THOUSANDS in attendance, a fantastic relocation, a plethora of new venues and a line-up bustling with talent from the first band to the very last note; it’s no stretch to say that Tenement Trail 2019 will go down as the festival’s biggest and best edition to date.
Moving to its brand new home in the East End of Glasgow for the very first time, Scotland’s festival for music discovery entered an exciting new chapter this year, taking up residency in some of the city’s best loved venues such as the world-famous Barrowlands, Saint Luke’s and the stunning Barras Art and Design aswell as a plethora of other small pop-ups that were neatly dotted around the vicinity.
And on an uncharacteristically warm October day, the sun shone down on thousands of festival-goers as they dashed from gig to gig in the hope of discovering their new favourite band or artist. Over sixty acts performed across 13 venues and 12 hours of live music at the biggest Trail yet, ensuring that from the East End all the way up to Sauchiehall Street, the whole of Glasgow was brought to life by the festival’s famous atmosphere and spirit.
With a line-up boasting some of the nation’s best emerging talent aswell as a vast array of hotly-tipped prospects from further afield, every venue was packed to the rafters from the very off. Creative workspace turned pop-up venue Many Studios hosted the likes of Oscar Lang and Kitti early on in the day. Signed to The 1975’s label Dirty Hit and with a string of collaborations under his belt, Oscar Lang was an engaging presence, his chill, lo-fi indie tunes given greater gumption with the help of his four-piece band. Capturing the halcyon acceleration of youth through jangly guitars, lackadaisical vibes and relatable indie-pop songwriting, set closer ‘Underwater Trees’ was a real highlight.
With a line-up catering to a myriad of genres and styles, the same venue then hosted Glasgow’s up and coming jazz artist Kitti. With the backing of her supremely talented four-piece band, the singer-songwriter who has been tipped as Glasgow’s very own Amy Winehouse, delivered a show-stopping performance that showcased her tremendous vocal range and incredibly raw, honest songwriting. Sharing tales of unrequited love and immersive sermons on self-acceptance against a lush backdrop of contemporary R&B and soul-shifting jazz, the small room could barely contain all of the natural talent and musicianship on show.
Other early highlights included an intense, high-energy show from industrial post-punkers VLURE. With an impressive string of shows behind them already despite not having a single track released, the band blew the cobwebs away at The Winged Ox, confronting the audience head on with a barrage of noise and attitude.
Glasgow’s very own Catholic Action returned to Tenement Trail as this year’s secret guest under the thinly veiled guise of ‘Celebrated by Strangers’, the title of their new album out in March. Re-emerging from the studio for their first appearance in the city in some time, the basement of Creative East End quickly filled with eager fans keen to catch some of their new material; and they weren’t disappointed. Brimming with confidence, old favourites ‘L.U.V’, ‘Breakfast’ and ‘Doing Well’ all received a rapturous response but it was the previously unheard tracks that immediately stood out. Sounding fresh, invigorated and more creatively liberated than ever before, they’ve returned with a hell of a lot to say about the tumultuous times we live in and it seems that brand new single ‘One of Us’ is only scratching the surface of what’s to come.
Split across three venues later in the day were ST.MARTiiNS, swim school and BETA WAVES, a difficult choice for many but who each attracted impressive crowds in their own right. As ST.MARTiiNS reached capacity in Creative East End with an alluring display of dreamy, meticulously crafted alt-pop, Katie Lynch cast a spell over the crowd with her effortlessly enticing vocals, treating fans to new material as well as popular tracks like ‘want god’ and ‘My Girl’. Meanwhile, fellow Dundonians BETA WAVES continued to go from strength to strength with a similarly entrancing performance at BAaD with a mix of material both old and new, leaning from the hedonistic and Balearic to the transcendent and introspective in one fell swoop.
One of the defining sets of the day came from VanIves who played to a jam-packed Saint Luke’s early in the evening. Returning to the festival two years after making their Trail debut at a modestly attended gig in The Garage, the duo displayed just how far they have come along in such a short space of time, taking their sublime, multi-faceted sound to extraordinary new heights in the stunning East End venue. Quiet and introspective one minute and restlessly upbeat the next, Roan Ballantine’s expertly crafted soundscapes danced, stirred and soared, gradually filling the room with enveloping waves of euphoria and all-consuming catharsis. Teamed with Stuart Ramage’s breath-taking vocal range, it was a stirring and emotionally rousing display that will be etched in the memory of all those in attendance.
