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It’s a Saturday night in Glasgow, which can be scary enough at points*, which is currently in the embrace of two inherently Scottish traditions this evening. Number one: Burns night, which means that celebrations are in full swing for the memory of our national bard… or more likely an excuse to consume one’s own body weight in whiskey. Number two: would be that of the Celtic Connections Festival which hosts several gigs for the Folk, Country and World music genres over the course of January. This is why I have found myself in the Glasgow Arches where the tartan shirts and trousers are oot** and my soundtrack to this evening is The New Mendicants.

The New Mendicants, the new project from Joe Pernice of the Pernice Brothers, and, more importantly to this crowd, Norman Blake of locally loved group Teenage Fanclub. After their aforementioned ‘better known’ groups played together several years back and finding themselves expats of their respective countries in Canada they ended up in a musical partnership. Somehow these guys found themselves working on the soundtrack to the film adaption of Nick Hornby’s ‘A Long Way Down’ ***. It turns out this was rejected by the film’s producers but the end product was that this new unit was born. With new album ‘Into the Lime’ coming out in the coming days, there is an expectant but unsure atmosphere amongst those in the crowd on what we are going to be treated to****.

The two arrive onstage in a slight rush, due to being told the wrong time, and settle themselves in at their seats having the barest of presence on the semi lit stage. The lighting funnily enough would prove to be the only form of distraction***** from the two men as the levels flickered throughout indicating that the mood couldn’t be settled on. However, the mood from the New Mendicants was set by their talkative nature and hushed tunes creating a relaxed and homely atmosphere.

The evening was certainly filled with entertaining banter, with both gents treating this near capacity crowd as if they were just playing the backroom of the pub, and with a group who started its existence thanks to their rejected works how could it not be. Sadly this was the highlight of the evening for me as the music left me somewhat wanting throughout. All the songs were characterised by pop hooks and hush tones with sing along choruses but it just felt like a poorer re-tread of their more famous works. There was certainly a lot of charm but charming music didn’t keep me entertained for any longer than 20 minutes.

Though the material may suit being further fleshed out in a bigger band setting******, with only 2 guitars and the occasional glockenspiel the material just didn’t seem strong enough for this barebones setting. At points it did seem that the audience’s initial attention was starting to wain but this was recaptured thanks to ‘I don’t want control of you’ from Blake’s Teenage Fanclub heyday… and then it was done. This allowed the audience to leave on a high but sadly the lead up to this was just a bit of a struggle and not terribly memorable… a shame really.

*I jest, calm doon!

**Not the punk kind either, I own a tartan tie but this feels like a bit much.

***Which is apparently awful as I’m told from people that I trust?

****Except those on the drams… their laldie at this point.

*****And it proved a welcome one for me later on.

******Like wae drums and bass and that.