Thursday 31 December 2009

Seventeenth Century & Second Hand Marching Band at King Tuts Wah Wah Hut

My last gig of 2009 was a trip to my all-time my favourite venue to see two of my current favourite young bands in Scotland - Seventeenth Century and the Second Hand Marching Band.

The Second Hand Marching Band are a glorious experiment in quantity and quality, with numbers and members ranging from gig to gig. To list all the members and instruments played would be a blog in itself, so I'll march on (pardon the terrible pun).

Last night there was 18 members of the Second Hand Marching Band on stage. Their dress style ranges from classic geeky indie - red tshirt, waistcoat and jeans, through to glamorous Sophie Conaghan-Sexon on flute and vocals with others wearing Ramones t-shirts, Christmas jumpers and cardigans.

As someone who manages a couple of bands I can only marvel at the thought of trying to get up to 20 people to a practice session or checking who is available for certain gigs. The band managers mobile phone bill must be huge!

The ambition of the Second Hand Marching Band has to be applauded. In a world where bands and artists are selling their souls (if they even have one) for 15-second of fame (never mind 15-minutes), SHMB are warm-hearted, homegrown, lovingly ramshackle and very independently minded.

One by one they take to the stage and then they start, slowly and quietly, gradually building up a cauldron of noise. For those in the crowd watching the band for the first time and being unaware of their numbers, it must have been quite a sight.

I wasn't noting the order they played the songs in, but from memory songs that they did play included;

'A Dance To Half Death' - Every member of SHMB joins in with the beautiful chorus, madolins intertwine with flutes to create a moment of beauty.

'Don't' - My personal favourite. In another universe someone would have started a facebook campaign to get this to number one at Christmas. The melody and beat are infectious and the refrain 'there is something you should know, don't go outside in the rain and the snow'.

The band have released a new EP and the title track 'Grit and Determination' showcases the bands talent and ambition. There is a definite Sufjan Stevens feel to the song. It starts slowly with the line 'I will melt the snow from your heart'. And the song has a warmth that could have melted the snow lying around Glasgow last night.

The Seventeenth Century are an incredible band that I have been following for 18-months now since discovering them busking in Sauchiehall Street. In their early 20's they display musicianship beyond their years. And as the name might suggest, this is not a band that use synths or computers.

Mark Farmer is the singer and violinist and his funky floppy fringe haircut and stage manner immediately attract attention. The band open with a stunning instrumental that builds and builds, reaching climax after climax, ensuring that the audience are fully focused.

The bass player is playing a McCartney-esque style bass, easily the coolest bass that I have seen in a long time. The trumpet player links with Farmer's violin to produce epic soundscapes that echo the likes of Beruit and Arcade Fire.

Farmer sings with all of his heart and seems lost in the moment at times. The band are tight and not afraid to experiment. Single 'Roses In The Park' is played early in the set and is a shining example of what Seventeenth Century are all about. Other songs played include a song called 'Countryside', full of vivid imagery of hills and mountains and a song called 'Francis'.

The band are only on for half an hour and resist calls for an encore. Sadly there is no place in their current set for old song 'Traffic', yet I am sure they will revisit it at a later date.

Seventeenth Century play Oran Mor on January 28th and I would strongly recommend going to see them. It is part of The Mill weekly series of gigs and it's free! Visit for ticket details

1 comment:

Jim said...

I'm sure there actually was a wee campaign to get Don't to Christmas number one!