YOU HAVE to spare a thought for any poor souls who were stuck on the north boat on Friday with an irrational fear of musicians. There were countless guitars, a plethora of plectrums and a slew of cymbals on the Northlink Express as 12 bands rode the high seas ahead of the all-day Shetfest gig in Lerwick on Saturday.
The event, now in its sophomore year, took place at the legion as local promoters 45/33 showcased the best in burgeoning Scottish rock talent.
There was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see the venue draped in natural light – which streamed through the rarely un-curtained windows – when the doors opened at 2pm and it was up to local trio Frankeneinstein to kick it all off half an hour later with a chunky set of punk-rock tunes effusing a gruff yet sometimes glossy garage spirit.
Fellow isles act Brundlehorse and their jagged blend of lo-fi indie and gravelly alt-rock followed, with runaway track ‘Flow’ ensuring everyone in the then pretty sizeable crowd was left blissfully unaware that the band had only rehearsed with temporary drummer Bobby Sutherland for the very first time in the week or two prior.
Their – excuse the pun – hoarse vocals may have drawn some quizzical looks from the audience, which was significantly enlarged by the number of south acts patiently waiting for their turn to hit the stage, but Edinburgh’s The Walking Targets went a bit more sleek on Shetfest as they ran through an amped-up set of punk-rock ditties that sped away with Cheetah-esque pace.
There wasn’t much downtime from quintet Maxwell’s Dead either, with walking bass lines and rhythmic axe-work bringing a taste of smile-inducing ska to the Legion, whilst two-piece Black International proved to be one of the day’s highlights with a cocktail of angular riffs and adroit drum chops that gave the audience a breather from the sometimes predictable nature of punk.
Glasgow’s Kill Surrrf, who may or may not have been named by Tony the Tiger, followed before the besuited Chris Devotion & The Expectations veered things towards more straight up rock, discharging a sound more accessible than some of their predecessors.
Last minute addition to the bill Catholic Action, dressed in sepulchral black, impressed with Franz Ferdinand-esque japes before solo artist Billy Liar went at his acoustic-punk ditties like a sweaty canine on heat, power-strumming his instrument with angsty troubadour verve.
Shame you couldn’t quite hear all of the lyrics over the cutting acoustic guitar, but you were left in no doubt that Mr. Liar has lots to say and is not afraid to say it.
The curtains had resumed normal order as Poor Things showed why they managed to bag a slot at last year’s T in the Park with Weezer-ish chunks of rock before Black Cop potentially stole the show with a bombastic set of hardcore blasts and anarchic noise. The uninitiated probably wouldn’t have been too taken by their hyperactive minute-long bursts, but singer Kashif Saghar lorded the dancefloor with the Longest Microphone Lead in the World as he initiated the legion’s rowdiest crowd to date.
Bodies bumbled around the floor and stage divers swanned around as Black Cop ring-led a melee of flailing limbs and front-loaded punk bombast rarely seen in the isles. The PA system could barely cope, but no-one gave two hoots.
The short straw meanwhile went to Scots duo Pinact, who were tasked with following such an empowering live act, whilst the buzzworthy Deathcats served up some souped-up rock to highlight why the media are touting them as one of Scotland’s top rising acts.
The same can be said to headliners Algernon Doll, who headed to Shetland after a series of UK dates. The grunge-glazed Glasgow trio ran through tracks such as the Nirvana-esque ‘Suicide’ and it was this bouncing number that gave credence to the band’s blossoming profile.
There was even time for a few human pyramids to form on the dancefloor, although you’ve got to feel for those who ungracefully tumbled to the ground in the formation’s earlier failed attempts. As the lights went up it was time to reflect on Algernon Doll – who proved to be perhaps one of the more compelling acts of the day – and also the event as a whole.
With the doors open for over 10 hours, it was a pretty mammoth day that could have perhaps benefited with a dash more variety, but those who stayed at home missed out on a myriad of top acts who somehow mustered bucketloads of chutzpah and energy after roughing it on the boat.
It’s fair to say Shetfest nailed its pre-gig mission statement of giving the isles’ music fans something different to feast upon and with plans already in motion to host the event again next year it looks as if this ambitious project will continue to keep growing.
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