Gig Review: Wide Days – Letters, PAWS, Rachel Sermanni, Withered Hand, Capitals, GoGoBot

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I never made it along to Wide Days the other week. However, Fraser Doig did, and kindly sent over his report on the showcase gigs that took place in the evening to share. You can find more of Fraser’s writing here.
In the wake of an informative, yet exhausting day at the seminar-laden Wide Days festival in Edinburgh, I donned my notebook and pen and set off into the throng, the smell of anticipation filling the air to the start of what promises to be a thoroughly canorous evening in the heart of Scotland’s capital city.

The first port of call is the amorously secluded Sneaky Pete’s. Snuggled in between the glowering, dark appendages of the Cowgate, the venue, despite it’s tiny 100 (barely) capacity, manages to mop up a swab of endless Scottish talent on a regular basis, and has bags of character. Tonight, it plays host to festival openers LETTERS, and the behemoth-driven scuzz trio, PAWS.

After a bit of a futz around LETTERS shuffle on to the stage (if you can call it that), eyes filled with the sight of a packed crowd, off-duty and ready to let loose. The quintet certainly didn’t digress from the task, providing punchy pop tunes and feisty summer jangles, soaked with clamorings that were resonant with inclinations of veteran Scottish indie maestros We Were Promised Jetpacks.

Next on the bill were Scotland’s answer to Dinosaur Jr. PAWS, who have been making (very loud) noises in the underground grunge movement of late, with impressive slots supporting heroes of the genus Yuck, Ty Segall and Wavves. From the moment Phillip Taylor’s fingers touched the strings of his cherry red “pussy-strat”, full on carnage was released, resulting in a barrage of sonic buzz that literally shook the walls and had my heart pumping. They hit the crowd for sixes by producing a scrummy torrent of fuzzy distortion out of their living,
breathing instruments. Powering through an electric body of some melodic tasters such as “Salem” off their ‘Mermaid’ EP, augmented by some visceral, face-numbing angst-y riffs, their feedback nourished set was a resounding success, leaving everyone exiting the club looking as though they’d just had the best sex of their lives.

The dying April sun finally making its bed behind the captivating architecture of Edinburgh city as I made my way along to our second venue in the twilight, eager to arrive at the penultimate Wide Days haunt, Cabaret Voltaire.

First to grace the stage in this 450 capacity stronghold was Highland-based songstress RACHEL SERMANNI. The 19 year old has already racked up a scorching resume; travelling the States at SXSW, supporting slots with KT Tunstall and Newton Faulkner, and peaking the interest of contemporaries Mumford and Sons to name a few of her accolades. It’s almost impossible not to
fall completely in love with Rachel, her sharp collection of lyrical, folk-infused ballads lay bare the soul of a genuine performer, who’s intricate finger-plucking radiates around the room creating a warm glow in everyone present.

Buzzed from his return from America and finally at liberty to put all that “visa crap” behind him, the tumultuous congregation greet Dan Willson, better known under the moniker Withered Hand on to the stage for his first post-SXSW appearance. Rather than opting for the more familiar lone performer guise, he is accompanied by several of his friends and colleagues, providing a grumbling bass line, adventurous bluegrass influences and subtle classical flavours to his euphonious endeavours. Those accustomed to his more weathered appearance may have been confused as to his newly groomed, clean shaven look, but these questions were soon buried as he unearths a story explaining that his former-self was “the spitting-image” of his US manager’s ex-wife. Withered Hand proved to be a strong favourite with the baying audience,
his quivering, spritely vocals turning heads from the back of the room, his whispered, clandestine lyrics delivered with all the intensity of a raging bonfire, cementing claims that this man’s songwriting abilities can be regarded in the same esteem as some of the other great enigmatic lyricists such as Daniel Johnston, who’s shadowy stylings have had more than a marginal influence on Mr. Willson.

Third stop off of the night was Electric Circus, a grimy looking bizarre-o club that was perfect for closing acts CAPITALS and GOGOBOT and a suitable finishing line to the evening’s palpable good-natured festivities.

A surprisingly minimal set-up commandeered by electro-pop group CAPITALS comprised of synths, guitar and vocals, that defied the dynamic and enriched sound they produced. Taut drum loops churned in with clobbering bass lines paved the way for Angus Carbarn’s ethereal vocals to gleam through, with a little touch of the Brandon Flowers inflection to it.

Now, if Glasgow-based GOGOBOTS know much about anything, the one thing they can do beyond a shadow of a doubt, is party. Taking their cues from the likes of LCD Soundsystem and Pendulum, they deliver a bombastic, emotionally driven wave of pure energy that floods the dark confines of the club inviting even the cynical naysayers to allow themselves a cheeky nod of the head.

The Wide Days festival is a great way for musicians and friends to share their knowledge and create a community of talent, a noble cause if ever there was one. Definitely pencilled in for next year.

Review by Fraser Doig.
PAWS photo by Tiffany Barber
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