Festival Review | Tenement Trail 2023

2023 TT Poster

One of the most lively and electric sets we’ve ever witnessed.”

Tenement Trail 2023 boasted some of Scotland’s biggest and best talents. In a similar approach to Stag and Dagger, the Glasgow based festival takes music fans around several venues all situated within walking distance to the iconic and memorable Barrowland Ballroom. With all of the venues being close together, this meant the typical Scottish weather couldn’t halt plans as every show was indoors.

With staggered set times, it was fun to try and plan who to see that day. Tenement Trail is perfect for groups of friends or families who want a day out that doesn’t cost a lot at all. There are acts for everyone too, regardless of your musical preferences or taste. There were bands and artists of all genres from pop to punk and rap to rock. It was such a well-planned day as well, which meant every act played their dedicated time slots without many issues. The vast majority of bands were local too, so wherever you travelled from to attend, there were bands that are bound to perform in some of these venues again.

The acts listed below are the ones we managed to catch, which amounted to 12 over the whole day. This included going to venues that were unfamiliar at the time but are now places we are excited to visit again. TT 2024 returns on October 12th, keep an eye out on their socials for more information on tickets! The picture below showcases over 50 acts that played at Tenement Trail this year over the 8 different venues. Some of these acts are also nominated for various awards like the Scottish Alternative Music Awards, including some we didn’t catch this year like Girls.Speak.French and Majesty Palm.

Soapbox – BAaD

Glasgow punk band Soapbox were our first act this year. We caught quartet at the very open yet atmospheric BAaD venue. No stranger to playing to a passionate Glasgow crowd, they supported Tina Sandwich in the latter’s first ever headline show. Their energetic sound incited mosh pits to continuously form throughout their entire set. Involving the crowd in each song, frontman Tom Rowan yelled the lyrics and was met with the same enthusiasm from their adoring fans in front of them. This included the catchy single ‘Private Public Transport‘ which is set to release on November 24th yet some dedicated fans already knew a lot of the words.

Rowan was joined on stage by bandmates Jenna Nimmo on drums, Aidan Bowskill on bass, and Angus Husbands on guitar. The four-piece set the venue alight with their powerful playing and impactful lyrics. They sell out every headline show they play, and it’s clear to see why. This includes another sold out hometown headliner at The Garage on December 8th. Their hometown set definitely energised the Glasgow crowd while also demonstrating just how talented they all are.

Cara McBride – Winged Ox

Next, we headed over to the Winged Ox, an intimate venue connected to St Luke’s. The first act we caught there was Cara McBride. The Carluke singer-songwriter entertained the intimate crowd with anecdotes about her career so far. This consisted of stories about her own material, including her single ‘Without Your Love‘, as well as her adoration for Welsh band Catfish and the Bottlemen.

This admiration for the band extended her setlist into an aptly chosen cover of the quartet’s song ‘Glasgow‘. McBride has a beautifully clear voice that allowed every word she sang to be heard. Her vocals are enticing and is amazing at drawing an audience in, capturing their attention and not letting it go. She is definitely an artist to watch.

The Notions – BAaD

We headed back to BAaD to catch The Notions, a four-piece indie-rock group from East Ayrshire. The Notions are a band that are consistently building a reputation in the Scottish music scene, and only for the best reasons. Having previously supported The Academic at Barrowland Ballroom in February, the four-piece are no strangers to playing to big audiences. Frontman Lewis Lennon‘s voice carried itself around the entire venue and, along with his bandmates, brought to life their infectious and vibrant tunes. Joining Lennon on stage were drummer Chris Millar, bassist Adam Clark, and guitarist Max Sloan.

Included in their addicting anthems were released singles ‘Do You Feel The Same‘ and ‘Better Than You‘. They also played ‘This Time‘ which was released very recently on November 15th but was unreleased at the time. Hearing unreleased tunes live is always a treat, and The Notions were no exception to this. Hearing the power when the band played each track, released or otherwise, demonstrated how much emotion and thought is behind each song. The Notions have such passion and energy for performing and it’ll be exciting to see them again sometime soon. If you want to see them live again, or perhaps for the first time, they are headlining King Tut’s on December 23rd.

Bottle Rockets – Barrowland Ballroom

Opening the Barrowlands as the first act to play there that day were Bottle Rockets. The four-piece are one of the most promising bands to hit the Scottish music scene. Playing a set of their own singles as well as a cover of a well known song, Bottle Rockets demonstrated everything they had to offer to the Glasgow crowd. From their own infectious indie and post-punk catalogue were 2023 singles like ‘Backburn‘ and ‘Community Service‘. They also performed their latest track ‘Limerence‘ which went down incredibly well with the crowd.

Vocalist Kenzi has incredible stage presence and made the venue her own as she added character and personality to the performance of each song. The addictive and memorable melodies were brought to life by drummer Sam, John on guitar, and Andrew on bass. Having already headlined King Tut’s earlier in the year, it was no surprise that Bottle Rockets’ set would invite such a large audience.

