~ glasgowbury 2013 report ~

'Small but Massive & never forgotten' 
As the final chord progression echoed into the distance and the blinding lights of the "Small but Massive" stage faded out, a rare silence descended onto the hills of the Sperrin Mountains. There were tears in the eyes of even the most experienced festival goer and hugs all around as the end of the Glasgowbury era began to hit home. For anyone fortunate enough to have been to Northern Ireland's biggest local festival before, the warmth and excitement that greeted them will have come as no surprise, but to any new comers (such as myself) the passion and genuine enthusiasm on offer will no doubt have felt too good to be true at times. I had the privilege of making it up on the second of the festivals first ever two day event. Here, I'll attempt to give a summary of as many of the bands individual sets as possible, while attempting to capture the magic of what is a very special occasion for local music.

Realising that it's never too early for a distortion filled head banging session, I decided to kick off Glasgowbury 2013 down at the 'Spurs of Rock' stage where the opening band came in the style of three piece, grunge group Vanilla Gloom. What was immediately evident was that the all female group were extremely clinical, drummer Grace Leacock embodying their grungy sound with a powerful backbone, driving each of the songs forward. Bassist Megan O'Kane's vocals are both sweet and endearing, providing a welcoming juxtaposition to the nature of the songs, unfortunately on occasion the sound levels of Vanilla Gloom's set seems to drowns them out - an aspect that you imagine could easily be rectified with just a little more vigor and attitude in their delivery. Vanilla Gloom begin to hit their stride with 'Vultures', a Nirvana-esc track which closed their 'Vexed' EP. The clean guitar, tone coupled with the low pitched vocals, builds brilliantly to the bitterness that's released in a fantastic chorus that got the whole tent jumping along. In all, a solid set from a band with a lot of potential. Despite the majority of the punters proudly displaying their support for the following band, (Metal heads 'Pigs As People') it looked like Vanilla Gloom will have won over quite a few fans in the process.

I then headed over to the G-Sessions stage to catch the end of the set from "Those Ghosts". Having never had the chance to listen to the Strabane lads, I had no idea what to expect. What I found was a band with an already developed stadium rock sound, that had the crowd fist pumping and raising their pints, despite their early morning  position on the bill. Their anthemic qualities helped capture a nineties vibe, while maintaining enough flair and energy to ensure they're songs had a contemporary twist. 'Evelyn' in particular really seemed to get the tent jumping, a song with a strong enough hook in the chorus to easily be considered for radio air play.

Next on the bill were local lads The Clameens who were opening the Main Stage. For a band formed only this year, playing the main stage at the country's biggest music festival could easily have overwhelmed them, instead they delivered a confident and relaxed performance - their enjoyment coming through on every catchy melody and jangly guitar riff. The Clameens  breezy tunes provided a perfect soundtrack to the early morning sun, as the area surrounding the main stage descended into one massive dancefloor. Taking the distinct vocal delivery of Kings of Leon's Caleb Followhill and the upbeat rhythmic style of Vampire Weekend, The Clameens deliver a sound which isn't quite indie, yet can't quite be defined as rock. Whatever it is, one thing is guaranteed - the brightness and fun provided will leave you feeling a little bit better by the end of it. "She's Got My Heart" was the highlight in a set from, for me, the surprise of the festival.

I then had the opportunity to see a band who've been steadily building hype through their energetic and animated performances, self confessed electronic-rockers Wyldling. Fronted by the dynamic Jilly St John, Wyldling produced a set that was as captivating as it was explosive. What was evident from the start was the frontwomans enigmatic stage presence allowed her to control the crowd brilliantly, charging around the stage with the vigor of a young Joan Jett. At one point Jilly summed it perfectly as she remarked that, "This next songs about me being a bit nuts" - She is a bit nuts, but thats exactly why the audience adored her. It also has to be said that Jilly's vocals were incredibly tight aswell, her range particularly being allowed to flourish in songs such as "Sirens", which also showed the groups powerful sound, with screeching guitars playing over synthy melodies to capture a loud and heavier sound. It was a professional set, delivered with the charisma necessary to carry it off.

