It is a repeated refrain, but a true one: guitar music is not cool anymore. It will be, again, but beats and synth are in where once the riff reigned supreme. Those still subscribing to all things rock have committed to one of two things: downplaying their more abrasive sounds for crossover appeal; or, doubling down and turning the guitars up.
Support, Life Model, fit the latter, turning the guitars way up. Theirs is a loud – though not My Bloody Valentine god-help-me loud – mix of shoegaze and pop, conventionally structured songs with dramatic extremities. Familiar faces on the Glasgow music scene, there is a feeling they would fit on most bills, ticking boxes for those after melody, proficiency, and distortion. They are altogether more majestic than the evening’s headliners, but pack no less of a punch: Life Model are a tight unit firing on all cylinders grounded by a proud pop sensibility, making for an endlessly appealing performance.
Skating Polly have doubled down as well, though in a ramshackle way The Clash (by way of Bikini Kill) would be proud of. Although multi-instrumentalists, front and centre are step-siblings Kelli Mayo and Peyton Bighorse, the trio rounded out by Kurtis Mayo, brother of Kelli. For most of the set, Kurtis sets the pace drumming while the step-sisters command from the front of the stage. Their duelling personalities add to Skating Polly’s charm: Peyton is relatively blasé, cool throughout and aware of her strengths; Kelli is a fireball of energy, dressed like Motley Crue were cowboys, limbs flailing and eyes wide.
She is undoubtedly a rock star, with the all-American husk of Courtney Love and unrestrained howls of Julie Christmas. A stoic microphone is a hindrance, preferring to bounce, stalk, and stomp the stage than stay in one place too long. For it all to kick off, a live show needs a ringmaster, and Kelli is it.
Together with Peyton they deftly switch between rock and punk and grunge and riot grrrl. The tasteful Little Girl Blue and The Battle builds upon a repeated idea, with a dreamy tone that would fit comfortably on The Smashing Pumpkins’ Siamese Dream. Then there’s Louder in Outer Space, with a quiet-loud verse-chorus like some of the best songs on Nirvana’s Nevermind. Camelot sounds like a purposeful mosh pit anthem, complete with a frenetic chorus capable of whipping sizeable crowds into a storm.
Broadcast can hardly be considered a sizeable crowd, an unfair issue which Skating Polly have little control over presently. Their songs have such power that they deserve more than they receive, but this is an extremely young band (Kelli is eighteen, and Skating Polly have released five albums!) still on their way up. Where on record their youth is sometimes evident in a more timid production, none of that can be said for their impassioned live show, particularly thanks to Kelli’s utter devotion to her idea of rock ‘n’ roll.
Skating Polly make unashamed guitar-driven music, and with bands like Halestorm and Shinedown bucking the coolness trend, there is a place for this still fresh-faced trio to grow into. They seem up for the challenge, and I wouldn’t bet against them.