Bottle Rockets are nominated alongside The Big Day in the Best Rock/Alternative category for the Scottish Alternative Music Awards (SAMA) which is such a huge accolade for them. Their music and performing are next level, and it’s amazing to see them gaining the recognition and admiration they so truly deserve. They had a great turnout to their set too, further proving the impact they are continuing to print on the local scene.

Photo of Lewis Lennon (The Notions) by Kyan Gilfillan | Insta: @kgshoots_

New Town – St Luke’s

For the next act, we headed round to St Luke’s where we caught some of New Town‘s set. The alternative group made this another hometown set to add to their already impressive list of Glasgow shows. Their setlist was primarily formed around their 2023 EP “Lost In The City” and finally hearing these songs live was such an incredible experience. While we only managed to catch some of the set, what we did see made a lasting impression.

The vocals from their frontman danced around the packed out room. This was one of the most attended sets of the whole day, which demonstrates just how talented the band are. Each song enticed the audience further, capturing and holding their attention. From the EP, songs like ‘Spark‘ and the title track were played alongside more recent releases like ‘Main Street‘. Even from the short amount of time we saw them for, New Town are a band that will only continue to grow. Their musical talents are vast and they don’t show any sign of slowing down anytime soon.

Figurines – Winged Ox

Moving next door, we caught another packed out performance. Edinburgh quartet, Figurines, completely filled the Winged Ox and from the reactions of those in the room, it was obvious why. From the first note they played, the entirety of the intimate venue fell silent and watched in awe as the four-piece powered through their set. Ben Vaughan‘s guitar riffs earned him cheers with drummer James Douglas and Tal Liston-Smith also receiving such audible admiration. Frontman Josh Vaughan‘s distinct vocals commanded attention, and kept it.

Playing a slightly different setlist than normal, Figurines showed the Glasgow crowd exactly why they are such a promising band. Having already played support slots for bands like Courting, Naked Lungs, and fellow Scots Bottle Rockets, inviting the audience into their performance seemed to come as second nature to them. Alongside a cover or two, their original material consisted of ‘Wild One‘ and the infectious indie single ‘So I’m Told‘ which had everyone moving along. They also played their most recent release, ‘Green‘.

Their diverse sound is something that everyone will enjoy. Fellow Edinburgh band Swim School showed their approval from within the crowd and members of Arcade State also told me that Figurines were the best act they’d seen all day. Figurines are an amazingly talented band, and have worked incredibly hard to receive such a chance to display these talents. The reactions from fellow musicians only further prove this. Again, they are a band to watch, having been recognised by BBC Music Introducing, it won’t be a surprise if you see and/or hear more about them soon.

Ben Walker – St Luke’s

Heading back through to the adjoining St Luke’s, Ben Walker took to the stage and, yet again, the hall was fully packed out. The singer-songwriter from Montrose is arguably one of the most promising up and coming artists right now. His humble attitude and powerful vocal skills has gained him an ever-growing fanbase who have learned every word to his songs. Such dedicated fans made it a pleasure to watch him perform as they sang along happily with his tunes.

His lovely lyricism and soulful voice made for a memorable melodic experience. Walker was joined by Charlie Gilfillan on drums, Corrie Barrow on bass, Callum Hart on keys, and Lewis Davie on guitar. Together, they brought to life Walker’s songs including 2023 singles like ‘Lost‘ and most recent release, ‘Just a Boy‘. The latter of these has quickly become Walker’s most streamed song, and after hearing it live, it is evident why this is. His honest, emotion-driven words and personality-filled performing will get Ben Walker very far. He is absolutely an artist to watch and it was such a delight to finally see him live!

The Rooks – Van Winkle

Next, we caught The Rooks through in Van Winkle, a small venue that can be found opposite Barrowland Ballroom. This was another performance that filled the room, and what made this performance a little different than some of the others was the vast diversity within age groups. While they are all still young, The Rooks’ musical style incorporates an older, nostalgic, and familiar sound mixed with some modern and distinct twists. This really sets them apart and allows them the unique opportunity to create a universal fanbase where everyone can enjoy their material.

The bluesy rock quintet is fronted by Ross who has a vibrant voice that created a diverse and impressive atmosphere. Accompanying him, and providing the genre-combining music, were Matthew, Kieran, Coll, and Cameron. Their eclectic style is one that created the most beautiful environment. There wasn’t a single person in the packed venue who wasn’t moving and/or dancing along to their addictive tunes. This impressive set looked so effortless to the group, who have previously played in venues like Audio, also in Glasgow. On December 2nd, they will also play a headline slot to a sold out Sneaky Pete’s which is bound to be an unforgettable night.

Photo of Ben Walker by Kyan Gilfillan | Insta: @kgshoots_

Arcade State – Winged Ox

Heading back around to Winged Ox, we managed to catch a bit of Arcade State’s set. The Glasgow quintet used this opportunity to their advantage as they introduced what was to come in their new era of music. Arcade State introduced a setlist of new music, mostly unreleased. This consisted of songs like ‘Lacuna‘, and ‘Paper Heart‘. Their addictive track ‘Life Is Not Linear‘ is out now and is the title tune of their album, set for release in 2024.

