Saturday 23 May 2015

Saint Etienne, Young Fathers and Belle and Sebastian. Glasgow gigs , May 2015

Glasgow Gig Reviews - May 2015 

Saint Etienne, Glasgow Film Theatre. Young Fathers, Glasgow School of Art. Belle and Sebastian, SSE Hydro

Rather spoiled for choice for live music in Glasgow this week. Here are a couple of brief live gig reviews of some of the bands that I took in.

It is a real treat to see Saint Etienne and Belle and Sebastian play within a few days of each other, two standards on any playlist I would put together in my student days. Both bands demonstrate their "indie" credentials by being named respectively after a French football team and a French children's book of the 1960s. Between these two gigs I also this week got the chance to see the excellent Young Fathers again, who seemed like a sharp, refreshing double espresso between two sweet cups of cappuccino.

Saint Etienne

I have always kept an eye out for Saint-√Čtienne the French Ligue 1 football team ever since they played a European Cup Final in Glasgow in 1976. I was only a wee thing, but my parents put me up to speaking to some of the 25,000 French fans in town, chanting "Allez Les Verts!" to them. Despite my support, Bayern Munich (and Hampden's square goalposts) beat them 1-0 that day. When a band of that name emerged in the 1990s I was drawn to them by the name, and stuck around to listen to their groovy, indie-dance sound. They were in Glasgow to perform live the soundtrack to the film "How We Used To Live", a documentary edited together by one time band member Paul Kelly, largely from BFI archive footage. (If you want to gaze through the archive yourself you can do so along at Bridgeton Olympia Library in Glasgow.)

There is a lot more interest in the nostalgia days before every aspect of our lives was recorded and shared with the world, but I found the film itself a bit sentimental. It recalled London from the 1950s to the early 1980s with Ian McShane's jocular narration. There were interesting wee nuggets, a well dressed woman tottering in high heels through a demolition site, steam trains being dismantled during the Beeching cuts, but the music and pictures were creating an atmosphere, rather than telling a story. It all felt a bit clean and wholesome. I think we've just been spoiled a bit with King Creosote doing a similar thing alongside Virginia Heath with their film From Scotland With Love. That film, made from Scottish film archives, seems to much more successfully capture real people and real places, with no cod narrator, but the music providing a strong element of storytelling.

Saint Etienne at Glasgow Film Theatre

This was followed by the band, fronted by Sarah Cracknell playing a fair few from their back catalogue. Great though their tunes are, it was funny to hear songs that I used to dance along to in Level 8, whilst sitting in a comfy seat in a cinema watching the band play on the carpeted area below us. It was a bit too much for one or two middle aged male groupies who squealed nonsensically at Sarah Cracknell, who didn't have the height a stage would usually give to allow her to be kept away from them. I cringed on her behalf as she politely tolerated it. Their tunes have stood the test of time however and were great to see performed.

Young Fathers

Edinburgh's finest pop/rock/hip hop act, Young Fathers arrived back on these shores again after a recent tour in the USA. Their latest album, White Men Are Black Men Too, is a fantastic listen, but seen live they take it up a notch. The surprise, but deserved winners of the Mercury Music prize last year their music is as hard to categorise as they are. A mish-mash of influences is what you should expect from a band consisting from a boy Drylaw, a Liberian who arrived in Edinburgh via Ghana and a Edinburgh-born son of Nigerian parents. Their "Young Fathers" moniker apparently comes from the fact that they all share their father's first name, a clever play on words that their songs enjoy too. They are angry, sweaty and have got something worth listening to. Driven on by their energetic drummer they barely pause for breath. I think this is the third time that I've seen them live, and in the sold out hall at the Art School in Glasgow they now seem to have a following that knows their music, and wants to singalong. They battered through a slick, well rehearsed set, dropped the mic to the stage, then walked off. No chit chat, no laughs, it's all about the music. 

Young Fathers on stage in Glasgow

Belle and Sebastian

By contrast to Young Fathers, Belle and Sebastian have never been about the energy levels, but more about the feeling of a shy friend talking about his life from his bedroom. The first time that I saw them live was in 1998 when they played in Maryhill Community Central Halls, a kind of warm up gig for a tour I think. It was an easy crowd, with their most adoring fans sat cross legged on the floor near the stage, and their aunties and uncles nearer the back of the hall. At that gig, occasionally they'd stop when one of the band made a mistake, they'd all apologise to each other politely and decide what song to play instead.

