LIVE: eagleowl/Seamus Fogarty/ICHI/Raveloe – Lost Map Records HUMBUG, Summerhall, Edinburgh, 17/12/2023

LIVE: eagleowl/Seamus Fogarty/ICHI/Raveloe – Lost Map Records HUMBUG, Summerhall, Edinburgh, 17/12/2023

Is it anybody’s first gig?’ asks our compere Johnny Lynch AKA The Pictish Trail.

Actually, that’s not such a silly question (and indeed, it is the first gig for quite a few people here). Today’s afternoon show is an all-ages one, and there are babes in arms, along with older children. Whether this is so parents can get their children accustomed to live music, or whether those parents are frustrated at not being able to get out to gigs now they have children (though I suppose the two may not be mutually exclusive), it’s something to be encouraged. Sure, some folks will go on a self-righteous rant about licensing laws and how this enables bands to play and blah blah blah….whatever. It’s something to be encouraged.

The main thing is, it’s an awesome four act bill, topped off with eagleowl playing their first gig in five years. Rejoice! First up is Raveloe. The first time I saw Kim Grant appearing under this name, it was as a support to Broken Records. Then just armed with her guitar, this time she is playing a full-band show. So not only does the audience get her dreamy folk, but it’s now dreamy folk mixed with a shoegaze sound. She’s released her debut album Exit Light, following on from a series of great singles, and it’s truly one of the albums of the year. She opens with the gorgeous ‘Old Lessons’ and gives us a fine set that also includes ‘Countertop’ and non-album track ‘Catkins.’ Raveloe is going to be a headline act, get along and see her and them while you can still see the whites of her eyes.

ICHI starts off his set by entering through the crowd on stilts playing harmonica. His set progresses from here. It’s a one man show from the artist who originally hails from Nagoya in Japan and is now based in Bristol. His short set involves all sorts of instruments from steel drums to trumpet and several he created himself. Heard without seeing, his set might be filed under electronica, but live he reaches a whole new level of visual entertainment. There’s a song where we, the audience, are required to make animal noises, another about a mosquito that ends with an almighty slap and another which he tells us is about ‘my favourite Chinese restaurant in Japan.’ My twelve year old says this set is the highlight of his day and asks for one of Ichi’s CDs for Christmas. High praise indeed.

Seamus Fogarty’s association with Lost Map Records goes back a decade, and indeed to Fence Records before, though he now calls Domino Records his home. He’s released three albums and three EPS, his latest EP being the rather fine Hee Haw. Most of his set is just him and his acoustic guitar. At times it’s a struggle to hear him as quite a few kids are being, well,kids, but he does have a rather fine line in repartee. ‘Short Ballad For A Long Man’ deals with the story of the Irish giant John Byrne, who’s remains were on display in London for many years (apparently Fogarty was once advised to take a girl on a date there). There’s also ‘God Damn You Mountain,’ the title track of his first album which concerns a visit up a mountain where he left his yellow t-shirt behind, walked down then went to retrieve it, only to find it had disappeared. He does have yellow t-shirts on sale, and I hope this anecdote helps him sell them. But the highlight of his set is the brooding ‘They Recognised Him’ which fades, rather wonderfully, into ‘Chestnuts Roasting On An Open Fire.’

Finally, though, it’s time for the highlight of this afternoon event. eagleowl (always without a capital) have always worked at a fairly glacial pace. Today is their first gig in five years; in over fifteen years they have produced just one album, and two EPs and a few singles apiece. But when the quality is as high as their recorded output has been, it’s definitely quality over quantity. When I first encountered the band, they tended to play as a three-piece with singer and guitarist Bart Owl (possibly not his real name), joined by double bassist Clarissa Cheong and violinist Malcolm Benzie (the latter two have been playing with Broken Records and Withered Hand respectively in recent years). Bart still tends to play stage left side on, but tonight’s set is so wonderful that we will forgive him that, and swelled to a six-piece suits them very well indeed. While there’s much of their set that’s slow and glacial, over time they have got louder and they are always beautiful and hypnotic. Much like with Low, the act I would (most favourably) compare them to, they’ve evolved and can get wonderfully noisy indeed. Their last release was the ‘Let’s Save Christmas (The Ballad Of Nakatomi Plaza)’ which they play tonight. Yet the highlight of this longed-for set is the epic ‘Too Late In The Day,’ wonderfully noisy and one that confirms they have lost none of their magic.

I’m hopeful for another album by the end of the decade.

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