Friday night was curated by Michael Kasparis of eminent independent label Night School Records and it proved to be a more than auspicious event. We have to apologise to Glasgow’s own Happy Meals as our travelling through from Edinburgh waylaid us somewhat, precluding our getting a photo and led to us catching only the end of their set. Needless to say, we were left feeling sore about having done so, as they were evidently avowedly up to the task of getting the weekend going. French girl vocals, and hypnotic electronic pulsations that demand a sweaty small hours setting? Ticks all the boxes, really - you could do worse than to be on time for a future gig of theirs…
Next up, The Space Lady (pictured above) had us all entranced from the first bar of ‘Strawberry Fields’ – in lesser hands, that would be a foolhardy opener to a set, but The Space Lady pulled it off with just her voice, an unusually versatile Casio keyboard and a helluva lot of charm. Strange and understatedly spectacular.
The ice queen cometh – or so you’d be forgiven for thinking at a first glance. In actuality, Molly Nilsson’s (pictured above) set was surprisingly uplifting and peppered with humorous interludes. It sucked everyone – so much so that it was a bit of a shock when it ended.
Meanwhile, we were all drinking Mikkeller’s rather delicious pilsner-style Pastelism beer, and most of us were drinking too much of it at that, it transpires – as Stephen Pastel accurately surmised afterwards on Twitter, “Everyone [is] fucked on Pastelism.” Worth the sore heads all round, of course.
The next afternoon, feeling perhaps a little woolly, a small audience got to enjoy two of the brilliant Paul Kelly’s films. Lawrence of Belgravia appears to have been recut since Blasted last saw it in 2012 (although we’re willing to be corrected about that) but was still as tragicomically brilliant, and the similarly bittersweet Take Three Girls: The Dolly Mixture story was a charming insight into the short lifespan of a band that should’ve been huge.
Over to the venue the second night of music got off to very special start. It’s unclear quite what the plan for NORMAL LOVE (above) is yet but their set was incredibly promising. Led by Roxanne Clifford of Veronica Falls (also featuring Night School Records/Apostille’s Michael Kasparis and Eilidh Rodgers of Sacred Paws), their dynamically varied collection of songs crackled with energy that left you breathless. Fingers crossed we get to hear more soon, in whatever form it may take.
The newest members of the Geographic Music stable, Spinning Coin (above) are definitely a rock band but manage to surprise all the same. There was a certain ‘slacker’ vibe (they featured the least ironed garment of clothing I’ve ever seen) but the songs took twists and turns that wee far from predictable.
Birdie (above) are a bit of buried treasure that have been teased out of hibernation especially for the weekend. The aforementioned Paul Kelly and Debsey Wykes (formerly of Dolly Mixture) gave a performance of sparkling, gentle, charming pop to make you beam from ear to ear. How couldn’t you?
Capping off the weekend, The Pastels (above) played a compelling set that was heavy on material from their most recent record Slow Summits, and quite right too. As mellifluous as much of their most recent work can be, there’s always just the right amount of noise and tension that cuts through. Light and shade. They finished with something a little bit special, a cover they recorded in the ‘80s but rarely played live - New York Dolls’ ‘Lonely Planet Boy’ (Roxanne Clifford took to the stage again to help out on backing vocals, too). The Pastels are always a really extraordinary band to witness playing but context may have rendered this performance just that little bit more so.
As Stephen P. noted between songs, a big part of what made A Weekend Abroad so special was the sense of community. Even ostensible outsiders were made to feel very much a part of it. There aren’t many other events you could go to and pick up a labour of love such as the one-off ‘zine - from legendary champion of local and independent music David ‘Brogues’ Brogan - for free (yours truly was honoured to put figurative pen to paper for it). A Weekend Abroad was a unique, uplifting weekend full of special moments that couldn’t have come from anyone or anywhere else – a heady trip we won’t forget any time soon.
Words by Andrew R. Hill. Photos by Erika Sella (except where noted).