Oxjam - Snafu, Aberdeen 19/10/12

For what is really quite a bijou venue, Snafu has amassed a decent following among the people of Aberdeen. It mostly organises clubnights, and usually is host to only a few DJs despite possessing a full-featured stage and PA system. So it was perhaps no surprise when Oxjam, the musical fundraising project of famine charity Oxfam, decided to use it as a site for one of the many gigs that took place around Aberdeen on Friday night. Although fairly slow to fill, eventually the bar-cum-gig venue is bustling with conversation.

As the lights go down, the first musician to step up to the plate is Alan Davidson of Kitchen Cynics, who carries on with him a guitar, a bow and a loop pedal. He takes his seat, clearly unabashed by the bright pink spotlight glaring harshly at him, and begins to sing his folk-inspired lyrics sotto voce, as though nervous. He even apologises before Lichen, a song about a mother driven insane by the grief of losing her child; despite himself, he plays the song without a word or a finger out of place. He closes his set using the widest array of noises one could imagine - a battery-powered portable fan slaps the high-E; a hair twirler growls angrily at the upper pickup; a shearing razor rattles its way down a string - followed by his playing with a squealing synth box.

Next to take the stage are Peterhead-based indie-pop group IndianRedLopez. Two projectors balanced perilously on the side of the stage shine a collage of bright lights and explosions onto the back of the stage as a backdrop for the spectacle. After the briefest of introductions, the group begin their set in earnest: a combination of the Korg layout dominating front of stage, the three guitars (one of which is a bass, of course), the rather-subdued-by-comparison percussion line from the drummer at back of stage, and the gruffer than usual vocal contributions from frontman Mike Chang - he explained afterwards that this was the tail end a recent autumn cold.

Headlining on the dark and, by now, quite cramped Snafu soapbox are Stanley, a genre-defying quintet, whose recent album Animals With Amazing Disguises has gathered acclaim from the widest of sources. From the off they show us exactly how they aim to avoid all pigeonholes - lead guitarist Ramsay Clark brings on with him a g├╝iro, an instrument of percussion one generally only uses in Standard Grade Music class. It doesn’t stop there; vocalist Stephen Podlesny thumps a tambourine as he croons on their first track of the night, but the most obvious member of the group is Scott Coutts. He clutches a navy-blue stick-thin double bass that only barely misses poking a hole in the roof while a soft trilby rests precariously upon his head.

Their set involves a boatload of instrument-swapping - while Geoff Jones spends most of his time on an electric vibraphone, itself a sight not often witnessed in venues this small, he switches around to operate a large keyboard near the close-knit crowd. Thanks to a tiny stage and some fairly huge equipment, he is forced to exit through a side door and climb haphazardly over the monitors to get to the keys.

Stanley swerve from humorous to foreboding like a car with a loose steering wheel - with lyrics like “the shit you write” repeated over and over one minute, and the staggered delay of jagged, dirty guitar on Obstacles the next. The quirkiness sets the night off perfectly; three acts, each as different as the next, the perfect dollymix of musicians to show off the diversity of talent in the northeast of Scotland. The fact that all this is to benefit a highly deserving charity is the icing on the most delicious cake.


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