Holy shit guys, I’M BACK! Where have I been, you demand? Fucking nowhere m8. Well, that’s not true. I was off gallivanting at Eden Festival down in the Borders (which was EXCELLENT, by the way), and otherwise paying The Market Bar’s mortgage with my love of a good pint. That shit gets expensive, so I’ve been working to fund my frolics too – hence the radio silence on my part. SOZNOTSOZ.
ANYWAY it’s XpoNorth this week, which means us Nettlers have to venture outside and sample other venues outside of our beloved HQ. It’s a strange new experience for us, but we only do it once a year. So far, we’ve coped appropriately. Personally I hadn’t been in The Phoenix in about 15 years – not for any reason other than I’m too lazy to walk down Academy Street – so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It turns out a lot has changed, and a lot has not. It’s been decorated and I absolutely do not remember it being the size it is, but the drinks are still as cheap as their choice of toilet paper. £2.20 for a tequila? I’m in there like swimwear mate.
I missed all of Wednesday’s Xpo shenanigans for personal reasons, but thankfully Woolly Dermal will be filling you in on those. There was nae danger of me missing Thursday though – I’d been told all week how fantastic Solareye was, and how I didn’t want to miss him. I wasn’t convinced as I’m by no means a hip-hop or rap fan but SHIT. HE WAS SO GOOD. I’m aware as a reviewer I should know more adjectives than ‘good’, but fuck you, I’m the writer here.
Solareye’s first song was played to a packed room which only kept filling throughout his set. We’d arrived early in order to get a seat (I’m far too old and far too crippled to stand at gigs these days) and caught the end of Lizzie Green, and I’d thought it was full then. It wasn’t. By the end of Solareye’s set, it seemed everyone and their dog had popped in for a swatch and I can see why – the Stanley Odd frontman puts on one hell of a show.
The second tune was an interesting experiment; a whole song – three verses – all in the same rhyming scheme. He asks ‘is this repetitive?’ in the chorus and it is, but in a good way. It flowed seamlessly, and his charisma and confidence oozed out of every pore. It was a strange juxtaposition of this guy knowing he’s good, but without arrogance (or having a face you’d want to punch). This was a man who knew how to engage the audience and pump up the atmosphere. I’ll not lie, I was giving this big licks.
The scope of the topics covered in Solareye’s set was vast and powerful, ranging from critique of consumerism to soggy Weetabix with his wee man. If you’d told me he’d be jumping from pillar to post subject wise, I’d have scoffed and said “that’ll be shite mate”. But it wasn’t shite, it was fascinating. There was an overarching theme of disenchantment intricately laced throughout his lyrics which tied the set together perfectly, and the exceptional delivery and general atmosphere made this the best gig I’ve ever seen at XpoNorth, hands down.
Now for some loop pedal beatboxing; I did not expect that. A disclaimer of “this is entirely reliant on technology” and hoping it didn’t go to shit was entirely unnecessary; the whole thing went off without a hitch. This is the kind of shit that mediocre Ed Sheeran-types record and think of as revolutionary, when underground artists have been perfecting that shit for years. I left feeling empowered and enlightened (if not mildly attacked for having my phone out during the set, I was recording for you cunts), rather than my usual drunk and (mildly) disappointed. You can find a couple of videos of Solareye’s set below if you were unlucky enough to miss it.
All in all, 15/10 pal. Cheers for a belter.