Live review: San Cisco, Culann at The Art School, 3/3/13

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Crammed onto a stage that seems much too small for five, Ayrshire quintet Culann deliver a short set of impassioned rock and roll.

In a venue notorious for its mixed sound their frontman PJ Kelly’s strong vocals shine through and their use of keys gives them an interesting extra dimension.

Clad in black t-shirts they look anonymous and this feeds through into a performance with the hallmarks of a group still unsure what they want to be: gritty punkish holler or Foo Fighters-esque classic-rock wannabes.

Fortunately their closer manages to offer the best of both worlds with a bar band stomp worthy of Titus Andronicus or The Gaslight Anthem.

On to the main act then, and though their name hints at west-coast balminess and they met at school in Fremantle, Western Australia the spiritual home of San Cisco could well be Glasgow.

The influence of Postcard Records and the twee alt-pop records it birthed is writ large tonight.

Opening with the cheeky ‘Golden Revolver’ the four-piece of Jordi Davieson, Josh Biondillo, Nick Gardner and drummer, Scarlett Stevens deliver catchy, thoughtful songs about youthful longing and recklessness with better tunes then Best Coast and none of the self-conscious melancholy that spoils The Drums.

The ridiculously young-looking Davieson sings lead on almost all San Cisco songs and he’s already a talented songwriter with an ear for pure tones and sweet wistful lyrics, perhaps best realised on recent single ‘Beach’.

They’re all masters of harmony; boy-guitar, boy-boy and boy-girl but the most telling moment is when Davieson turns away from the mic and makes eye-contact with Stevens, who breaks into a massive grin – tonight is pure fun.

‘Toast’ borrows an intro riff from The Smiths ‘This Charming Man’ before stripping itself back to reveal the best single Vampire Weekend have yet to write, while ‘Nepal’ proves they can do more straightforward sing-alongs as well.

The presence of new material written since the release of their Australia only debut of last year indicates a band on a productive streak, tossing out hooks galore as only a young band immune to the unglamorous realities of the music business can.

Closer ‘Awkward’, with its cutesy, text-chatter back-and-forth between Davieson and Stevens is just one more chorus from the kind of sugar content which would see them explode in a shower of rainbows and cotton candy but if tonight is anything to go by we’ll be hearing a lot more of San Cisco very soon.

Words: Max Sefton

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