I’m not going to patronise you all…

Earlier this week one of my favourite bands, The Airborne Toxic Event, announced they were launching a new platform on a subscription basis to allow fans special access to some of their output. For a monthly fee, members get unreleased tracks, members-only shows, VIP access to gigs, videos of concerts, contact with the band etc. Lead singer Mikel Jollett put out a video explaining their reasoning behind the move. In it, he makes a lot of very valid and persuasive points, delivered eloquently and passionately, about how the music industry is changing, the importance of the band’s relationship with its fans and their search for new ways to connect with us.

Aside from logistical questions about how access to in-person shows would work for those of us not US-based and the practicalities of livestreams scheduled for 5pm PST, which is 1am UK time, I’m struggling with the whole concept of payment for access.

I have no problem with the general idea of crowdfunding, or the Patreon type model. I know it can work well for creatives and fans alike. Spotify notoriously pay artists shockingly little for streaming their music, and other platforms aren’t much better. I pay for a Spotify account but I always try to support bands I listen to on there in other ways, especially if they are smaller or newish and haven’t got a massive record deal. I personally have signed up to Patreon and support a couple of smaller-scale musicians and have subscribed to a podcast to get extra content. I’m also a subscriber to Caroline Criado Perez’s Invisible Women project which I strongly believe in. Today, on International Women’s Day, that kind of action is more meaningful and productive than posting some soon-forgotten social media meme. I also like the Bandcamp model of accessing music, where you can buy direct from the artists who get to keep more of the funds for themselves. Some have a “pay what you can” arrangement which allows fans to contribute according to their means. I like that there are these new and innovative ways to access and own content that artists produce that are less reliant on big corporations and offer more control to those who create the work.

The Airborne Toxic Event have been a firm favourite of mine for over 10 years, and exactly as Mikel says in his video, from the first time I heard them, I felt an instant connection to the music, the lyrics, the storytelling and the *vibe* of the band in general that ran deep. I absolutely understand why a band, especially a band like this would opt for such a venture. My instinct was to say yes, sign me up! And yet…I have reservations about the whole idea.

I’ve never had a large amount of disposable income. I put myself through 4 years of university then a Masters. In London. I worked in the voluntary sector for years, then in education. I gave up my salaried job to go freelance in a new career then 6 months later the pandemic hit. I have 2 kids and have been a single parent for the last 7 years. I’ve worked hard my whole life but have never had much spare cash at the end of the month. I don’t go out much, don’t drink or smoke or get frequent take-aways. I’m pretty frugal but the one thing I would happily spend any spare money on is music, whether that be buying albums, concert tickets or merchandise. But these are one-off expenses and if I was a bit skint I would buy the album but not the ticket, or the ticket but not a t-shirt. When you have limited funds you make judgments about which albums or gig tickets to buy. This can be more frequent in good times and something you sacrifice in hard times. The subscription model asks for a regular monthly payment, or an annual fee (often discounted compared to monthly but obviously a significantly larger amount in one go). This is quite a commitment. Each individual band might only ask for ~£10. Ok, so I’m a fan of TATE so I hand over my £10. But what if other bands I like adopt similar models? Then it’s another £10, then another £10 and before I know it there’s a financial commitment of £50 to £100 a month, which is just not feasible on my budget and nowhere near what I would have spent on music related things before. Does that mean I’m any less of a fan of those bands that I can’t afford to patronise? Not at all. Any less committed to supporting the band? Absolutely not. But it does mean that I’ve been priced out of offering my support and have become a 2nd class fan, while only those with the financial means get the privilege of higher-status super-fan.

It’s this idea of there being segregation among fans that doesn’t sit right with me. Those who can afford it get top tier access while those who can’t, miss out. The one good thing about going to gigs was that we were all in it together. Fans from all backgrounds could come together, put differences aside and enjoy the collective experience of being fans of the same band. Now with VIP access, early access, special areas, backstage passes etc for the select few, a 2-tier fandom has been created for the haves and the have-nots, separated by disposable income levels and not according to loyalty or enthusiasm.

Covid hit us all hard, and as we were locked down, staying at home and wanting to be entertained, most musicians and other performers were unable to make any kind of living. Furlough schemes often didn’t apply to them and as venues shut down, some of them for good, those in the creative industries were left without a living or a lifeline. Understandably, many have looked to these alternative means to earn an income. However, at a time when food prices are rising, energy prices are rising at an alarming rate, covid is still having an effect and we still don’t know the economic impact of the war between Russia and Ukraine, we are living in very uncertain times. Asking fans to make a regular commitment is, I think, asking too much.

