Live Review: Stag and Dagger Festival, Glasgow and Edinburgh 13/14.11.2021

The band The Clocworks playing on stage
Credit: Julia Mason

The return of live music has seen an abundance of riches for music fans and the rise of the one day multi-venue festival provides the experience of seeing multiple bands across various venues in a city in one day.

And so it was with The Stag and Dagger Festival held in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Of course the fun (or perhaps stress) comes with the decision-making, who to see where and when. Clashes abounded on these two days in Scotland but that was due to the quality of the bands playing.

Wristband secured, vaccination record checked and I have been stamped, so it’s off to Broadcast for the first bands of the day. Jack Brotherhood, Famous, Gravelle and TV Priest opened proceedings. Broadcast is one of Glasgow’s much loved basement venues and it was busy from the start such is the love of music in this city. Combining discovery of new bands and seeing much loved is the plan for the day and to be able to chat to the bands once the set has finished is such a bonus at these events.

Moving across the road to Garage, this would be a good time to point out that all Glasgow’s venues were within 5 minutes walk of each other, if that. Garage has three rooms so began with Me Rex in the Attic before the Nice Swan double-header of Hallan and English Teacher. The latter two bands were excellent and I had a quick chat with lead singer Lily Fontaine of English Teacher after their set.

Next it was off to Firewater, a downstairs bar with a small stage at one end to see The Clockworks, a post-punk band from Galway signed to Alan McGee’s It’s Creation Baby label. There was a lot of love in the room for them as they put on a storming performance. A number of bands were taking the opportunity to play new music, which made the whole intimate setting even more enjoyable. The Clause were next and won the prize for the most effort put in to reach the venue. The previous day they had played in Cornwall, and joked that their booking manager was getting the sack. Their retro 60’s and 90’s hybrid sound meant I was glad they had made the effort. On Video were the reason I bought my ticket for this festival 18 months ago. Before lockdown I had promised this band from London an Irn Bru and I was determined to stick to the promise. It was emotional to watch them for the first time live, with the pandemic scuppering plans for the original dates. Finally I got to hear ‘Adversary‘ ‘Past Tense‘ and ‘Clap Trap‘ live and to hand over that can of Irn Bru.

And so to the final stop of the day in Glasgow. Nice N’ Sleazy was packed for Egyptian Blue. What a wall of sound from this band.

And so the following day it was time to do it all over again in Edinburgh. With fewer bands playing it made the choices a little easier but the stress was still there! To be queuing outside Edinburgh’s iconic Independent Music Venue Sneaky Pete’s at 1.45pm on a Sunday afternoon felt weird but in the best way.

First up in Edinburgh was Liily who just shook the very rafters and woke everyone up. Local band Dictator were next and had the best banter of the day backed up by a great sound. The Mash House was the next stop for Cheap Teeth who were were arguably the revelation of the day. Energy, fire, passion but with beats and 100% dancefloor friendly: this is a band to keep an eye on. The Lounge Society followed and the Speedy Wundergound band are on an upward trajectory. A set full of new songs demonstrated that a debut album must be in the works and they put everything into the set. In fact this is a common theme. These bands put their kit up, have 30 minutes to play and then take it down again promptly so the day can run to its timetable. And it did 99% of the time. Full credit to venue staff, technicians, bar staff and security for keeping the day flowing and being attentive to everyone’s needs. PVA were next and another band delighted to be in Scotland. It was brilliant to dance to on a Sunday afternoon.

A dash to The Bongo Club to see Do Nothing and then into Legends to see Pet Shimmers and Warm Digits, the latter who unfortunately had a few technical issues. However the recommendation of the day proved hugely successful Personal Trainer were just crazy onstage, all 8 (I think!) of them. The band from Amsterdam were a shot of adrenalin, if any was needed. A trombone appeared at one point, I lost count of how many guitars and when the lead singer asked me for my glasses mid performance I had to oblige. A pure joyous band full of crazy antics and smile inducing music. Working Mens Club were headlining the biggest venue in the festival, La Belle Angele. To experience this band in my hometown was a must-see and their sublime interpretation of electronic music with added guitars created a rave vibe in the room with accompanying light show which had the crowd in raptures.

And so it was only fitting that the day ended where it started, back at Sneaky Pete’s for English Teacher. Seeing the bands around the venues was wonderful with the guitarist from Cheap Teeth standing not far from the bassist from The Lounge Society. Class.

A highly recommended music festival and if it is on again in 2022 I suggest you buy your tickets quickly.

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