The Captain’s Rest was fairly sparsely populated when Mike Nisbet took to the stage; he has a real power to his voice, and matches this with rhythmic, country style, guitar and smooth harmonica – heavy on the bends, like it should be.
Although low key and laid back, it’s easy to imagine this solo performance translating to a much larger set up. Whether by choice or not, I appreciated the restraint, though I can’t help but imagine this would set the perfect soundtrack for a road movie.
We’re Only Afraid of NYC followed, and it has to be said they didn’t immediately grab me. As the set moved on though, the broken vocals developed an awkward, emotional charm that I’d probably love were they backed acoustically.
The pace of the songs moved frequently and quickly between all out battering, distorted rock to something else that was loud but ambient. Although timid between songs (four tracks in we got a mumbled “sorry, hi”), some excellent fret work and drumming showed a real and justified confidence in their ability.
In contrast This Silent Forest’s front duo, Graeme MacDonald (a.k.a. Squirrel) and Jamie Daisuke Sturt, were excellent with the audience and genuinely funny.
The pair’s voices work to produce deep, rich harmonies, and although self-described as modern Scottish Folk-pop, there is something else to this band. It could be the way that the song writing, singing and front-man-responsibilities fire back and forth between MacDonald and Sturt giving two distinct lyrical styles that both compliment and contrast. Or maybe it’s the balance of guitars, sometimes busy, sometimes patient and heavy on the reverb. Whatever it is it pulls them up beyond that of your typical folk-pop band.
That being said they do that element very well, and the cello, from Iona Bain, was well-measured and never gratuitous, which is a crime some bands are guilty of when incorporating strings.
The two stand out tracks of the set were probably The End of All Things and The Fight – the former performed by MacDonald and Sturt alone making full use of those thick vocal harmonies, and the later showing off the full capability of the band as an altogether louder beast.
It was a great line up, full of the impression of big things to come, that deserved a larger audience but couldn’t have asked for a more attentive one.
Review by Jamie Orr
Photo by Fiona McKinlay