GIG REVIEW | Dictator w/ Arcade State & Ciara Watt | Mash House

They say there must be something in the West Lothian water, and I think they may be right as yet breakthrough talent from the last few years comes from Livingston band, Dictator.

But Who Are Dictator?
An alternative genre defying rock/electro/pop band made up of Michael (Vocals/Keyboard), Zach (guitar), Allan (drums) and Joe (bass). They have won the SAMA award for Best Alternative Act in 2021 and in 2022 the quartet reached the finals of BBC Scotland Introducing Act of The Year. They released their debut EP Rubik’s Cube which hit No.4 in the Scottish Album Charts and supported big names including The Fratellis, Glasvegas and The Reytons and not forgetting their biggest headline sell-out to date at Glasgow’s St Luke’s.

We caught Dictator for their last gig of 2022 at Edinburgh’s Mash House on December 16th. Another sell-out gig which was no surprise with support from folk-pop singer/songwriter Ciara Watt and Scottish Alternative Rockers Arcade State.

First on was Ciara Watt. At just 21 years old, Ciara is effortlessly charismatic on stage and a pleasure to listen to. It’s a stripped back performance, just Ciara’s enchanting voice accompanied by her own guitar and small band. Her delivery reminds me of a younger Florence Welch or Dolores O’Riordan with affable catchy melodic hooks.

Ciara Watt © Jim Boyle

Next up, the volume is cranked all the way to 11 for Glasgow based quartet Arcade State.  The boys waste no time bringing the festive spirit to Mash House with their emo fuelled rendition of Last Christmas. Lively and passionate performers inspired by the likes of Biffy Clyro, Arcade State are clear crowd pleaser tonight and have the Mash House hyped for Dictator.

Arcade State Last Christmas © Anne Kelly

Around 9pm the lights dim again and the synth intro of EP favourite Pangolin fills the room. Originally recorded alongside MC rapper Bemz, there is no surprise appearances from the big man this time around, however, it works just as well and going forward will be an ideal set opener.

The crowd don’t need encouragement to get in the party spirit and after a few songs frontman Michael decides to tone things down a little with an acapella version of Lullaby on the floor amongst the audience. The first time Michael admits he has done this and the proximity feels initially a little awkward, but only for a moment as after the first verse, the entire crowd are singing along with him.

Dictator Lullaby © Anne Kelly

The intimacy continues right into the ballad section of the show with a shower of plastic roses from the band. These stripped back ballad numbers such as Hide & Seek and Days Gone By highlight the incredible vocal range Michael has to offer. Often sounding effortless, his voice is a craft in its own right. A big voice which can seamlessly shift between the varied vocal ranges and tones complimenting Dictators vast variety of sounds.

The festivities kick into full force during the the final section of the show with an ambitious cover of The Waitresses 80’s classic Christmas Wrapping. Accompanied by a brass duo and lots of Santa hats, Dictator pull this one off with all their usual infectious uplifting energy.

Christmas Wrapping © Anne Kelly

And the gifts don’t stop there. Next we are treated to a rendition of previously unheard new tune Enough is Enough. Now I won’t say much on this one yet but it’s a beauty and as much proof as anybody needs to know this band have definitely not peaked yet!

One of the most endearing qualities about this band is that their fans, friends and families are their entire motivation. You only have to listen to their Rubik’s Cube EP to hear that sentiment first hand. Fittingly, the evening’s ‘one more tune’ is Fin, an upbeat celebration song written about the most important Dictator family member – Michael’s Westie Terrier, Fin.

Dictator Family © Anne Kelly

Watching this band flourish over the past year has been nothing short of sensational and witnessing this end of year celebration, complete with a family gathering on stage was a moment we all won’t forget.

Dictator @ Mash House 16/12/22

Words by Anne Kelly