An Ayr Rise Festival 2018 Review…

words fae liam menzies (@blnkclyr)

It’s not often mentioned but the state of music festivals in Scotland is rather depressing. Sure, TRNSMT is doing awfully gid for something that just began last year but when you look at some of the countries heavy hitters, you’ll come to the startling realisation that the days of Rockness and Wickerman Festival are far behind us with most being sadly cancelled. Hell, even TRNSMT itself is the continuation of an annual festival that sadly dipped in quality before reaching its anti-climatic end.

That being said, we’re beginning to see a rise (no pun intended) in smaller festivals that relish in giving smaller acts a chance to show off and bring their sound to an audience that may have previously passed them by. It makes total sense considering that the likes of Tenement Trail use established venues in order to host the acts, meaning the razzle-dazzle of your usual festival is left to the wayside in order for the music to be the real selling point and with tons on offer, and plenty to drink, it’s an ideal situation.

Ayr Rise definitely seems keen on bringing this to an area that, while rife with talent, often doesn’t generate a blip on the musical radar due to its location. Taking place in local nightclub Furys, a venue which is often the go-to for local gigs, it was an event that was not only important for those involved but one that would ultimately serve as a determining factor for whether or not something of this magnitude could work.

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Things were off to a promising start with Molly Eliza taking to the stage. While she may have been filling in the slot left vacant by Atlas Run, it ultimately gave Ayr Rise some variety which benefited it greatly: she may reference the likes of Nina Nesbitt as an influence but you wouldn’t be mistaken for noticing hints of Sophie Allison or even a vocal resemblance to pop heavy hitter Lorde. Her music wasn’t only just pleasant to listen to but also offered some interesting insight lyrically, meaning she could end up joining the ranks of Young Fathers in politically aware Scottish music. Some songs may have been screaming for some backup, specifically some drums, but the minimal performance from Molly left a good taste in the mouth – keep this one on your radar.

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Keeping the momentum going were Ayr-based rock outfit Anna Conda and right off the bat, we were hit with remnants of what could easily be mistaken as demos from the fictional Scott Pilgrim band Sex Bob Omb (a high bit of praise fae us). As the act continued on, the band’s influences became increasingly obvious (someone or all involved in the act definitely has a soft spot for The White Stripes as shown by their Fell In Love With A Girl cover) but it by no means detracted from the enjoyment Anna Conda provided: infectious harmonies rolling over some octane performing culminated in what was easily a hugely entertaining set from the boys who we’re sure we’ll see more of in the future.

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A band still very much in their infancy, only emerging at the tail end of 2017, Honours. were up next. In terms of stage presence, it was a little lacking (which may be totally down to either nerves or the sheer variety of chords that they’ve bolstered in promotion) but there was definite moments that showed they’ve got the foundations laid to make some really interesting alt-rock.

27545489_381304295674464_7592854196806952831_n.jpgThere would be no prizes for guessing what acts have paved the way for the sound ZANG are going for but oh lordy, did they put on a show. Frontman Bunny Wood channelled that rock and roll frontman attitude both in his vocals, that were reminiscent of another funky, bluesy rock and roller Robert Plant, and the mannerisms he showed off on stage. The argument could be made that the band weren’t quite as varied as we would have liked them to be but for what they’re going for, and for how they managed to keep our attention, ZANG did exactly what they needed to do and then some.

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Positioning themselves as an alt-rock riff machine, Zola didn’t disappoint with a rip-roaring good rock time. While the audience at Rise were rather timid (myself included), this didn’t stop the band from interacting with the crowd and trying to get everyone right into the gigging spirit. There were a fair few moments where I found myself reminded of Queens of the Stone Age, a comparison I may throw around a bit frequently but the layered performances and the synergy between and the vocals means I feel justified in that bit of acclaim. Showing off their latest single to finish things off, Zola are certainly going places and we’re looking forward to seeing how they evolve.

