So this is my “best of” Sneakyfest, the one-day festival that was held yesterday. Well, when I say “best of”, I mean “the ones I was on time for”. Ha.
Kid Canaveral were the band I most wanted to see, since I’d been reading and hearing lots of nice, buzzy things. Ironically, I hadn’t realised that I’d seen them live already – for free, at Teviot in Fresher’s Week. Aren’t I an incompetent sausage. Any road, they were great, their set was well executed, tidy and the crowd enjoyed it (when I say ‘crowd’ I mean the 6-8 people standing in the middle of the dancefloor out of pity. It wasn’t the bands fault, they were first on, on a snow-day). David MacGregor’s knack for a catchy chorus is ripe for indie stardom, his sweetly optimistic lyrics and full-bodied vocals driving the fast-tempo jaunty guitar riffs, like a more radical Hot Club de Paris. Then again, as neat and professional as their set was, this was just another gig; twenty minutes, then the next band came on; you couldn’t help feel a lack of connection with (the admittedly, small) audience.
Trapped Mice were more impressive, quite simply because they tried harder*. They play straight-down indie pop, but with the incisive, deliberate lyrics of Neutral Milk Hotel and the playful rock sensibilities of an Aha Shake Heartbreak-era Kings of Leon (for the uninitiated: before they were rubbish). The band at times leant towards the shoegaze habit of standing still whilst playing their songs, but this seemed to stem more from being completely focused on making the music perfect, rather than some ironic-indie counterculture attitude to life. Indeed, on signature songs like Secret Letters, the lead singer didn’t just strum his guitar, he abused it – hammering out the crescendo like a hound set loose on the hunt. Whilst the aforementioned track illustrates a taste for the Arcade Fire school of big choruses, songs like The Priest and The Boy, and A Brief Introduction to Modern History show a more delicate approach, with deeper folk influences revealing a shared bloodline with Bright Eyes. Their EP is available on their bandcamp page.
My final pick from the event is A Fight You Can’t Win, an alternative grunge act with an edge of desperation and a handful of raucous songs. Their best track seemed to be Sitting Bull, a fist-pumping bass-heavy cruise missile of rock; the antidote, surely, to the war crime against music that was the X Factor’s “rock night” – though make sure to check out Oren Rath and Send. They take a fair amount of inspiration, vocally and melody-wise, from both Pulled Apart By Horses and Australian Black Sabbath groupies Wolfmother – the latter’s melodramatic, bared-teeth singing and the former’s crunching, explosive guitar. The audience, packed into the tiny venue that is Sneaky Pete’s bar loved every minute.
*Something about unsigned bands just makes them play that little bit better – maybe it’s because every gig might be their last?
Rating: Kid Canaveral DDD, Trapped Mice DDDD A Fight You Can’t Win DDD