Tuesday 28 February 2012

Vigo Thieves at Nice n Sleazys, 25/02/12

Wishaw's Vigo Thieves returned to Glasgow for the first time after an epic King Tuts show in January, packing out Nice 'n' Sleazys to launch their new EP 'Heart and Soul (Pt I)' (released on itunes on 5th March).

Galleries were the only official support for the night, however Millar Jukes got up to play a short acoustic set, mixing covers with his own stuff. It was a good set and I look forward to hearing some more from this guy.

I first put Galleries on over 2-years ago at Stereo, supporting Sonny Marvello. Their music caught my attention then and I was pleased to see and hear how they have developed in that time. David McAdam paced around the stage, producing stunning falsetto vocals to music and melodies that reminded me of mid-period Suede when they were epic with hooks, although David can sing a lot better than Brett Anderson.

'Underground Overground' mid set caused people at the back to stop talking and move forward and it was pleasing to see so many of the crowd appreciating a great set. 

The stunning closer of 'Young Wounds' that has received airplay on daytime Radio 1 and is available via itunes as are 5 more tracks that are well worth checking.

I've got a feeling, young wounds don't last forever

It is a stunning track, the tempo picks up at the right time, it moves and grooves. Rather epic. 

On to the headliners though. It had been quite a week for Vigo Thieves with real acclaim for their track 'Heartbeats' via enthusiastic radio play from Jim Gellatly and its use in the T in the Park viral video to announce the latest artists for the 2012 festival, not to mention over 30,000 views of their own video in under a month.

It is fair to say that the band were buzzing before they went on and their was a real sense of anticipation.

The bands bass player had celebrated his birthday the week before and decided to buy glow sticks for the crowd. It was an inspired idea and completely transformed the shabby basement chic of Sleazys into something completely different.

The band arrived on stage to their own song, the opener 'Wide Awake' off their forthcoming EP. An atmospheric track that couldn't be recreated on stage (yet).

With fans twirling glow sticks around their heads and waving them in the air, the band burst in 'Steal Your Heart', the warm circling guitar riff and primal beat causing the crowd down the front to jump and for others from the back to push down to join them.

The response from the crowd was incredible with 'Viiiiigo' style terrace chants causing singer Stevie Jukes to take a step back and take it all in before a heartfelt thanks and the introduction of 'Heartbeats' that caused things to get even crazier as I left my perch standing on the sofa at the side to get a view to join the crowd at the front...well I got to the middle.

This is a big track, no doubt about it. Plenty of bits to sing-a-long to and full of soul. Check the song and video below.

Love is the fire that's burning, when your heartbeats

'Echoes' was up next, an unreleased track to date, not that you would have noticed it from the crowds response again.

'Love Is Dead' is another favourite and another massive tune, a simple yet  powerful synth riff propels the song and again the crowd loved it, singing along. It seems to be growing in size and stature. Singer Stevie Jukes abandoned his guitar to prowl the front of the stage and vibe off the crowd down the front who were singing his very words back at him.

'She's On Fire' is pure Simple Minds with journalist Jim Gellatly noting in his column in The Sun that it was ironic they were playing the Barrowlands that night, describing Vigo Thieves as the young pretenders.

The band closed with old favourite 'Blood Red' that prompted mass pogo-ing and the crowd to sing the guitar riff. 

It was an epic set, the band were buzzing off the audience and that just increased the bond between them. The set is tight and epic, these songs could go far and seem to be growing week by week.

The band are clearly on the up, full of confidence and gaining more fans by the week just now. With London dates in April, a further Glasgow launch show for the second part of the EP booked for the end of May along with further Scottish dates with more to follow. 2012 could be a big year for Vigo Thieves!

Monday 27 February 2012

Norman Blake at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh, 24/02/12

Last Friday I conveniently set up some meetings in Edinburgh so I could stay through after work and head along to the monthly arts event Neu Reekie.

Set up by Michael Pederson the night takes in film, literature and music. I've been meaning to go since the inception of the night over a year ago. As it is the last Friday of every month it always seems to clash with something in Glasgow, or with family commitments. This has resulted in me missing musical guests like Stevie Jackson and Duglas T Stewart.

After a few beers with friends from work I jumped an extremely expensive taxi up to the venue, down a wee lane off the Royal Mile.

After some outstanding beat poetry from New Yorker exiled in Edinburgh Lagh over some funky jazz and a crazy short film it was time for Norman Blake from Teenage Fanclub.

