Glasgow Summer Sessions 2019 – Bellahouston Park, Glasgow – The Cure & Foo Fighters

This is the story of how I accidentally saw The Cure play their first Scottish gig in 27 years and finally saw the Foo Fighters, very much intentionally, for the first time in my life.

When the Glasgow Summer Sessions (kind of like a series of 1-day festivals – outdoor concerts with 3 or 4 supports and 1 major headliner) line ups were announced and the Foo Fighters (ok, ok, I know it’s just ‘Foo Fighters’ but for ease of writing I’ll mostly add the unofficial but commonly used ‘the’) were on the bill, my bandmates and I decided this was a gig that we just had to be at. I had never managed to catch them live before, so when the tickets were released I was all set with 2 screens on my PC open and my phone at the ready. Unfortunately, at one point a page refreshed, I mis-clicked and ended up buying a ticket for The Cure the day before. Luckily I also managed to bag a Foos ticket, as did all my bandmates, so it all worked out well in the end.

I had tried to sell the Cure ticket, but a combo of me running out of time, re-sale sites not keen on taking them due to possible ID checks and the gig not actually selling out, resulted in me deciding I might as well go and see The Cure. Why not? They are one of the biggest bands ever, might as well catch them while I can. The whole haven’t-played-in-Scotland-for-27-years thing created a nice buzz about the gig.

Unfortunately I wasn’t able to make it along early enough to see any of the support bands but did see all of The Cure’s set. While I’ve never been a massive fan of The Cure, I like them well enough, and knew most of their songs either from general exposure or a bit of dedicated listening now and again. I’ll admit I did get a bit bored toward the end of the main set, all the songs were getting a bit samey, with no change of pace or tempo. There was no chat from Robert Smith or any of the others, it was song after song after song, I could have done with some variation. Smith’s voice was incredible, though, and held up throughout the 2 hour set. What was lacking in the main set, they delivered in the encore, pulling out all of their more up-beat numbers, getting the field dancing and singing along. Sadly, to my and the girl behind me’s dismay, no Lovecats.

Cure
The Cure

Overall I enjoyed it, I was glad I went. I feel like The Cure are a band that you should probably see once, and now I’ve done just that.

So on to the main event.

In the car on the way home from the gig, I tried to articulate what it had meant to me, and failed miserably. Although it was 2am thanks to an unscheduled McDonalds pitstop while we waited for the traffic to clear. I’ll give it a go now…

Firstly – this time we got there when the gates opened, determined to make a day of it, festival-style. We moseyed around the site, grabbed a couple of drinks then took up our positions. The Summer Sessions do a VIP thing and I thought that they had a reserved section nearest the stage, turns out I was wrong about that. Anyway, we were able to get on the barrier in the second section. Still a decent view of the stage, with the big screens for back-up and added detail.

The supports:

  • Hot Milk – despite sharing a name with a maternity bra brand, they were a lot of fun. Paramore meets Avril Levigne meets Fall Out Boy, but combining all the best qualities of each.
  • The VanT’s – they were ok, nothing particularly stood out for me about them, but I reckon in another time and place I would enjoy seeing them again.
  • Frank Carter and the Rattlesnakes – I liked the music, Frank Carter himself was a bit annoying and while the “ladies only mosh-pit” thing was well received by the crowd, it felt a bit forced and I’ve seen it done better by other bands (Dream Wife)
  • Slaves – not my thing at all. Loud, shouty and got on my nerves. Trying to be a right-on punk band that’s saying something, all they said to me was “I’ll do anything to get all up in your face and get attention but you can’t criticise me cos I’m a right-on punk”. Banged drums like a toddler. Urged us all to “fuck the hi-hat” then brought out a tambourine on a stand. Get a hi-hat mate. Best bit was when the girls behind us launched into “Parklife” along to one of the songs. (They are very “Lahndahn”) My friend Phil thought they were the best band on the bill, however, so they have their fans. Just not me.
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Hot Milk
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The Van T’s

I am a big Foo Fighters fan. Have been since fairly early on, since they got UK radio play anyway. I bought albums, listened on long bus commutes and considered myself a fan. Then I kind of went off them a bit. I felt they were getting a bit predictable, I was bored of that kind of standard rock type music and was exploring elsewhere. In recent years I found myself going back to them again, enjoying the old and the new material. I really liked their last release – Concrete and Gold. I’ve watched them countless times on TV doing the big festivals. But I’ve never seen them live myself.

I was ready for this. I wasn’t able to get to any festivals this year, so this was as close as I was going to get. It’s also been a long time since I’ve been at a BIG GIG, the kind where all your music-loving friends are also going and half of Scotland seems to be there too. It was a fun atmosphere, despite the rain and ever-increasing mud. We got chatting to the folk beside us and had a wee laugh in between bands. The last 15 minutes waiting for the Foos to come on were almost unbearable. We’d been there for 6 hours already, people were getting drunk and rowdy. Security had to haul at least 2 people over the barriers and escort them out. I lost Phil at one point and wondered if she’d ever make her way back, such was the determination of the people behind not to let anyone push forward. I was glad of my 2nd class barrier spot, even if it meant forgoing drinks and toilet trips.

