Recent venue closures have really impacted local music scenes around Scotland. Nights like last Friday at Glasgow’s Classic Grand show how things used to be – and more importantly, why they should’ve never changed.
The gig mostly featured hometown heroes local to Glasgow, but the openers were a slightly different breed. The Frontiers are based in Ayrshire, alongside other notable bands from Ayrshire like The Frontiers and… The Frontiers. Despite the lack of competition and contemporaries out west, The Frontiers play like they have something to prove and somebody to impress.
The distance from the big city shows up not only in their story, but in their sound as well: it’s a little indie and a lot old-school, sounding a lot heavier than your usual indie fare. They bank a lot on their solid technical ability, especially the guitarist, who’s very much a cut above. With his 30-second solos and the heavily retro décor of the venue, I was a million percent sure I’d gone back in time. In a good way, though. It didn’t sound old-fashioned; it sounded classic.
The four bounced around a few different influences during their set – Arctic Monkeys, The Verve, Foo Fighters and Oasis all sound like they’re part of the band’s DNA – but they always sounded like The Frontiers. My one, and only, complaint would be the band’s fairly severe case of nerves. Crowd interaction is super important in creating a good atmosphere at a gig, no matter the size of your audience. I never see the point of bands being nervous onstage when they have great music to back themselves up.
Apna lacked a bit of the technical ability that The Frontiers had, but made up for it with their energy. Their tunes had a bit more of a bounce to them, and were a lot more lyric-heavy. The vocalist was dead set on a rough, alternative-indie type of sound, but I’m not sure the rough edges came across as intentional as I think they were supposed to be. Interestingly, I’d have to make a strong argument for the guitarist/backup vocalist being promoted. His voice was melodic, almost seeming to have a bit more range than the vocalist they had for most of their tunes.
They grew on me throughout their set, and the tune they finished on – A Day at The Races, the band’s self-confessed favourite – really was something. Fast paced, snappy lyrics, nice singalong sections, and a killer finish. Apna had a lot of potential, though at times semmeda bit like they’ve not quite found their sound yet. However, once they pick a niche to fall into I do think these boys will be going somewhere.
Paragon. Ooft. Where do I start with Paragon. I suppose I need to start by saying that they were far from bad, they just made some bad choices.
Basically, it’s all the bassist’s fault. He came on stage with a bottle of Buckfast, and opened their set with a drunken rant and a demand that everybody get away from the sides of the venue and onto the dancefloor. I feel like it’s cool to get a bit of chat with the crowd, preferable even, but when you’re just yelling at folk it’s not great. So that was a slightly awkward start.
As soon as they fired into their set I completely forgot about any Buckfast-related awkwardness though, since they’re pretty good at what they do. They hit up more covers than you usually see in these small bands, performing classics like Teenage Kicks and Oasis’ Supersonic – Oasis again being a good starting point for describing the band’s sound, alongside a little bit of Catfish & The Bottlemen and The View. Their fourth song involved getting the aforementioned bassist up to the mike to sing, and he did make up for a lot of his nonsense. Every band needs a guy like that, a bit of a dynamo. Like Paragon in general, they make for great crowd pleasers – as long as they know not to take it too far.
Velvet were headlining, and they sounded like headliners. It’s hard to describe a band without comparing them to other bands. With Velvet, instead of comparing them to bigger bands, it’s easier to compare them with their contemporaries. The five-piece excel in places where other small indie bands tend to fall down, mainly composition and personality. Their songs sound more polished, more layered, more well thought-out, better put-together – not half because of the lyrics, which strike a great balance between smart and singalong. The addition of a keyboard also goes a long way, that extra layer of sound which brings a much more pop vibe to a scene awash with rock bands.
As for personality, it’s the vocalist that really works to make the band stand out. Appropriately wearing a Smiths tee on the night, he lurks about the stage like Morrissey, occasionally wrapping himself around the mike to add a bit more passion to his moody vocals. The comparison with The Smiths doesn’t hugely work for the vocalist’s sound – there’s too much of a Scottish accent to break through there – but that only serves to make Velvet that little bit more unique. Definitely a cut above the rest, and with a frontman you could watch all night, Velvet are going places.
By Bryce Arthur