Live review: Tenement Trail 2016

In last month’s edition, I wrote a preview of this year’s Tenement Trail and how it was set to be one of the best events in the Glasgow music calendar. After attending, I can safely say that it delivered on that promise. Even though I spent the full day run off my feet trying to see as many acts as possible, while trying to co-coordinate time slots to fit everything in and paying for overpriced drinks in a variety of venues but still, I loved it.

I think much of the success of this festival comes from the format – knowing that you only have fifteen minutes to see your favourite local band at the Art School before you have to dash to catch that really promising up-and-coming group in Broadcast makes you treasure every moment, and I can guarantee if you go in future years, you will be faced with some tough choices between acts. However, that is not to detract from the quality of the bands which were performing throughout the day. Everyone seemed to feed off the atmosphere, resulting in both electric performances and some of the best audience interaction I’ve seen in a long time .

We first proceeded to Flat 0/1 where we were given some great classic R&B from Carly Connor, who was drafted in at the last minute to fill an absence. Even under these circumstances, she delivered a good performance showcasing her vocal ability, which was well-suited to her 60s/70s soul-style songs. She was backed up by a very tight band, which created a great, chilled vibe throughout the venue.

Upon leaving Flat 0/1, we chose at random to go to Nice ‘N’ Sleazy, where we happened across American Clay. Their high-energy performance and aggressive persona complemented the surroundings  of the venue, and their clashing chords and dissonant vocals – while not to my particular taste – were performed with intensity and passion.

Returning to Flat 0/1, we were struck by the first hugely impressive act of the evening. Lional, from Inverness, wowed the audience with their striking sound. Their singer has a fantastic resonant voice which reminded me of Jim Morrison, and the whole band moved as one to create a Joy Division-like atmosphere which grabbed our attention and held it until the end of their set.

From there we hurried to see The Ninth Wave at Broadcast: a band who I’d been hearing a lot about. I was not disappointed – their blend of synths and alt-rock created something quite unique and really set the bar high for the remaining acts that evening.

After that, we went to the Art School, where we happened to see TeenCanteen, an all-female band which performed their self-described “cherry-cola-kissed, sticky-harmony, indie-pop” and served as a perfect example of why there should be more all-female bands on the go. Their “sticky” harmonies were a delight and their relaxed but confident stage presence made them one of the best unplanned gigs of the evening.

Following a quick break for dinner, we returned to see Be Charlotte, also in the Art School. Sadly, they proved to be the first disappointment of the evening, appearing almost bored throughout their set and ultimately not leaving much of an impression. Given they had near-top billing, I would have expected better.

Unfortunately, this drop in quality was continued with the next act we saw. Tijuana Bibles – also appearing near the top of the bill – performed in the O2 ABC, but in this case I feel that the main issue was a woeful mix which succeeded in drowning everything in a murk of bass hum. The band appeared to be giving it their all, but it was hard for the audience to participate due to the vocals, drums and guitar being almost inaudible. Infuriatingly, the mix was something which would not be resolved and would affect other acts later in the evening.

Back to the Art School we went, where we saw Crash Club, who got the crowd going with their unusual combination of house music augmented by electric bass, rhythm guitar and drums. I fully believe that this style will be one of the routes down which rock ‘n’ roll will go in future years – it merged the best aspects of clubbing and live performance to create something brilliant.

Thus started a frantic portion of the evening. We briefly caught a few minutes of Indigo Velvet in the O2 ABC 2. They brought to the stage a very polished performance which managed to showcase the entire band and get the audience moving. This was followed by a trip to the main room of the ABC to see headliners Milburn, who were tragically derailed by the same terrible mixing that befell Tijuana Bibles. They put on a great performance, as 15 years on the scene has given them plenty of time to polish their stagecraft but once again, it was hard for everyone to really get into the music, which sadly resulted in the set not reaching the heights it deserved. Following that, we returned to Broadcast, where we saw Breakfast MUFF, who delivered a set which saw each member rotate between drums, guitar and bass, resulting in the unusual but striking effect of their swaggering alt-rock set, sounding as if it was played by three different bands. This was followed by a stint by Sinderins at the ABC 2. Armed with an eclectic selection of instruments, Sinderins brought a great world-music vibe to the small stage.

We then proceeded to The Priory, where The Vegan Leather were due to play. This was my first time in this venue, and upon seeing the broom-cupboard dimensions of the place, I was interested to see how much of a crowd the band would draw. It turned out that the place was packed to the rafters, which incidentally happened to be about six inches lower than head height. I was curious to see what The Vegan Leather would be like. I think no matter what I’d expected, I’d have been wrong, for they were utterly unique, in both their fashion and their musical style. Mixing disco and new-wave with current pop, the band succeeded in making The Priory shake like nothing I’d felt before. Dressed in a daring pink velvet blazer, their lead singer had the crowd in the palm of his hand, managing a crowd-surfing finale despite being a millimetre from the ceiling. This was proper, thrilling live music at its best. The Vegan Leather delivered one of the best sets I’ve ever seen in such a small venue, to the extent that me and my friend mutually agreed to call it a night after that – we didn’t feel anything would be able to top that, and so we ended it on a high.

This year’s Tenement Trail  was a fantastic evening, bringing us great music from a wide mix of all styles and genres. I was really impressed with how smoothly everything run and how well organised it was. The atmosphere was great too – I think we all knew everyone there genuinely loved live music. The performances were mostly great – with some particular high points – but surprisingly, it was the headliners who struggled to compete with the calibre of up-and-coming bands throughout the festival. This was an evening for the underdogs, the new bands grabbing a gig opportunity with both hands, proving that they are the ones to watch. If the Tenement Trail runs next year (which it almost certainly will), I would thoroughly recommend it to all music fans, as there’s something there for everyone.

By Innes MacKintosh