Next time I saw them was a few years later when they played the Barrowlands, a venue that suited them down  to the ground, packed out with adoring fans. The intimacy of their music worked well in that space, with local couthiness supplied by Gavin Mitchell coming onstage to do his Boaby the barman routine from Still Game.

Now on the home leg of their current tour they are playing the 10,000 seater SSE Hydro on a Friday night, accompanied by the Scottish Festival Orchestra. Their current album, Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, takes them in a different direction, as if they have been listening to a lot of Pet Shop Boys music recently, hinting at a grander sound and performance. Like Saint Etienne, we start off with a nostalgic film as the hall is beginning to fill. The film, Glasgow 1980, is worth watching if you've never seen it. It was commissioned by Glasgow Corporation in 1971 like a propaganda film, looking forward to the brave new world ahead once all the slum tenements were cleared and we were all living in clean, airy tower blocks and getting about on motorways. It is directed by renowned photographer Oscar Mazaroli and produced by Bill Forsyth and can be watched on the Scottish Screen Archive website.

Belle and Sebastian at the SSE Hydro, Glasgow

The Hydro is a massive space which the band and their orchestra tried to fill with bombast, flashy video screens and enthusiasm. It was good to see Mick Cooke back with the band, as one thing that I missed on the current album was his brass playing. He seemed to have come back to help with the musical arraignments with the orchestra. They played surprisingly few songs from the new album, sticking to reliable old favourites. Sadly no room on the setlist for my own favourites (Fox in the Snow and The Stars of Track and Field) but The Boy With the Arab Strap was accompanied by audience and orchestra members invited onstage to dance. I really enjoyed the concert, sat with a smile on my face the whole way through, but 100-times over would have preferred to see them back in the Barrowlands. The vast standing area seemed to be filled with many people just standing, so I don't know what the sound or atmosphere down there was like, but it looked a bit flatter than you may have hoped. The best moments tended to be when you got some intimacy with the band, talking about writing Dear Catastrophe Waitress in the old Grosvenor Cafe, or another song on the number 44 bus (which used to take me home to Knightswood from the city centre - a bus route that seemed to attract eccentric passengers such as the woman who would sit her tortoise on her shoulder "as it likes to look out the window").

It was a great concert, they have a fantastic back catalogue of songs, but I am not sure they really should try to be a stadium rock band.

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Kilmarnock, Football and My Family

My family's tenuous links to football in Kilmarnock

Partick Thistle play Kilmarnock this weekend, with the pleasant situation being that Thistle are safe in the Scottish Premiership for another year, but Kilmarnock still need to keep an eye on other results for their own safety. I've taken this as an excuse to investigate my family football connections in Ayrshire, which includes a few Juniors teams and one Scottish Cup winner's medal.

I like Ayrshire football teams. They just seem like genuine, long standing, integral parts of their local communities. I grew up in Maryhill supporting Partick Thistle. This means that over the years my team has often been found jockeying for league position with Ayr United or Kilmarnock and a short trip to Somerset Park or Rugby Park is always one that I enjoy. However, in terms of success, the Ayrshire Junior Football teams often eclipse their senior neighbours.

As children, my brother and me were sometimes taken to see Maryhill Juniors play at Lochburn Park, or Yoker Athletic down at Holm Park. In fact I think Lochburn Park is the only Scottish ground I've been threatened with being kicked out. As bored 7 and 9 years olds we were scolded by someone at the club for kicking lumps of harling off of a wall that was distracting us during a less than scintillating game. However, the real blood and thunder of Junior Football is best captured by a roll call of Ayrshire football clubs. Auchinleck Talbot, Hurlford United, Maybole Juniors, Irvine Meadow, Glenafton Athletic, Beith Juniors, Cumnock Juniors and Irvine Victoria.

