Community is at the heart of the Great Western Festival, which aims to present “a unique day of ‘musical exploration and discovery’ with a strong focus on community spirit and the celebration of underused and underappreciated spaces in the area”. Featuring over 50 acts spread across a variety of venues, the festival taps into the West End’s vibrant spirit to present a program that highlights bands spanning genres and style. The beauty of neighbourhood festivals is in the way they capture a snapshot of both local venues and the local audiences themselves. The unique blend of bands on offer provided the perfect way to spend an afternoon, with the night quickly slipping away with the music.
Smaller community spaces like Burnbank Bowling Club were transformed for the night, with something endearingly intimate about the cheesiness of the disco lights and the smoke of the bowling club that managed to highlight the focus on the local bands performing. Elektra channeled an electronic twist on Fleetwood Mac vibes to charm the watching audience, offering a soothing interlude from the larger venues. Making their debut under the new name of Deni, Deni Smith led a performance that held the onlookers’ attention. The band’s instrumental mastery blended with Smith’s voice to charm and entrance the audience. Their performance epitomised the appeal of a neighbourhood festival, and the sheer joy of seeing up and coming acts perform on a lineup alongside international stars.
The largest venue of the festival, the QMU, played host to international names such as !!! (chk chk chk). The high energy of the performance had the audience engaged, with lead singer Nic Offer bringing his trademark vivacity (and his trademark poolboy shorts). From the outset this set served big disco energy and the venue was full of people clapping along. The guitar solos were used by Offer to jump the barriers and strut through the crowd, creating a true sense of physical and emotional connection. Meah Pace also performed valiantly on supporting vocals, leading the audience in soul claps and shining through on her features on chiller tracks like ‘This is the Door’.
The Hug and Pint was also packed, but the smaller size heightened the connection to the bands performing. Dry Cleaning in particular offered a stellar performance, with their unique post punk take on the surrealism of the modern digital life. Ending the night was Tom McGuire and the Brassholes at the Oran Mor, a staple of the Glasgow gig scene. The animation of their set had the audience singing along to their classics, and the venue was ringing with chants of Rise Up. Jumping from inspirational to humorous, the performance was the perfect symbol of the festival as a whole. The band was formed of buskers that met on the streets of Glasgow, and capturing the amazing community spirit that makes Glasgow such a class city to perform in.
Perhaps what the Great Western Festival really excelled at was creating a sense of genuine connection. Regardless of the size of the space or crowd, the acts chosen all managed to weave a sense of community on the night, embodying the ethos of the festival. Each space offered something unique, and the festival truly highlighted the best the West End has on offer musically and spiritually.
[Catherine Bouchard and Guatam Gupta]