The Twilight Sad, Stuart Braithwaite, Aidan Moffat, RM Hubbert, Emma Pollock, Eugene Kelly, Remember Remember.
The air is heavy and heady with the humid summer night and temperamental Scottish skies. We’re in the middle of Easterhouse, bussed here like children on a school trip, as excited as the local kids with the morning off to see the Navy Sea King put those stones in the shadow of the scheme. Theatre, drama, science, history, experimentation, job creation.
The Sighthill stone circle is a symbol of defiance. Thatcher shut it down before it was complete and publicly condemned such folly. The economic/political/social landscape hasn’t really changed much since the late 70s. The Iron Lady is only months in the ground and we’re back there – recession, depression, cut-backs, rallies, riots. Upheaval, change, progress.
Glasgow’s bid for the Youth Olympics has failed, but the stones will probably still go. The tower blocks must come down and this unique landmark is collateral.
Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite wants it to stay. His late father was co-creator. We’re here because for him the modern monolith means so much – a slice of history, a scientific and familial achievement, an anomaly. Braithwaite’s personal crusade has gathered Scotland’s finest – an army of artists with intertwined histories, genres and ideologies.
We fell in love with James Graham tonight. Juddering in the bright, sparse light, tight jeans and smart haircut, voice ripping through us over simple loops and beats. Laid bare, with solitary vocals save for the drum machine, the songs are brave and bold and beautiful, exorcised from Graham with a force that’s not to be fenced in.
Tonight’s headliners The Twilight Sad strike a forceful blow through ‘That Summer, At Home I Became The Invisible Boy’ with its painful cries of “They’re standing outside/and they’re looking in” and sinister refrain.
‘Alphabet’ then ‘I Became A Prostitute’ are powered by rhythmic urgency, surging like a ship on an uneasy ocean. Tracks come from across the band’s back catalogue, with Daniel Johnston’s ‘Some Things Last A Long Time’ followed by the bleak ‘Seven Years of Letters’ and the first live airing of ‘Nil’ for some time.
The insistent anguish of ‘Cold Days From the Birdhouse’ is incredible, Graham’s vocal rousing and loch-shore clear. He’s possessed, and we’re powerless to his charms.
Our bearded warrior Aidan Moffat is the bard with acid tongue as weapon and autoharp as shield. Children’s ears are covered, Moffat’s in full flight. Nothing is sacred, no grim reality sugar-coated. He is self-deprecating, enchanting, funny, charming, gritty, unparalleled, and experimenting with new material based on long-lost Scottish pub singsongs.
He later joins SAY Award winner, the lovely RM Hubbert, all crazy-long mad-strumming/plucking fingers and bushy beard. ‘Car Song’ is Moffat’s collaboration – storytelling both simple and elegant, laden with love and fantasy, reality, hope, fear, inevitability.
Emma Pollock darkly creeps through the ‘Half Light’ with Hubby, her vocals possibly more enchanting than during her Delgados days. The short set is buoyed by the Cairn String Quartet at times, but it’s Pollock, her guitar and her unmistakable voice that’s speaking to us now. ‘Confessions’ is a highlight of her solo set, with the stanza “These are the voices of progress, but I keep on falling behind/These are the voices that lead us, but I am deaf and I am blind” particularly poignant tonight.
Campaign co-driver Braithwaite drifts gracefully through melancholic soundscapes, bathed in blazing scarlet light, a solitary seated figure questioning the ether: “What would you do if you saw spaceships over Glasgow/Would you fear them?” ‘Take Me Somewhere Nice’ from 2001’s Rock Action album is spookily fitting, and it’s a real treat to be so close and so connected to such evocative instrumental performance.
The Vaselines’ frontman Eugene Kelly strums and chirps his way through seminal hits ‘Molly’s Lips’ and ‘Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam’, before Graeme Ronald of Remember Remember trips through mesmeric loop pedal repetition and experimental toy-noise.
Ignorant or indifferent, critic or supporter – the Sighthill stones are unlike anything else in the city. Whether this mini-festival will highlight their plight or indeed serve to save them remains to be seen, but what is clear is that the site holds a special place in some hearts. Whether solely an astrological and academic achievement, just a piece of Glasgow’s quirky history, or a patch of wilderness amidst the inner city sprawl, surely Sighthill is worth fighting for.