Since it began in 2009, the Electric Frog Street Carnival, an electronic micro-festival at the SWG3 Warehouse in Glasgow's west end, has been a two-day event, but "An unfortunate clash with construction works" (read: licensing problems) cut this year's event back to a single day. The second of three Electric Frogs this summer, it had, as ever, an outdoor stage curated by Slam concentrating on house and techno (Marc Houle, Dubfire, Karotte), and an indoor "warehouse party" stage curated by Optimo that presented a more varied bill led by Nitzer Ebb, DJ Funk and Instra:mental.
All of this sounds pretty good in theory. The trouble that Electric Frog has had since the start, however, is that the outdoor bit tends to be crammed full of people jostling, falling through picnic tables and "Getting pure mad wae it." They're sort of people who attract an increased police presence and who blight almost every summer music event in Scotland aside from the —5,000-a-ticket Young Conservatives' Opera & Sherry Weekender on the uninhabited Atlantic island of St Kilda, which doesn't count because it doesn't exist. The geography of the event's space concentrates this problem—at most festivals there is at least enough open space to keep reasonably far away from these kinds of antics, but not here, where the venue comprises a narrow, walled street with the warehouse space at the far end, bringing all kinds of bottleneck-related delights when trying to get anywhere. Moreover, the "Street Carnival" part of the name, the event's kooky branding and unfulfilled promises of "boutique market stalls" constitute what the cynical observer might term a concerted attempt to mislead. At best it writes a family fun and artsy intrigue cheque that a couple of bars, a couple of stages and a lot of toilets are completely unable to cash. The Hay-on-Wye Festival of Literature & Arts it is not.
A missed flight meant Instra:mental were unable to fulfil their late afternoon slot in the warehouse, so I took in a bit of Marc Houle's rumblingly excellent live show. However, I soon concluded that I'd enjoy it more another time, particularly when there wasn't a copiously scarred topless gentleman repeatedly falling into me armpits-first, and moved indoors where DJ Funk was about to begin. His DJ/live ghetto house sets are always a treat, as was the case here, with the usual post-feminist booty bass standards crashing into the likes of Major Lazer's "Pon De Floor" and the Eurythmics' "Sweet Dreams" between Funk's swigs of neat vodka.
Optimo's JD Twitch was next up with an elegant selection of new wave electronics by Factory Floor and the like, by way of setting the mood for Nitzer Ebb's live show. Be-suited Suggs-look-a-like frontman Douglas McCarthy and band were clearly up for it and keen to please, with late '80s classics like "Let Your Body Learn," "Control I'm Here" and "Join in the Chant" proficiently rolled out through an indoor sound system that was thankfully much improved when compared with previous years. As their set progressed, however, it did begin to feel like we were ticking another legendary band off the must-see list, rather than having the kind of visceral, physical experience that forms so much of this music's raison d'etre. A reasonably entertaining if muted end to a glorious summer's day made enjoyable only through escape to a darkened room.