Last weekend residents from Dundee, located Dundee’s Slessor Gardens for Dundee’s Summer Sessions, the first-ever in this city. The weekend brought several artists to Dundee with all putting on a superb show. Most importantly this festival brought music lovers in Dundee together once again, something they have been longing for.
Kicking off the weekend was the dreamy qualities of Theo Bleak. Admittedly I hadn’t heard much of this artist before but gathered they endorsed a lo-fi, indie-pop sound. Her set was fairly minimal but did capture the artist’s musical aesthetic perfectly. There was a clear rawness that perfectly complemented the breezy sounds and fluorescent vocals surrounding Theo Bleak’s music. Theo performed a perfectly timed set of half an hour including songs from her latest EP ‘Fragments’. Theo was met with a reasonable crowd who were more than content to listen quite. Being the only female and the only Dundonian to perform at Summer Sessions this was a well earned achievement. It was clear to see that she was delighted at this oppurtunity. A perfect choice of opening act and she’s definitely picked up a some extra fans in the aftermath of her set.
Dylan John Thomas
Right on schedule a roar of ‘Carnival De Paris’ filled the gardens as Dylan John Thomas took to the stage. Opening with ‘Jenna,’ the playful combination of acoustic guitar and xylophone tone had the masses jumping from start to finish. As the set progressed it became apparent that there were lots of committed fans there to see Dylan, some of whom had followed Thomas from the beginning of his career. They were consistently singing along and bouncing to every song and even met some of his songs with the chanting of “No Dylan No Party”. Dylan included three covers of Arctic Monkeys, The Strokes, and Johnny Cash which the audience adored. Dylan John Thomas looked thrilled to be there, that now being supporting slots for both Gallagher brothers now yet performed so nonchalantly as if he was playing to a group of friends.
Coming from Dublin was Inhaler. Throughout the set, it seemed as though the assembly loved Inhaler and as much as I enjoy their music and as great as their set was, for me it wasn’t as exciting as the others, however, their set still went down without a hitch. They opened their set with the title track of their album ‘It Won’t Always Be Like This’ and played some songs from that album as well as their latest single ‘These are the Days,’ all of which seemed favoured. They did play a brilliant set and many people seemed to love having them there.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Then it was time for the main event of the evening, opening the set with Fort Knox had the crowd enthralled from the get-go. Throughout every few songs in the set Gallagher stopped to interact, he talked about how he had not visited Dundee since his Oasis days and also said some things about the city that was perhaps uncalled for but with a talent like Noel Gallagher comes a well-earned attitude. The set list felt as if it mostly featured newer songs as opposed to his early albums, nevertheless there was a good mix and the crowd loved hearing songs such as ‘Holy Mountain’ and ‘Dean in the Water’ dedicated to some fans who had come from Argentina to see the former Oasis guitarist. Speaking of Oasis, later in the set he picked up his signature maroon Gibson and asked the audience if they knew what it meant, indicating something magical was about to happen and as anticipated the band roared into ‘Little By Little.’ He played songs from across different phases of Oasis, like ‘The Importance of Being Idle’ from their 2005 album ‘Don’t Believe the Truth.’ We were also treated to some Oasis songs that weren’t traditionally sung by Noel himself including ‘Whatever’ which had the entire venue chanting along to where the violin sequences would be and ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’ which the artists dedicated to the England Football Team. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds was a perfect way to end the first night and it was an absolute thrill to see them in Dundee.
In all honesty, the turnout was fairly surprising as many massive music events were happening all over Scotland that day, however, a plentiful number showed up to visit Dundee’s Slessor Gardens.
The next day crowds took to Slessor Gardens once again for another fantastic roundup of artists, this time including Voodoos, Circa Waves, Jake Bugg, and Stereophonics.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t make it in time to see Voodoos so kickstarting my Sunday evening was Circa Waves. Their set brought a fresh yet rock mellowness across Slessor Gardens, very fitting to a Sunday evening. The audience didn’t appear as full as the night before but it was clear they were invested in the band and some were jumping down the front to songs such as ‘Jacqueline,’ ‘Movies’ and of course ‘T-Shirt Weather’ to the ”it’s gonna be okay” bridge in particular. Each band member pulled off an exceptional performance however I was disappointed they didn’t play “Fire That Burns” and it felt as if Circa Waves hadn’t got the crowd as pumped up as anticipated, nevertheless their set was very enjoyable.
Before even stepping on stage it was evident that people had turned out for Jake Bugg, who could’ve easily been the headliner. His setlist consisted of old and new material from his ever-growing discography, both of which everyone loved, more so the older songs. Jake Bugg was another act that weekend that had the crowd jumping even during the slower songs such as ‘You and Me.’ Later on, he took out his acoustic for a sing-along which consisted of ‘Simple as This,’ ‘Lightning Bolt’, and ‘Two Fingers’ the reception of which left Bugg with a massive smile on his face. A lot of the songs played consisted of riveting guitar playing not heard in the studio version of these songs and the organ accompaniment was also a nice touch. ‘Broken’ was played as a breather for the audience and probably the artist himself and was met with a massive sing-along and huge applause as did the set’s conclusion, ‘All I Need.’
Finally, it was time for the final act of the weekend. Opening the set was ‘C’est La Vie’ which was unfortunately interrupted by some technical difficulties but they got back to work in no time and finished the song. Kelly Jones shortly after interluded the set with a shredding guitar leading into ‘Hanging on Your Hinges.’ The signature raspy vocals of frontman Jones were in no way lost in a live setting and the band’s style of playing was very well suited to the gardens. They consisted of 23 songs from across all of the band’s albums. Highlights included the saxophone solo on ‘Jeronimo’ and the entire venue singing ‘Maybe Tomorrow’ in unison and ‘The Bar Tender and the Thief’ one of the band’s most exhilarating songs further emphasized by a spellbinding drum solo. The set did feel too long and at times the crowd appeared a little disinterested, yet when the hits were played the crowds went wild. Had they played a smaller setlist mostly consisting of their better-known tunes the set would have been immaculate, nevertheless their performance was outstanding and some of Jones’ guitar work left me with goosebumps and I can safely say Stereophonics is easily one of the best live acts out there, and I adored having the chance to see them.
The weekend as a whole ran very smoothly, there were very few technical errors and almost every act ran on time. Not only was Summer Sessions an incredible experience for the music lovers and gig-goers of Dundee, but it was also a really good opportunity for the city and shows just how much Dundee is developing. I hope that Dundee Summer Sessions becomes an annual thing as there are not enough events around here like it and everyone in attendance seemed to have an amazing weekend.