A short 15-minute set was scheduled so Norman got cracking, starting with a gorgeous version of 'Dark and Lonely' from the last Teenage Fanclub album, the sublime 'Shadows'.

This was swiftly followed by the Jonny song 'You Was Me.'

Norman then played a cracking acoustic version of 'I Don't Want Control Of You' that brought a small tear to my eye as the song has really taken on a new meaning since I became a Dad last year.

Every day I look at a different face, this feelings getting stronger with every embrace

The usual Fanclub humour was evident when Norman played a one note guitar solo to a huge cheer.

Norman was joined by his friend Chloe on flute for one of my favourite songs 'Did I Say', forgetting the words half way through caused him to play the whole song again. No complaints as it is top class.

Norman ended with Chloe playing keyboards, Adam Stearns playing a little gadget and his great friend Duglas on kazoo with Norman getting one for the closing instrumental; a brilliant take on the Velvet Underground's 'What Goes On'.

A great night was had by all. I also got to speak to Norman and Duglas and things are sounding very promising for a new Fanclub album in record time (maybe I shouldn't hold my breath on that) and a Bandits album in the summer!

Saturday 25 February 2012

T in the Park 2012

The latest announcement of acts for the 2012 T in the Park prompted the usual outpourings of joy for some and scorn from others.

The same thing happened when the Stone Roses were going to be headlining one night at T in the Park with plenty of people moaning that the Roses would mean that ‘even more neds than normal’ would attend the festival. 


I thoroughly enjoy reading the comments and tweets, finding it highly amusing at the people getting worked up about the line up. 

I'm older, if something is good then I like it, regardless if it is cool or not. I'm wiser as well, I completely understand why DF Concerts have picked the acts they have.

There is a recession going on in case people hadn't noticed. DF have wisely picked acts that they know will help the festival sell out yet again. Stone Roses, Kasabian, Noel Gallagher and New Order have massive fan bases north of the border. People from 15 to 50 will want to see these bands, many youngsters for the first time, many others to remind them of their youth.

Once the festival sells out there will be plenty of scope to get other acts in. Part of going to a festival is all about getting the timetable and planning who are you going to see, where and when, what does it clash with? Oh who will I choose, are you going to see them? I'll meet you after then? All part of the fun.

If a novelty act like The Darkness are announced for Glastonbury it is treated with the humour intended; 'Oh I bet the Darkness will be fun'. Of course plenty of people at Glastonbury would also think 'fuck that' and go off and see something else. That is the beauty of a festival of the scale of T, there are plenty of other stages.

Elsewhere there are the acts for the youngsters; Example, Calvin Harris, The Vaccines and many more. Yeah The Wanted are playing but again Glastonbury kind of pioneered the pop band playing that you didn't expect, they usually get a good crowd and I am sure The Wanted will get a good crowd at T who have had Sugababes amongst other pop stars.

DF and others have tried the festivals for the cool kids; Connect and Indian Summer - brilliant festivals, the first Connect had an incredible line-up that I couldn't believe. I miss them, but they were massive loss making festivals. I hope they try again, I don't think that this is the right time. Check out Bestival - hard and expensive to get to from Scotland, but my mate has been the last two years and is going again this year.

I think I went to 8 or 9 out of the first 10 years of T in the Park. Since then it has been a bit more sporadic; I have been for the day, been as a volunteer with Oxfam and I’ve been as a worker when I organised a tent for Maggie’s Centres. I’ve been in the VIP area, I’ve been ‘backstage’, I’ve been in the nice workers campsite, I’ve been in the jam packed punters campsite, I've seen people tip over a portaloo with someone inside.....not pleasant, yet funny at the same time.

I’ve seen the transition from the first festival where everyone really did wonder if it was going to happen to the behometh that T in the Park is today.

A few facts.

The T site at Balado becomes the fifth largest town in Scotland for the weekend.
That statistic alone means that you are going to get people from all walks of life attending, in the same way that you get all walks of life living in a large town/city. A weekend of music fuelled by alcohol and plenty of other substances, the chance to be with your mates, meet like minded people, camp out, party all night…..that appeals to many whether it be doctors, lawyers, school kids, students, the unemployed, bankers, wankers and inevitably neds. 

So the short answer is that yes, there are going to be neds at T in the Park. I think anyone who has been to T in the Park knows that. Whether it can truly be described as a Nedfest is another matter altogether.

There are also going to be some highly educated, talented and artistic people in the crowd.