They arrived on stage. The crowd went wild. The freakin’ Foo Fighters were (almost) right in front of me. I pinched myself more than once. Here we, here we, here we f***ing go indeed.

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Foooooooos!!!!!

They were amazing. I mean, you know they were.

They started out fairly restrained, but the 2nd song in was played as if it was a grand finale. In fact, if I have one criticism, and I’m reluctant to do this, cos, y’know, it’s the Foo Fighters, but there was a lot of “showboating” as Phil put it. That in itself didn’t bother me so much as it did her. First time seeing them live, I want to see them do all they can do. But….as I said earlier, I’ve seen a lot of their sets before on tv etc. I knew what to expect. It was….a bit too scripted? Over choreographed? I know they put on A SHOW, that they plan things meticulously, but I would have preferred the showboating/”improvising” to be properly improvised. A response to the mood, the crowd, their feelings on that particular night. None of it seemed spontaneous, and that, for me, left it lacking honesty and heart. It was technically impressive and I did enjoy watching it, but I couldn’t help but feel I was watching a pre-fabricated performance.

Taylor Hawkins (more on him later) rose above the stage on some sort of hydraulic platform for 2 songs, one which featured his extended drum solo, the other on which he sings lead. I felt (oh my, here I go, criticising the Foo Fighters again…) that this happened way too early in the set. It was dramatic and incredible and awe-inspiring but we were all just getting warmed up at that point, it seemed like another faux finale.

Hawkins being levitated

But, on the whole I had a thoroughly good time. I can forgive them the scripts and the showboating, it didn’t detract from the overall experience too much.

They played a good mix of songs, some I knew better than others. It made me realise that I know very few of the lyrics to any of the songs, but I somehow know the shape, feel and flow of them. I couldn’t tell you hardly any of the song names, but I sure know when they get louder, quieter and when the drums kick in.

The drums.

Yeah, so, I’m a drummer. Anyone learning the drums learns Nirvana songs. They are simple but clever and make you look cool. Fact. Dave Grohl is a legend. Anyone who has the guts to join Dave Grohl as his drummer is already an impressive character, but when they turn out to be Taylor Hawkins, they are also a legend. I saw 2 legends, 2 of my favourite drummers on stage and I couldn’t contain myself. I wouldn’t be surprised if my eyes turned into actual emoji-style hearts or stars. They definitely had tears in them more than once, before I composed myself. Tears blurred the view, and I had waited long and hard for that view.

Two. Utter. Legends.

Dave took over drums (waaah!) while Taylor took his turn as frontman and sang a cover of Queen’s Under Pressure. (The amazing Discovery Music page has a video here) I knew this might happen, they do it a lot, but still. I did turn to Phil and everyone in the vicinity and yell, “Dave Grohl is playing the drums and Taylor is singing and he’s AWESOME!!” And I hadn’t even had a drink. But he is awesome. I’ve watched so many videos of him and interviews etc and he has a great approach and philosophy towards drumming. He does this sort of chicken-wing flap of his elbows when he does a snare/hi-hat strike, and the first time I noticed him doing it I squealed and pinched myself yet again, yes it was really him, in the flesh, right there in front of me in Bellahouston Park!!!

Taylor Hawkins. It’s really him!

They did an AC/DC cover as well, ostensibly as tribute to that band’s Scottish roots, I’m not sure if they play it a lot or we were actually treated to a variation in the tour set.

So they played most of the hits, we sang and we danced and we waved our arms in the air. They played some less well known songs that the super-fans belted out while the rest of us just enjoyed the spectacle. There’s not much that beats the collective experience of live music. 35,000 people in a muddy park in Glasgow having the time of their lives. The Foos played solid for pretty much two and a half hours, and I could have easily stood another hour. Or two. I remembered why I loved them and why sometimes, loud rock music is just what I need. I still love exploring new genres like jazz, I will spend ages listening to folky stuff, I will wholeheartedly support women artists as much as I can, but sometimes my very female-dominated existence just needs to see a bunch of blokes get sweaty on stage making an absolute racket. They are an incredible band, not a hint of staleness or weariness after 25 years on the go. I always knew they were special, but seeing them live has given me a new-found respect and admiration for them and I’ll definitely be digging into their back-catalogue again to acquaint myself with those hidden gems.

The weather was better than forecast, although the park did turn into a total mud bath. We alternated between raincoats and sunglasses more times than I can remember, risking sunburn and trenchfoot simultaneously.

Rainy times….
…and sunny times

There were shoes abandoned in the mud and I came close to losing a welly a few times. But it was all good fun and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

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Grohl drumming. Hawkins singing. Not pictured – me exploding

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