2012 saw me fall in love with music again, both live and on record (and computer). I’d never fallen completely out of love with it but we’d had our differences and we weren’t really on speaking (listening) terms. New music hadn’t done much for me in 2011 – only “new” stuff from the distant past had made much impact – and I imagined this year would follow a similar pattern.
A combination of some of my favourite artists – BMX Bandits and Linden – returning with new albums, recommended newcomers and the influence of the listening of some of my HND Radio classmates reignited my passion for music this year.
Live music played a big part in my life in 2012 with a musical equivalent of the good, the bad and the ugly passing my eyes and ears. Since records began, and by records, I mean my Gigs spreadsheet, 1993 had been my busiest year for witnessing live music with 23 live shows. 2012 promised to run it close. I saw The Orchids twice in ’93 and were it not for a dispute with a ticket agency over fees I’d have seen then again, for the eighth time, some 19 years later. Sometimes you have to stand up for your principles and paying an extra £1 just to collect a ticket was £1 too far. I was already paying £14 to see them, plus booking fees, and they were only the support band. I don’t blame the band; I blame yet another fees-for-fees-sake ticket agency, who I won’t name (if they can’t be bothered to respond to my correspondence then fuck’em, no publicity, albeit negative, for them). I also saw BMX Bandits play the now defunct Venue in Edinburgh in October 1993 and while The Orchids took some time out in the 1990s (returning in 2004) the Bandits, under the stewardship of Duglas T Stewart, kept on going and they recently celebrated over 25 years in this business we call pop. 1993 also saw my only foray into rock promotion, involving The Orchids, but we’ll save that story for another day.
My 2012 gig-going got off to a great start with a trip to Glasgow, with classmate Scott, to see Babybird, a band I’d always wanted to see. I’m glad I did for a number of reasons not least because it seems that Stephen Jones has hung up his microphone for good. Fingers crossed he changes his mind. I’d actually won tickets in a competition to see Babybird back in 2000 at the Liquid Room in Edinburgh but the gig was cancelled for reasons unknown. If I’d paid for my ticket I’d have got a refund, as it was I missed out on the gig and the prize. Like an over-excited movie PR company proclaiming a new January release as “film of the year”, I did just that for Babybird’s visit to King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut and, despite stiff competition, it has stayed that way over the past 11 months. The gig also prompted a spat on Facebook with a member of one of the main support acts who had arrogantly suggested that somehow they were better than the headliners. I won’t name them. I also won’t hold my breath waiting for them to get eight Top 40 singles and 2 top 30 albums (like Babybird) with their derivative sound. As a result of the band (and their fans) taking umbrage at me daring to have an opinion on them and their music – I was actually quite diplomatic – I won’t be visiting a certain town in Scotland any time soon.
February saw me take in two Fife gigs. Another competition win – it’s a hobby and a blog post or two for another time – saw me and another college radio colleague Martyn take in Big Country at Dunfermline’s Alhambra Theatre from the back row of the Circle. I’m not going to compare Alarm frontman Mike Peters with local hero Stuart Adamson because he certainly won the crowd over with his passionate performance but there’s still an element of sub-Bono worthy posturing about him that irritates me somewhat, further compounded when he climbed up to the Circle for a bit of mid-song community singing. The band played their best-selling album The Crossing, which topped the Jocknroll Best Scottish Album poll in 2007, in full and it was, I have to say, magnificent. While never really being one of my favourite bands they were always a band I liked and I’m glad I saw them just this once. Less than a week later I caught The View at the Rothes Hall in Glenrothes and this was an altogether different crowd. If I wasn’t the oldest there I certainly wasn’t far off. It seems to be the thing around these parts to slag The View off but I like their energy and their tunes.
