A truly international night of entertainment occurred in Glasgow’s Glad Cafe on a very dreich and dreary midweek evening. If, say, a hurricane had hit the Southside, those in attendance would have shrugged it off as a mere inconvenience, such was their delight with the entertainment proffered by these two bands.
First up was Rain Of Animals with Australian Pepita Emmerichs on mandolin and fiddle and Scotsman Theodore Barnard on guitar. Playing classic bluegrass numbers along with some self penned songs and a grand cover of Gillian Welch’s ‘Dear Someone’, the duo played brilliantly with some scintillating solos on show on all three instruments, especially on a rapid fire version of Bill Monroe’s ‘Tennessee Blues’ while they also delivered a rousing ‘Sitting On Top Of The World’. From their recent album, ‘Nali’s World’, ‘Blaven’ was quite astounding with the pair demonstrating the fine art of utilising dynamics via a condenser microphone, while ‘Lil Demon’ (so called explained Emmerichs as it uses b flat tuning which is a demon to play on mandolin) was another joy to hear for those who love instrumental music played with love and joy.
Emmerichs and Barnard returned to the stage as two fifths of the current touring line-up of Cologne’s idiosyncratic Stereo Naked, a band who employ bluegrass, folk and jazz in their armoury along with a delightful, at times absurdist, sense of humour. All of these were on show tonight as the main pair behind the band, Julia Zech on banjo and Pierce Black on double bass were joined by Joon Laukamp on mandolin and fiddle along with the aforementioned Rain Of Animals addition. This quintet was at times quite astounding given that they had only played a couple of dates beforehand but the empathy between them was almost palpable with Emmerichs and Laukamp in particular bonding on twin fiddles.
They opened with the hypnotic ‘Roadkill Highway’, a dramatic number with Black’s double bass anchoring the song as guitars, mandolins and banjo fluttered around it. Not dissimilar but leavened with some dark humour was the following ‘Sanity’ with the band reckoning that ultimately we’re all like chickens running around with our heads cut off. They revisited this vein of humour throughout the night on songs such as ‘Give Me Back My Mojo’ (which had a Dan Hicks’ like vibe) and on their version of Guy Clark’s ‘Home Grown Tomatoes’ which found them emphasising the UK pronunciation to hilarious effect.
It wasn’t all humour of course. ‘Asylum Seeker Blues’ was incredibly apt while ‘Hell Of A Day’ was perhaps the best example of the ensemble’s playing with swooping violin and abrasive scrubbed guitars. ‘Yodel My Name’ showed that they can hone into the roots of American music, reinforced by a whirligig rendition of ‘Rueben’s Train’ and a swinging version of ‘Lovesick Blues’. More surprising was the encore. As the band left the stage to snake through the audience they played MGMT’s ‘Kids’, an indie pop hit this reviewer was unaware of (and thanks to an audience pal who sleuthed the original) before returning to the stage for one final example of their undoubted skills and musical empathy. Altogether, quite a fantastic night.
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