XpoNorth Showcases, Inverness, 8/6/16

Lot’s of things have been said posted about XpoNorth, displaying different sides of the conference, from huge praise to scathing criticism; I have my own opinions on what is right and wrong about the music conference, but this is not the time for that, this is an opportunity to talk about all the wonderful acts witnessed during the showcase events in the evening.

My evening starts at the Ironworks for the opening party and fashion show and after a few beverages I’m in good spirits to catch the music on offer and head over to Hootenanny’s to see Posable Action Figures in action.

The groove laden Edinburgh duo don’t let down with a perfectly danceable set that keeps you nodding along as Gareth Goodlad’s vocals engage on pop-tinged rock edge without becoming too cheesy or glossy; these guys are well worth checking out.

Over at Deeno’s we witness the familiar sounds of WOMPS, to my surprise the sports bar turned venue is up there with the best sounding of the weekend as the band deliver their usual set of high octane, grunge tinged gems.

Their debut album, Our Fertile Forever, may not quite be my personal favourite of Ewan Grant’s back catalogue, but this trio more than pack a punch live as their experience as live act shines through above other acts at these showcases; it’s Ewan worst hair cut yet though.

Following WOMPS are Stornoway rockers The Broken Ravens, and sadly the five-piece play to a somewhat dispersing crowd.

In all honesty these guys are a few feet wide of what I’d usually go for, but their set tonight hits all the right buttons; there’s a refreshing lack of pretense to their rollicking classic metal sound, and further to that it’s fun and pretty good too.

The Broken Ravens are a solid band that doesn’t seem to take themselves too serious, they won’t be best band you’ll see this weekend, either creatively or technically, but they might just be the most entertaining.

Over at the Market Bar I meet a packed attic and my knee immediately smashes off a bench, leaving me hopping in excruciating pain while FOREIGNFOX’s Jonny Watt is right there in my face as the band deliver a rousing set in the tight, but probably best venue of the showcase.

These guys are always a solid proposition live and deliver an emotional roller coast of a set of heartfelt lyrics sung in Watt’s addictive Scottish tones, all set to indie-tinged post rock soundscapes that cry Jetpacks at their most fluent.

A wee dash over for my first visit to Blackfriars allows me to catch the end of Declan Welsh’s set for some well thought out tracks with plenty of indie rock oomph and flowing banter; tonight is probably not the best introduction to Welsh’s set, but It does more than enough to keep me enticed to hear more.

Back over at Deeno’s is possibly the surprise of the night as Elle Exxe’s set is stripped back to just her and her drummer; gone is the big hair and diva misnomer leaving an undeniable punk attitude that feels much more genuine, yet maintains all the irresistible pop undertones; this is second time we’ve caught Exxe at showcase shows this year, hopefully a homecoming tour will be on the cards soon.

The last set of the night may possibly be the best, or maybe the drink is starting to kick in, as upstairs at Madhatters Catholic Action deliver exactly what is expected of them, a highly infectious set of glam enthused indie rock hits that’re just what you need from a post midnight set, these guys are going places and rightfully so.

Words: Iain Dawson


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