GLASGOW'S VERY OWN 'AWKWARD FAMILY PORTRAITS' TAKE ON HEADLINE SLOT AT KING TUT'S NEW YEAR'S REVOLUTION.
For many in Glasgow this King Tut's New Year's Revolution marks the beginning of their new musical year of discovery while for others it's simply a reason to get out of the house during the long nights of winter. Whatever the motivation KTNYR has become a staple of the Scottish musical calendar and 2018 marks the 8th successive year it has run. The 16-day festival programme promises to deliver the best emerging talent in the country where punters can "uncover their favourite new band" and sample the freshest sounds on the scene, night after night after night. 4 acts every night at an average ticket price of £8 is a bargain for music fans; the festival's Golden Ticket is incredible value, allowing entry to every gig for those with the stamina.
This year the opening night features 4 young acts, each picking their own path out of the Scottish folk camp, and draws a sizable crowd of all ages, reflecting the diversity of sounds on offer.
First up, easing us into proceedings is Montrose singer-songwriter Rhona Macfarlane, whose emotional and reflective storytelling casts a gentle spell over her audience. Her brief set features songs from recent EP The Tide with plaintive vocals and darkly mellow guitar being lifted by elegant cello and viola accompaniment.
Kicking the night up a level in both tempo and volume is the trad-influenced collective The Hur. While their traditional and folk music backgrounds are evident in duelling fiddle and flute ornamentation the underlying songs, upbeat with catchy choruses and strong harmonies, are essentially pop music. Their song craft is distinctly that of musicians raised in the Scottish and Irish folk tradition with leanings towards contemporary indie-folk acts like Dante, Woodenbox, State Broadcasters and early Washington Irving. They're happy to credit their inspirations too, squeezing a Bon Iver cover in between original songs while demonstrating a blend of musicianship and stage confidence that endears the audience and has them clapping and stomping along at all the right moments. Their latest single Against The Light closes the set with great momentum.
While The Hur present as a band eager to impress and grow their reputation as an energetic live act, the follow up performance by Hugh Kearns is as understated as talent can get. The gifted multi-instrumentalist and songwriter delivers his music with a calm confidence that is often portrayed by more mature artists. Beginning his set as a bluesy one-man-band, it's the introduction of his sister, Lily, on guitar and vocals that allows him to step up to the piano and really showcase the strength of his songwriting. The honky tonk and jazz elements of his playing shine through here, giving his songs an authentic country flavour and exhibiting a scholastic appreciation for roots music that should be embraced by Americana audiences everywhere. His choice of cover, John Prine's Angel From Montgomery, tells you the kind of songwriter Hugh Kearns aspires to be, and performances like tonight 's suggest he's on the right path.
The opening night headliners, Awkward Family Portraits, have come a long way in the last 12 months after kicking off 2017 with a support slot at KTNYR. For such a young band (they celebrated their first birthday just back in August) their character is well defined. It's an unexpected sound from such fresh-faced players; elements of swing, vaudeville, hillbilly and skiffle come together through a quaint collection of songs, delivered with sincerity and relentless enthusiasm. Latest single Shoulder Biting Joe is a creepy little number that plods along beneath Julen Santamaria's brooding narrative. The bulk of the set keeps a cracking pace, easing only slightly for duet Cold which gives due attention to Millie Kidd's divine harmony. The combination of Kidd's steady drumming and Andrew Herrington's flawless bass plucking keeps the night rolling and the crowd moving. There's dancing from start to finish and plenty of smiles going round, especially on stage. There's no doubting the band and audience are enjoying themselves; the audible disappointment as the house lights at last come on is a fair indication. It's been a brilliant start to the musical year at Tut's, as promised. Has anyone uncovered their favourite new band tonight? Almost certainly.