Friday 16 October 2009

Echo & The Bunnymen, Glasgow Barrowlands, Oct 14th 2009

There is something about the Barrowlands that makes me all nostalgic.

I still get goose bumps walking to the venue and seeing the famous neon sign. I still walk straight to the merchandise stall to check out the t-shirts, although these days it is very unlikely that I'll buy one. I still smell the burgers and wonder how on earth I used to eat one every time I started coming to the Barrowlands, and I still think back to my first gig there as a 17-year old in 1993 to see Teenage Fanclub with support from The Posies and the Juliana Hatfield 3. How I managed to get in with the most ridiculous fake id, I'll never know.

I'm probably not the only one reminiscing about days gone by tonight. Echo and the Bunnymen released their debut single in 1979, 30-years ago. I would imagine that quite a few of the crowd have been following them since around that time. It was when they made their 'comeback' with the glorious 'Nothing Ever Lasts Forever' that I got into them.

The atmosphere builds towards the Bunnymen's entrance with the dj pumping out tunes by The Doors, Velvet Underground and Martha Reeves & The Vandellas. The dry ice is blasted on stage, I spot James and Rab from Glasvegas heading from the back to the side of the stage and before you know it the band are on, silhouettes shrouded in dry ice.

It’s a slow start with two songs I don’t recognise, but 3-songs in Sergeant lets rip with the opening riff of traditional set-opener ‘Rescue’ setting off some pogo-ing and dancing in the crowd. McCulloch gestures for the band to slow down towards the end of the songs before starting the ‘is this the blues I’m singing?’ refrain, then ad-libbing The Doors ‘Roadhouse Blues’ in for good measure.

The crowd is noticeably lifted from this Bunnymen classic and the band then toss in old favourite ‘Villiers Terrace’ for good measure.

Seven songs in and we get ‘Seven Seas’ with it’s beautiful opening guitar and McCulloch crooning his heart out. The Barrowlands crowd are now in full voice and the temperature is rising, yet McCulloch remains icy cool in a long warm jacket.

McCulloch warms to the crowd response and retreats to the drum-riser to light a cigarette. Taking several deep draws as the band start up ‘Bring On The Dancing Horses’

The closing six-songs before the first encore start with two for the real hardcore fans; ‘All That Jazz’ and ‘Zimbo’, before the band play an astonishing run of songs consisting of; ‘Silver’, ‘The Back of Love’, ‘The Killing Moon’ and ‘The Cutter’.

The guitar break in ‘The Cutter’ lifts the song to a level that few bands can reach. Will Sergeant is the master of glorious riffs and melodies, before taking them to a higher place. If Nirvana mastered the art of quiet-loud-quiet-loud, then Sergeant is the king of lifting songs while remaining subtle about it.

The first encore consists of new single ‘I Think I Need It To’, showing that The Bunnymen can still produce brilliant guitar pop 30-years into their career, albeit with the assistance of Scottish pop-guru John McLaughlin on songwriting.

‘Nothing Ever Lasts Forever’ is the song that introduced me to Echo and the Bunnymen and it is a song that clearly means a lot to Ian McCulloch as he pours his heart into it; crooning and swooning through the closing section before leading the crowd into a sing-song of Lou Reed’s ‘Walk On The Wild Side’ segueing into a glorious slowed down version of The Beatles ‘Don’t Let Me Down’ and then Wilson Pickett’s ‘In The Midnight Hour’ before launching back into ‘Nothing Ever Lasts Forever’. It’s a great moment, showing McCulloch’s ear for a tune and his impeccable taste.

The band come on for a second encore with McCulloch introducing his new friend James Allan from Glasvegas on guest lead vocals. Somewhat surprisingly Allan is booed by sections of the crowd, but that only inspires him to turn in a great version of ‘The Puppet’. Allan looks very much like a junior McCulloch with swept back hair, shades and a long overcoat.

The band tear into ‘Lips Like Sugar’ for their true finale. Leaving the audience wanting more. This was a fantastic gig, my only regret was that they didn’t play the stunning ‘Ocean Rain’ in the encore.

Even with only two of the original members left, Echo and the Bunnymen are a band you can believe in.

Wednesday 7 October 2009

Peter Hook book launch - The Arches

Peter Hook interview and signing - Glasgow Arches

I went along to The Arches last night to watch Peter Hook being interviewed by The Herald's Teddy Jamieson to promote his new book -The Hacienda: How Not to Run a Club.

Hook was immediately at ease, floating effortlessly into stories and anecdotes about his association with the legendary Hacienda. The highs set the controls for the heart of the sun - the introduction of ecstasy, acid house, Madonna playing, The Smiths, Jesus and Marychain on their feedback tour, Stone Roses in spring 89 just as they were breaking, Primal Scream on their Screamadelica tour, a movement, the discovery of music, drugs and friends, a time that people will always remember.

