Live Review

The Fence Collective & Friends, Oran Mor, Glasgow

The loosely linked group of artists are nothing if not unpredictable.

Last minute line-up announcements, bands who only met on the day of the gig, and one-off collaborations are the stuff that we’ve come to expect from The Fence Collective. The loosely linked group of artists centred around the Fife-based independent record label are nothing if not unpredictable. Starting tonight’s entertainment is Dan Lyth and his band. With gentle keyboard-led whispered songs including one dedicated to his unborn child – the sort of thing that would be mawkish if one could actually make out the lyrics – it’s a bongo solo away from being twee. As if to exemplify the DIY ethic, he reveals that his forthcoming album was being recorded entirely in the outdoors and offered potential fans a demo CD with a hand sewn case.

An act whose confidence as a performer has grown since he emerged a couple of years ago, Withered Hand AKA Dan Wilson claims to be an old fart and proud. This self depreciation which he shares with the rest of the Fence family is belied by the hush in the room as he opens a short set with ‘It’s A Wonderful Lie’. Although ‘New Dawn’ is burnished with some harmonica, and the lyrics of ‘Cornflake’ raise a few laughs, suggesting there are a few converts in the house. From the side of the stage The Pictish Trail, MC for the evening, signals that the set can have two more songs, a smart new one called ‘The Inbetweens’, and ‘Religious Songs’ to which half the room mouths the words.

Rob St John, by contrast, lacks the same punch or any of the humour. Drawing on Smog, Will Oldham and other more musically minimal influences for songs like Your Phantom Limb, St John is another alumnus of the Fence Homegame, but makes for a rather mauldlin interlude in the evening.

Rozi Plain whose DIY approach is apparent in her clothes and hair as much as in her music, performs with musicians with whom she’s only had a few hours of rehearsal. It all gels surprisingly well. Her single ‘Humans’ stands out, with it’s muted trumpet riff and beats lifting the set. Oran Mor feels like a plusher venue than the improvised set ups and church halls that the Fence collective might usually invade for their festivals but the atmosphere is just as friendly.
The highlight as ever on these occasions is King Creosote, tonight playing accordion and joined by The Pictish Trail on a temperamental guitar, plus percussion from Captain Geeko on African drum. They alternate compositions, throw in a “mad” solo on the accordion into one song and lovely harmonies into ‘Margarita Red’.

John Taylor’s Month Away, from Diamond Mine garners a rapturous reception. Somehow Kenny Anderson has become one of the hardest working musicians in Scotland, touring with The Burns Unit, releasing a career-best album with Jon Hopkins as well as taking part in these collaborative nights. Having seen him play in many different formations, it is this semi-improvised, semi-acoustic set up that seems to serve his songs best. Talented in his own right, Johnny Lynch (The Pictish Trail) provides perfect harmonies for KC. When he changes some lyrics to “being together with Fence is all that I wanna do” we completely believe him. ‘Musikal Lives’ – surely the most moving song inspired by watching the film Grease – pulls everything together at the end of the set.

Topping the bill, Kid Canaveral play classic Scottish pop, falling somewhere between Deacon Blue and The Rezillos. ‘Smash Hits’ name checks both McFly and Erase Erata between the handclaps. Kate Lazda’s insistent guitar playing, and their endless supply of upbeat choruses put the crowd in a party mood. Compared to the rest of the evening they are a straightforward proposition, with ‘Stretching The Line’ a direct, un-ironic pop song. KC joins them on accordion for an amped-up version of ‘Missionary’ and a new song, ‘A Home Run And A Vow’. Their most boisterous song, ‘You Only Went Out To Get Drunk Last Night’ is an inevitable crowd pleaser, it’s la la la hook cries out for participation. The homespun talents of the Fence collective might be unpredictable, but they are consistently entertaining.

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