The mini folk revival of the mid-to-late 2000s produced one phenomenon – Mumford and Sons – and countless curious, soundtracking car adverts for a couple of years, then popping up on Radio 6 every few months for a few more, sustained by a loyal core fan-base.
One such curio, Stornoway, are calling time on their musical odyssey, capping it off in typically wholesome fashion with a farewell tour, a thank you and goodnight to their supporters and a chance for their audiences to relive their University pub nights and teenage romances one last time.
Stornoway are, and they admit this themselves on stage, “sort of fake.” They met at Oxford University, and their existence has been a sort of charmed middle class fairy-tale. But songs about Appalachian Mountains and Hebridean fishing boats are almost forgiven thanks to their obvious sincerity and passion for the folk-fantasy world they build around themselves. Glasgow’s The Old Fruitmarket is ideally suited to this sort of sincere but naïve narrative. Fairy lights and cutesy advertising hoardings, plus their sailboat inspired stage set compliment the ambient birdsong which they often leave playing between songs.
In the year 2017, it’s disarming, charming and a bit unsettling to see a frontman like Brian Briggs. Endearingly nervous, he speaks often to the crowd but almost every request he makes of them is concluded with a hesitant “…if you like.” (the faux pas of asking a Glaswegian audience for a Mexican Wave will go unpunished, this time).
Songs like ‘Love Song of the Beta Male’ and ‘The Great Procrastinator’ retain their beauty but are rendered novelty in a world where the standard indie frontman has reverted from sensitive literary soul back to Gallagher-esque lad. Stornoway might very well be the definition of the introverted folky indie type, but a raucous cover of Simple Minds’ ‘Don’t You Forget about Me’ reveals another side to this band, and hints at what they might’ve become if they’d chosen to follow some of their peers down a poppier road.
Stornoway make – made, I suppose – sweet, innocent pop music that’s altogether evocative of its time and place. That time, sadly, is 2009. It is not 2009 anymore, and now definitely feels like a good time for Stornoway to stop, and go out not in a blaze of glory or a victory lap of the world (that wouldn’t be fitting), but with a warm goodbye, and nostalgic, sepia-tinged wander through their back catalogue.
Stornoway won’t be remembered like Mumford and Sons, whose legacy is primarily an upswing in the sale of waistcoats and the mass manufactured banjos owned by a million trend following teens. Instead, they’ll live on in the far fonder and more meaningful memories of a few thousand couples whose first kiss was to ‘Zorbing’.
Fitting that they closed their set with it, choosing to return to their opening line to close the last chapter of this minor, but meaningful, book.