My great-great granny came from Hurlford, just outside Kilmarnock and her husband was from Kilmarnock. Like many of his brothers and cousins in the area he was a coal miner. When Partick Thistle have played down in Kilmarnock in recent years I've enjoyed taking the chance to do a wee bit of local family history research down there. (I've written about some Kilmarnock tales on previous trips here.)

I have a big pile of old photographs and postcards that I got from my Kilmaurs-born grandad, and I've enjoyed trying to find out about the people in them. A lot of the family history research that I follow up on my Kilmarnock ancestors revolves around the same things: mining, trade unions, the ILP, the local masonic lodge and football. My great-great grandfather Robert Climie, was a coal miner born in 1843 in Kilmarnock.

Tom Climie and the Cranbrook Rovers football team c.1910

One of his sons, Tom Climie (above in the white "shorts"), a great-great uncle of mine, I could recognise in several of these old photographs which I have. I finally unpicked his story once I worked out where the football team he was photographed with in about 1910 were from. (I've written about it here.) He emigrated to Canada in 1907, where he worked as a coal miner and played football regularly there for his local team. He was 24 years old when he emigrated so it seems likely that his football education was in the junior teams around Kilmarnock.

Kilmarnock Hillhead Victoria FC

One other photograph that it has taken me a while to get to the bottom of is this one below. There just seems to be very little trace of a football club called Kilmarnock Hillhead Victoria FC. Also I had been unable to recognise any of the faces in it, but that was because I guessed the age of the photograph wrong by about 20 years.

Kilmarnock Hillhead Victoria FC
However I have now finally tracked this team down in a fantastic online archive some people have put together. They are trying to document all the football teams of Scotland from 1829 and at present it lists almost 7000 teams. In this file Kilmarnock Victoria Junior Football Club get the briefest of mentions, as they only existed from 1888-1889.  At that time there were numerous local junior teams just in the town of Kilmarnock alone. A booklet published in 1919 documenting the first 50 years of Kilmarnock FC maybe offers an explanation for the demise of the Kilmarnock Victoria team in 1889.

From "Fifty Years, Kilmarnock Football Club 1869-1919"
"The following season 1888-1889 a new team had to be rebuilt for a wholesale migration took place about this period.....the playing stock was replenished at the expense of the junior clubs - Thistle, Rangers and Victoria with such well known exponents as Bummer Campbell, Andrew Campbell, Tommy Lyle, John Brodie, John Johnstone, James Gray, John Porter, etc"
The other teams alongside Kilmarnock Victoria mentioned in this passage are Kilmarnock Thistle who played at Howard Park at this time and Kilmarnock Rangers who were on the go from 1887 to 1891. "Bummer" is a first name which I fear has drifted out of fashion in recent times and is maybe due for a revival.

So this allowed me to date the photograph above to about 1888, which is much earlier than I had thought it was from. So rethinking who would have been about the right age at that time I think that I can see my great-great uncle George Climie in the photograph, who would have been about 17 years old. See what you think. These two photographs below are taken about 10 years apart. Do these two people, a 27 year old soldier and a 17 year old Kilmarnock Victoria FC player, look like the same man?

George Climie?, born 1872

For me the best way to check this is for Kilmarnock  to manage to stay in the Premiership for another season. If so my first stop on our next away game in Kilmarnock will be to the local archives to try to dig out some old newspapers with Junior Football match reports from 1888. I'm sorry to say that would be a happy way to spend a morning for me.

Sam Clemie

Of all my Kilmarnock ancestors only one of them truly made a name for himself as a footballer, a close cousin of those mentioned above. As well as winning a Scottish Cup winner's medal with Kilmarnock in 1929, his claim to fame is that he was the first ever goalkeeper to save a penalty in a cup final. 

My ancestors were not as fastidious as we are nowadays about spelling their names consistently, and although Sam Clemie's dad, James Climie, usually spelled his name the same way as my branch of the family. Sam (and many other of my Climie relatives) went for Clemie. Born in April 1904 in the hamlet of Cronberry in Ayrshire, Samuel Turner Clemie was a blacksmith to trade. His father was a coal miner, describing his job in census returns as a "drawer in pit", the man who was employed to take the full tubs from the coalface and return with empty ones. When he married Mary Turner in 1893, James Climie was living in Lugar in Ayrshire, a mile down the road from Cronberry and just outside Auchinleck and Cumnock. 

