Firstly, well done to Elbow for winning the Mercury Prize. I tend to slag off the Mercury Prize a little bit, largely due to the appearance of tokenism (one for black people, one for intellectuals, one obscure one to make us look clever) but also because I often just don’t like many of the bands very much. The accusation of tokenism is neatly refuted by one of the judges in this nice little article in the Guardian, and an award dominated by my narrow taste would be dull as shit for everyone, so I suppose I should back off a little. At least it’s not the frothing, corporate nonsense of the NME awards or the joyless fogeyism of Q.
Anyway, whilst I acknowledge that it is somewhat hypocritical to crticise an award and then profess yourself pleased for the winners, I feel I really have to congratulate Elbow. If you listen to Guy Garvey on 6Music or go to any of the Elbow shows they really do seem to come across as a really nice bunch of lads, so it’s extremely good news in that respect. From a musical point of view it’s nice too. They were supposed to be the Next Big Thing when they released Asleep in the Back, but that hasn’t quite happened. They slipped a little, in my view, with Cast of Thousands, but between those two, Leaders of the Free World and the album for which they won the award, Seldom Seen Kid, they have put together a pretty consistently impressive collection of records.
A great band, and a bloody good result. Pimm’s all round.
Elbow – The Fix (Nice ironic choice, this one)
Elbow – Mexican Standoff
Secondly, Tennents Mutual have announced an amazing series of gigs throughout Scotland, all coming up over the next few months. They’ve done it by some slightly weird voting system which has had a couple of really notable results. Firstly, the venues are spread far and wide which is – although I am not all that delighted, living in Edinburgh – a great thing for Scotland and Scottish music as a whole. If you live in Dumfries, for example, when do you ever get to see a decent gig? The other thing that is brilliant is the pairing of established acts like King Creosote and Malcolm Middleton with up and comers Withered Hand and Rob St. John.
Here’s a sample lineup: Fort William, BA Club: King Creosote, The Pictish Trail, Chris ‘Beans’ Geddes (Belle & Sebastian).
Or how about this one: Ayr, Town Hall: Glasvegas, Laura Marling, Malcolm Middleton. Ayr fucking Town Hall? Blimey!
And congratulations to some friends of Toad for landing these slots:
Inverness, Ironworks: Teenage Fanclub, King Creosote, Rob St John.
Stirling, Tolbooth: Malcolm Middleton, Withered Hand.
Fat Sams, Dundee: Malcolm Middleton, Los Campesinos, Eagleowl.
Glasgow, CCA: James Murphy, Findo Gask, Kid Canaveral, Chris ‘Beans’ Geddes (Belle & Sebastian), David Barbarossa.
I have to confess I lost interest a little in Tennents Mutual due to the fact that from the outside very little seemed to be happening, and I saw too many uninspiring bands at the very top of the list – Muse, eck! Mob rule doesn’t always produce the best results. The fact that a lot of the very top bands weren’t up for it has resulted in a much better festival though, as far as I am concerned, and I love the lineups and the fact that they are in slightly less-travelled places.
Tennents interest me actually. They have sponsored some amazing things in Scotland – the Versacoustic gigs, the previously excellent T on the Fringe and the much-missed Triptych – but this year’s Edge Festival lineup was woefully thin, despite a few last minute gambits that did up the quality right at the death. I don’t know how much Tennents themselves have to do with the nature of the things they end up being involved with but all of the aforementioned stuff is bloody excellent. Triptych and Versacoustic were particularly interesting because it required genuine musical enthusiasm and knowledge to put together those kind of shows, and it’s rarer than purple fucking snow that corporate sponsorship embraces something so esoteric, eschewing the NME dross in favour of really making the effort to bring new and interesting things to people. Those shows actually took real risks in the name of helping people to broaden their horizons, and it’s a real shame they’re gone. Here’s hoping The Edge Festival can get its act together in future and that the excellent work of Triptych isn’t gone forever.
Malcolm Middleton – Superhero Songwriter
King Creosote – A Month of Firsts
Withered Hand – I Am Nothing