TVD Live: Meursault, Thistly Fest, 7/28

Following alt-folk collective Meursault’s riotously acclaimed Edinburgh album launch for Something For the Weakened, the band’s headline set at the one day Thistly Fest possessed an enticing premise.

Held at Belhaven Fruit Farm, on the periphery of Dunbar near Edinburgh, Thistly Fest’s homespun decor – bunting and high school like glittery letters – was a signifier of its overall intimate charm, the warehouse venue playing host to a bill of incredible emerging and established talent.

Early highlights included energetic electro/indie act Capitals, the spell-binding instrumental ensemble Remember Remember and sonic trio FOUND, whose looped electro beats came complete with an impromptu cameo from Meursault frontman Neil Pennycook.

Two other absorbing sets to mention are Dan Wilson’s rasping Withered Hand, a full band set climaxing with the sing-a-long friendly “Heart Heart,” and the spine-tingling acoustics of Frightened Rabbit songster Scott Hutchison.

As Meursault arrived on stage with a friendly swagger they wasted no time by diving into their first consuming number. The band’s signature is undoubtedly Neil Pennycook’s extraordinary vocal, and as a live performer he howls into the microphone with unrivalled panache.

Overall the (ultimately too short) set bantered around their new material, including an upbeat redition of poignant new single “Flittin.” Clearly marking them as a band of enviable musical pedigree the show continued to swoop from gloomy lamentations to moments of euphoric brilliance, characterised by vocal howls and shrieks, melodic guitar rhythms, and a beautiful orchestral backing.

The remainder of the set included the brilliantly bittersweet “Settling” and an immersive solo number from Pennycook, who tentatively asked “Can I have my friends back now please?” as he finished. Those talented cohorts swiftly swarmed the stage, providing the intricate, mellifluous instrumentation he needed to continue, layers of padding drums and expertly executed strings.

In a bold move away from their trademark electro techniques, Meursault’s new material is skilfully constructed and still strongly emotive. Live, it’s the kind of music which echoes in the air and makes you could do anything: joyous, jubilant, and grounded.

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