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Live Review: Hinterland Festival

The Scottish answer to Camden Crawl gets off to a quiet start, but there are plenty of highlights too. Various venues, Glasgow, Thursday, April 30 - Friday May 1

Live Review: Hinterland Festival

As someone who can be found routinely wandering the highways of human traffic on the third day of Glastonbury like an extra from Apocalypse Now, cursing the day I was born while another shit-encrusted reveller blows a tin whistle in my face and orders me to “HAVE IT!”, the so-called urban festival could have been made with people like me in mind. The idiot quota is negligible, the weather isn’t a factor and you can have a hot shower you won’t catch herpes from before drifting off to sleep in your own bed. What’s not to like?

Hinterland is Glasgow’s answer to the Camden Crawl and this is its tricky debut year. If you weren’t aware of that already it’s soon made clear enough, because while the Hinterland’s heart is in the right place, its audience… well, isn’t. “We thought this place would be rammed,” says Plugs’ Morgan Quaintance from the stage at a near-deserted Stereo. “We only operate well in crammed rooms where everyone’s going for it, so we’re sorry you had to see us out of context…” There’s no need to apologise; Plugs – the band Quaintance quit Does It Offend You, Yeah? to concentrate on – are excellent, if underexposed. There’s more joy in three cowbell-heavy minutes of ‘That Number’’s bouncy electro-funk than in an entire album of self-consciously cool DIOYY noise-mongering.

From there, it’s a short walk to the V Club to catch Thecocknbullkid’s underattended but defiant set. An vision in gold lamé, Anita Blay’s genre-mocking pop, typified by the brilliant ‘Sinners’, surely deserves a bigger stage. Being a female singer-songwriter used to mean writing dainty froth about boys being rubbish, but nowadays girls rule rock’n’roll. Blay has been a bit lost in the recent rock she-glut, but her uniqueness will ensure she has her day soon.

Back at Stereo, Micachu & The Shapes draw a bigger, fiercely on-side crowd for their set. The festival schedule says they’re “pop”, but we’re at a loss to say exactly when “pop” started sounding this fucking weird. They grate at first, as a band who sound like Steve Albini attacking the Beta Band with a nylon-strung acoustic guitar stolen from the school music department probably should. But there’s something about the scratchy romp of ‘Just In Case’ and Micachu’s endearing Old Man Steptoe delivery that marks them out as definitely interesting and possibly brilliant.

One sumptuous, 12-hour sleep and 10 brilliant minutes of techno-flecked Brooklyn rapper Theophilus London at the Sub Club – where he passes around the Buckfast and generally brings the party we’ve been in search of all night – later, and we’re into Friday.

By this point, word must have got around as attendance numbers are up and it makes for a much more satisfying experience. The Answering Machine’s jittery indie-pop is on a bit too early to benefit at the Sub Club, but the atmosphere for Sons & Daughters at The Arches is electric. The vocal interplay between frontwoman Adele Bethel and guitarist Scott Paterson on songs such as ‘Taste The Last Girl’ is intoxicating, as is the eerie, bluesy horror of ‘Rama Lama’ (“The first song we’ve written that’s explicitly about a serial killer,” according to Adele). And even though ‘Darling’ thieves from Iggy Pop’s ‘Some Weird Sin’, it’s hard to deny its infectiousness.

When we see them at Stereo later on, Wild Beasts’ frontman Hayden Thorpe’s trendy new hair is our initial focus, but the quartet’s public-school pop proves an interesting diversion. Bringing things to a close at The Flying Duck, meanwhile, is Peaches acolyte and Glasgow native Drums Of Death, who sounds a bit like Calvin Harris if he were an electro-Satanist and halfway interesting. Daubed in white face-paint and dropping such incendiary sonic clusterfucks as ‘Terror Rave’ and ‘Voodoo Lovers’, he might just be the best thing we see all weekend.
So, it may have been a hit-and-miss first year for Hinterland’s organisers, but as for us? Well, we didn’t see a single fucking crusty all weekend. Which has got to go down as a result.

Barry Nicolson

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