A lovely evening for Anglophiles. And for Scotsmen – or Irishmen, as the case would be here in Boston. Apart from the apt choice of venue, a particularly boisterous and no doubt ale-fueled Irish fellow up front repeatedly – and loudly – professed his kinship with the two Scottish bands. Irish, Scottish – ah hell, close enough. Which only added to the celebratory, over-the-top enthusiasm of the nicely packed-in crowd.

Brakesbrakesbrakes a.k.a. Brakes

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First up, Brakesbrakesbrakes, for the purpose of brevity hereto know as ‘Brakes’ (another band by that name requiring the U.S.-only name change). Those who arrived early had a nice treat. For myself, a Brakes virgin, delightful and somewhat unexpected quirkiness, craziness, and fun mix of styles. Slow pretty tunes with lovely, flowing melodic guitar supplied by Tom White. Who then turned on a dime into a madman, leaping about in search of ‘found objects’ – a beer bottle, the mic stand – to use as a slide. Seemingly random and erratic, yet amazingly precise, perfectly harmonizing with Eamon Hamilton’s equally crazed and powerful vocals, with the incredibly sharp rhythm section of Marc Beatty (bass) and Alex White (drums) giving them a solid base and safe haven from where to shoot off, in all directions. At one point when Tom was especially lost in the moment (along with the rest of us), the cord came unplugged from his guitar. With mild amusement but truly not missing a beat, he waited until just the right moment a few seconds later at the end of the song to plug it back in with dramatic flourish, the resulting sound so perfect, that while it seems so terrifically silly, that was the defining moment that cemented it for me. I love these guys.

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Some of my personal highlights: “The Most Fun”, “Hey Hey”, “On Your Side”, “Don’t Take Me To Space (Man)”, “On Your Side”, “What’s In It For Me”, “No Return”, “Why Tell the Truth (When It’s Easier To Lie)” – plus two great covers – “Shut Us Down” (Camper Van Beethoven) and “Jackson” (Jerry Leiber and Billy Edd Wheeler).

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We Were Promised Jetpacks

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As part of this FatCat Records showcase, We Were Promised Jetpacks were next up. A wonderful mix of loud and raucous anthems, punctuated by Adam Thompson’s heavy Scottish brogue and powerful delivery; and soft, melodic melancholy ballads – beautiful and heartfelt.

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With Thompson also on guitar, and Michael Palmer (guitar), Sean Smith (bass) and Darren Lackie (drums), they fed off the audience’s energy and delivered a searing set. Half of the equation for those special musical evenings that just lift you out of yourself is the audience, and this one definitely came through, cheering with recognition and singing along. A few standouts for me that I scribbled down lyrics for: “Open Windows”, “It’s Thunder and It’s Lightning”, “Quiet Little Voices”, and “Moving Clocks Run Slow” – the last three from their debut album, These Four Walls, which was released back in June.

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The Twilight Sad

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A powerful, pummeling, whirling mass of sound from The Twilight Sad (who released their sophomore effort, Forget the Night Ahead, last month) rounded out the evening. And by “pummeling”, I mean in a deeply gratifying way. Again, that wonderful Scottish brogue, this time by James Graham, driving the music and giving it enormous heart and soul.

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Along with Andy MacFarlane (guitar), Craig Orzel (bass), Mark Devine (drums), and Martin Docherty (keyboards), we were treated to a dramatic delivery of some dark and mysterious imagery set over thick and heavy pourings of guitar and keyboards, with pounding, relentless bass and drums. Alternatively straight-out headbanging, then deep and somewhat sinister, with some lovely Scottish balladry harkening back to ancient times, albeit no doubt with modern-day concerns. Still becoming acquainted, but most definitely a new fan. Not the sort of music you observe from a distance; rather you’re drawn in and quickly become a part of the churning motion. They ended with a cacophony of kaleidoscopic noise brought periodically into startling percussive focus by Mark Devine. Breathtaking.

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Two of the songs performed were most certainly “Talking With Fireworks/ Here It Never Snowed” and “That Summer At Home I Had Become The Invisible Boy”. Hardcore fans, see if you can match them with the setlist: Downstairs, Hit single, Eyes oot, Loud/Quiet, Mooth, Ye ken, The room, Faster, Sheepdug, Rabbit, 3iii. Fascinating and cryptic, just like their music.

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[P.S. to add what a nice, cozy little venue Great Scott is. First time I’ve been in there. Maybe a tad larger than the Middle East Upstairs, and like its ‘sister club’ O’Brien’s Pub, very nice sound. I thought it might be a bit too loud; it wasn’t, it was perfect. And a decent layout, with the bar and tables up front and stage and standing area in the back. Which helps considerably with patrons who want to drink and chat with the bands as background music. Well, except for that guy standing next to the stage during Brakes’ set, yammering away through one of their quiet songs, but there’s really not much you can do for people like that (except perhaps shoot them).]

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