We were no strangers to Heavy Smoke, but it had been ages since we last caught them live. Luckily, it didn’t take long for the boys to refresh our memories as to why we became fans.
You couldn’t question Stevie’s work ethic here, for the dude was always into it. If he wasn’t belting out the sharp lyrics that defined their writing, he was bouncing about around the plentiful amount of free space he had, his hair a whirling dervish all the while.
It helped spawn an energy that was elevated by his fellow band mates, as they busted out with rugged riffs taken up a notch through the slick solos, and brawn, energised rhythms equally dynamic as they were raw.
Junkatron is still a certified banger, with other highlights from their arsenal including DIY and their namesake number. The room was a little on the empty side at first, but gradually they got a sizeable group of curious folk bravely stepping forth closer to the barrier.
They survived a handful of gear malfunctions and a few off spots to bring what was, for the most part, a tasty set that nicely got the show on the road.
It was a troublesome start for Ambivist, being delayed by umpteen tech problems before they could get going, and honestly speaking, it did look like it had an effect on them.
They seemed shaken in places and didn’t always appear confident, and there were a few subtle awkward slips. They were also up against the fact that their music was a less hectic, more restrained style compared to the previous act, so it did take a while for us to get invested.
But on the brighter side of things, there were flashes of cool guitar work, the bass lines were good and the drumming was on constantly firm form, plus we got a damn decent cover of Rag N Bone Man’s Human, so that was certainly a positive to take away from this.
As is, and especially taking into account the issues out of their power, it was overall solid. While being considerate, we do feel they need to step their game up, because in such a crowded scene, labels and PRs need a reason to believe that this group can stand out from the pack. If there is potential there, they need to flesh it out more.
Journeying down from far up in Inverness were King Kobalt, who caught our attention last year with their cracking EP, The Faithful, and we were happy to be seeing them live at last.
All five of them were quick to click and reignite the sort of fiery energy we expect from this type of bill, swaggering a naturally large presence on stage that was legit. Not at any given moment did we feel that they weren’t working a proper shift or wasting an ounce of breath as they battered through from tune to tune with a lasting, intense flow.
The vocals from Craig were punchy, Dylan and Kenneth’s dual riffs were freaking sweet, and the pairing of James and Finn cranked out these turbulent, hard knocking rhythms that were quite infectious and served as the base for the whopping choruses. The momentum just rolled on as the band got the audience sucked in with ease, with a line of headbanging, clapping and yelling going on at the barrier where applicable.
This is a quintet who know the score on how to deliver a show. A superb display from one of the Highlands’ finest metal acts that have earned their constantly thriving following.
And now for a trio that we’ve been eager to watch in the flesh since they burst onto the scene – Pandacar – and they didn’t let us down.
They came equipped with a delightful set of dynamic indie punk tracks with rollicking, fast and furious tempos that didn’t die down, with bitter-toned writing centred around politics, mental health and the like, cunningly hidden under the guise of Adventure Time.
Eddy, dressed in the most gloriously dapper, eye blinding outfit from Primark that money could buy, was oozing charisma and had some exquisite skills on the bass, an instrument that perfectly matched his Brian Blessed-calibre voice.
Complimenting him was Nick, donning a snazzy as hell top in his own right. He had an intense look in his eyes which carried through into his singing, not to mention he was a great guitarist. And finishing off the dandy package was Nathan on the drums, driving the thumping beats which were oh so catchy.
The crowd were visibly enjoying the madness unfold as much as we were, and just like us, plenty were sprightly dancing along.
Airing cynical content in a wildly fun and entertaining fashion, Pandacar have an intriguing quality to them that, in our mind, definitively breaks them away from the rest, and that element we feel could help take them to a higher plane. Personally, we can’t see how anybody could fail to be amused by what they have to offer.
On the whole, a very ruddy good show, indeed. Perhaps the best ten month anniversary event we’ve ever attended. #NoMoreBiscuits