Lugar is a village 16 miles south east of Kilmarnock whose 1500 residents at that time were employed in the local coal mines and the Lugar Ironworks. After 1928 work became harder to find locally when the Lugar Ironworks closed down. As a young man Sam Clemie was playing in goals for his local juniors team, Lugar Boswell FC, in 1925 when he signed for Kilmarnock FC. 

Badge of Lugar Boswell Thistle FC

Lugar Boswell, known as The Jaggy Bunnets, were founded in 1878, and still play at their home ground of Rosebank Park in the village, although since 1945 they have been called Lugar Boswell Thistle. Another notable player who learned his trade at Lugar Boswell Thistle was Andy Kerr, who played for Partick Thistle between 1952-59 before moving onto Manchester City (for a fee of £11,000 in 1959!), Kilmarnock, Sunderland, Aberdeen and Glentoran.

At the time that Sam Clemie was playing for Lugar Boswell, their nearest rivals were Cronberry Eglington FC, who played a mile up the road. In 1931 Bill Shankly began his football career playing right-half for Cronberry Eglington FC after his home town team, the Glenbuck Cherrypickers where he played as a reserve, was wound up in 1930. Cronberry Eglington took their name from the Eglington Iron Company that had built the villages of Lugar and Cronberry to house their workers.
Once Sam Clemie joined Kilmarnock he eventually became the regular keeper in 1926-27 season.

Sunday Post report from 1926, Sam Clemie (spelled this time as Climie) keeps Celtic out
Between 1926 and 1932 he made 200 league and Scottish Cup appearances for Kilmarnock, an ever-present in the 1930-31 season. On the way to the 1929 Scottish Cup final, Kilmarnock had beaten Glasgow Uni, Bo'Ness, Albion Rovers, Raith Rovers and then Celtic 1-0 in the semi-final. They met Rangers in the final, who were the clear favourites. Having just won the league title, and only losing one of their previous 43 league and cup games, Rangers were expecting to seal a "double double" in front of the 115,000 strong crowd.  

Sam Clemie in goals for Kilmarnock in 1929 Scottish Cup Final

After 16 minutes the referee awarded Rangers a penalty and although Tully Craig struck it well, Sam Clemie leapt to save it at his top left corner. Two goals from in the second half from Aitken and Cunningham secured Kilmarnock the 2-0 victory. As well as being the first ever penalty save in a cup final, there was also the first ever red card in a Scottish Cup Final as Buchanan of Rangers was sent off for un-gentlemanly conduct, as Rangers' frustration boiled over and he swore at the referee in the dying minutes of the match.

Sam Clemie in the middle of the back row as Kilmarnock display the 1929 Scottish Cup

It is reported that when the victorious team returned to Kilmarnock the crowd shouted down the Provost who was greeting them and demanded to hear from Sam Clemie. 
"I can save penalty kicks but I canae mak' a speech"
To rapturous applause he sat down again. With the cup winning team he toured eastern parts of Canada, New York, Ohio and Massachusetts playing 17 matches against local teams in May and June 1930. Sam Clemie is standing on the far right of the photo below as they head off on their tour.

The Killie team at Glasgow Central Station on their way to Canad 1930

In his final game for Kilmarnock in 1932, he was in goals whilst then first choice keeper Willie Bell was rested for the 1932 cup final the following week. Sam let in 7 goals as Cowdenbeath won that match 7-1 and Killie lost the final after a replay. Sam Clemie moved on to East Stirlingshire FC in 1932 where he made just five league appearances and his senior footballing career came to an end. Aged 65 he died in 1970.

The footballing genes obviously went down another side of my family, as the highlight of my football career was playing in goals for Maryhill Primary School when St Mary's Primary beat us 14-0 on their red blaes pitch. However I plan to try and take in a game or two at Lugar Boswell Thistle next season now that I've found out about those in my family more skilled at the game than me. Who knows, maybe I'll spot the next Kris Doolan who joined Partick Thistle from Auchinleck Talbot? This season, 2014-15, he has just become the first Partick Thistle player since Jimmy Walker in the 1950s to score 10 goals in five consecutive season.

