Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Mogwai's 20th Anniversary and West End Festival All-dayer

Live review Mogwai 20th Anniversary gig, Barrowlands, Glasgow. 20 June 2015
Live review - West End Festival ALl-dayer, Oran Mor, Glasgow. 21 June 2015

This weekend there was a spectacular amount of good music performed in Glasgow, which I was lucky enough to see. Local heroes Mogwai are playing a series of 20th anniversary gigs just now and did two sold out nights at the Barrowlands in Glasgow. We pitched up early on the first of these nights, as they had added to a celebratory atmosphere with some excellent support acts.

First up was Pye Corner Audio, noodling away onstage as the crowd arrived. Good to see him perform but listening to it at home it has an old fashioned electronica, John Carpenter-style feel that is maybe better suited to hearing in a dark basement than the Barrowlands Ballroom. 

Without much time for chin stroking, Prolapse were up next. They are a band which passed me by in the early 1990s, their stated aim at that time "of being the most depressing band ever". If Mogwai are classified as post-rock, this was post-punk and probably the highlight of an entertaining evening. Playing together after a few years off they were tense and crackling on stage. "Scottish Mick"  Derrick and Linda Steelard prowled about on stage with the threat of pent up violence hanging over them the whole time. Thankfully they (just about) didn't come to blows on stage. 

Loop were up next, a band I remember more for their wavy flag logo than their music, but my pal accompanying me tonight is a big fan. They have also re-formed after a hiatus of a few years to tour again. Their looping guitars and droning noise place them somewhere between Motorhead and My Blood Valentine at times, but the grey haired, Paul Weller styled frontman, Robert Hampson, steers them away from this.

Mogwai on stage at The Barrowlands

If you've read any other blogs that I've written here you will know that I've seen Mogwai a few times over the years, so it was great to see them again. I'm delighted to read today that they plan to bring out a retrospective box set, "Central Belters" (nice title) in October too. I won't say much about their full-throttled set other than to note that they moved away from their stereotyped quietquietLOUD to give us two hours of loudloudquietLOUD tonight, no place for the likes of their recent gentle, and successful, Les Revenants soundtrack material. It is years since I have seen them play in the Barrowlands and it really is the perfect venue for them. Nice to see Aidan Moffat join them on stage for a rendition of "R U Still In 2 It" too.

One final mention for their excellent 20th anniversary T-shirts, featuring the original Star Wars arcade game, which I guess must be at least 20 years old too. This game (or maybe Moon Cresta) was my all time favourite to play in Treasure Island on Jamaica Street circa 1985 and I was great at it, so I had to get one.

Oran Mor West End Festival All-dayer

Having been very abstemious all night on Saturday as I was running the Men's 10k through the streets of Glasgow on Sunday morning, I was able to relax on Sunday afternoon at the West End Festival all-dayer. A mouthwatering array of local musicians was on offer across three venues within the venerable old church-come-pub and club.

Main auditorium, Oran Mor

Every time I have been to a gig in the main auditorium upstairs the performers on stage beneath Alastair Gray's spectacular murals are competing to be heard over the bar at the other end of the room, which itself is raised up on a slightly higher stage. It cannot be that this place just attracts the rudest of crowds, but has to be down to the shape and acoustics of the place. Fine for a wedding band maybe, not the ideal place to hear the quiet musings of recent Scottish Album of the Year Award winner, Aberdonian Kathryn Joseph. In front of a crowd of those curious to see her after winning the award, her ethereal singing and playing led me to buy her album to listen to it again more closely.

After that we grabbed some food then headed downstairs to The Venue in the basement to hear Man Of Moon, who describe themselves as a "psychedelic two piece". Wearing their influences on their chest, with a Lou Reed T-shirt on, they managed to create their own sound and were good live.

Remember Remember perform for the last time

If Mogwai can conjure up a dark Winter's day in the West of Scotland with their music, then nobody does the sunshine of a Spring morning, sparkling on the early dew, better than the band Remember Remember. I  first saw Remember Remember when they were just Graeme Ronald playing spoons, scissors and various instruments through loops to build a sound picture. They progressed into an impressive instrumental band with three excellent albums to their name, but have now decided to call it a day and announced that their Oran Mor show would be their farewell gig. Lovely as ever and I'm sorry to see them call it a day. I headed home later with an 'E' that Graeme had chucked into the crowd to help me remember Remember Remember. 

Back upstairs to see the ever entertaining and former Scottish Album of the Year award winner RM Hubbert strumming his stuff. He took a more direct (and successful) approach to those who continued to chat away at the bar over his performance. Shouting "Will youse shut the fuck up!" is something I hope Kathryn Joseph doesn't need to add to her stage persona. Nice to see Aidan Moffat joining Hubby on stage to provide the vocals for "Car Song". Passing up the chance to see We Were Promised Jetpacks and The Phantom Band we headed back downstairs to see a great set by Stanley Odd. I haven't ever seen him perform before, although his song to his child, "Son I Voted Yes", was widely circulated after the referendum verdict. Scottish accented hip-hop is a niche market I suspect, but his energy is contagious and his lyrics sharp, witty and political. Fellow vocalist Veronika Electronika (do you think that's her real name?) has a fantastic voice too over various different styles. Nicely done.
Sorry, but whenever we see Bill Wells perform I immediately
see Raymond Briggs's Father Christmas

I finished my weekend of music with Aidan Moffat and Bill Wells playing songs from the two albums that they have collaborated on. Accompanied by a great band of musicians playing assorted instruments, there was Bill on piano and Mr Moffat out front with percussion and vocals. They played a subdued set with a delicate, jazz-inflected atmosphere and it was nice to hear one of my favourites, "The Copper Top" again alongside material from "The Most Important Place In The World". A lovely way to end a great weekend of music. 

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