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INTERVIEW: Freakender and Pop Mutations on their 2022 festivals

Updated: Mar 8, 2023

This year, Freakender Festival is celebrating its fifth birthday. Although technically, it should be their seventh. Think of it as a kind of leap year birthday effect on account of COVID.

During their relatively short lifespan, the grassroots promoter has managed to cement themselves as a pillar of the Glasgow gig scene. The affable Ross Keppie is my guide to the many milestones of Scotland’s finest purveyor of psych, pop, garage, and post-punk.

Together with chums Holly Calder and Ian Crawford, Keppie has booked an immense raft of mighty international talent for their year-round Freakender shows: Black Lips, Tess Parks, The Gories, Crack Cloud, The Blank Tapes, L.A. Witch, Night Beats, the list goes on. And on the domestic front, they've given many bands from the local DIY music scene a platform to debut: Hairband and Kaputt, to name a couple. "We just want to put on bands we like," Keppie shares, "to give them the show they deserve."

In 2018, they took their penchant for party planning stateside and hosted the Freakender Buckaroo Ball at SXSW in Austin, Texas. This showcase flexed such a hefty horde of Scottish musical muscle that the Texans asked them back in 2019 for a follow-up dose of their festivities.

And even if you haven’t attended one of their gigs, you may recognise the trio de Freakender from being plastered all over the Glasgow Subway as part of the #MyGlasgowMySubway campaign, which saw our three amigos clad in their retro threads cutting about the fair city on the Clockwork Orange. They’ve been around… and around the block a few times now, so it’s safe to say they’ve earned their corner.

With all of these jewels in their crown, it’s hard to maintain composure when thinking about what lies in store for their birthday shindig on 17 September. They’ve distilled their usual three-day event down to a 12-hour blowout at The Old Hairdresser's. The lean duration of this year’s fest promises a relentless roster of acts, so be prepared to hit the ground running when the doors open!

The lineup includes Glasgow’s sharp-tongued post-punk outfit Sweaty Palms, Aussie crooner Emerson Snowe, local krautrock/post-punks Ceefax, Californian synth-pop duo System Exclusive, Edinburgh post-gutter-skunk-funk troupe Bikini Body, London experimental-rock/party band Fat Dog, and way more to sink yer teeth into! And if you’re looking for some fuel throughout the day, venture over the lane to Stereo where they’ll have some food specials to mark the occasion.

The success of these events hinges on more than just the weight of the bands on offer; it is also down to the loyalty of the audience. "They’re just all good people that are collectively there to enjoy themselves," Keppie says resolutely. The passage of time bolsters the strength and inclusivity of a community, so after seven years and countless gigs there are many familiar faces in the crowd, and they are always welcoming of newcomers, so get yourself along!

Onwards to next month! Keppie is also involved in putting together the Pop Mutations Festival (13-16 Oct), which he says differs from Freakender’s favour for guitar bands by providing "a smorgasbord of different genres." Expect electronica, hip-hop, performance, and a slew of bands and DJs until the wee hours.

Birthed out of lockdown boredom, the inaugural festival was hosted online over a weekend in June 2020 and featured over 70 artists and acts from Glasgow and further afield. The event was a major success that helped to bring merriment to a particularly dark time in our recent history.

This year will mark the festival’s first IRL event. Over 40 acts will perform across four days at four venues: The Old Hairdresser's, Mono, Stereo, and The Flying Duck. Keppie is one of a team organising this cultural takeover of Glasgow and says that the reason for such an eclectic storm of acts is because they "all come from different backgrounds."

"The lineup is solid!" he beams. Experimental electronica/noise act Container, multi-instrumentalist world fusion group GABO (Glasgow African Balafon Orchestra), the high-energy indie of Sacred Paws, Aberdonian grime rapper Ransom FA, local community radio station DJs from Radio Buena Vida, German post-punkers Liiek, genre-shifting DJ junglehussi, and loads more. "There’s not a weak link," Keppie concludes, "it’s going to be a really fun weekend."

The commonality of the two Keppie and co. endeavours is the unwavering sense of community. "Everybody helps each other out," he says, "everybody’s got each other’s back." It is admirable that they have such a passion for debuting local artists, and so is their guarantee that international bands are received with the quintessential Glasgow warmth. The existence of both Freakender and Pop Mutations serves to better the musical landscape of Scotland and beyond. "It gives me so much joy putting on shows," says Keppie. "Live music brings people together."

Freakender takes place at The Old Hairdresser's, Glasgow, 17 Sep; Pop Mutations takes place at various venues, Glasgow, 13-16 Oct


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