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The Kissaway Trail/Kurran and the Wolfnotes – King Tut’s, Glasgow

For a venue that is happy to trade on how quirky and non-corporate it is, King Tut’s can be awfully cynical sometimes. It has a policy of putting acts on that bit later than most – approximately two hours later, in fact. Why? Well, the ever-thrusting spirit of rock’n’roll of course; anarchy and sticking it to the man. We won’t play by your rules. Because the night, as someone once suggested, belongs to lovers. Because the night belongs to us.

Absolutely nothing to do with getting people in longer and later and making more money in bar takings. Not that at all.

So as the crowd rages against the dying of the weekend light, Kurran and the Wolfnotes arrive on-stage shortly after 10. It’s an awful name, but the early singles indicated that there may be something more to them than a clumsy moniker. And so it proves over a splendid half-hour set. It’s a fair bet that they own Elliot Smith records, while Conor Oberst is another obvious touchstone, but there’s a cleanliness to the songs, a sense of efficiency which gives them a purpose and zeal of their own.

Labeled alt.folk, as anything which features an acoustic guitar seems to be currently, they have a decent feel for driving a song in the style of Gold-era Ryan Adams. It’s bright and it’s catchy and really rather pleasing ‘Whatabitch’ and ‘Four Limbs’ are the highlights, but there’s enough here to indicate that the album will definitely be worth checking out. File under very promising.

‘You’re quiet’, says Thomas Fagerlund to the crowd as the Danish band complete their second number and he’s right; they are. Herein lies the dilemma for the Kissaway Trail (pictured); they make serious, lovely lysergic pop in the manner of Mercury Rev or the Flaming Lips at their most tender. They appear, black-clad almost to a man, on a stage so dark you can barely make out anything other than indistinct shapes; and it’s 11.15 on a Sunday night. Yet, at times, they appear disappointed that they crowd aren’t reacting like it’s the Arctic Monkeys up there.

That, of course, is the perennial dichotomy with Scandinavian bands. They are often so caught up in mirroring what they want to be that they forget to concentrate on what they really are. Occasionally, the Kissaway Trail aim for a rockier edge, which sees them turned into a Little Baby Arcade Fire to the point where it’s way, way beyond homage and bordering on the actionable. This is neither good nor necessary.

Because, thankfully, The Kissaway Trail are very, very good. Powered by staccato bursts of drums and spiraling, colourful keyboards, they make an eerily beautiful noise which recalls the afore-mentioned American duo and the plaintive delights of Sigur Ros at their most fragile. If occasionally the band seem nervous to the point of earnestness, they needn’t bother, as the songs, delicate as they are, are not brittle.

If they do have a flaw, it’s that a certain similarity in tone occasionally leads to a uniformity. Indeed, when the blasting intro to recent single ‘SDP’ cannons out, it comes as a welcome change of pace. But it’s the first night of the tour, and minor gripes about pacing aside, it’s excellent.

But sadly, the crowd thins out as the show goes on and empties after ‘SDP’. Tut’s may well argue they are keeping the rock flame lit, but people do have work the next day and do have public transport to get, which finishes notoriously early in Glasgow on a Sunday. It’s a shambolic situation which is an active hindrance to both act and audience and benefits only the venue. Except, of course, it doesn’t; anyone burned by this simply won’t bother coming to a gig at Tut’s in future. It’s a sour note in amongst the fragrant tones of an excellent show.


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