summer finally coming or it could be the essence of tweeness. I like to think it's the former.

Issue 24, June 2004

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All pics by Anna Battista. Top to bottom: James Orr Complex, V-Twin, Trashcan Sinatras, Belle & Sebastian, Belle & Sebastian with Monica Queen.