Monday 4 May 2015

May Music in Glasgow. Tectonics and Minimal 2015 Review

Review : Minimal Glasgow 2015, Tectonics 2015 Glasgow

If you have flicked through the pages of the excellent new book "Dear Green Sounds - Glasgow's Music Through Time and Buildings" you will know that Glasgow has a long history of being an enthusiastic creator and audience for live music. In 2008 Glasgow was named one of nine UNESCO Music Cities and ever since the days of the "Glasgow's Miles Better Campaign" the city has tried to re-position itself as a cultural rather than an industrial hub. 

It seemed that this May Day weekend there were multiple entertainments fighting for our attention, and I just fear that as a result attendances at some of them may have suffered a wee bit. In the Venn diagram of musical tastes the overlapping set of people interested in modern classical music, jangley indie-pop and experimental new music contains maybe only a handful of people. However I was one of those people so could not attend all the Glasgow music festivals on the go this May Day weekend that I fancied. We had three days of Minimal 2015 at the Concert Hall, three days of the Tectonics Festival in the Fruitmarket and City Halls and Live at Glasgow playing at various venues around Sauchiehall Street on Sunday. Add to that the fact that Take That were playing 5 nights in the city, Partick Thistle were at home to St Mirren on Saturday and the Glasgow Open House art festival was on this weekend there were almost too many choices on offer. (I thought that the Rugby Sevens were on all weekend in Scotstoun too, but that is next weekend - not that I was planning to go to that, but I suppose some people do as it is already sold out). I have certainly spoken to a few people who fancied attending some of the above, but could not decide between the various offerings or just couldn't afford it.

Minimal Glasgow 2015 - Philip Glass, Music in 12 Parts

Glasgow Royal Concert Hall has been running a series of Minimalist music concerts for 5 years now and this year they had attracted two of the world's foremost modern classical composers. First up was Philip Glass on Friday night. This is the third time that I have been lucky enough to see him perform (1 and 2), and it was by far the most intense performance. Now 78 years old, he performed his 1975 piece "Music in 12 Parts" with the seven piece Philip Glass Ensemble. Glass, from Baltimore, and is most associated with the term minimalism which he dislikes, preferring to describe himself as a composer of "music with repetitive structures". Nowhere is that more clear than in this composition. The 12 parts of roughly 20 minutes each, can be played singly or in any order but tonight we were given the rare chance to hear the whole piece from start to finish, divided into four hour long sections with an hour long "dinner break" in the middle meaning the performance lasted from 6pm until after 11pm with both the musicians and the audience showing rapt concentration throughout. 

Philip Glass Ensemble in Glasgow

On stage three musicians, including Glass, played electric organs throughout whilst the other three musicians alternated between flutes and saxophones with a solo female vocalist the final part of the jigsaw. With a burbling, repetitive structure, small changes over time grow and shift giving it a gripping, mesmeric quality. Over the piece I found my thoughts drifting off occasionally, being drawn back into the room with a change in the rhythm or tone. It reminded me of an overnight train journey that I once took across Europe, with the constant soundtrack of the train on the track and the countryside out of the window slowly changing, almost imperceptibly, over time. A hugely enjoyable night. 

Tectonics Glasgow 2015

Part of Goodeipal's
Having seen Philip Glass on Friday and having seen Partick Thistle see off St Mirren on Saturday afternoon, I was belatedly able to join the Tectonics Festival down in the City Halls on Saturday night. This is the third edition of this music festival in Glasgow, with Tectonics events also on the go from Iceland to Australia, curated by conductor Ilan Volkov. With the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra (BBC SSO) at the heart of it, this is a festival of contemporary classical music, new commissions, experimental performers and improvisers. Or to put it another way "that weird shit" as a friend said to me yesterday. Unfortunately I wasn't able to catch any of the performances by French composer √Čliane Radigue, 83-year old pioneer of electronic music. I did get to dip in and out of Danish/ Faroese artist Goodiepal's weekend long performance which involved lectures, electronic music and some pipe playing whilst his colleague wandered about blowing into a conch. 

The main concert featured the excellent and adaptable BBC SSO in the main hall performing five pieces. In the first half the most interesting piece was one written by Paul Newland, Angus Macphee. This is about a South Uist crofter who served in the Faroe Islands in WW2 and then was transferred to a psychiatric hospital in Inverness, where he remained largely silent and created woven pieces from found objects. It was an interesting and nuanced piece with many a pregnant pause. In the second half there was a nocturne by John Croft (...che notturno canta insonne) which felt like a very restless night sitting up waiting for someone to arrive home. The concert was finished off with a lovely cello concerto by Cassandra Miller, with soloist Charles Curtis. The lead cello sawed steadily at two notes whilst the orchestra swirled around him, the brass almost verging on a Mariachi sound at times. It was interesting hearing the cello as the solid backbone of the piece until we got to the last page when it let loose a brief lament. 

The late evening concert was a mixed bag of electronic manipulation, bangs and crashes in the Fruitmarket.

Minimal Glasgow 2015 - Steve Reich

Now 78 years old, Steve Reich was back in Glasgow with a new piece he had written for the Colin Currie Group (two years ago he was in town to watch them perform Drumming). First up he and Colin Currie were interviewed on stage and Reich was urbane and relaxed as ever. He is clearly a demanding critic of performances of his music, but it is nice to see that when audience questioners over-analyse his music, he responds with a flat "no, I don't think so" attitude.

Steve Reich and Colin Currie interviewed on stage 

The first piece performed was Music for Pieces of Wood (1973), a rhythmical piece played on five wooden claves and then Quartet, performed by two pianos and two vibraphones. In his talk beforehand Reich had talked about the process of creating this complex piece and how it has been refined by the performers to complete what we heard today.

The highlight came in the second half with the Colin Currie Group performing Music for 18 Musicians. With a steady, energetic pulse of the four pianos, the xylophones, marimbas and metallophone, seeing it performed live was fascinating as the musicians swapped positions and themselves ebbed and flowed across the stage with the music. A visual and aural spectacle that left me with a warm smile as we headed out into a cold, wet Glasgow evening. 

Tectonics Glasgow 2015

Having sacrificed an afternoon of Tectonic entertainments to see Steve Reich, we headed back down to City Halls to catch the evening concerts there. The BBC SSO were on impeccable form again as they struggled with the jerks and twiches of Peter Ablinger's "QUARTZ for high orchestra". The premise of this piece irritated me at a pedantic level as the orchestra were recreating the "sonically different" individual beats which a pre-recorded quartz watch made. However as the whole point of a quartz timepiece is that the crystal oscillator of a quartz watch creates an extremely precise frequency of signal. We were really listening to the different sounds of the watch mechanism next up the line. So not "quartz" at all, but more a chop, chop, plink, plonk Psycho shower scene pastiche.

Enno Poppe's Altbau was a more satisfying cacophony, which fell into a more melodic second movement. The second half of the concert was made up with a brooding, slow piece by Christopher Fox, Topophony, with harpist Rhodri Davies completing the composition with improvised accompaniment.

Finally we were through to the Fruitmarket, always a lovely venue for the closing concert of strangulated brass and mellifluous glass. Robin Hayward and Hild Sofie Tafjord played tuba and French horn to each other in the style many free-jazz musicians play saxophone, with a halting, choked action. Personally as someone with a love of Jamaican ska, when I see a brass instrument I prefer to hear it blow the roof off. The final performance was a treat, Daniel Padden's Glass Hundreds. Members of the orchestra were accompanied by performers getting a note from running their fingers around the rim of glasses of water. Their impressive finale of making music from blowing across the the tops of bottles whilst gulping down the contents to change the note was a suitably entertaining way to finish the weekend.

Instruments ready in the Fruitmarket
for the closing concert of Tectonics 2015
Both the Minimal series of concerts and Tectonics plan to return to Glasgow next year. As they both use Glasgow Life venues I am sure it is not impossible to try to avoid them arriving in town on the same weekend.

NB - Ticket prices

Partick Thistle vs St Mirren £22
Tectonics weekend pass £24, day ticket £16
Steve Reich or Philip Glass ticket £20-25
Live at Glasgow pass £23
Rugby Sevens weekend pass £50, day ticket £30
Take That £60-£90!