‘Granfalloon’ has its origins in Kurt Vonnegut’s Cat’s Cradle; Edinburgh’s Song, by Toad have since repurposed it as a proud label to apply to those gathered at last month’s label-centric mini-festival. Fittingly bookended by two predictably top-notch Meursault sets, the latter was ostensibly the I Will Kill Again album launch, though this was ultimately gig-bombed by the extraordinary megafan who worked her way to the front row, ultimately clocking up a guest appearance on backing vocals for her troubles.
Though the rest of the day contained every fest’s fair share of necessary duds, its vast majority was spent in the company of acts poised on the brink of greatness. Indeed, any day that starts with Hailey Beavis can’t be all bad, her set of clever, classy, sassy and sincere songs and anecdotes kicking off with a phenomenal, just-completed track, which featured a loping guitar coda that could have gone on forever, as far as I was concerned.
Adam Stafford’s performance began with a note that what we were about to hear were his workings-out for a potential double album. These were no mere sketches, but a lean, moody, magnificently angular showcase of things to come. Its conclusion was a sublime piece for a cappella solo choir which bordered on theatre, Stafford twitching to his own music like some dying Andy Kaufman clown whilst adding to his layers of vocal loops with surgical precision: a moment that could really only be captured live, though I’m already looking forward to hearing the studio interpretation.
The greatest of the day’s revelations, however, was Siobhan Wilson, descending like something out of another world, or possibly France. The preview of her forthcoming debut album can best be described as music for smoke machines: a set of cold, quietly rapturous songs perfectly pairing literate lyrics with guitar, piano and a vocal accompaniment drenched in sad, crystalline reverb.
John Peel once told a story about the young Leonard Cohen’s only BBC radio session: how they’d expected Cohen to be the sort to hide moodily in a corner all day, only to be met by a total professional who repositioned his backing singers just so he could maintain eye contact with them as they sang. I couldn’t help thinking of this as I watched Wilson stop after her first song, asking the tech team (by name) to turn off all her monitors.
‘I know it’s weird – it’s just what I do’, she explained, not needing to. If anyone ever knew what they were doing, and what they wanted, it’s Siobhan Wilson.
Photos by Mike Hughes.