Since records began – and by ‘records’ I mean MY records and by ‘my records’ I mean an Excel spreadsheet that started life as an MS Works document back in the midst of time – I’ve been a reasonably prolific gig-goer. Nothing beats seeing a band or singer in their natural habitat, on stage in front of an appreciative crowd (or in some cases unappreciative), and, austerity permitting, I endeavour to continue to support the artists I love as much as I can.
My early gigging, which began in 1983, was facilitated courtesy of Lothian Buses (Lothian Region Transport until newly monikered in 2000) and, for adventures farther afield, National Express and Citylink. I lived in the arse end of nowhere and it was buses or nothing. In 1993 I managed twenty three gigs, a sum I never even got close to beating until I learned to drive in 2007. No longer was I dependent on the last bus or train, usually missing out on encores or headliners, and now Perth on a Monday night was within my reach. Indeed one of my first such adventures was such a day and place, seeing Jackie Leven in the Redrooms in Scotland’s newest city – then still a lowly town – in front of a sparse but loving crowd late into a Monday evening. Before I knew it I was driving back through the early hours from far-flung Scottish locations such as Darvel, Doune and Aberfeldy.
It’s only in the last two years I’ve gone close to that 1993 mark but this year I didn’t just pass, I lapped it. Unless I get a surprise competition win for tickets to the Pet Shop Boys’ Hogmanay headlining gig in Edinburgh’s Princes Street Gardens, the figure for this year will be a not too shabby forty three. Now forty three might not seem much to some, especially those like Jim Gellatly whose job is going from gig to gig checking out new talent for his various radio shows and podcasts or bloggers, particularly those based in the West where a proliferation of weekly gigs occurs, who perform a similar service to Jim for music fans, but for a married man living in Fife with domestic responsibilities and negligible income (college for the first six months of this year and unemployment for the second half) that’s a pretty good haul.
2011 saw me attend 19 gigs and the following year 21 but this year I had surpassed both figures by mid-June. Just for clarification, I counted each individual 30-minute set from the two-day goNORTH festival as a separate gig – usually I was crisscrossing Inverness from venue to venue seeing a number of bands each night – and I also counted each set from the Scared To Get Happy launch gig in a similar fashion, having seen seven of the ten bands on show, as they also played a minimum of half an hour.
January began with four outings to four different cities/towns. The new year started on a slightly sour note with a gig (not an in-store) at Edinburgh’s Avalanche Records with the shop’s best selling bands of 2012 playing sets, which included a cover or two of Avalanche’s all-time best-selling band Belle and Sebastian. I should stress that the musical offerings weren’t the problem. Jo Mango’s wonderfully delicate tones opened the evening before a stripped-down (in numbers not attire) Randolph’s Leap did their poptastic thang, performing two Belle and Sebastian tracks – I Fought a War and Is It Wicked Not To Care? – in their 8-track set. Entry for the gig alone was a reasonable £5, with an extra fiver getting you a special print or for an extra tenner a “very limited” t-shirt. I plumped for the luxury £20 package of ticket, print and t-shirt. Unfortunately the prints and t-shirts were so limited that they never actually appeared and after a number of excuses I gave up on ever getting either of them. It soured a relationship I had enjoyed with the shop over the past three decades and as such I haven’t been back.
The month ended with three shows in seven days. The Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy played host to an evening of Fence acts – The Pictish Trail, Eagleowl and a solo set from Randolph’s Leap’s Adam Ross and the following night I saw a home town performance (for them and me) by Middleton Hall at PJ Molloys in Dunfermline. They had brought out my favourite single of 2012 – First Bus Out of Town – and I was keen to see them live. (I was also due to see them again in October during Dunfermline Live but their set was cancelled and it seems they may have called it a day, which I was really saddened to hear). The 31st of January saw me head along the M8 for the first of ten such trips. The Old Hairdresser’s, Stereo‘s sister venue on Glasgow’s Renfield Lane, played host to a triple-header of The Store Keys, Spread Eagle (fronted by ex-Lungleg and Peter Parker singer/guitarist Jane McKeown) and my new favourite band, the sunshine-soaked TeenCanteen.
February brought the tally up to six gigs. Roddy Hart and the Lonesome Fire (ably supported by Three Blind Wolves) previewed their new album at the O2 ABC in Glasgow, while a fortnight later it was another triumvirate entertaining me at Edinburgh’s Queen’s Hall. Jo Mango once again acted as appetiser for an hors d’oeuvre of the folktastic Snowgoose and main course of the sprightly fun-filled Randolph’s Leap, a band who, in its various combinations, I’ve seen more than anyone else over the past 18 months. An excellent night. The last gig of the month was in support of my mate Dave and his band The Silver Birches who were supporting Miaow Miaow (as opposed to Miaoux Miaoux) at Bannerman’s in Edinburgh. He even wrote a song, Late Night Radio, inspired by my late night radio ramblings on Where The Action Is, which will hopefully return on a new station early in 2014.
March was a busy month with five musical outings, beginning with the album launch for Kid Canaveral‘s excellent second album Now That You Are a Dancer. Ably supported by yes-it’s-that-man-again Adam Ross, Kid Canaveral played a blistering set at The Glad Cafe. A fortnight later I did something I hadn’t done since 1994 in that I saw the same act two nights running. Lunleg were that band in the 90s (the fact I was going out with the drummer Amanda may have be a contributing factor to my loyalty) but on this occasion is was the psychfolk stylings of Nick Garrie who has at last, in recent years, been getting the recognition he deserves. The same line-up of Nick, The Starlets (before their name change to A New International) and Ally Kerr performed at Henry’s Cellar Bar in Edinburgh and then The Old Haridresser’s in Glasgow.
Two gigs in two days, turned into three in three when I made the trip to Dundee to once again see Kid Canaveral, this time in the company of my mate and radio college course classmate Scott. (The last time I’d been to three gigs in three nights was in April 1989 when I made trips to Leeds, Brighton and Aylesbury in the back of a van with One Thousand Violins, the band I’ve seen eighteen times, six more than nearest challengers The Smiths.) The ubiquitous, and fully staffed, Randolph’s Leap were the meat in the support sandwich between opener Luna Webster and Men Without Machines. Another top night, although we almost ended up going back across the Tay Bridge in the wrong lane, thanks to a myriad of roadworks. March ended with a trip to my first ever Neu! Reekie! The evening of animation, readings and music saw excellent sets from Eugene Kelly and TeenCanteen.
April consisted of a gig at Glasgow’s O2 ABC, squeezed between two gigs at the new blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Edinburgh venue The Breakfast Club. Randolph’s Leap headlined the first of the capital forays supported by the excellent Nevada Base and Machines in Heaven. This was followed by a triumphant Edwyn Collins performance, supported by another of my favourites Linden, Joe McAlinden’s new musical vehicle. A mighty fine double bill it was too. The month ended with a launch night for The Barne Society’s wonderful compilation album. A long bus journey up from Swansea after the Celtic Media Festival meant I missed the start but was still treated to excellent performances by Roy Moller, The Wellgreen and lyrical gangsta Michael Pedersen.
The month of my birth back in the original summer of love saw only two trips into the musical night. During Creative Loop, the Student Media Festival, I was fortunate enough to see Public Service Broadcasting, in the company of Scott, at the O2 ABC. Scott had played one track to me and I was hooked. I was reminded of the likes of Man or Astroman and it was one of the most enjoyable gigs of the year. My gigging month concluded with my sixth trip to see an incarnation of Randolph’s Leap at The Caves in Edinburgh. A long overdue BMX Bandits gig was scheduled for the next night but the closure of The Breakfast Club meant it was cancelled. (On the same day I was fortunate enough that The Wellgreen had agreed to be my live studio guests for HND Radio Graded Unit at Adam Smith College. The show went out live and Marco and Stuart played three tracks. You can here the whole show HERE. I got an A.)
June was the busiest month of year with trips to Inverness and London for multi-band performances. In June I was accepted on to the Radio goNORTH production course, which took place over two weeks leading up to and including the goNORTH festival itself. I wrote about it at the time. Hard work and hard play meant I saw sets by Miniature Dinosaurs, Be Like Pablo (another new favourite band), The OK Social Club, Poor Things, local band KOBI, Belgian’s Protection Patrol Pinkerton, The Enemies, Homework and Prides. I also saw a couple of mighty hangovers but that’s a different story. Just over a week after returning from the north I headed westward again for two gigs in one night. Indeed, it might’ve been three if I’d known about Primal Scream’s intimate ssh-it’s-a-secret show at the small but perfectly formed Poetry Club. As it was I made do with Chris Devotion and the Expectations and KOBI at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut. I missed headliners Ultrasound so I could nip round to Broadcast to catch the ex-Starlets A New International. Duglas T Stewart and Ally Kerr were supporting but both had disappeared before I got there, presumably to head to the Poetry Club. It was the third time I’d see Biff Smith and merry men and women and each time they were sublime. I look forward to their album, hopefully sometime in 2014.
