Harris Brine casts a glance at acts featuring at this month’s Scottish Alternative Music Awards as well as other grassroots gigs popping up across the next month.
Music awards eh? You gotta’ love them. When the majority of the population are exhausted from watching some washed out celebrities get sozzled in a house a la Celebrity (ahem) Big Brother, they can always flick the channel over for respite, to, err, watch some washed out celebrities get sozzled at an awards ceremony, ad nauseam.
It’s only been 30 years since Madonna hit the headlines at the 1984 MTV VMAs wearing little other than a punk/suspender-doused wedding dress, but that’s now something Miley Cyrus’ wardrobe stylist can only dream she stuck on.
It’s wildly changed days now, with ceremony’s predictable winners, rock’n’roll having recently “returned from hibernation” by Alex Turner via a terrified microphone, Lady Gaga turning up wearing the contents of her fridge and the mercurial Kanye West putting the faux into faux pas.
Before the SAMAs are initiated, there is the dangerously-named trio Casual Sex, Tuff Love and Asian Babes at Mono (4 Mar), while Sparrow and the Workshop’s Jill O’ Sullivan launches new group BDY PRTS in Nice & Sleazys the following night.
At its tail, on the same night LENIN DEATH MASK bring the noise to Auld Reekie (8 Mar, Caberet Voltaire), CHVRCHES bring the synths back to Glasgow (Barrowlands) and the Red Pine Timber Company carry the Americana to Perth (Twa Tams). King Creosote will also conclude Scotland’s impressive poetry festival StAnza in St. Andrews (9 Mar, Byres Theatre).
The LaFontaines, Model Aeroplanes, Brown Bear & the Bandits and Bear Arms are all set to turn up for the live show at the SAMAs. If unable to catch them, each act will feature later in March, with LaFontaines supporting All Time Low at Glasgow’s 02 Academy (21 Mar), Best Newcomer-nominees Model Aeroplanes a triple bill initiated in Perth (Mar 14, Twa Tams), BB&TB at Broadcast (27 Mar) and Bear Arms over four dates culminating in a show at Opium in Edinburgh (Sat 30 Mar).
Best Rock Alternative will see the outstanding Baby Strange go head-to-head with Dundonians Vladimir (who play Edinburgh’s Henry’s Cellar two days later), while on the 15 March, two vastly-different acts both nominated for Best Acoustic will split the city of Glasgow again. Pete MacLeod will be central at King Tuts, whilst loop-master Adam Stafford will play the Glad Cafe in the south before he heads off on tour.
Best Live Act will throw up the brilliantly fearless (Roman Nose) and fearlessly brilliant (Mickey 9s), the latter also playing this month in the Voodoo Rooms, the Art School and the Moorings in the respective cities of Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen.
Pitching off against Tijuana Bibles for Best Newcomer are the exciting noise-making duo Pinact, who later play Clyde-side along with fellow decibel-smashers Black International at The Roxy 171 (27 Mar).
The award for best digital ditties will see the hypnotic Koreless stand toe-to-toe with Machines in Heaven, both of which have received praise from the mighty Mogwai. MiH launch their debut album in Stereo, Glasgow (14 Mar), while Edinburgh’s Sneaky Petes will succumb to speakers being near-destroyed with contenders Birdhead supporting for United Fruit (24 Mar).
This year’s award nominations include the Aberdeen contingent of Akord, Forest Fires, Marionettes, Daniel Mutch, Ransom FA and Cara Mitchell, the hindmost’s syrupy musings showing up on a bill with Lost Map Records duo Kid Canaveral and Randolph’s Leap at Aberdeen’s The Tunnels (7 Mar).
Best Metal will be battled out with formidable northerners Akord and To Kill Achilles, who both decorated last year with amazing accolades and impressive tours, while Dingwall’s Desecrator and Glasgow’s psychedelic doomsters Headless Kross also feature.
Lastly, there’s the acts potentially picking up gongs in absentia – Young Fathers, Holy Esque and Withered Hand – as they’ll all be playing at this year’s behemoth SXSW.
