Fairy lights sprinkled across the venue. Stone steps leading down to the bandstand. The delicious aroma of street food and the fruity promise of cocktails. Moving beyond the traditional fare of parades, street parties and exhibitions, this year’s West End Festival staged a three day music festival at the historic open-air Kelvingrove Bandstand. It’s an inventive idea that not only brings summery festival vibes to Glasgow’s West End, but shows precisely how beneficial the recent £2 million refurbishment of the bandstand will be to both the Glasgow music scene and the Kelvingrove area. Weather permitting, of course.
Saturday’s event The Wee Chill begins with DJ Kev Stevens, providing a laid-back, soul-infused soundtrack to the early afternoon. Predictably empty so soon after the event opens, we wander around to explore the venue: with gourmet street food, craft beers and a cocktail bar (very welcome considering the usual limited choice of alcohol) operated by the Laneways Collective, the afternoon seems promising already. Pro Vinylist Karim follows, but as the casual listener is unable to discern much difference between two such similar DJs, it seems somewhat of a let-down considering the wealth of talented Glasgow bands who would have added their own flair to the day’s atmosphere.
So it’s a relief when Stanley Odd eventually appear on stage – despite the fact that Scottish rap isn’t a genre to which I’d usually listen, I’m reminded of how satisfying it can be to just simply sit and appreciate live music. Their lyrics are thought-provoking and peppered with political allusions – although at times their references to recent political events feels like an obvious tactic to gain the crowd’s sympathy, Stanley Odd are still impassioned enough to make you believe they really feel what they’re saying. Afterwards, we’re slightly disappointed to discover that yet another DJ is poised to take to the stage; as the clock ticks on, the crowd appears to grow somewhat restless and tonight’s headliner De La Soul have still not made an appearance.
Forty five minutes later, critically acclaimed innovative hip hop trio De La Soul begin their set. Considering their lateness, their reliance upon crowd work and tendency to remind the audience about their beginnings way back in the late 80s, seem to be districting De La Soul from performance of their substantial back catalogue. But does that really matter when the jam-packed crowd are so enthusiastic? A significant proportion of the crowd appear to be original fans – a huge cheer goes up when the band reminisces about their 1990 Glasgow gig – and as disconcerting as it is seeing so many unlikely-looking hip hop fans completely immersed in their classic rhythmic beats, it’s not hard to understand why. Still excellent performers 25 years on, everything from their first hit ‘Me, Myself and I’ to their Grammy-winning collaboration with Gorillaz, ‘Feel Good’ is engaging and appealing.
Would I go again? Depending on the line-up and the ratio of bands to DJs, definitely. A sunny June day spent listening to live music can never be a bad thing.