It’s with a distinct lack of fanfare that Dundee’s Isak take the stage, and I have to admit that at first, this seemed somewhat appropriate. Their mid-90s stoner rock chic is very no-frills, the competent riffing and even tone of vocalist Joseph McGarrity not exactly setting the world ablaze, but within a few minutes, it starts to seem like this was just a cunning ploy and maybe their way of not showing the rest of tonight’s bands up. They hit a mesmerically hazy psych groove and all of a sudden it’s like you’re listening to some obscure proto-Kyuss gem, a Death Valley revenant that has somehow ended up in a dive bar in Glasgow and has resorted to communicating in the only way it knows how – with riffs. Jagged riffs, lethargic riffs, reflective riffs, all tied together with electrically executed solos, tightly-wound drumming and sometimes explosive bass. It doesn’t stray much from its dusty, sun-scarred origins but it hardly needs to, nailing what is nowadays something of a tired sound and giving it a solid boot in the arse. Perfect for tonight, in other words.
When I read the description of Norway’s Jagged Vision, the first thing that popped into my skull was Kvelertak. Not a bad thing, thought I, but as it turns out, JV are a much more visceral experience. Imagine the gritty, metallic punk of Turbonegro but replace the campness with full-on, punch-you-in-the-face energy, and you’re sorted. They spend the bulk of the set perched atop the barricades, roaring and grinding in the front row’s nervous faces, and hammer out the kind of focused, hardcore-tinged rock n’ roll that make them shoe-ins for Deathwish recruitment. The unrelenting enthusiasm and ursine howl of Ole Wik conveys the abrasive energy of their Entombed-meets-Doomriders battery perfectly, while Joakim Svelå’s fast & furious hard-hitting drumming propels every song headlong with the belligerent push of an inebriated stag. They sound great and the songs have a fist-pumping charm, but to be blunt, Jagged Vision are just ridiculously good fun. It’s hard not to be swept up by their single-minded momentum, and it’s impossible to wonder why you would even resist it in the first place.
It’s unfortunate, then, that Sierra have the challenge of following it up. Their proggy take on tried and tested hard rock is solid enough, with just the right balance of wholesome riffage and wayward exploration, and the steady tone of vocalist Jason Taylor has a faintly searching air that makes him one of tonight’s more diverse performers, but sandwiched between the awe of a full-force Jagged Vision and the eager expectation of Kylesa’s appearance, it’s like fate herself has it in for them. Even so, they push on and it’s pretty damn good nonetheless. ‘Control Folly’ throws a little bit of Dixie groove and abrasive weight onto the fire and they leave on a veritable high note with ‘Into Nothing’, its insurmountable drive and jagged basswork making sure that even if they aren’t in the best position tonight, they won’t be forgotten about.
Kylesa seem to be getting off to a rough start, with monitor problems delaying proceedings but rather than exacerbate the crowd, it just seems to get them more fired up. They’re on the verge of combustion when the Savannah fivesome strike up with ‘Scapegoat’, the rolling percussion of Carl McGinley and Eric Hernandez a fearsome setup for such six-string fury. It’s basically a statement of intent for the evening and it works wonders, Laura Pleasants’ swirling solo but a brief respite amidst the downtuned bluster. Unspoken seems sedate in comparison, Pleasants’ lead vocal stint angelic in relation to Philip Cope’s earlier bellows, and the song glows with its spaced-out intricacy and final propulsive drive, the other side of Kylesa’s sharp-edged penny.
Both sides of this band find themselves represented in some form tonight. ‘Hollow Severer ‘and ‘Bottom Line’ are ferocious, punky bastards, head-pounders and fist-pumpers from beginning to end which spark plenty of appreciative movement in response, while ‘To Forget’ and ‘Unknown Awareness’ bring with them a heady out-there-ness, but both are undoubtedly stemmed from the same tools. Those twin drums, when working in unison, are overwhelmingly powerful, the synchronised rolls bringing with them a force that can make the heavy unbearably so, but when staggered they are almost hypnotic, a tribal rumble that amplifies the band’s lysergic leanings, and though Pleasants may appear to be the yin to Cope’s yang, both have a diversity that allows them to encroach on their counterpart’s territory. For Pleasants, this is as simple as the fact that she can easily dial her soft tones up to a hellion’s roar, though for Cope, it is more that he has grown immensely as a vocalist in recent years, adding smoothness and control to his bark. In the centre of this stands new addition Chase Rudeseal. Well, I say stands but there’s rarely a moment when he’s not pacing the stage, constantly moving and ripping through old and new cuts alike as if he’d been around since the beginning.
From unbridled doom to Theremin solos, they endeavour to cover every base possible and by the time they return to the stage for their encore, the crowd are infinitely more primed than they were when this whole shebang kicked off. It’s hardly surprising then, that ‘Don’t Look Back’ has bodies sailing through the air within a minute. It’s triumphant, a euphoric comeback that stands as a reminder that sure, Kylesa are loud, and skilled, and can switch it up like schizophrenic fiends but they can also write cracking tunes that’ll have you pounding your head with smiles so wide you think your face will split open because that, right up until the last note, and the last body landed neck-first on the stage (which actually came after the last note, a tad awkwardly), was what most of us were doing.
Scribed by: Dave Bowes
Photos by: Peter Davidson