The lows were the dark side of the moon - gangs, drug warfare, muggings, stabbings, shootings, friends lost to drugs and the general move from The Hacienda being a happy place to one of paranoia and fear.

There was virtually no need for Jamieson to be there as Hook was only to happy to reminisce, although all credit to The Herald journalist for prompting Hook at the right times and steering him from start to finish on quite a crazy journey. You certainly got the impression that Hooky could have easily and happily talked all night.

Through Hook’s stories and banter, it quickly became evident that he fully appreciates how lucky he has been to have played in two legendary bands, to have witnessed first hand the impact of; punk, acid house and madchester, to have been part of Factory and the Hacienda, and to have shared his life with the likes of Tony Wilson, Ian Curtis, Bernard Sumner, Peter Seville and the Happy Mondays.

One great story concerned Hook being outside the Hacienda looking for an aftershow when through his drug and alcohol induced haze he heard an announcement on a radio/walkie talkie 'Mick Hucknall coming through, Mick Hucknall coming through....’ This continued until Mick Hucknall from Simply Red was coming through, actually saying ‘Mick Hucknall coming through’ complete with security guards only for one of Hooky's Salford mates to break through and deck him.

The excess, naivety, art, music and history relating to the Hacienda ensures that there are thousands of stories out there. Hook was at the heart of it. His stories range from funny and moving, to frightening and sad.

Having skimmed through the book and having prior knowledge of the vast quantities of money that were ploughed into the design and upkeep of the club, it is best summed up on page 304 when Hook says he was wandering through an empty club before it was stripped for closure and wandered back stage to find an old room with some barrels on a platform. The platform was propped up by something to keep it level. Hook investigated to see what it was and there, stained in sweat and beer was a quarter inch tape. An original master of Joy Division’s debut album ‘Unknown Pleasures’.

Hook smiled at the metaphor. ‘Joy Division held the whole fucking thing up.’

After the interview Hook took questions from the floor for 30 minutes before signing books and records. He was thoroughly engaged with his audience and only too happy to pose for pictures and sign all items of memorabilia. I was there with my mate Tel, an avid collector of all things relating to Joy Division. We waited until the end and Hook spent a good 15 minutes with us - signing my New Order records and quizzing Tel on where he found a certain bootleg, how he got the orange vinyl of Joy Division's first record and joking 'oh not you again'.

It was an entertaining evening and I ended in bed reading my newly signed copy of the book, I'm already hooked - excuse the pun.

Monday 5 October 2009

Music in Glasgow - October 09

The Glasgow music scene is as vibrant as ever, with variety, style, passion, expression and fun playing a huge part in creating a 'scene' that is ever evolving and always expanding.

To re-start the Music In Glasgow blogspot, this blog will look at some of the bands, venues and nights that make Glasgow's music scene so interesting and inspiring.

Pinup Nights & Heavylight/Darkbright

Run by two music fans that love to throw a part and get people dancing, Pinup Nights has gone from strength to stregth since its inception in 2007. The club night seems to have found the perfect venue at The Flying Duck in Renfield Streets, allowing their imagination to run riot with circus themed nights and guest dj's ranging from Alex James (Blur) to Naboo from The Mighty Boosh. Their taste in music has seen the cream of the crop of young Scottish bands playing their nights including Sonny Marvello, Mitchell Museum and Pooch.

Not content with running Pinup Nights, the two friends also run the Heavylight/Darkbright club nights that take place in various venues across the city. Their foresight and taste allowed them to book Mercury Music Prize nominees The Invisible in advance of their nomination.

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Captains Rest

Captains Rest (and its Edinburgh brother - Sneaky Petes) have quickly established themselves on the Scottish Music Scene thanks to some innovative booking and the excellent taste of promoters PCL Presents. The venue, on Great Western Road, has almost become the equivalent of legendary Camden scenester pub The Good Mixer, with bands choosing to hang out, DJ, put on gigs and club nights and generally have a good time. Established bands that have played Captains Rest include The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart andThe Phenonemal Handclap Band, while local bands like Sparrow & The Workshop and Zoey Van Goey have made it a home from home. and

The Box

When The Box opened just along the road from the Glasgow Institution that is Nice'n'Sleazys, quite a few cynics didn't expect it to last long. That it has, is largely down to the get-up-and-go attitude and enthusiasm of owner Stephen McComb. With the simple philosophy of providing free live music 7-nights a week, The Box naturally appeals to students and claims to have over 3,500 people passing through their doors every week. As well as providing a platform for bands to introduce themselves to the Glasgow live scene - no need to sell tickets - the venue has established itself as a favourite for aftershow parties for the likes of Kate Nash, The Cribs and The Rumble Strips. James Allan from Glasvegas used to DJ regularly while the band were breaking and stil returns for the odd pint.