The festival’s punk offering was in full flow over at BAad with incendiary displays from Gallus and cult heroes Drenge while Trail veterans The Dunts stepped in as very worthy last minute replacements for Dream Wife at the Barrowlands. Another box ticked off for the fast-rising punk outfit, they owned the famous stage and sent their passionate fanbase wild with rampaging favourites like ‘Birds and the Beez’ and ‘Bad Decisions’ aswell as a curveball in the shape of a well-received cover of Outkast’s ‘Hey Ya’.
Meanwhile, Kieren Webster of The View brought his brand new project WEB to the festival with a busy headline slot at Van Winkles. While he threw a crowd-pleasing take of ‘Shock Horror’ into the set to please the diehards, it was the chance to see some of his eagerly anticipated new material that proved the biggest draw. Subversive and subtly menacing, the versatility of his songwriting came to the forefront, fuelled by the kind of urgency that only comes from taking yourself back to square one. Clearly unwilling to be typecasted, it was a set that pushed the parameters of the artist we’ve known for many years.
There was a real sense of anticipation leading up the arrival of Squid. Tipped by NME, BBC 6Music and many more as one of the best live bands around right now, the Brighton outfit lived up to all expectations at BAaD with a frenzied performance that radiated a refreshing sense of unpredictability and irrepressible creativity. With spurts of brass thrown in to their innovative post-punk, they may all bring their own personality and flair to the band but there was a sense of togtherness onstage that was almost instinctive. Tearing through the likes ‘Houseplants’ and ‘Match Bet’ with vigour and passion, the sound may have been angular, abrasive and wonky with its taut guitar riffs , tight drum beats, and wandering jazz-punk inspired interludes but it managed to retain its fluidity effortlessly.
A riotous performance from Glasgow punks Baby Strange then followed. As the last set of the day in the East End, the party was in full flow so it didn’t take long for the atmosphere to reach new heights of frenzy. Bodies were thrown on shoulders as the Trail veterans tore through big hits like ‘VVV’, ‘Pleasure City’ and ‘Motormind’ before they were joined onstage by a balaclavad John Jokey for their brand new track ‘Bad Man in Prague’. It was a typically energetic set which reminded us exactly why they became such an indomitable force on the Glasgow scene in the first place.
The Barrowlands were treated to a more laid-back affair earlier in the night by The Magic Gang who brought their harmonic, lovelorn indie tunes to the festival for the first time. A band who have toured relentlessly over the past couple of years in the wake of their debut album release in 2018, it was a seamless performance which saw them match the sentiment of their lyrics with an energised stage presence. Wearing influences like Weezer, The Beach Boys and the exuberance of early noughties indie on their sleeves, they are a band who have an uncanny knack of putting smiles on people’s faces; brimming with hooky choruses, fuzzy guitars and effortless charm. Debuting some new material along the way like ‘Death of the Party’, it’s easy to see how the Brighton four-piece have inspired such devotion around Glasgow and beyond.
Heading up this year’s bill, Ayrshire trio Fatherson were given a hero’s welcome when they took to the Barrowlands stage just after 9pm. No strangers to the iconic venue, their return felt like yet another milestone moment ahead of their widespread UK tour and with a throng of eager fans from the front to the back, their soaring indie-rock effortlessly filled the room with one mass singalong after another. Delving into all three albums, deep cuts from were treated as rapturously as the big hitters as the set oscillated between moments of delicate intimacy and gritty anthemics. And while the melodies and heartfelt sincerity of the songs shine through on record, they are elevated to a whole new level when performed live. Appearing genuinely moved by the audience’s reception, it was a triumphant performance from our 2019 headliners.
Of course, with a plethora of afterparties and late-night sets dotted around the city, the Tenement Trail party carried on into the small hours. Perhaps one of the defining sets of the 12 hour extravaganza though came from the newly rebranded LUCIA and the Best Boys who played a secret set as part of the YALA Records curated line-up at a sweaty, jam-packed McChuills. Having toured relentlessly over the last 12 months through a series of support slots, festival appearances and more, it felt like a real coup to witness the fast-rising star and her three-piece band do their thing in such intimate surroundings. Bursting with fire and passion, the bubblegum hooks we’ve come to know and love from the outfit (‘Cheap Talk’, Summertime’) were delivered with a raw, irrepressible energy that could barely be contained. And weaving her way through the crowd, sending her most devoted fans into a frenzy, she was a fearsome, captivating presence from start to finish. Most exciting though was the new material on show, indicating that LUCIA and the Best Boys are only just getting started. It was an incredible end to the best Tenement Trail yet