The Lowlands Music Awards : Live Review – Louder Than War

The Lowlands Music Awards

With The Wendys, The Countess of Fife, Salt, The Guillotines, Meow, Demi McMahon, Cameron Ferguson.


Sept 2023

Dig deep into the strata of Edinburgh rock and all manner of musics appear in the volcanic core. In the shadow of that ancient lava all manner of high decibel has occurred over the decades. Maybe not as busy as Glasgow but certainly many high points like the godlike Fire Engines, the thrilling Scars, the sharp and angular Josef K and great characters like Wattie from the Exploited.  

Lowlands music awards has come to town to spotlight some of this but also embrace the surrounding toons and a mixture of music graces the stage disguised as an awards event with many of the bands from out of town which adds to the adventure. Making the short drive from Glasgow, the opening Cameron Ferguson are the kind of callow youth taking on the music world with their own vision that we have always loved here at LTW. Delivering a sprightly tough indie rock that leans towards the art school shenanigans of Franz Ferdinand, they certainly pack a punch and have the songs to match. It’s not an easy gig for them but they have bags of potential and enough originality to make a mark.

Demi McMahon is a flame haired local who delivers her Kate Bush range of vocals full of kooky strangeness and charm over a stark and minimal jazz backdrop. Meow are a scuzzy eccentric interlude that deconstruct eighties pop like Frankie’s ‘Relax’ into lo-fi shenanigans whilst  The Guillotines are a wam bam gang of besuited ska punkers who have the ribald rabble-rousing songs powered by an infernal energy and a wild brass section that cuts them above the usual genre cliches.

There is something very special about Salt. The band are like an undiscovered classic post-punk band from back in the post-punk wars like those Japanese soldiers who guarded isolated islands in world war two and were still there decades later before being discovered. This is no bad thing if you are good as Salt who take the whiff of the Banshees and go on to explore their own vision. They are machine tight and deliver songs full of a macabre imagination and emotional discord with their charismatic front-woman dressed in full tartan commanding the stage with a theatrical soul power.

The legendary Fay Fife made her name back in the punk wars with the Rezillos, who she still plays with to this day. In the past couple of years she has put her own project together, the quintessentially and aptly named The Countess of Fife who deliver the swagger and neon glam of fifties that leaves plenty of space for her powerful voice to stretch out. Even without their ill drummer tonight they sound great and create an atmosphere of exotica and sensual shadows.

The last time I saw The Wendys play was when they signed to Factory Records at a party in Manchester way back in the halcyon days of the Tony Wilson record label. Months later, the label went bust but the band seem to have reformed and their set is a reminder of that latent Factory sound and the soupçon of dirty disco and indie post punk and the hungry beat of post punk Scotland that fitted into that label’s house sound at the time of its demise.  They still sound feisty and razor sharp maybe there is still time for them…

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