I still get a buzz at T when I see kids running into the site, overjoyed to be at their first festival. They don't give a flying fuck about what the cool kids think about the line up, their joy is that they are out with their mates to see loads of bands over a weekend - oh the beauty of innocence.

Do the Stone Roses attract neds?

When I was at school it was all the cool kids that were into the Roses. But then back in the early 90’s neds wasn’t in the vocabulary. I don’t recall many neds attending the first T in the Parks, but I do know that many came down and hung outside and there was a bit of trouble. One of the reasons (other than site size and restrictions) that the festival moved to Baldao.

Again, on a similar theme to point 1, any band with a huge fan base is going to attract all kinds of fans. So that definitely applies to the Roses. A fine example of the cool kids being the first to find out a band and then that all changing is this excellent blog by one of the first people to get into the Roses ‘back in the day’in Glasgow http://louderthanwar.com/blogs/the-past-is-yours-but-the-future-is-fine

One of my favourite T in the Park memories is turning up to Balado campsite really early on the Friday (before bands played that day) with a big group of my mates and a big group of my brothers mates. The sun was shining, we pitched, we drank and we listened to tunes. A group of lads down the way had a ball and asked us if we could get a team to play them. Indeed we could. We played in the scorching sun, 5 half-time, ten the winner. We won 10-8, I linked up with my brother for the winning goal. We made pals with the lads and had a great night talking about music. At one point a massive cheer started to go around the campsite, soon everyone was cheering and everyone seemed to be moving to one area. We went down, someone had a great wee soundsystem and everyone was dancing. Some guy was mashed but he was loving it, he didn’t care that everyone was dancing around and even inside his tent (it was quite big). Everyone was drinking, dancing together, chatting. A few of us stayed up all night and we didn’t regret a moment. I woke up in someone’s tent and had no idea how I had got there.

One of those great nights and I hadn’t even seen a band yet. The point being that the vast majority of people at T in the Park are there for a good time, to listen to music, to have fun, to dance and to make friends and chat with strangers.


T in the Park has neds, but to describe it as a nedfest is to do it an injustice. It is the biggest festival in Scotland by miles, attracting some of the biggest names in music year on year, selling out with ease and making tens of thousands of people extremely happy.

Loads of people plan their summer around it, in fact loads of people probably plan their year around it. In tough times people need something to look forward to and T in the Park certainly provides them with something to do just that. 

People save for it, people crave for it....OK I'm going to go one further and say that people rave for it (groan). They certainly rave at it, the audience at T in the Park has to be one of the most 'up for it' in the world. 

We should be focusing on the multitude of positives surrounding this festival that provides joy to so many people, provides a huge boost for the Scottish economy and highlights the stunning Scottish countryside and our 'mad for it' crowd that are up for a party regardless of the weather.

Now if someone can sort me out with a ticket for the day the Roses are playing, that would be tremendous.
The Boss kicks off this weeks 6 for Saturday

Saturday 11 February 2012

Have Some Face In Magic - Errors

I've never been particularly drawn to Errors before, their latest single 'Pleasure Palaces' probably changed quite a lot of misconceptions I had about the band.

At times I can form an opinion about a band without seeing them live or taking the time to check them out online - and lets face it, that is incredibly easy to do these days. I had always thought that Errors were maybe a little bit of a heavy band that I wouldn't enjoy.

So I bought the latest album, with the great title 'Have Some Face In Magic'. Here is my mini-review, a tweet for each song.

Prog rock riffs drive the song along, not my favourite song on the album if I am honest.

Magna Encarta
A pulsating beat is draped in layers of keyboard and synths before the beat changes and it flows on from there.

Blank Media
Gentle melodies and soothing warm guitar chords are layered with synth riffs. Lovely!

Pleasure Palaces
The single that even captured the attention of The Saturdays! Atmospheric and easy to get lost in the mood of this and taken on a journey. Beautifully produced. Sublime.

The Knock
This album changes pace from song to song. This one is like space age acid jazz at times. Kind of like Bowie era Low. A stand out.

Under 2-minutes long, a darker sister to The Knock.

Sinister church like chants over samba style beats before things kick on from there. Dare I mention prog rock again? Really develops after 2 minutes.

Cloud Chamber
Aptly named, dreamy track.

Barton Spring
Beautiful strings (or a synth/sample) create more lushious dream like sounds 

Holus Bolus
Dreamy is a word I'll need to use again. Trippy and bubbling synths come and go throughout, choir like vocals. Rather gorgeous.

And a quick summary
An album that will always have something to return to, growing on each listen and wanting me to see it created in a live environment. Quite dreamy at times, always atmospheric with loads to keep the listener captivated and wonder how it all came together at times.