April was all about blasts from the past. Another band I had never got around to catching live the frist time was Secret Affair and I was delighted to see The Laynes support them at Ivory Black’s. I’d played The Laynes on my radio show and I thought their set was tight, energetic and full of crackin’ tunes. I have to say I was rather disappointed with the headline act. A number of songs seems to be overextended to accommodate brass solos and the wonderful sound afforded their support act seemed to disappear in a clumpy cloud of noise. 21 April was Record Store Day and Mono in Glasgow held a free gig, which featured an AED Records showcase as well as performances by Malcolm Middleton’s side project Human Don’t Be Angry (which just didn’t do it for me) and Snowgoose, Jim McCulloch’s band who doff more than a passing hat to folkies Pentangle. Not surprisingly Edwyn Collins headlined his own label’s showcase with great support from Linden, Joe McAlinden’s new band, and The Dead Flamingoes, featuring James Wolbourne and partner Kamila Thompson. The last gig of the month saw the welcome return of Close Lobsters, a Paisley band who lingered on the fringes of the C86 movement and in I’m Going To Heaven To See If It Rains produced one of the greatest Scottish singles ever.
Joe McAlinden was also present at what was arguably one of the most anticipated gigs/hottest tickets of the year which saw the return of the now-abridged Dexy’s. In what was more of a theatrical production than a traditional gig, Dexy’s played new album One Day I’m Going To Soar – their first in 27 years – in track order with a few extra treats from the past thrown in at the end for good measure including, much to my surprise, a reworking of party favourite Come On Eileen. I caught Django Django and Discopolis at the National Museum of Scotland but wasn’t really taken by two bands vaunted as the next big things. In June I was looking forward to finally seeing Kid Canaveral, “my new favourite band”, but sadly a last-minute illness to lead singer Dave meant a late substitute in the shape of Fence Musketeer King Creosote, to complement the bill already featuring Withered Hand, The Pictish Trail and Randolph’s Leap, my other new favourite band. I would see all of these acts again before the year was out.
The summer brought a debut gig for my mate Dave’s band The Silver Birches, with the added delight of a song, Late Night Radio, inspired by yours truly (*blushes*). The country-tinged power pop was well-received and I saw them once more a month later. Sadly their third gig clashed with a gig across the country from one of my first musical loves. Dave understood and between the two Silver Birches performances he joined me on a trip to the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh – scene of my first “proper” gig in December 1983 – courtesy of free tickets from my friend Lisl. The venue played host to Withered Hand, Darren Hayman (late of Hefner), Gordon McIntyre from Ballboy (sporting the dodgiest moustache this side of Mo-vember) and all MC’d by Josie Long. August finally brought me face to face with Kid Canaveral, this time at the Electric Circus, a small but perfectly formed venue near Edinburgh’s Waverley Station. They rocked, mixing brand new songs with old favourites. I hadn’t seen Marc Almond since 1988 when he strutted his dark, soulful stuff at the Barrowlands in Glasgow with then backing band La Magia to promote his Stars We Are album and thanks in no small part to a competition run by the HMV Picture House I secured a pair of tickets to see him again. To be fair I think the venue were struggling to shift them because everyone I knew had entered and “won” tickets. Still, I’m glad I went although I was irked most of the night by a guy who thought I was there to hear him “sing” as he bawled every word into my right ear. Fine for the big singalong numbers but during If You Go Away it wasn’t welcomed. Support Baby Dee was a sight to behold and resembled a poor man’s Divine, for those who remember him. By the way, the picture at the top of this blog was taken by Marc Almond from the stage and posted online. I’m in it. Well, a bit of my head is.
It’s many years since I’d been to Paisley, almost certainly for a St. Mirren versus Hibernian match, and the good lady wife and I returned there in September to see first musical hero, Roddy Frame. Hosted by Paisley Abbey as part of the Spree Festival the venue resembled an episode of Songs of Praise but it suited Roddy’s one man and a guitar show. There was even a meet and greet afterwards and a chance to finally shake the hand of one of the world’s great guitarists.
