Part three: in which Carey finds himself unimpressed by FFS favourites Cats on Fire and Camera Obscura, but beguiled by Emmy the Great.
The masochism of indie fans and their capacity to gratefully consume all manner of overrated, dreary dross is an long-established fact. The popularity of Finland’s Cats On Fire struck me as another manifestation of this sad phenomenon. Their manner onstage made them seem like they were moonlighting from their day jobs as medieval history tutors, and the the cheers of relatively large and appreciative crowd failed to bring any further light to their performance. Singer Mattias Björkas gave it his best Morrissey impression but it didn’t stop the music sounding frankly tired, not just in delivery but also in the prosaic, deflating nature of their songs, like they’d been inspired by a passing glance at a Scandinavian bus timetable.
A bit mundane, then, but nothing compared to Saturday’s headliners Camera Obscura. The cover to their latest album “My Maudlin Career” provided the stage backdrop, and blown-up behind this mopey lot it made perfect sense. The lifelessness of their performance drained their songs of any potential for interest or enjoyment and frontwoman Tracyanne Campbell made no effort to disguise her resentment at being there. In mediation, perhaps looking miserable is their stage schtick. Fine if you like that sort of thing. But while Camera Obscura are a pleasant enough prospect on record, pottering around the kitchen on a Sunday afternoon, to translate this stuff live surely requires at least some human spark, some interaction, some trace of playfulness or spontaneity. Instead they served their music like a resentful waitress presenting you with a plate of warmed-up poo. If there ever was a performance that typified the cynical definition of indie pop as pop music but with the fun taken out, this was it. Disappointing.
Back on the late-running church stage, Glasgow’s Wake The President played some well-crafted songs with as much grit as sparkle. While their set blurred into the same sort of hue after a while, it was a focused, erudite and well-received affair, except for one moment when they attempted to deliver a shout-out to compatriots Camera Obscura. The response was muted.
To top things off on Saturday, Emmy The Great took the final slot on the indoor stage. With a three-man band behind her, things sounded good, and Emmy did her best to combat the potential awkwardness of filling a headline slot with whimsical, bittersweet folk that is never going to get fists pumping. Her attempts did fall a bit flat sometimes, like the well-intentioned but fairly limp cover of the Pixies ‘Where Is My Mind?’ (she jokes abouts playing ‘Three Lions’ as another crowd-galvaniser). And there was a sense that some of her material could have benefited from a bit more emphasis; there is a dramatic element to her songs which could flourish in a live environment, particularly something like ‘First Love’, if given a bit more oomph. But the atmosphere remained suitably intimate for the hushed style, and she successfully kept the audience’s attention. She is, after all, one of the most endearing voices around. Closer ‘Everything Reminds Me of You’ sends us off into the night on a slightly poignant note.