Aberdeen’s Café Drummond saw three bands covering all things solo acoustic, folk and more last month. It started advertised as a four band bill, but the three there more than held their own.
The dancefloor prior to the gig proper was flooded with gear for the headlining eight piece, that night – The Youth And Young. T-shirt merchandise to buy, hung above the seated area left of the stage. The guys in question even proposed a toast, probably to a good gig ahead, by clinking their beer bottles.
Local girl, Margaret Finlayson, was first up, and consisted of acoustic guitar and vocals. “This song’s called ‘Morning’”. Her voice was graceful yet piercing. Very earnest in strum of guitar, it was slightly melancholy. It built into an uplifting number; her voice really soaring, belted out, at times.
Nervous energy surrounded the next one. It also had a grungy aspect, just without out of tune vocals. The stop start nature of the track made for good dynamics, which in turn made the crowd uber aware of what was unfolding. Flourishes of guitar were interspersed with her impassioned vocals.
A palm muted introduction marked the beginning of another, lending power to what came subsequently. Adrenaline surged in anticipation of the rest of the ensuing number. “Am I ready for this?” almost implored the crowd to answer for her, and she responded with, “you’ve got me vulnerable”.
“Barricades” followed. This title was apt as it was indeed cagey and pent up, with lyrics like, “call the cavalry, because it’s time for you to leave”. The next had subtle rhythms, sparse to let the vocals breathe. It was complexity in its, indeed, simplicity.
After that had a folky strumming energy to it. Despondent with the slightest hint of hope, like in, “I can tell you, my love for you will still be strong”. There was a vocal refrain with minimal guitar. Again, good dynamics. A touch of, daresay, histrionics and adlibbing accompanied its conclusion, garnering maximum appreciation from the crowd.
There were more melancholy moments, afterwards, wistful and longing. A good, climbing vocal worked in tandem with likewise guitar. Again, she deployed minimalist guitar to draw attention to that voice of hers.
“Thank you for listening”. What followed was a song this reviewer still can’t put his finger on, with lyrics like, “and you always make things right”. Regardless, this song was the longest, sustained use of her guitar, building to a climax. This was before belting out those vocals.
Redpark followed, and were an indie rock outfit from Aberdeen, Montrose, Arbroath and Glasgow respectively. They consisted of vocalist/guitarist, bassist/vocalist, guitarist and drummer. By this time a crowd had gathered for the energetic opening number, with good dynamics and intermittent silence punctuated with triumphant returns. It was spaced out guitar, very atmospheric and really echoing out, wailing and wild.
Cocky drums introduced the next, developing into a driving rocker. At this point you definitely knew they were a guitar orientated band, not scared of some rock n’ roll attitude. Crashing drums and flourishes of guitar punctuated this particular one. A middle section was marked with odd riffs before building into a crescendo.
The next was more slow and melancholy, pondering and searching. Vocals were given space to breathe in an ambient soundscape. The backdrop was perfect for the singer’s range. Subsequent guitar melodies were beautiful. The bass and drums heralded higher octane moments. Those drums, in fact, were moody and evocative of a sports car racing down the highway.
After this, the crowd were urging for more raucous moments as the keyboard, paradoxically, began. Very sedate. This, combined with the vocals, made for earnest and heartfelt moments. Slide guitar really reverberated round the room, mournful in its emotion. This then built into a slowly rising, digging rocker. Raucous, even. Dynamics with isolated vocals came before its end.
Hi-hat counted in the subsequent song, in exciting yet, at times, subdued rock; however, the band barely concealed their urge to jump up and down. Really good to see bands not afraid to be seen having fun, and not act, by default, moody and serious. The guitar solo exemplified the rushing energy of the band, rushing into frenetic section after section; no moment ever dull.
The Youth And Young followed to headline, and were a mix of folk, post rock and pop. They consisted of two vocalists, male and female; guitarist; guitarist/keyboardist; acoustic guitarist; violinist; bassist and drummer. Their opening gambit kicked off with spaced out keyboards, the sound washing over the crowd. The intensity built up as both singers bounced off eachother’s energy. Aforementioned keyboard tinkled, only for the dynamics to switch suddenly, becoming a cacophony of, as they describe themselves, “noisy folk”.
Anyway, “This song is called ‘Before The Wind’. It’s about a wee while ago”. Drums pounded on the toms, moody and ambient. It built before vocals were given room to breathe, with the bass underpinning it all with arpeggios. Celtic and folky in its composition, the violin perhaps lending to that. A very abrupt end maybe shocked enough to pull huge cheers from the crowd.
“This is called ‘Ocean At The End Of The Lane’”. Very, perhaps, choral keyboard washing over the audience. It was moody, yet restrained, with the drums the crux of the arrangement. The violin was soaring, yet mournful. It then ripped into an acoustic lead flourish, bass drum the heartbeat of the track. Raucous guitar was both ambient and uber rock n’ roll.
“Aberdeen, you’re lovely”. And so was the chat before “Run”, punky and, daresay, vibrant. The energy to this song was palpable.
“This is ‘Whispers’. Cheers”. “Whispers”, indeed, was very melancholy and introverted, in some respects, and the bass rang with a clarity enforced by the bass drum. A violin interlude heralded the whole band kicking in. Ambience faded out the track.
“This song is our first single. This is called ‘Our Father’s Words’. Cheers”. Raucous, the word for the night, just about summed things up. There were football esque chants, in which both vocalists combined to give it some punch. Powerhouse drums were like the chugging of a steam train. The violin really lending the song some character.
“This one’s a slow jam”. This the words prior to “Every Atom Of You”. What followed was an earnest, crawling melody on acoustic guitar, introducing the song proper. It stopped almost to indicate an abrupt switch in dynamics, but continued as ever. Nice interlude from a, generally, frenetic set.
Vocals in the next were suddenly impassioned. “Colour” was, in a weird way, cold and earthy. The guitar’s ambience contributing to the, as they say in general terms, song’s big sound. The drums were crashing all around. This preluded those sung from the heart vocals, imploring the crowd to go headlong into life, no compromises. The duo on the mic bounced, as all night, off eachother with histrionics and adlibbing to the end.
“Escher” was, again, the word cropping up, raucous. Also Scottish at heart, this next song was busy, rhythmically; and restrained, melodically. It was largely propelled by the vocal arrangement, however, the bass drum heralded participation from crowd, driving as they clapped in unison. Guitar wailed with passion as vocals climbed and eventually soared. The vocal refrain took it to that other level.
They closed proceedings with, “This is ‘Atlas’”. From the heart, “Atlas”, had the velvety tones of one half of the singing duo, Alice. Instrumentation was in tandem with and, also, guiding vocal melodies. Extra percussion, almost tribal in its violence, got the crowd got suitably amped up. Clapping, drumming and lighting, all syncopated, made for a very striking visual, and aural, experience.
Purchase The Youth And The Young’s latest album, Gestures, here.
Words by Andrew Watson