21949833_822681854604537_7924578189341822206_o.jpgOur last act of the night (family ting), The Mawb are an act we’ve discussed a fair bit over the past year and a bit but for good reasons. Front-man Ewan McCulloch was the head honcho of tonight’s operation so the fact he had the energy to balance both organisation and performing all on the same day has to be commended. On the related note of said performance, The Mawb were the best they have been yet and hit me with that familiar feeling of pride, not only for the fact they’re an Ayrshire based act doing it proud but for constantly shifting their sound.

Everyone in the act was on phenomenal form, Callum McIlwaine being the devilish chap on guitar we’re all used to and incorporated a wireless device so he could prance about the club while playing, picking up a pint in the process. The aforementioned Ewan continues to impress with those pipes of his and bassist Harry Mawb still radiates that effortlessly cool as a cucumber attitude about him without breaking a sweat. Drummer Paul Nally seems to have totally come out of his shell at this point and it definitely added it all, his commentary during the break between each track adding a certain charm to it and by the closing track, he was clobbering away at his set with the energy of a man who had just went through a botched exorcism. To put it simply, it was a bloody great end to our night.

So Ayr Rise was an overall success, showing that a local festival can definitely work when the right management and acts are brought in. If there’s any feedback we could give, it would be that next year’s event (which we hope is on the cards) tries to shake up the genres on offer: every festival has their strong point but we’d love to see some more bands that don’t fit into the alt-rock mould. From an optimistic perspective, money permitting, it would be exciting to see Ayr Rise branch out amongst some other venues in the town: West of the Moon may no longer be with us but places such as Soundmagic would serve as a nice alternative stage and Big Sparra Vinyl potentially acting as an acoustic one for some stripped back sessions. Of course, this is pure speculation but Ayr Rise, much like the acts playing it, is brimming with potential and we’re crossing our fingers that we get to see it return in 2019 and beyond.

EP Review: Atlas Run – Depths

By Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr

Burying their way into your skin without a moment’s hesitation with an infectious song is a feat many bands aspire to but very few manage to achieve. That’s not to say that acts who fail to do so are bad, more that the challenge of getting someone to put a song of yours on loop is increasingly more difficult in the digital age, especially when you’re a small act who have only recently just started having a stab at the whole “making music” thing.

So when first chucking Atlas Run‘s debut EP Depths on for a spin, you might find yourself happily surprised by how quickly you’ll find yourself listening to opening single Chasing The Storm on repeat – there’s that catchy pop appeal meshed with an indie rock sound not unlike something Foals would conduct on Total Life Forever, an album that bears an uncanny resemblance to that of Depths with its aquatic theme. The hook is simple and effective, allowing listeners both old and new to find themselves intrigued by twangy Scottish vocals followed up by some seductive, sonic guitars in the succeeding verses. It’s very much the track that any band would sell their soul to bash out at live shows and Atlas Run make a smart move by making this the first taste from the EP.

Starting off a record with your strongest track, whether it be an extended play or full length release, can be seen as shooting as yourself in the foot and while this may hold true even with Depths, it doesn’t mean that what comes after is sub-par by any stretch. Open Water faces the task of following up this catchy opening track and does a fairly solid job of it with synths packing this almost Hot Fuss-esque sound, making you wonder if the band had knicked a Nord Lead 2X from Brandon Flowers and co. The comparison between drinking and drowning isn’t inherently original but the way the sound submerges the listener gives it that extra layer, leading you to believe that the band are at the very least observant with their work.

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Rose may initially fool you at first with what sounds like an acoustic ballad, a cliche too many acts are still falling into, but it eventually metamorphoses into this decent wee love song with some pounding backing instrumentals that help the band to regain the energy and force that make them nice to listen to. Then there’s In My Defence which is probably the closest the band comes to channelling an alt-rock sound with washed out guitars and an almost glitchy production providing a taste of something different though it never gets to spread its wings.

With all said and done, Atlas Run‘s challenge of standing out in a genre that is so popular, especially in the Scottish music scene, is certainly a gargantuan one. Even if it seems that they haven’t completed it perfectly, they sure as hell show the makings of a band who aren’t just following the footsteps of those before them – they’re just as ready to start their own path on the sand, no matter the difficulty.

6.5/10


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