Then it was time for the boundless energy and enthusiasm of a band called The Wonder Villains. Having already played many high profile gigs to date, including Radio Ones Big Weekend amongst others, they had a case to argue that they should have had the opportunity to play the Main stage - however as they bounded into the G-Sessions tent for the start of their high octane show, they instead seemed to be simply relishing the opportunity to be playing together for a highly attentive audience. What most impressed me about the Wonder Villains set, was how up tempo and (dare I say it) rocky it was. A pounding drum beat became the basis of the majority of their songs as lead guitarist Ryan McGroarty was given the freedom to really express himself, with incredibly intricate riffs giving their songs (such as the excellent "33") a new lease of life. It's also fair to say that The Wonder Villains were the first band to get the entire G-Sessions tent fully erupting, from their arrival until the final track, the incredibly fun pop-wonder that is "Zola". The group brought with them a carnival atmosphere, dancing and high fiving on stage like four best friends having the time of their lives. (Which I suppose they are!) The Wonder Villains set was also the first to initiate a mass sing along - you could be forgiven for thinking they were the headline act. Entertaining and enjoyable, the Wonder Villains were made for festivals and all the freedom and partying that goes with it. It's impossible not to feel positive watching them - don't be surprised to see these guys explode into the main stream next year.

A lot has been said about Runaway GO! in recent times. Success came very early for the group, who since their formation back in 2006 have reached the final of two major unsigned band competitions, gained significant air play on Radio 1 amongst others and recorded their remarkably well received debut eponymous EP. All of these experiences, combined with extensive touring, has produced an incredible live act which did not disappoint as they took to the Main stage on Glasgowburys final day. Feeding off the positive energy of the audience, Runaway GO! threw themselves into a rousing set. They made a brave decision to play fan favorite "Jump Start" early on in the set, however the gamble fully payed off as the bands back catalogue is now strong enough to play their tracks in any order and still finish strongly. What gives the Belfast based indie five piece their edge is the synergy between the voices of their two vocalists, Dave Jackson and Fiona O'Kane ~ Their evident difference in styles compliment eachother perfectly and at times it's no exaggeration to say it sounded like a choir was on stage, particularly during the groups big hitter, "Delicate Man", which had the entire crowd screaming the chorus back at them. They also provided one of the most memorable moments of the festival, blending in Daft Punks chart-hit "Get Lucky" seamlessly into the middle of their set, perfectly in keeping with the good natured spirit of Glasgowbury. New single "I Would Go" sounded beautifully atmospheric, James Lappin's lead guitar gently weaving through the song adding a haunting quality to ensure it would be remembered and appreciated long after the band left the stage. Runaway GO! left the stage to huge applause and for the first time all day, calls were made for an encore. Unfortunately due to time restraints, that couldn't happen, but it did confirm one thing - Runaway GO! are certainly  living up to the hype.

Finally I ended my Glasgowbury adventure back at the G-Sessions stage, where headline act Rams Pocket Radio was preparing to bring his unique brand of piano driven pop to a stage he will be more than familiar with. With the added wonder of a horn player and cellist in accompaniment of his usual band, Rams provided an eclectic set to a packed tent. At times, comparisons could be made to the likes of Badly Drawn Boy, as the rustic orchestral side of things took control, before oscillating to a Muse style electronic feeling. All the while Peter McCauley's emotive vocal delivery weaved around proceedings, at times delicately restrained and at times powerful - but never anything less than enthralling throughout. One of the more upbeat and faster songs of his sets, the brilliantly titled "Dieter Rams Has Got The Pocket Radios"  produced a sea of waving arms, as the complex beauty of Rams set-up was utilised to fine effect. "Dogs Run In Packs" had similar results, before a brilliant and unexpected collaboration came as More Than Conquerors Kris Platt joined him on stage to duet on the fantastic "1+2". The two unique vocals blended well and was a welcome addition to the set. The best moment of the evenings proceedings and possibly of the entire festival, came during the ethereal "Love Is A Bitter Thing". Every lyric was sang back by the audience, at times drowning out the band as the emotional significance of the occasion seemed to take its toll. The tears flowed openly from many in the crowd as once again the delicate nature of McCauley's piano playing took hold of a crowd he had long since won over. As the song progressed, the voices from the crowd only grew louder. No doubt the revelers at the main stage enjoying The Answer's headline set will have heard the words "I'd love it if you said that, I want my friend back, I have a feeling love is a bitter thing". It was a surreal and beautiful moment, which seemed to capture the feelings and thoughts on everyone's mind. A fitting end to the G-Sessions and a brilliant end to my first and last ever Glasgowbury. This performance will live long in the memory, just like the festival that made it all possible.

Rest In Peace Glasgowbury - how will we ever replace it? Only time will tell, but for now I just feel lucky to have been part of it.

Report by Taylor Johnson.

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