Many times it’s our personal landmarks that are most worthy of praise. Indeed, accomplishments designated a high standard by or because of other people, can often overshadow and pale in comparison to efforts that were truly our own.
Why start with this bit of philosophical ambling? Well for The Xcerts, who’ve toured with some immense bands like Biffy Clyro, Brand New, Idlewild, The Get Up Kids and Fight Star to name a few and scored near unanimous praise for their music, there’s a lot to brag about. And yet, the three pop piece being able to play their sophomore album from start to finish outside of a stadium venue is a simple achievement made more worthy of admiration purely because it’s personal. The success of the album in question, Scatterbrain, is itself glorious when you square the band’s anxiety over its experimental approach with the cult attraction it continues to command for its maudlin mix of sad stories, wailed at voice breaking strength.
Echoes of the headliner’s style and attitude felt present in the support bands, though certainly some more than others. First from Belfast were More Than Conquers, a ‘Rapture-style punk-funk’ band that work towards a more aggressive hybrid of the indie beast. Their debut album is due for its release on Smalltown America later this year, but do keep an eye around the country for their live shows, featuring such novel stage antics as bringing the mikes down to audience level.
Our second band on the bill were a bit of an unknown. Sure, every Breaking Bad fan has heard the name Saul Goodman, but does that mean these guys are new? Why isn’t there anything online about them? All questions were answered when three very familiar Scottish musicians took their places seemingly way ahead of time, and now the audience are watching front man of The Xcerts Murray Macleod asking the crowd if “you guys have ever heard of The Xcerts?”. OK fuck all that ‘personal accomplishments’ crap, was playing your album in full not enough? Joking of course; any fan would relish such a tongue in cheek opportunity to hear the band try out some new material, especially when it offers a promising new aggressive edge and a familiarity that we’re constantly worried they’re going to eschew in fear of repeating themselves.
Final support then, in what they now dubbed ‘an Xcerts sandwhich’, were four piece alternatively dressed band Yearbook. Like their headliner they can also boast an impressive list of tour buddies from Don Broco to Kids in Glass Houses, plus appearances at Redfest and Burnout festival. But what differentiates them is a more uplifting attempt at introspection, animated GIFS on their ironic tumblr and a more theatrical way of exiting the stage; one by one, leaving their instruments ringing to the sound of some guy speaking from a film that you might recognise if you just happen to make a habit of knowing irrevocable stuff like that.
You’d think playing an album from start to finish would leave little opportunity for error. However the audience for The Xcerts laughed through two false starts, lamenting the absence of Saul Goodman, to which Murray replied “Fuck the lot of you”. But we weren’t hurting with him, just acknowledging the level of intimacy present. The three spent a huge amount of time on stage emotionally thanking their fans for enjoying the record (time that could better have been spent at a carnival), not to mention their manager who’d made his way down from Aberdeen in a single day, and was probably sinking into sleep proudly as his efforts showed in the three young musicians who’d excelled above being a simple Belane joke. If you were dragged along to the show, you might have been scared easy by the level of devotion marked by the mimed screaming in ‘Slackerpop’, though the only gum faces I saw in the building were on the bouncers.
Sadly at the end there was no encore, but given their surprise set that’s a lot to ask. As an earlier fan, and with the emergence of the new songs, I’m only worried debut album In The Cold Wind We Smile will become a distant memory, eventually overshadowed by its younger brother Scatterbrain. Tar.
Words and Photos > Graham Ashton
You can listen to Scatterbrain in full right here: