Last week I previewed the first headlining performance from the Cairn String Quartet, a classical ensemble who have graced the recordings of many of the best Scottish bands over the last few years, from Camera Obscura to Roddy Hart and The Orchids to Emma Pollock and Admiral Fallow, as well as international performers like Echo & The Bunnymen, Professor Green and the ubiquitous Emeli Sandé.
The band – if you can call a string quartet a “band” – were musically tight. Hey, I’m no expert but it sounded bloody good to me and I was amazed by the innovative arrangements they came up with when covering the great and the good of the Scottish music scene. But one thing irked me throughout the entire performance – to the point of distraction – and that was the noise of the crowd. Now, if bands like Biffy Clyro or Kid Canaveral had been playing then the sheer volume would’ve drowned out the endless chit-chat but this wasn’t a “normal” rock band. This wasn’t just the usual fog of murmured whispers but a full-on endless tidal wave of chattering, engulfing the audience and the band. This was a string quartet whose performance was always going to be quiet and moody and thoughtful and if you’d made a point of going to the venue that night to see them you would’ve known that. The problem was that much of what they played was drowned out in parts by ceaseless talking from local gobshites who seemed too full of their own alcohol-fuelled importance.
Cairn String Quartet – Black Chandelier:
Now I’m not one of those Quiet Coach noise nazis you get on the East Coast line. I’ve been to more than enough gigs over the years to know that people will talk and they do. Hell, I’ve done it myself. But I’ve never done it to the detriment of the performance being witnessed. While I was fortunate enough to be afforded a guest list spot for myself and a friend for this gig – I was already going before I was offered it – there will have been people in attendance who would’ve paid good money to be there. Maybe even friends and family who wouldn’t normally go to a music venue like King Tut’s and were more used to seeing them in more grandiose surroundings, as befits the nature of their music. There may have been no charge at the door but I had driven from Fife and the car doesn’t run on air. Sure, it was my choice to drive there but I did it because I know the Quartet, I know their work and I didn’t want to miss their first headlining gig at a ‘proper’ rock venue. They’ve worked incredibly hard to get where they are and they deserved better. Even support band Quickbeam, with their minimalist doodlings were afforded more respect.
The Cairn String Quartet’s music was wonderful, the guests were eclectic and gave great performances, with Young Fathers a standout (especially the moshpit dancing), but the overall gig experience was ruined for me and others by the mindless, thoughtless bullshit blethering of drunken me-me-me gobshites who seemed to think that their name was on the gig poster. The girls deserved more attention than was afforded to them from those selfish prattling dickheads. It wasn’t confined to men either. Is your conversation SO important that it has to be conveyed at maximum volume to people who couldn’t give a flying fuck? We all know the answer to that one.
This isn’t a peculiarly King Tut’s problem, or even a Glaswegian problem, but it is a problem and one that venues need to address. I’m already put off gigs involving Ticketmaster and their fees-for-fees-sake profiteering, let’s hope inconsiderate crowds don’t limit my choices further. It’s bad enough we have watch groups through a sea of mobile phones and iPads (seriously?). While you might suggest that I could easily move to the front to avoid this issue, I’m not so inconsiderate as to allow my not-insubstantial frame from blocking others. Some of us are thoughtful that way.
Cairn String Quartet and David MacGregor (Kid Canaveral) – And Another Thing!:
If you listen to the two tracks I’ve posted you’ll be able to hear some of the crowd talking throughout. These were the only tracks I could use because some of the others were unlistenable due to the “soundtrack” accompanying them. Even the girls were irked by the chatting. After a sublime rendition of Prides Out of the Blue, with two-thirds of the band themselves, there was a pause in proceedings. We wondered if they were awaiting another guest until cellist Fiona eventually pointed out that they were “waiting for a bit of quiet”. Good job she didn’t hold her breath waiting.
I hope the inconsiderate nature of some of the audience (and I wouldn’t even suggest it was a minority) doesn’t put the girls off repeating the exercise because they were excellent and their fresh spin on modern Scottish classics was a joy to hear live. Maybe next time they’ll move musically further afield. Can I suggest Buzzcocks’ Noise Annoys or Madness’ Shut Up?
Low Winter Sun (Kid Canaveral cover), Black Chandelier (Biffy Clyro cover), Out of the Blue (with Stewart and Callum from Prides), Leslie (King Creosote cover), And Another Thing (with David from Kid Canaveral), Tears for Lot’s Wife (Karine Polwart cover), Debbie’s Dirty Harry (with Fraser from Fat Goth), We Found Love (Calvin Harris/Rihanna cover), The Mother We Share (Chvrches cover), Down in the Hole (with Young Fathers) and Take Me Out (Franz Ferdinand cover)
We Radioed (with RM Hubbert) and Hey Jude (The Beatles cover)
The Cairn String Quartet’s new EP, #Quartetquickies was released on 21 June 2013 and is available now from iTunes, as are their previous albums.