BBC Radio 6 Music Festival with Car Seat Headrest, The Lemon Twigs, Haley Bonar, Sacred Paws at Saint Luke’s, 25/3/17

In the smallest of the three venues taken over by this year’s BBC 6 Music Festival comes arguably the most exciting array of bands on the whole line-up.

While the rest of the fest is taken over by cruising veterans (Depeche Mode) or the populist fringes of modern electronica (Bonobo), Saint Luke’s catches three of the most exciting acts from the other side of the Atlantic (and one gang of hotly tipped Glaswegians for good measure).

First up, Sacred Paws show why they’re one of the most exciting bands in Scotland with a short set that is high on energy and ambition.

Our first Transatlantic guest is Minnesota’s Haley Bonar, described ambitiously by the MC as the best thing to come out of the state since Prince.

Arguably this is an insult to the Coen Brothers’ masterpiece Fargo, but the audience seem prepared to give Bonar the benefit of the doubt.

Bonar shares little in common with the funky purple icon but she has a tight backing group and a rich, deep voice that suits her warm indie rock sound.

She’s been ridiculously productive over the past few years, releasing record after independent record but the downside of this is the lack of a distinctive sound; with tracks ranging from strident alt-rock on 2014’s ‘The Last War’ to a warmer countryish sound.

Tonight the audience seem a little restless, but they’re impressed with her voice and some impressively smooth bass grooves that give her set a sedate, rolling feel.

The best moments come late on when Bonar buckles on an acoustic guitar and the music takes a turn for the downtempo.

She may not be able to rival the night’s other acts for energy, but there’s plenty to enjoy from tonight’s performance.

Next up are The Lemon Twigs, a New York four-piece led by brothers Brian and Michael D’Addario whose lush sixties-inspired melodies and theatrical pomp recalls The Zombies trading licks with Supertramp.

Together with the stern Danny Ayala on keys and Megan Zeankowski on bass, the brothers deliver a highly entertaining set that is one part Freddie Mercury, one part Syd Barrett, a smidgeon of Keith Moon and quite a lot of Broadway.

All of the band is clearly exceptional musicians for their relatively young age; Brian (Roger Waters if he joined Slade) sings better but Michael bashes the hell out of a drum kit, while wearing a leopard print cat suit.

Midway through the duo swap to allow Michael a chance to buckle on a Gibson SG and deliver a high-kicking frontman routine.

Your love of this band may depend on whether you consider them loveable revivalists or an irritating pastiche, especially since their hyperactive songs rarely stay at one tempo for long enough to get a handle on the surprisingly effective melodies that the quartet are firing at you at a rapid tempo.

With one album, Do Hollywood, already out on legendary alt label 4AD and a new EP forthcoming, the stage is set for these retro fantasists to take the world by storm.

Finally it’s time for our Car Seat Headrest and from the buzz in the audience there is no doubt who the hottest band of the night are.

In just two years, Will Toledo has gone from obsessive bedroom recording nut to a genuine sensation, crafting dynamic indie rock tales of wit and disenchantment and tonight is a great reminder of the immense talent that has brought him so far, as he and his bandmates work their way through a set that unsurprisingly draws heavily on last year’s fantastic Teens of Denial.

Dressed all in black, the group are tight, precise and loud as they deliver Toledo’s missives like firecrackers.

There’s a touch of Weezer in the scratchy riffs, New York legends Television in the extended interweaving guitar parts and tons of the Pixies in the screeching feedback and lo-fi aesthetic of tracks like ‘Destroyed by Hippie Powers’.

The blackly comic ‘Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales’ and ‘Unforgiving Girl’ get the crowd moving, but the best thing about the show is the atmosphere the quartet summons with barely a gesture.

The crowd crackle with electricity from the first guitar squall to the last notes of an almost unrecognisable lo-fi take on Frank Ocean’s ‘Ivy’.

It’s the type of atmosphere you only get when a band are at their most exciting, dragging excited faces through the door in the hope of catching an act on the cusp of greatness.

If Toledo and co can keep producing shows and records as good as this, they’ll deserve their place alongside their heroes.

Words: Max Sefton
Photos: BBC/Alan Braidwood


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