Your Sound at King Tuts

Your Sound is a platform for unsigned bands to get their music heard by their peers and industry bods on the first Sunday of every month at King Tuts Wah Wah Hut. Bands submit demos and biogs and an artist of the month is selected by the Your Sound panel, with winners receiving excellent prizes that have included recording time or instruments. Previous winners have noticed increases in hits and plays on their MySpace pages and been selected for high profile support slots thanks to DF Concerts. Previous winners have included Seventeenth Century, Woodenbox and a Fistful of Fivers and Ming Ming & The Ching Chings.


Seventeenth Century

Seventeenth Century dare to soar where others can only dream of. Check out their video for the song ‘Traffic’ to see what all the fuss is about. The band are slowly but surely building up a reputation for their live performances and they are also collating a superb collection of songs with influences ranging from Joni Mitchell to Beruit, Seventeenth Century have the taste to back up their quality.

Paper Planes

I've been meaning to catch this band live for a while now and I'm slightly ashamed I haven't. I have been visiting their myspace regularly. 'Disconnected I Know' is all Blondie meets Yeah Yeah Yeahs. Effortless guitar pop. Other songs are slightly heavier but the riffs and the glorious voice of Jennifer Paley mean that every song shines.

Futuristic Retro Champions

This is a band that always create a buzz when they play live thanks to infectious upbeat electo pop, full of hooks, choruses, harmonies and melodies. FRC’s are a band that are out and out fans of pop music and their influences take in everything from The Shrangri-La’s to Girls Aloud with pretty much everything in between. Check out ‘You Make My Heart’ with its New Order-esque bass-line and the absolutely gorgeous ‘Isn’t It Lovely?’ with it’s beautiful closing section complete with trumpet.

Nevada Base

Nevada Base produce beautifully crafted electro pop, think Erland Oye and you are on the right track. 'If I'm Late' and 'Love On My Mind' are crying out to be played at clubs and will no doubt be featuring on a late night compilation at some point.

Vendor Defender

If anyone has seen Vendor Defender live, I would imagine that they will return to see them again and take along a friend. With funk influenced basslines and a drummer who is a cross between Keith Moon and Reni, their rhythm is gonna get you. With a growing reputation on the live circuit, check them out now before they progress beyond pubs and clubs.

Any Colour Black

Any Colour Black’s passion and obvious love of music and playing live elevates them above the vast majority of the hundreds of bands playing in Glasgow. The chemistry between Andy and Louise who share guitar, vocals and programming duties is evident on stage and thankfully this translates into the recording of songs like 'Touch Me' and 'As You Are As You Were'.

Sonny Marvello

Sonny Marvello dress resplendently in vintage clothing with the singer wearing a tradmark red bowler hat. Their songs are all about love and hope, ranging from the out and out disco pop of 'Easy Boys & Easy Girls', the epic 'We're All Cruel' and the soaring guitar pop of 'Tiny Little Sparks'. A band with style, taste and passion. They recorded their debut single at Cava Studios and it should be out in late November.


Electro-popsters Pooch are a regular on the Glasgow gig and club circuit. Their tunes and beats mean that they are always welcome at venues across Glasgow and beyond. With striking looks and lots of hooks, Pooch will get people dancing and talking about them the morning after.

Mitchell Museum

Their poppiest moments recall Flaming Lips, while their more experimental side takes in Animal Collective and all kinds of influences. Early single ‘Warning Bells’ was a Radcliffe & Maconie single of the week. A hard working band that live for music, Mitchell Museum have financed the recording of their debut album and are hoping to release it in 2010. I’d be surprised if you ever see the singer without a smile on his face.


Boycotts have blitzed 2008 by playing live regularly up and down the country, becoming one of the tightest live bands in Scotland. Having signed a publishing deal with Sony it would appear that the only way is up for this young four-piece, fronted by the energetic Stina Twee. Their post-punk angular guitar sound could take them out of Glasgow and beyond.

The Second Hand Marching Band

There are bands that like to think big and then there are bands that just go out and do what they want to do and have fun. The Second Hand Marching Band are a 20-piece band from Glasgow that create a wonderful noise with layers of vocals and harmonies. Seeing them live is an experience you won't forget with all of the band singing their hearts out. Check out the glorious 'Don't' on their myspace with the mantra 'There is something you should know, don't go outside in the rain and the snow.'

The Tenemants

Hailing from Carlton in the East End of Glasgow, this four-piece take their life experiences and prove that Glasgow is alive to the sound of music. They are a cross between The La's and The Libertines. Simplistic yet melodic and with choruses that will get you singing along and punching the air. With a healthy appetite for playing live and a good fanbase, they are one to keep an eye on. Songs like 'Glasgow' and the pleading 'One More Chance' will have you humming along on first listen.