So how do we square this? Musicians, bands and artists need to make a living in difficult times. They want to keep creating and sharing their work with fans. But if playing live, touring and international travel is going to continue to be affected by covid and/or war (ffs this is seriously a thing) in the coming months and years, they need to find a way to get that connection with fans back, as Mikel said. Fans want that connection too. We want to see our favourite bands perform, either live or recorded. We want them to create new music and be creatively fulfilled. We want them to continue to earn a living from their craft and we want to support them. I’m sure no band sets up such a subscription scheme with the aim of excluding a portion of their fandom, but they inevitably will. I’m sure they think that as long as some of their output is available in the traditional way that fans are still being served. However it really feels to me as though this is only going to create a system that is inherently unequal and unfair. The best music, live experiences and access to bands will end up behind a paywall and that is a very sad prospect indeed.

And don’t get me started on NFTs…

Strictly Come Dancing Live Tour, Glasgow Hydro, 6th February 2022

In the never ending hellstorm that is living in the UK at the moment, we all need moments of levity and escape. For us, on Sunday afternoon that took the shape of the Strictly Come Dancing live tour.

A quick wikipedia search suggests that the first series I properly watched was in 2012, meaning there’s been a good 10 years of Strictly in my life. My eldest child was very into it from a young age, and just as their interest waned the younger one became a fan – such is the life when your kids have a 4 year age gap. Even so, we continued to watch it as a family every year. Some series and contestants/pairings have been more memorable than others. The most recent series was a particularly good one, which prompted me to buy tickets for the tour for the first time. Both my kids and myself were drawn into the stories, the highs and lows, the drama and the glamour. It is good old-fashioned family entertainment. We don’t tend to watch things like that, we’ve never as a family watched Britain’s Got Talent or I’m a Celebrity or anything starring Ant & Dec. When the kids can agree to watch the same thing, they prefer movies or David Attenborough type programmes but generally have very different tastes. Even if we don’t always get to watch Strictly live, because they spend every 2nd weekend with their dad, there’s still something nice and wholesome about sitting down each week to watch something that’s full of joy, positivity and about trying your best at something and having fun, even if you’ve never done it before and you have 2 left feet. Or only 1 foot. Who cares, get all dressed up and shimmy your troubles away.

These past 2 years have robbed us of any feelings of excited anticipation. We haven’t been able to look forward to anything due to the constant threat of more restrictions, positive tests, cancellations. Every time I made tentative plans with my kids I always had to give them the speech about nothing being certain, things might change, we just don’t know. It was the same for this. I told them about the Strictly show just a few weeks ago and it was sad to see them stifle any excitement they would normally have displayed. When Omicron reared its head I expected this tour to be postponed but restrictions on indoor gatherings were lifted here recently. We took the recommended precautions, of course. I was pleased to see the vast majority of people also wearing masks and the venue had the air conditioning turned up to the max, to the point where I thought the air flow might blow me down on to the dance floor.

As usual when kids are involved, we were running a bit late, but made it to the Hydro just in time, only to find that doors hadn’t actually opened an hour before as planned and everyone was waiting in massive queues in the freezing cold outside. We joined the back of one line and thankfully things soon got moving. We found our seats just as the lights went down and the iconic music struck up. 

The Strictly dance floor in full swing

The set featured many, many glitterballs, the familiar curving stairs rising up either side with the 3 judges chairs in the middle. We had Shirley, Craig in a kilt, the return of Bruno. Sadly no Anton or Motsi. Janette Manrara was the host in a series of increasingly sparkly outfits. The format was similar to the tv series, with couples taking turns to perform dances, short chats with Janette afterwards, then judges comments. There were some group dances interspersed throughout. I for one could have done without the interviews after every dance. They all said pretty much the same thing – it’s great to be in Glasgow (cue cheers), I love dancing with my partner, it’s great to be on the tour etc etc. There were, however, some very funny moments and exchanges between Janette, the dancers and the judges. I’m not sure to what extent they were scripted and thus same for every show, but they were funny nevertheless.

At one point during the 2nd half the judges had us up on our feet and tried, with varying success, to get us all to follow them in a wee routine. The less said about our shimmies the better I think…

We got to vote for our favourites via text (up to 10 times at 25p a go) and a winner was declared at the end, although I think we all knew who it would be before anyone even stepped foot on the dance floor.

