Fence Gnomegame - Town Hall, Anstruther, Sat 6 & Sun 7 Apr 2013
The Pictish Trail, eagleowl and Golden Teacher all play the micro-festival in Fife
’I know some of you are excited about this next band because we've already sold out of their records,’ declared Pictish Trail Johnny Lynch in advance of eagleowl’s Saturday afternoon set, which premiered material from their new album this silent year. ‘But don’t worry, we've restocked,’ he consoled, ‘we've got another three in.’ They do things small in Fence’s heartland of Anstruther. Smaller than ever, in fact, because this newly rechristened-for-the-occasion Gnomegame took the formula of the seminal Homegame event and boiled it down to just one venue and two days (not counting the small party which took place on Friday night in ropey local nightclub Legends).
We should be thankful it turned up at all, however, because the appearance of last year’s currently on-ice Fence fest Eye O’ the Dug in St Andrews, Lynch’s move to the Isle of Eigg, where he hosts the bi-annual Awaygame festival, and infrastructure problems in Anstruther such as the loss of the Hew Scott Hall to disrepair left Lynch and Kenny ‘King Creosote’ Anderson to question Homegame’s future existence. Anderson himself may not have appeared on the bill this time, but the reduced line-up of around twenty artists was perfectly distilled to showcase Lynch’s talents as both label boss and festival curator.
Friday evening appearances by Glasgow’s Optimo-signed sleaze-disco overlords Golden Teacher and Edinburgh electronic boffin oper8or were early departures from the usual Fence norm, with more electronic goodness rearing its head on Sunday with first the downtempo troubadouring of Barbarossa (think a slightly more pop James Blake who covers Terence Trent D’Arby’s ‘Wishing Well’) and the divisive but impossible to forget Archipel, purveyors of slowed-down space disco fronted by a man in a silver tinfoil hoodie channelling the vocal spirit of Anthony Hegarty.
eagleowl themselves were among the many highlights drawn from Fence’s bursting roster of friends and signees, delivering a seductive and hypnotic set of folk-tinged post-rock that seemed to be over before it had even started. Glasgow’s Randolph’s Leap, an eight-strong indie orchestra with one Fence single to their name, have a lightness of touch in the strong tradition of their home city, with singer Adam Ross’ self-referential and compelling lyrics adding real personality. ‘We've never been loved ever, any of us, so to be tolerated is a beautiful thing,’ he joked at the end, although the reception was deservedly much warmer than that.
There were also appearances by Malcolm Middleton, by delicate Irish singer-songwriter Seamus Fogarty and a full band Sunday night headline set from James Yorkston, although it was two mainstays of the Fence experience who seemed to define the weekend. First Kid Canaveral, whose long service to the cause has seen them at last release a record worthy of the transition from local favourite to serious crossover contender in Now That You Are a Dancer, its live iteration a winning burst of brain-itching, post-punk-tinged power-pop (although the cover of Erasure’s ‘Sometimes’ saw its merits debated afterwards).
Perhaps most pleasing of all though, and certainly the most affecting, was Lynch’s Saturday night turn as Pictish Trail. As the man whose efforts have shaped Fence the label and festival organiser into what it is now, his musical persona often slips under the radar, but the deservedly acclaimed new album Secret Soundz Vol.2 was reshaped here with the help of Eigg’s only metal band The Massacre Cave into an experimental collision of sludgy, synth-strewn rock and disco- house. The big bunch of flowers he was jokingly presented with at the end was the least he deserves by way of thanks.