Phonotonal

Unknown Hagana
Live (The Scuffers / Transaudio / The Rapids)

Nektar isn’t a venue; it’s a bit of left-over cave. Playing host to four local bands in one night, I’m surprised all their guitar cases and mums and dads fitted. It even seemed a struggle to accommodate the speakers and the bands at the same time on what would be the stage, if ceiling space permitted elevation. Whatever the constrictions, these certainly didn’t apply to the line up which moved from country, through new wave, to indie and rock, which made for a slightly disjointed but interesting evening.

Glasgow honky-tonk band The Scuffers, assembled casually on stage first minus their fiddle player who was apparently trying to revive her fingers under the hand drier in the ladies (Nektar was freezing – unsurprising for a Scottish cave in January). Then came the boshed attempt at the first song which left people looking a bit uncomfortable. The fiddle player seemed to dislike her instrument and eyeballed it with disdain, as she did with her banjo a couple of songs in. Her talent was obvious but her lack of confidence and enjoyment was a pity.

The set held together, if shakily, and they were encouraging: toes were tapping and heads nodding throughout. The fiddle/banjo player harmonised with the lead singer with a surprisingly strong, effortless and touching voice. It’s quite clear a little bit of polishing will go a long way with this band as would a healthy dose of confidence.

Transaudio, however, knew who they were and why they were there from the offset. They looked and sounded like they’d stepped straight out of 1990 being Morrissey meets Duran Duran – and they even carried off the blue jeans and smart shoes (a fashion disaster ordinarily, but I’ll let them off for the throwback quality). The lead singer looked like he’d been doing it all his life, bashing his tambourine enthusiastically as he strutted around the stage, and with his tremendous crew cut (why don’t guys have them any more?!), he could have actually been Morrissey if you squinted a bit.

The whole band looked like they really knew what they were doing and the sound was exciting and impressive. Everyone was watching this band, you couldn’t not. As to why this was, well I think its simple; they bring back a look, sound and enthusiasm which is sorely missing these days.

The Rapids were next up, playing indie-rock of a sort of non-descript calibre. The sound was tight and they were reasonable background noise, but people were struggling to look interested (even friends of the band at the front). The lead singer’s voice was forced and erred on the side of annoying.

I was just beginning to realise that they were trying to be like The Stone Roses when they struck up a rather sad version of ‘Made of Stone’, which I believe someone from the front – one of their friends, no doubt – requested. It was quite good instrumentally but endlessly disappointing vocally, and unfortunately there’s not much more to say about The Rapids. I think I stopped paying attention when my drunken flatmate arrived back from the ladies with an inflatable sheep wearing suspenders (the sheep, not the flatmate) that she’d done a whip around to buy (£5! They must make a killing!). But never mind about that…

Unknown Hagana headlined this gig – at least this is what I found out eventually. I’d originally written down ‘Unknown Hajanna’ as a result of the promoter’s terrible handwriting, which I’d thought was strange but, in hindsight, only marginally more so. I actually ended up asking one of the band at the end to confirm, then predictably asking what on earth a Hagana was. I wish I could remember the answer. Google tells me it’s some sort of Israeli army. Oh and they’re ‘Unknown’ Hagana because no one has heard of a Hagana. Right.

It was obvious that they were well-practised: they really played as a band and their set was well strung together. They were reminiscent of Supergrass: indie-rock, and tuneful with it. Sadly, the lead singer appeared to be standing behind one of the piles of speakers as from where I was sitting, I could only see one leg and a bit of guitar. Some of the band’s mates were dancing at the front and encouraging others to join in, and by this point most people were fairly drunk which had obviously upped the enthusiasm of the crowd. It has to be said though, with a name like Unknown Hagana, and with none of the tunes managing to lodge themselves in my head, probably the most interesting thing about this band is their name.

Guest article from Laura S.

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