Rose Ayling-Ellis was the stand-out star of Strictly last year and the first deaf celebrity to take part. Strictly has always been ahead of the curve in terms of diversity. Jonnie Peacock was the first celebrity with a disability to join in 2017, followed by several other Paralympians and JJ Chalmers who was injured in Afghanistan. A professionals dance featured 2 male leads in 2019 and in 2020 the first same-sex female couple competed, although their stint was short-lived due to covid. The latest series had the first same-sex male partnership who made it all the way to the final. I knew of Rose from a couple of things she’s acted in but don’t watch Eastenders. Due to my job (I’m a sign language interpreter) I had a special interest in Rose’s participation and how Strictly would adapt to having a deaf competitor. The answer is they adapted very well indeed. There were sign language interpreters with Rose in training and on show nights, deaf awareness and BSL lessons were given to the cast and crew. Rose’s professional partner Giovanni obviously played a huge part in their success. Giovanni was the perfect pick for Rose, I remember when he was paired with Debbie McGee and rather than treating her like a novelty act he showed her nothing but respect and devised beautiful choreography that played to her strengths. with Debbie he often stepped back and let her dance alone, out front, be the focus (yeah I may have gone into a youtube wormhole, all in the name of research, obviously…) With Rose it was all about communicating through touch and body language, they became one unit. There’s a good article here on how he and Rose worked together. Rose is funny, warm and charming, Giovanni seemed to genuinely grow and learn from her and we all fell in love with them both. Their partnership and friendship was beautiful to watch, if you didn’t see their instagram videos you missed a treat, they were hilarious and I hope they manage to keep dancing together after the tour ends.

On the tour they performed their “couple’s choice” dance with it’s famous silent section and I held my breath throughout, as did most of the audience it seemed. Not a sound was heard from anyone in the near-capacity Hydro on that Sunday matinee which included a lot of children. We also saw their Tango, which in its own way I found just as moving. Intense, thoughtful and engaging, I could have watched them all day. Keeping with the theme of accessibility and inclusion, the tour had BSL interpreters at every single performance, rather than the usual 1 or 2, hopefully this is something they will continue after Rose’s involvement and other productions will learn from.   

Rose & Giovanni chatting with Janette after their tango, with BSL interpreter on the big screen

Unfortunately one of our favourite contestants from this year, John Whaite wasn’t performing that day due to illness and AJ was still suffering the effects of an injury picked up during the series so we were treated to seeing Maisie Smith from last year join with Kai. They were great but I was sad that Maisie wasn’t with her partner Gorka, but really only cos Gorka is one of my favourites.

A special mention has to be made of the live band and singers who were very impressive. Unlike on the telly, the singers came out on to the dance floor, became part of the performance, doing their own dance moves alongside the other performers. Particular credit to the drummer who had his moment of glory during a dance to “In the air tonight” and the singer who somehow managed to perform a flawless Kate Bush number while flat on her back on the floor.

There was Strictly merch on sale! Of course. J wanted to check it out and I was prepared for long queues and/or extortionate prices, but happily we found neither. Tshirts and hoodies were on sale at about the same rate you’d expect at a gig. J opted for a rainbow Strictly mug, S wasn’t interested, I think she was feeling a bit overwhelmed by this point and just wanted to get out.

Rainbow coloured Strictly Live mug

Unfortunately we weren’t to have a quick getaway, having parked in the notorious Hydro multistory car park, it took us over an hour of queueing to get out of the place. Thankfully it didn’t put a dampner on the afternoon, although the promise of a delivery from our favouite local pizza restaurant did help.

Both kids loved it, J immediately asked if we can go again next year. It is quite expensive, but if you are a Strictly fan it is definitely worth the money. You get to see your favourites (most of them) in action, they put on a proper show – with all the razzmatazz of the lights, flamethrower things and bucketloads of glitter and sparkles.

The whole Strictly Come Dancing operation is something to be treasured. At a time when the continued existence of the BBC is being threatened, it’s important to remember that, merch and 25p text votes aside, a programme full of uplifting positivity, inclusivity and representation and free from commercial interests and advertising could only be made by the BBC. They have created something magical, appealing to people of all ages that deliver important messages, open minds and be highly entertaining all at the same time. And if a deaf actor can discover a talent for dancing and lift a glitterball trophy, then who knows what the rest of us could achieve if only we take the chance to try.

A gig! A weird, emotional, awesome gig.

We Are Scientists, St Luke’s Glasgow, 1st December 2021

I went to a gig! An actual real life, in-person, proper gig! I cried a bit, took stock and had some self-realisations and saw things through new eyes. It was quite an evening.

