Gig Review: Sobriety light up the Hug and Pint

words fae andrew barr (@weeandreww)

Headlining a bill with Milktoast and Public Displays of Affection at the West End’s basement Hug and Pint venue, Sobriety are something of an unknown quantity in Glasgow’s emerging music scene. The only track the band have released is the brilliantly melancholic Ronnie’s Song, boasting production by The Vegan Leather’s Gianluca Bernacchi, but the four-piece (consisting of frontman Benjamin McGirr, guitarist Dan Drennan, bassist JonJoe McGirr and drummer Sean Gow) have generated enough buzz to headline bills such as this one.

When the set starts at 10pm, it gets off to just about the worst possible start. Opener Boys Club begins with finger-picked guitar and sparse drums, building a tense and anxious atmosphere not too dissimilar to indie giants Interpol. However, the track is abandoned due to a problem with Drennan’s guitar. Luckily, someone in the crowd was able to give him a replacement, and the song is restarted. The band appears unshaken, and the track’s paranoia feels more piercing if anything the second time around, building to not a snarling climax but a superb instrumental bridge which doesn’t only echo but screams The National.

As Sobriety gets into the main body of their set it becomes clear that they are an anomaly in the current Glasgow scene; they are far less concerned with writing catchy hooks than writing moody, melodic tracks which, combined with Benjamin’s low, ominous vocals give more than a subtle nod to emo. That’s not to say the tracks are without any payoff either – the live version of single Ronnie’s Song is a testament to that, with frontman Benjamin deviating from his menacing vocal style the track’s end to let out a hugely emotive scream.

That scream seemed to be a sign of things to come, as Sobriety firmly let go of the handbrake for the last 2 tracks of the night, with the funky yet heavy Wreck Myself growing faster and more menacing before building up to even more screams. The short but sweet set ends on a cover of The Killers’ Jenny Was a Friend of Mine, which the band seems to revel in, pushing each other around on stage while playing the final notes of the night.

It’s clear from this set that Sobriety are a band who are determined to stand out from the indie rock crowd and if they go on to realise the massive potential they showed at The Hug and Pint, there’s no reason why they won’t do exactly that.

Gig Review: Pests, Kiki Miller & Zoe Graham @ The Hug & Pint

By Liam Menzies (@blnkclyr)

If there was one way to describe last night’s proceedings it would be this – girl power. Taking place at The Hug & Pint, hidden away on Great Western road, Pests‘ EP launch may have been primarily to promote their work that they’ve spent the past year working on but it certainly transcended into a showing of diversity and talent.

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Kicking things off was Zoe Graham, a solo alt folk singer who, despite being the one to introduce the audience, put on a performance you’d expect from a headliner. Her set was a wonderful display of alt folk musings that channelled a fair bit of bedroom pop elements throughout – Hacket and Knackered had a palpitating acoustic beat, proceeded by an ever evolving instrumental intro, that felt reminiscent of the likes of Cyberbully Mom Club which was quickly followed up by an EP cut that ended up igniting a sing along by the time it had finished.

As Graham finished off with a song she quipped was “a happy one”, her set seemed to come full circle, showcasing her versatility when armed with just a guitar, keyboard and her voice: it’s a beautiful start to her career and was just as great a start to the night.

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Up next was Kiki Miller, another female solo artist though backed up by a band that she interchangeably plays with, that definitely changed up the mood of the night. Far more rock orientated than what came before, Miller was a natural on stage and shows the same confidence during her songs as she does during intervals: at one point during her set she bluntly introduced one of her tracks as “the fuckboy song”, a funky banger that almost blows a circuit at points due to how overpowering both the instrumentals and vocals are.

Speaking of the vocals, Miller has what can only be described as some of the most broody, soothing pipes you’ll find in the ground-level of Scottish music. No matter if it was the aforementioned lad song or Wonderland, a song based on Miller’s obsession with a Swedish TV series, her singing could go from moody to bombastically upbeat and back at the drop of a hat. While their set was short-lived, Miller left an impression on the audience that will cement them in their memory.

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And then there were none – I mean, one left, the headliners themselves Pests. Having had such a talented line of support for the night, it could have been seen as the four piece shooting themselves in the foot but almost instantly, the band put any qualms to rest. 

Drunk As Sin was a standout single, packing in a deliciously funky bass and explicit chorus that took only two iterations of before it had etched itself into your memory, and Take My Soul made sure to make an impression even if it fell into the latter half of the setlist. While its rhythmic, simple guitar felt reminiscent of Cooke by Modern Baseball (don’t ask),  it had a far more upbeat sentiment to it and delivered yet another devilishly catchy hook.

If playing some tracks of their EP wasn’t enough then Pests had you covered as they played not one but three covers, all by strong female acts which the band have not been shy about wanting to see more of. Born to Die, Falling and Green Light were all showcased and managed to show not only Elanor’s knack for being a charismatic front-woman but also Charlotte and Elizabeth’s incredible vocals, culminating in the band having an amazing range which when layered is enough to bring a tear to your eye.

While their rock, funk and indie influences were very apparent, there’s a reason why they describe themselves as an alt pop outfit and Pests displayed that tonight. If this ability to hit out with ear-worms so early into their career is anything to go by then it’s only a matter of time before they cement themselves as one of the best. For now, Pests can share the title of being one of the most promising bands Scotland has to offer.

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