Small But Massive…
Read it again. That’s Glasgowbury. Not to be confused with Michael Eavis’ Worthy Farm extravaganza – this is Glasgowbury, and it’s got nothing to do with anything in Scotland. Glasgowbury is Northern Ireland’s premier independent festival which showcases almost universally home-grown talent.
As the brainchild of Irish singer-songwriter Paddy Glasgow (now the name makes sense!) the non-profit event has gone from strength to strength. Starting in his back garden with a hundred people in attendance, this year it shouted “Happy tenth birthday!” from the top of the Sperrin mountains to thousands of music lovers.
There are no Stevie Wonders or AC/DCs here, which is why the festival’s tagline prides itself on being “small but MASSIVE”. It’s following has become so tremendous it might soon just starting calling itself “Feckin’ HUGE” but as many of the line-up teeter on the brink of a breakthrough the festival will maintain the priority of unearthing the underground.
It’s mountaintop setting is a staggering backdrop to the county’s finest bands and as the trickling sunshine nurses many hangovers from the night before The Rupture Dogs thunder into the Spurs of Rock tent to get the anniversary party underway. Within the space of three songs they had just about everyone in the tent going “Where the heck did these guys come out of?!”. Rocking the same desert-scape grooves Josh Homme likes to dabble in with an incredible vocal range (think a chain-smoking Matt Bellamy), their ballsy opening set left many not ready for it to end.
A punky slab of post-hardcore ripped up the “small but MASSIVE” main stage next in the form of Axis Of. With the flick of a distortion pedal they revert from Dillinger spazz-outs to Sick of it All-type barked rants and the energy in their dual-frontman attack doesn’t let up for the full half hour slot. The shamelessly accented gang vocals and beat down of their second single “Port Na Spaniagh” got the moshing off to an early start. They’re about to embark on a third UK tour so make sure to catch their uncompromising live show.
More Than Conquerors probably aren’t old enough to have a provisional driving license between them but that didn’t stop them impressing the main stage crowd. They lullaby you with a false sense of landfill indie before crushing you with incredible crescendos and irresistible melodies.
Gathering a flurry of punters in the “G Sessions” tent (later to become known as the G Spot) was The Q, down to a melding of on site advertising and the fact that the festival program spilled the beans on a guest slot from last year’s headliners And So I Watch You From Afar to follow them.
With the pressure on The Q to wow the mob they did just that with swaggering showmanship right out of the textbook that taught Jagger and Daltrey and straight up goodtime rock n’ roll. “Magpie” is fluttered with hand claps, cheers and lead licks not unlike Jet – it’s available for free download here. If any act is destined to hit the big time after the weekend it’s them.
The marquee soon began to buckle under the immense anticipation for arguably the best band in the country. The crowd adorned And So I Watch You symbols, hand made signs and the band’s initials. By the time the instrumental titans finished tweaking the weaponry on-stage the tent was rammed to breaking point and many gathered outside just to hear their glorious post-rock.
They took to the stage and in twenty minutes stole the fire from underneath every other act at the festival. Being inside the tent during these twenty minutes must’ve been like when the Titanic was going down: utterly insane. There wasn’t a mosh pit – the entire tent was the mosh pit. Lead guitarist Rory Friers stage dived and managed to make it back to finish “Set Guitars To Kill” while the rest of the band continued going buck mad on stage. The set was heavy with material from their recent “Letters” EP but we were treated to a never before played track that also went down a storm – they could have easily headlined this year again and if support slots for Them Crooked Vultures earlier this year are anything to go by, the sky’s the limit for them yet.
A tough act to follow to say the least for Limavady local lads Furlo, but with practically their entire hometown in support the energy was immense. Many sang along every word of their catchy brand of Kooks-ish indie-pop. Hooks come thicker and faster than a game of Reel Fishing and the band are absolutely faultless. Packed out pub favourites “Logic Too Late” and “Cruelest Friends” are highlights.
Portadown alternative rockers In Case of Fire have been round all the big guns of UK festivals; T in the Park, Reading, Glastonbury and they seem to be supporting every big league act coming through Northern Ireland. But somehow they still haven’t perfected sound mixing for their live show. Whereas ASIWYFA’s wordless metal earlier on was crystal clear, In Case of Fire are plagued with technical issues. The vocals are completely buried and little to no crowd interaction makes it a pretty cold performance despite the band’s best efforts.
No worries though as the band who’ve really claimed 2010 as their own arrive on the main stage for the penultimate performance of the day; it’s the riotous Belfast brutes Lafaro. Their self-titled debut has received universal acclaim and they’ve been invited to open for Helmet on an upcoming European tour. It’s no surprise with the quality of their swinish noise work outs that chug like Songs For The Deaf and snort like the Melvins. Hooks are buried under rotten riffs and the music has an attitude that’s not sure of it’s insane or just plain nasty.
Their loyal following lap it up for forty minutes that flies by and some dicey banter aside, the set, capped off by the ziggy-zag riffs of “Tupenny Nudger” (voted best Irish song of the last five years) is brilliant.
It was left for the punk powerhouse of Derry’s Fighting With Wire to close the decade of Glasgowbury and having been involved in the festival as different bands and technical assistance since it’s inception there was no one as fitting. This homecoming sees them return from recording their long awaited second album in Nashville and playing SXSW earlier this year and seems we missed them…a lot.
Throughout the set frontman Cahir O’Doherty can’t say enough good of the festival, the honour it is to headline, how nervous he is and how it’s so much better than Oxegen because “there’s no spides flicking e’s in your face and sprinkling methadrone in your hair”. He speaks the truth, it’s the friendliest festival I’ve ever experienced – home of true music fans.
The many new songs we’re hearing for the first time sound fantastic and the old favourites sound better than ever, particularly “Sugar” and a “My Armoury” that could have sent the stage hurling down the side of the mountain.But after a big thank you speech from Paddy Glasgow himself it’s left for the boys to have the last say with an extended thrash out after “Everyone Needs A Nemesis” that saw Cahir launch himself into the drum kit in the vain of Nirvana.
Massive performance to end the small but massive festival. With the encore out the window so was Glasgowbury for another year and it can only get better as the best period for Northern Irish music in a long time is now, let’s just hope the whole line-up doesn’t migrate to Oxegen instead.
(Words and pictures by Daniel Robinson)