The 22nd of June saw my first London gig since Morrissey in August 2011. The box set of Cherry Red’s celebration of 80s indie pop Scared To Get Happy was launch at 229 Great Portland Street and my reward for graduating was a ticket. I managed to see seven of the ten bands – split between two rooms – but I was particularly keen to catch up with The Popguns, who had recently reformed to do some gigs. They were a big favourite of mine and I was shocked to learn the last time I saw them live was in 1995 at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut. I loved them then and I still love them now. I previewed the gig and did an interview with Cherry Red’s John Reed as part of a feature for my radio course, which you can read about and listen to HERE, and when I returned from the Big Smoke I wrote about my trip and that’s HERE. June’s gigging didn’t end there as I returned to Glasgow for the first ever headline gig by the Cairn String Quartet. I had bumped into them in Inverness when they were the surprise guests at the goNORTH Mystery Tour (it ended in Inverness Airport) and had known them since the Darvel Festival back in May 2009. They’ve made a name for themselves as the go-to string section in Scotland and do some wonderful reworkings of Scottish indie tunes amongst their lengthy repertoire. You can watch and listen to their wonderful musical interpretations on YouTube. Unsurprisingly, I didn’t enjoy their gig. It was nothing to do with the music and more to do with a restless crowd. When I say “restless” I’m being kind to them. I blogged about it at the time and you can read it…(dramatic pause)…HERE.
After drowning in gigs in June, July was a veritable drought and I had to wait until a family holiday in London in August for my 37th gig of the year. While staying dahn saff I was fortunate enough that Duglas T Stewart was going to be in London to present at a screening of the bloody excellent Serious Drugs film at The Social. Not only that but he’d be singing some songs. Nick Garrie, who I saw, and Lenzie Moss, who I didn’t (I had to get the last train back to my digs in Sidcup), were also performing.
The rest of August saw my daughter Felicity attend her first gig, an appearance at the BBC tent at Potterrow during the Fringe to see the fuzzpop of Forres’ Be Like Pablo, who I had fallen in love with at goNORTH. Flick, a discerning 9-year old, loved them too and the band posed for photos with her and presented her with a t-shirt. After my own social faux pas back in 1982 – let’s not talk about that – I was determined that my daughter’s first gig would be somebody “cool”. Tick. August was rounded off with a trip to Edinburgh’s Liquid Rooms for the return of The Rutles. Ron Nasty (aka Neil Innes) was as funny as ever and I enjoyed the gig in the company of a couple of members of sixties revivalists The Spooks – Ron Do Ron and Peach McNulty. I hope to see them back in action in 2014 following their recent regeneration. They hadn’t been seen since the mid-1990s having disappeared in mysterious circumstances.
Having graduated from college with an HND in Radio I was looking, unsuccessfully, for work (or work experience) in radio. It just wasn’t happening and because I’d been at college for two years and not working I wasn’t entitled to any Jobseekers Allowance or benefits of any kind. This put paid to my gig-going exploits and I had to be more selective about which ones I attended. I couldn’t even afford free gigs!
The cancelled Middleton Hall gig meant that the TeenCanteen (pictured above) performance (and a short set from Withered Hand) at the Summerhall in Edinburgh for Neu! Reekie!, an event I’ve bought the ticket for some time ago, was the only October outing. November was barren and this left three gigs in December. Thanks to the generosity of my good friend Gary, I was able to see Roddy Frame‘s celebration of the 30th anniversary of High Land Hard Rain at the Royal Concert Hall in Glasgow. Gary bought me the ticket as an early Christmas present and I can’t thank him enough for it because it was, for me, the gig of the year and I’d hated to have missed it. While the second half of the show saw him and his assembled band play the seminal album in track order, the first half but just as interesting with some very early Aztec Camera tracks getting an airing for the first time in a long time, like pre-Postcard The Spirit Shows, Green Jacket Grey and debut single Just Like Gold. It was a great night and I bumped into Joe McAlinden afterwards too.
The year finished off with the two gigs at the soon-to-be-closed HMV Picture House. It’s a shame that Edinburgh is losing one of its few venues and to be replaced by what, another bloody Wotherspoons! Shocking. Anyway, I digress. I was fortunate enough to win not one, but two competitions for tickets to Picture House shows. The first was Ocean Colour Scene who, like Roddy Frame, were performing an album in sequence, this time Marchin’ Already and the second was the three-legged groove machine that was The Wonder Stuff, Pop Will Eat Itself and Jesus Jones on the Sleigh the UK tour. I actually enjoyed both gigs more than I thought I would but I did enter the shows with low expectations. It’s not that I particularly disliked any of the groups (I was never really a fan of PWEI) I just wouldn’t have paid £25 to see them.
So there you have it, a full gigging year. However, unless I get some work soon I’m unlikely to repeat it for quite some time. I want to thank all the bands I saw for some great performances. While Roddy Frame was my gig of the year, I’d also like to give a special mention to Kid Canaveral, Randolph’s Leap, The Popguns, Nick Garrie and the Cairn String Quartet, whose work I continue to enjoy immensely. A special thanks too to The Wellgreen and TeenCanteen because as well as great gigs they also did sessions for me on my HND Radio course at Adam Smith College – you can hear the TeenCanteen one HERE). It was extremely difficult to get bands to agree to come to Glenrothes, at the best of times, let alone a midweek morning, but they did and for that I thank them very much indeed.