Friday 10 February 2012

Five for Friday, 10/02/12

We start with a song I hadn't listened to in ages and then it came on my ipod shuffle.
I remember being blown away when I first heard this. I love the spoken word/story bits that just rush headlong into the chorus. The chiming guitars, melodies and harmonies send warm tingles down my spine.

It is no secret that I am a huge Teenage Fanclub fan. They turned me on to The Byrds (and loads of other amazing bands) through their interviews and fine selection of covers that they played live or snuck on to a b-side. This week the bands Gerry Love stuck a couple of videos from their 'Man-Made' album up on to YouTube. 'Fallen Leaves' is Gerry Love at his best, soothing vocals, great hooks and the sound of sunshine.

What could I lead on to via 'Fallen Leaves'?

How about a 'Shady Lane' by Pavement? This was a favourite of mine along with my great friend Reddy, we used to love the 'oh my god, oh my god.......' section and sing-a-long drunkenly when we were having carryouts and raiding each others record collections.

Speaking of my friend Reddy, we went to (and still do, although not as much) loads of gigs together. One of the drunkest ever gigs I have been to was Ben Folds Five at King Tuts. I think I had finished work and gone to meet Reddy at his student union and hung out there until Tuts. I vaguely recall jumping about like a loony to this with Reddy and clearing a bit of space on the Tuts dancefloor in front of the stage as we played air piano along to Ben!

The second part to this story occurred in 1999 when we were on holiday in New York and discovered Ben Folds was playing Central Park. We got tickets and went to a bar for the day, then to the gig where we drank pints of wine for some reason! We tried to climb a security banner to get backstage to tell Ben Folds we had seen him at Tuts, only to get over the fence and thrown back out! Blitzed we met two girls and promptly fell asleep on their picnic rug for most of the gig and woke to the sound of Underground and then proceeded to jump about like loonies again for the last few songs. We had people asking to take our pictures as we were so drunk! Anway, this is a great song!

I'll end todays song with a cover version by a Glasgow singer/songwriter who goes under the guise of Beerjacket. I bought his latest album this week and I'll review it in a future blog. This is the song that first turned me on to his music. Rather sublime. 

Thursday 9 February 2012

Vigo Thieves - Heartbeats video and free download

Vigo Thieves are gearing up for the release of their forthcoming 'Heart & Soul (Part I)' EP by releasing one of the tracks, 'Heartbeats', as a free download accompanied by a video.

The video features fans and friends of the band including; Brian Henderson (The Dykeenies), Leo Mayweather (White Vinyl Collective), Patricia Panther, Madaleine Pritchard, Davey Horne, Jamie Keenan (The LaFontaines) and Clare Kelly (Suspire).

'Heartbeats' starts with a melodic piano riff that Chris Martin from Coldplay may think about pinching if he hears it, over a rumblin bass with echoes of U2.

If the bass is reminiscent of U2, then the lyrics, vocals and melody are as heartfelt and soulful (as the EP title may hint at) as those of U2 and other stadium giants.

There are 'woah oh oh's' a-plenty and the use of simple imagery that just make it seem natural to sing along to and you find yourself getting sucked into the song.

(woah oh oah oh oh)
Love is the fire that's burning
And your heartbeats
(woah oh oah oh oh)
Together we stand, divided we fall
Start the fire
Let your heartbeat, let your heartbeat, yeah

Bono has never been afraid to take a common phrase and stick it in a song to make it stand out and with 'Heartbeats' the Vigo Thieves use the same trick to great effect; 'it's better to burn out rather than fade, the fortune favours the brave' in the first verse and the 'together we stand, divided we fall' hook.

I'll review the EP in a later blog, just enjoy this song for now. To coin a phrase used by another band with anthems, Vigo Thieves have 'Songs To Learn And Sing.'

Love is the fire that burns, feeding the truth, it keeps the world turning
If darkness begins again, we'll chase the sun

Monday 6 February 2012

Rachel Sermanni at St Andrews in the Square, Celtic Connections 05/02/12

The last time I went to a gig with my father-in-law was to see Dylan play the SECC 4 or 5 years ago. I’ve seen Dylan on 3 occasions; once in an all standing hall at the SECC when he started badly but 4 songs in the band jammed an extended outro to Tangled Up IN Blue and the gig came alive from there on in; secondly at a ‘secret’ show at Glasgow Barrowlands which was pretty special and then that time with Les when it felt like we were sat a mile from the stage and Dylan tottered from his keyboard to centre stage to mumble thanks and I didn’t even recognise one of my favourite Dylan tunes ‘Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright’.

