By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)
It would be impossible to start our first review following the events that took place this week in Manchester without touching on it. On Monday, a coward saw it fit to take the lives of 22 people and injure countless others in a place which many of us actively sought out for refuge. Gigs are a safe space to many, one that has a long way to go mind you but one that everyone can agree helps us all to focus on one thing and blank out all the negativity that we face on a daily basis.
Last night’s events took place over 200 miles from where this recent atrocity occurred yet there was an unprecedented level of community and togetherness that you couldn’t help shake off. Organised by brothers Shaun and Liam McCluskey, yesterday’s gig could have very well been one that dwelled on one that happened but rather than do so, the West of the Moon was home to a showcasing of fresh, prime talent that further reaffirmed the positivity, love and downright enjoyment that gigs have and always will give us.
Starting off tonight was solo acoustic act Flew The Arrow, a local talent that has been grafting in the music scene for quite some time. It seems like the hard work has been paying off too, something that could definitely be felt and heard as he, Lee McGilvray, showcased a wide array of versatile playing, a particular highlight being the sonic finger plucking that seems to be a staple of much of his work. Donning flannel, beanie, and a lumberjack beard, it would be so easy to draw Bon Iver comparisons…which is why that’ll be the case: while he may not give his songs the proper space to breathe, McGilvray has a soothing yet somewhat rough voice that seems to slide effortlessly in-between his guitar playing, providing a simple yet gorgeous performance that could easily be the foundations for something even bigger.
Up next were The Vegan Leather, an act that may very well be the most unique act in Scotland at the moment. The experimental art pop sound that manages to seep its way into every song is, to put it bluntly, fucking exquisite. The Scottish music scene can sometimes feel stale at points due to the oversaturation of certain genres but this Paisley act has no reason to worry about every losing their appeal. There’s an almost Arcade Fire-esque feel to some of their tracks with the leading vocals from Gian-Luca and Marie and the glitzy glamour feel that was essential during their Reflektor era though the influences don’t end there: the dancing that many of their tracks ignite, especially Shake It, hark back to another Scottish act Hot Chip and at one point Marie even gets to lead a song with a vocal performance and punky vibe that couldn’t be more Yeah Yeah Yeahs influenced even if you had Karen O downing jaeger bombs on stage. It could have been especially risky to put on a band of this caliber considering how different they are to the other acts on display but if anything, the diversity shown tonight was another subtle ode to the brilliance of live music.
The big deal of tonight, though, were Glasgow group Pronto Mama, a six-piece band that justifies their numbers with the rich tapestry they weave. While this tour they’re on is primarily to promote their recently crowd-funded debut Any Joy, tonight’s gig felt very much like a celebration of everything the band has achieved so far. Never once did you expect to see an unstable crowd at the West of the Moon (maybe on a Saturday night before Club De Mar) but you’d be surprised how passionate a fanbase Pronto Mama have obtained despite them still being an up and coming band. It’s not like they don’t deserve it though, especially with their aforementioned sound that one minute is so rich with jazzy influences that you’d swear they were channeling La La Land, the next a dark, self-deprecating monster with a scary amount of synergy.
It wouldn’t be the first time that a comparison was made between Pronto Mama and Bombay Bicycle Club but it’s not exactly a slagging when you consider the sheer talent that the two acts share: there’s the encompassing of various genres, a textured, layering of sounds and, most importantly, a wit that helps the act become more than just a run of the road indie rock band. Bottom Feeder is a class example of this, showcasing sinister and visceral lyricism that eventually implodes into a blazing anthem that you’d expect to hear from a band that had been doing this for years, not an act who have given it a go on their debut LP. That’s an example of just one of the many tracks played last night but it would be a dissertation style review to explain just how amazing and complex all of the pieces of work were.
Finishing off with what is now an iconic trademark of playing an acapella show outside the venue, Pronto Mama from beginning to end were a masterclass in live music. Now more than ever, people are scared to leave their houses, let alone attend gigs. Tonight, every act showed just how important gigs are to everyone, of all races and creeds, with their ability to make us come closer as a community, sing a long and unite rather than to divide in fear. Call it an over analysis, call it rambling: I call it a fucking spectacle and a fucking good gig.