Walking into the O2 Academy for BBC Radio 6 Music Festival was like walking into a neon forest—tree branches glazed with fluorescent paint lined the balcony, glowing under backlights. A dozen or so lightbulbs hung from the ceiling, creating an intimate feeling in the otherwise large venue. The room was abuzz with the chatter of concert-goers eagerly awaiting the moment the lights would fully dim. With a crowd of mostly professionals, everyone had a drink in hand, the slightly boozy atmosphere only amplifying the liveliness of the concert hall.
On first were Glasgow locals, Honeyblood, a noise rock duo with almost more energy than the crowd itself. Excited to be playing for BBC Radio 6 in their own hometown, Stina Tweeddale and Cat Myers burst onto the stage with an enthusiasm that captivated everyone in the room. The intoxicating combination of Tweeddale’s powerful vocals and Myers’ spirited drumming made it easy for the audience to lose themselves in head bobbing to each song. Honeyblood played a variety of new and old songs, each welcomed with screams and applause. In between songs Tweeddale and Myers’ cheekily gushed over the bands to come and voiced their gratitude to be playing for the BBC, with an allure true to their anthem, “Babes Never Die”.
Following Honeyblood were the timeless indie space rock favourites Grandaddy. Walking onto the stage to an eruption of noise, it was obvious that many members of the audience had been waiting a long time to witness the artistry of Grandaddy live. Within the first moments of frontman Jason Lytle beginning ‘Hewletts Daughter’, people seated in the balcony jumped up to dance. Grandaddy’s waves of electronic sounds and woozy guitars wrapped around the room, creating an atmosphere of euphoria. Each band member detail-oriented in their own way. With Lytle’s analog synthesiser echoing through the venue and the swell of Aaron Burtch’s drum beats cascading through Kevin Garcia’s moody bass and Tim Dryden’s dreamy keyboard notes. Lead guitarist Jim Fairchild, also of Modest Mouse, even donned both his acoustic and electric guitars at one point, to be able to seamlessly switch between the two. During everlasting masterpieces like ‘A.M. 180’ and ‘The Crystal Lake’, the entire audience seemed to feel the wave of the music roll through them. With barely a word said between songs (in what Lytle explained as an attempt to avoid cursing on the radio broadcast), Grandaddy’s set was a sea of blissed-out psychedelic rock worth swimming in.
After a break that seemed to stretch on for eternity, the headliners finally stepped onto the stage – The Shins. In the glow of red and orange lights they began to play ‘Kissing the Lipless’, the audience cheering in response. Contrasting the wavey-chill of Grandaddy, The Shins filled the venue with a kind of warmth. Despite the often-changing band line-up, all six members fed off each other’s energy to create a multitude of sounds. Each song filling the room with a depth that resulted from the combination of instruments, harmonica and violin included. The one constant in The Shins, frontman James Mercer, had an infectious bob as he sang that made it near impossible to not at least bounce along to each song. Having just released their first album in five years, Heartworms, The Shins played plenty of new material interspersed between their classic bangers. With the crowd cooing ‘la la la’s and ‘woah oh oh’s to classics throughout the night, creating a backdrop for Mercer’s visceral singing. Returning to the stage for an encore of ‘New Slang’, a bitter-sweet atmosphere filled the air. The song simultaneously filling the room with the joy of being in the moment and the sadness that it would soon be over, calling attention just how quickly the night went by. The Shins ended the night intimately, with a chorus of violins, Mercer’s soul baring singing, and a final burst of energy in “Sleeping Lessons”. Festival-goers walked out in a daze, yawning either in fatigue or due to waking from a lucid dream, before sprinting to the station in hopes of catching the last train home.
Image Credit: Amy Hawkins, BBC