Beyond the awards themselves, March’s pick of the bunch will see the snakeskin vocals of Eugene Tombs support TRANS at the CCA (13 Mar), the same venue hosting pop-rock bunch How To Swim’s album launch, replete with brass street band Brass, Aye? (21 Mar).
The wonderful Tuff Love hit up 13th Note (14 Mar), Madhat McGore extends his lyrical syllabus at Broadcast (15 Mar), The Velveteen Saints shake up Sleazys (28 Mar) while The Amazing Snakeheads do unspeakable sermon-howled things at their residency at Broadcast (28 Mar)
Finally, on 29 March the Vigo Thieves continue their mighty ascension with a biggest slot to date at the 02 ABC, the Scottish National Jazz Orchestra play with Courteney Pine at the Queens Hall and there’s a certain rogue-cum-T in the Park headliner playing at the Barrowlands. From the surprising sounds of Paolo Nutini’s new funk-and-hook-filled record ‘Scream’, it can’t come quick enough.
Back at the SAMAs, the Best Hip-Hop award will have genre-dissolvers Young Fathers pitch up against Loki and the prolific Hector Bizerk (among others), while last year’s winner, Gasp, will play the Glasgow’s Audio with MOG, LUSTY, Steg G and the Freestyle Master and Shadow People (15 Mar).
Scottish hip-hop scholar Bram E. Gieben has another look at a genre whose category in the SAMAs this year received the most votes. (The SAMAs’ voting record was smashed with over 12,000 votes cast in only 72 hours.)
As proposed in my last piece for National Collective about Scottish hip-hop, I believe the homegrown take on this international genre is going through something of a renaissance.
One of the things that demonstrates this is the increased amount of collaboration happening, and no one who serves as a better example of this than Jordan ‘Konchis’ Carey, an extremely talented young rapper and beatmaker from Glasgow (originally Paisley), who has been instrumental in some key releases. His touch was evident on Loki‘s Edging God Out, producing two of the standout tracks.
Konchis also handled production for the whole of Gasp‘s excellent A Series of Fortunate Misunderstandings, an absolutely astonishing album from the Badmouth Battles founder, who has done so much to increase the popularity of Scottish hip-hop through promoting events, supporting high-profile touring artists, and arranging verbal clashes.
On Misunderstandings…, Gasp approaches the mic with a new-found maturity and unflinching honesty, rhyming candidly about alcohol, drugs and violence without once glamourising the subjects. On tracks like ‘Rain Town’ – an acknowledged anthem in the Glasgow hip-hop catalogue – and ‘Haunted’, Konchis matches Gasp’s lyrics with dark-edged, complex beats. He is now working on material for Gasp’s follow up, Fear and Self Loathing in Glasvegas.
As a rapper, Konchis made his presence known last year with his writing partner Physiks – the duo delivered their ambitious album The Lying, The Rich and The War Globe, showcasing a dazzlingly high-speed set of complex, engaging, often deeply political lyrics with multiple parallel rhymes and chopped, sample-driven beats.
It is work that equals the quality of similarly ambitious new tracks that rapper DePTHS has been delivering lately, with producers like Jaisu and Inkke. Konchis’ instrumental beat work, sometimes with partner Jetsam, marks him out as easily the equal of either producer.
Finally, the fact Konchis is a member of Glasgow hip-hop supergroup Toy Control – made up of a core of emcees; Loki, Hector Bizerk’s Louie, Gasp, and II Tone Committee veteran Mistah Bohze – also speaks to his significance. Like another collective featuring some of the same members, The Being, Toy Control represent the cutting edge of Scotland’s hip-hop movement.
Their approach increasingly eschews underground attitudes for mainstream appeal, without sacrificing quality or changing aesthetic. As Scotland’s rappers begin to feel their influence extend beyond the confines of a vibrant and dynamic local scene, Konchis is one to keep a close eye on.
Bram E. Gieben
Photograph of Adam Stafford by Greg Neate