The west end of Glasgow. Home of culture in this no mean city. Sure enough, on a Saturday night, those good people at Popup Films have staged a festival of music and moving image at the Oran Mor. Has the Bluesbunny suddenly become interested in out of focus films about unemployed tadpoles? Certainly not! As always, we seek out quality music wherever we can find it. Then we drink beer. The Oran Mor has a decent sized bar and serves Guinness. Unfortunately, due to an edict from the local despots i.e. Glasgow City Council, they server the aforementioned Guinness in one of those nasty plastic tumblers that detract from the enjoyment of fine beer. Looking around, it is abundantly clear that this is not the kind of establishment that is likely to suffer from random, drink fuelled, shell suit violence.
First to the stage at this sparsely attended event is A Band Called Quinn. Lead singer Louise Quinn tries gamely to capture the audience's attention. Unlike your average Glasgow audience however, this is a reserved and polite crowd. The band's polished version of quirky but commercial electronica does manage to shine through. They play some songs from their forthcoming album "Sun, Moon Stars". Sounding like perfect radio fodder, their songs have the appealing habit of turning left just when you thought they would turn right. For example, half way through a song the keyboard player just picks up a trumpet and gives it some love. The Bluesbunny smiles. Music that makes you happy. We like that.
Next up is Honeytone Cody. Emerging unannounced from a fog of feedback, the band take the stage and assault us with their urban angst. It is immediately obvious that in Martell James, they have a drummer of class. He has not only metronomic precision but also the rhythmic naughtiness to keep things interesting. Elle Nelson's vocals struggle to break free from the murky sound mix but there is no doubting her stage presence. She stalks the stage like Marlene Dietrich on a very angry day. The odd chant to one song punches it away across the room to us - "Touch me again, I swear I'll kill you!" to drive the point home. Venomous lyrics and powerhouse musical support make this band special. Ms Nelson notices a video camera trained upon her. She looks momentarily nervous, flicks her hair and smiles the sweetest little girl smile. Compare and contrast. That is what life is all about.
The Ghosts take to the stage next. In contrast to the previous band, the Ghosts bring us rollicking good time songs that make you want to sing along. Like a runaway train, they are stopping for no one tearing straight into "Do It Again" without a pause. Lead singer Hugo can carry a tune without a doubt. Add some fine keyboard playing and you have a bastard mix of Booker T, the Sensational Alex Harvey Band and Big Country. Not that they hide behind noise as they are very capable of handling accapella as well (on "Que Sera Sorrow"). Ending on the anthemic "Heart & Soul", The Ghosts have proved themselves capable live performers.
The biggest draw of the night is coming on stage in the form of Isa & the Filthy Tongues. The diehard Goodbye Mr Mackenzie fans move from the bar towards the stage like moths to a flame. Derek Kelly's tribal drumming shakes the room. Finally a band is freed from the restrictions of the room sound. Bringing back Goodbye Mr Mackenzie from the grave and showing the benefits of playing together for so long, Messrs Kelly, Wilson and Metcalf keep the menacing cacophony under control. Neatly dressed in suits, they exude professionalism. Lead singer Stacey Chavis makes an unusual, literally low profile, entrance. Writhing about on the stage, she raises her hand above the stage monitors to show us all where she is. When she stands up, she looks tiny, flanked by Martin Metcalfe and Fin Wilson. Between songs, she tells us that she has been ill with a gastrointestinal disorder (not quite how she actually described it!). Launching into "Trouble", she begins to dance in a way that could be only be described as a cross between Kate Bush and Clare Grogan - part arthouse diva and part little girl. She struts arrogantly through "Finders F*ckers", prowling the stage like a tigress. Her confidence grows with each song. The strident guitar of the man Metcalfe drives "Celebration Girl" with barely a pause into their last song "I'll Do What I Want". Their recorded work has suggested, to our ears, anger and despair. The live versions were altogether lighter in feel. From the CD, you would assume that Stacey Chavis was much older than she actually is as well. Never judge a book by its cover, as they say. Perhaps in Stacey Chavis the urban jungle has found a new queen?
Following Isa & the Filthy Tongues would never be easy. It certainly counts as unfair to place such a task on The Moth & The Mirror. Their sweet, summery sound could not be compete and should not have been expected to do so. They make an unassuming - and yet again, an unannounced - start. Stacey Sievwright's vocals are barely audible having got lost in the sound mix and a large proportion of the crowd has left. Her vocals - at least as much as the Bluesbunny could hear of them - reminded us of a young Nancy Griffith. Part folk and part grungy pop music, the band would normally impress. Tonight, the band's best efforts, especially those of the guitarist with his spectrum distorting abilities, are lost on a disinterested crowd.
So someone in Popup land has musical taste. All the bands tonight were rather good but some were not seen (or more importantly, heard) to best advantage. The low attendance was a bit of surprise as well as the Oran Mor is an easy venue to find. The winner for tonight was Isa & the Filthy Tongues just beating Honeytone Cody on points.