I am totally digressing, anyway last night was much better as I headed out with Les to watch rising Scottish starlet Rachel Sermanni at St Andrews In The Square. Quite a special venue for me (and for Les) as that is where I got married almost 3-years ago.

Les likes his old style pubs so he suggested nipping into the Trongate on the corner of Argyll Street and High Street. The pub was mobbed and Irish folk songs were on the go as we fought our way to the bar. The duo were fantastic and the crowd were singing along. We only stayed for one but that was long enough to hear an Irish Folk punk version of The Undertones ‘Teenage Kicks’. After we got out Les turned and said ‘Did you feel safe in there?’ I diplomatically replied ‘I think you have to keep your wits about you!’

We rounded the corner to be greeted by the stunning site of St Andrews In The Square all lit up and looking beautiful. The tickets said the show started at 7.30pm and we were pretty much bang on the dot getting in to find that it had sold out and the only seats left seemed to be behind pillars. Thankfully they opened up the upstairs section so we made to the bar to get a beer to take up only for it to close just before we got to the front of the queue!

We headed up to the church style seats on the first floor and got a great view of the support act, a young gent by the name of Rory. He was OK, nimble and inventive finger picking, strong voice but I felt that his songs lacked a good hook or chorus. However I think I may have missed the point – I don’t think that is his style.

Grabbing a beer at the break and then another for good measure to ensure we didn’t go thirsty during the main act. We went back upstairs and slouched on a comfy brown leather sofa to the side, before sitting on the steps at the front as Rachel Sermanni took to the stage.

Rachel started on her own before being joined by an eight-piece band featuring 3 girls on violins and backing vocals (stung harmonies), a keyboard player, guitarist, bass and two people (including Admiral Fallow’s Louis Abbot) on percussion.

This was my second time catching Rachel live, the first had been at the Cabaret Voltaire 10-months previously when she had played a solo show. I had been captivated on that occasion, I was even more captivated last night. From the off it was clear that Rachel has a special voice, soft and soothing at times, rising and soaring with ease at others. After one song I commented to Les that it sounds like she is singing harmonies with herself, her voice is that good, effortless.

The band were fantastic, the double bass was discreet yet it underpinned Sermanni’s finger picking style on guitar, the additional guitarist created deft little sounds, the percussion was playful and the trio of female backing singers and violin players added a lot. The arrangements were quite stunning at times and again I had to remind myself that this was a girl in her late teens (or she may be 20 by now).

The audience was polite throughout, almost waiting to see who would be the first to clap. The age range was mixed, some young teenagers through to…well people my father-in-law’s age and probably beyond.

I’m not overly familiar with Sermanni’s songs but those that I know included ‘Breath Easy’, 'Sleep', ‘Song For A Fox’ and a brilliant take on ‘The Fog’.

A week before Admiral Fallow had utilised confetti cannons on their ABC audience. Rachel’s budget doesn’t stretch that far, however she did bring out a bag of party poppers at one stage and the band threw them out to the audience. that lightened the mood although they didn’t really fit in with the music.

One of the highlights was a short song when Rachel remained on stage with the 3-girls to harmonise beautifully. Another was the encore featuring just Rachel and her acoustic guitar, sounding like a young Joni Mitchell, I really want to find out the names of these two songs as I really enjoyed them.

On the way to the train we discussed the show; we both enjoyed it, we thought the band were tremendous, however it was Rachel Sermanni's voice that took up most of the conversation. It is just so sweet, so soothing and then at other times it can just go off to places, sounding raw when required but always under control.

Rachel Sermanni now plays Oran Mor in May and her Black Currents EP is out today.

Friday 3 February 2012

Five for Friday, 3/2/12


This weeks 5 for Friday has just been inspired by hearing the sublime 808 State on Lauren Laverne's 6 Music show.

So we'll kick off with them and see where we go...

Then we go into the jazz infusioned 'Rose Rouge' by St Germain, I used to DJ occasionally in Glasgow and this always went down well.

As we're going with kind of blissed out, ambient, chilled tunes, this is a real classic from Groove Armada. A hands-in-the-air, hug-your-mates moment.

Ooh the memories of post night clubbing parties...

We'll pick up the pace and bring things forward with 2 Bears and 'Church'. Joe Goddard from Hot Chip at his best.
And how about a bit of Orbital to end - gorgeous bubbling synth sounds.