This set was one that allowed each of the band to illustrate their individual talents as well as the impact they have as a group. Guitarists Cammy Roxburgh and Calum Davidson, drummer Jordan Murray, and bassist Lewis Taylor livened up the intimate venue with their powerful playing which sounded absolutely incredible. Vocalist, guitarist, and frontman Ciaran Murray‘s impressive vocal abilities gave life to their thought-provoking lyrics and brought the whole set together seamlessly.

This performance gave the band the perfect opportunity to demonstrate just what to expect in a string of celebratory shows they’ll play next year. Additionally, the band will play another hometown show on December 1st in a sold out McChuills. If this set at Tenement Trail was anything to go by, these shows won’t be ones to miss. Their individual personalities really shine through when playing, and there’s bound to be a song for everyone on their upcoming album.

Swim School – Barrowland Ballroom

With clashing time slots, we found ourselves back at the Barrowland Ballroom to see Edinburgh trio Swim School. Recently, the group have exploded into the UK live music scene with impressive support slots for huge bands like Inhaler and The Amazons. They also played a set at this year’s Stag and Dagger Festival in Edinburgh’s Caves. This set at the iconic venue showed exactly why they’re succeeding at such a high level. Vocalist and guitarist Alice Johnson‘s vocals filled the room, which had quickly packed out. Along with dynamic drumming from Billy McMahon and electrifying guitar riffs and solos from Lewis Bunting, the three-piece brought their growing discography, and the Glasgow crowd, to life.

Their catchy and though-provoking tracks formed up the setlist, showing off their songwriting and live performing abilities effortlessly. Alice and Lewis’ stage presence was incredible, always walking around the stage, involving everyone no matter where they stood. They also showed admiration for their most dedicated fans, even dedicating one of the songs to them. The tracklist included recent singles like ‘Delirious‘ and latest single ‘BORED‘. Older, but still quite recent singles made the set too including a fan-favourite, ‘kill you‘.

Swim School are a group you’ll want to see over and over again. Their catchy songs, and incredible personalities both on and off stage make them a band you want to get to know better. Each song they played seized the attention of everyone in the venue, drawing listeners further into a musical trance. Like mentioned above, you can see Swim School support The Amazons in the latter band’s upcoming UK tour, including Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall on December 9th.

Photo of Alice Johnson (Swim School) by Kyan Gilfillan | Insta: @kgshoots_

Bemz – St Luke’s

The penultimate act for us at this year’s Tenement Trail was Glasgow rapper Bemz at St Luke’s. Consistently building a rapport and steady fanbase, Bemz has made a name for himself on the Scottish music scene, but only for good reasons. Even if rap isn’t normally your thing, Bemz’s personality and stage presence will still draw you in. His setlist was built around a foundation, his April 2023 album “Nova’s Dad“.

Alongside creating songs with thought-provoking lyrics and emotional sentiments, Bemz has played with bands like The Snuts, adding a twist to some of the West Lothian group’s songs. From his recently released album, the rapper played songs like ‘RAGING BULL‘ with Sean Focus, and ‘Zidane‘. The latter of these tracks has quickly become his most played song, currently sitting at over 53k streams on Spotify alone.

Bemz has an infectious energy that makes him instantly likeable and this really adds to his on stage charisma. With a wide smile on his face the entire time, he powered through his set and definitely gained some new fans along the way.

The Big Day – BAaD

Our final act of the day were another Glasgow group, The Big Day. Like many of the acts we saw, the four-piece have really made their mark on the local scene and beyond. The band took to the stage for their headline slot to the sound of cheering from all around. Drummer Matt Graham, bassist Leo Lyne, guitarist Rhauri Brannigan, and frontman Ryan Hunter took to the stage and looked on in awe at the huge turnout for their headline slot.

Their setlist was filled with their infectious rock anthems, some released already and some not. While they only have three singles out on streaming platforms, this gave the quartet the perfect opportunity to show what’s to come and give an indication of the direction their future music will steer down. All three already released singles made the setlist: ‘Bad Things‘, ‘Born Killer‘, and ‘Fashion Statement’. The latter of these was a fan favourite and from the first note, the crowd were unstoppable. Each band member had stage presence and made it clear where their musical talents lie. Hunter made his way into the crowd on multiple occasions, creating a personal connection with the audience. This rapport with their fans is next level, showing how appreciative they are of them all.

Already being featured in slots at international festivals, The Big Day have built up incredible early momentum in their very impressive music careers so far. That’s why it’s no surprise that they’ve been nominated in the same SAMA category as Bottle Rockets. The Big Day are a band that have the utmost potential to be huge names in music.

With only three singles currently released, they’ve already mastered the balance between incredible showmanship and making music that a wide audience will enjoy. Their anthemic singles packed out BAaD one last time that day, and closed the night off with a performance that can only be described as one of the most lively and electric sets we’ve ever witnessed.