Another competition win in the shape of a pair of tickets to November’s Aberfeldy Music Festival gave me the ideal chance to combine work for my radio course with a trip to the sleepy Perthshire town. Now, I don’t know if it was just me, but I didn’t enjoy the weekend as much as I should have. Maybe it was being on my own or becoming easily bored with what Aberfeldy had to offer outside of gig time – it’s a one-horse town and it must’ve been the horse’s day off – or perhaps it was the inability to get an interview with the festival organiser because he had more pressing matters to attend to (like walking his dog) but I didn’t enjoy the weekend and couldn’t wait to get home. Friday night saw a line up of Star Wheel Press (led by the aforementioned organiser and featuring backing vocals from my hostel roommate), Withered Hand, Meursault, Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells and headliners Phantom Band, who I’d never heard before, let alone seen. They impressed me greatly. The same couldn’t be said of Meursault. Again, it might’ve been the mood I was in but I just didn’t get it. People I know had raved about them but, no, not tonight guys. In the cantankerous mood I was in it didn’t help that lead singer Neil Pennycook kept his hood up throughout the set. Yup, that’s how miserable I was. A lack of money and overpriced food didn’t help.
Saturday night in Aberfeldy featured Gummi Bako, who I didn’t enjoy, The Pictish Trail (backed by Eigg metal band The Massacre Cave), Rozi Plain, FOUND and King Creosote. During a bitterly cold afternoon the town “square” played host to acoustic sets by some of the acts playing the main festival as well as Kid Canaveral. Such was my frame of mind I decided to skip town for a few hours and headed off to Angus to see my hometown team Bonnyrigg Rose play Brechin in the Scottish Cup. I met up with some old school friends and watched a decent game (ended 2-2 thanks to some calamitous Rose defending) before heading back to Aberfeldy. Sadly I didn’t feel any better and left before the end of the evening’s proceedings.
A week later I was in better fettle and travelled to Jim Lambie’s Poetry Club in Glasgow for Linden‘s live debut. Joe McAlinden, accompanied by Marco Rea and Stuart Kidd from excellent support act The Wellgreen, played brand new album Bleached Highlights from start to finish, which seems to be the theme of the year. You can’t ask for much more for a fiver. Edwyn Collins was also in attendance, along with members of The Pastels, The Orchids, The Vaselines and Belle and Sebastian (apologies if I’ve missed your top pop beat combo out). This was my second favourite gig of the year. Behind the early Babybird gig, it was also just ahead of the delightful pop double bill of Teen Canteen and Duglas T Stewart, the pied piper of pop. I can’t really add much more to the review I wrote last month.
My gigging year finished, quite rightly, with a party and the third instalment of the festive fun that is Kid Canaveral’s Christmas Baubles III. Sadly I missed comedians Elaine Malcolmson, Eleanor Morton and Josie Long and arrived just in time for the opening musical act, which was RM Hubbert. King Creosote vs FOUND was due up next but KC was replaced, for reasons unknown to me, by The Pictish Trail, the Edin Dzeko of Fence Records. He was followed by the ever-cheery Malcolm Middleton. After the welcome dinner break I had the opportunity to see Meursault again and while I did appreciate them better than their Aberfeldy set they’re still not my cup of tea. Sorry but I prefer the perky, quirky, folky pop of Randolph’s Leap. A raucous set of originals and Christmas covers delighted the packed crowd and hosts Kid Canaveral brought the curtains down on my musical year with a wonderful set mixing old favourites and soon-to-be new favourites from their forthcoming second album. Roll on March.
So a pretty good year all in all and 2013 is already shaping up to be a cracker with tickets and plans made already for The Pictish Trail/Adam Ross (Randolph’s Leap) and Teen Canteen in January and Roddy Hart and the Lonesome Fire (an unfortunate clash with The Beatstalkers that night), Randolph’s Leap/Snowgoose/Jo Mango and, possibly, I Am Kloot in February with Kid Canaveral‘s album launch gig in Glasgow pencilled in for the start of March. Bring it on.