Live Review: The Fence Collective

This review ran in The Herald newspaper (Scotland) on Tuesday June 7, 2011.

(Four stars)

At the climax of this alt-pop carnival, Fence ringleader King Creosote showed us his crutch.

What gets him through thick and thin, he told us, producing said prop from his pocket onstage, is a copy of The Housemartins’ album London 0, Hull 4 – on cassette.

Such pop reverence and format fetishism ran rampant through this Fence-curated event – from promising opener Dan Lyth’s hand-made balmy-folk CDs, to rousing headliners Kid Canaveral, whose current indie booty includes the vinyl re-release of their debut album, Shouting at Wildlife, and an ace new tape single, And Another Thing.

Fence’s latest signings are rightly lauded for their ebullient power-pop, but Kid Canaveral also have a stirring line in ballads – their dramatic set opener Her Hair Hangs Down, and lovesick chorale Stretching The Line, were gorgeous.

Withered Hand – alias Edinburgh singer-songwriter Dan Willson – played a similarly warm and enthralling set of brambly odes and alt-folk anthems that attracted three encores, including a colourful new hymn about the joys of touring (or lack thereof), and his signature aria, Religious Songs.

There were also compelling turns from Rob St John – who cut a striking, romantic figure onstage and whose Smog-inflected, slow-burning psalms boded well for his forthcoming debut album – and indie-folk charmer Rozi Plain, whose current single, Humans, is a laid-back DIY pop treat. It is, of course, available on seven-inch.

But King Creosote’s Housemartins tape stole the show, forming as it did part of his performance with fellow Fence helmsman The Pictish Trail (aka Johnny Lynch). Their understated, squeezebox-led laments like Leslie and Marguerita Red were excellent, while their rendition of John Taylor’s Month Away reinforced the beauty of KC’s album with Jon Hopkins, Diamond Mine.

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