This was my first gig since I saw Editors in March 2020 (yep, just squeezed one in there before it all went down!) First post-covid, wait, now there’s Omicron, first post-lockdown hmm let’s not be too hasty….first for a long time! My first gig should really have been Self Esteem aka Rebecca Taylor, ex Slow Club. I had a ticket but somehow hadn’t put it in my diary, so the gig came and went without me. I was disappointed, by all accounts she’s been storming this tour and puts on a great show, but was still covid-wary so thought maybe it was for the best. Then the date for We Are Scientists drew nearer and nearer. I’m still super covid-wary, I’ve been doing indoor stuff only when strictly necessary for work, I went to a restaurant for the first time just last week and we all had an LFT pact prior to meeting up. But it’s We Are Scientists!!! I don’t need to tell you how much I love this band. If I do, just search for previous posts and you’ll quickly get the idea. Even still, I swithered up to the last minute then decided to go for it, thinking I would most definitely regret it if I didn’t.

St Luke’s is a beautiful venue, a converted old church. The last time I was there was a very different affair, an all-seated show featuring Nerija as part of the Glasgow Jazz Festival. Unfortunately this time I arrived too late to catch all of support band Coach Party, I only heard their last couple of songs but they were really good and worth checking out if you haven’t heard of them. Once in, I initially lingered near the back thinking I would hang there, near the well ventilated door with the other masked people. I was there solo due to my usual gig buddies having other commitments or being not quite ready to delve back into gigs yet, so I felt a bit awkward at the back on my own. Then the Tall People made an appearance and I remembered why I usually go down the front. I didn’t want to spend my first gig in almost 2 years looking at the back of people’s heads. Or shoulders to be more accurate. I carefully crept forward wondering how far I would go, loitering here and there until a spot opened up on the barrier and I unashamedly grabbed it. Oh well, back in familiar territory!

I got speaking to 2 girls next to me, who were at their very first We Are Scientists gig. They were only 18 years old and had recently discovered the band. I thought that was incredible and was delighted for them. They thought it was incredible that I’d seen WAS 15 times over 10 years. (edit – it’s actually more like 18 times over 13 years. Yikes.) We agreed that new album Huffy is one of their best and they couldn’t wait to hear the songs. I promised them they’d sound even better live.

It was weird being in among a crowd of people again. My natural unsociability plus covid has meant that I’ve been even more solitary than usual of late, apart from my 2 kids. Sometimes that’s an active preference that I’m fine with, but sometimes I realise that it’s doing me more harm than good. I wrote a bit about this last year. Even those of us who aren’t gregarious or touchy-feely need some human contact. I hate crowds in any other place but am quite happy being squished on 3 sides by fellow gig-goers. It was nice to hear the chatter all around me of what gigs people had coming up, how they hated LFTs but would suffer the discomfort if it meant getting out again, how bloody freezing it was and can you believe it’s December already?

When the band came on the roar of the small crowd was better than music to my ears. Until the actual music started of course. They jumped straight into Huffy with “You’ve Lost Your Shit” and the girls I’d been speaking to lost their shit. I loved their reaction and enthusiasm. As the elderly veteran that I am, I forgot what it’s like to be new to the We Are Scientists experience. I’m always asking them to play more new stuff and ditch the older tunes (It’s a Hit can be canned first IMO) although I realise that they are likely wedded to playing Nobody Move and Great Escape at every show for all eternity. After 18 (19?) times I’m ready for the new songs, but seeing these girls utterly ecstatic at hearing the classics for the first time reminded me not to be so selfish and let the crowd enjoy the experience they came for. It was infectious and after scolding myself I sang along with the rest of them. It was enlightening and refreshing to witness the show through their eyes. And of course they agreed with me that the songs sounds even better live.

We got a good sampling of Huffy, some good old classics – Scene should be spared the oldies cull and in fact should be played at every gig – as well as some surprises in the form of KIT and Lousy Reputation. KIT was gorgeous and I’m glad it got an airing. They played Five Leaves and I almost lost it at that point, but managed to hold it together, just. The encore brought us the absolute delight that is Bought Myself a Grave. Honestly, if WAS decide to move entirely to country-rock ballads I’ll be there for it. Chris on vocals was awesome, for some reason Keith was cracking himself up laughing through the backing vocals towards the end, I’ve no idea why but it just made my grin even wider.

The crowd got quite lively as the gig went on, apparently there were shirts being removed behind me but I decided I could do without witnessing that spectacle. I loved how everyone sang along to all the Huffy songs, and my new friends gave it laldy singing the guitar parts too which amused me greatly.

It’s obvious to say that the last almost 2 years have been hard on everyone. We’ve all got our personal troubles and challenges and no-one knows what anyone else is really going through. While the lockdowns and restrictions etc have had their upsides – I’ve had some fantastic quality time with my kids – but I’m a single parent and one of my kids is going through a whole heap of things just now that makes it extra challenging for all 3 of us. Most of my time and energy is spent dealing with that and I’m exhausted and mentally drained all the time. The kids go to their dad’s every 2nd weekend and that used to be my “me” time, well after the housework and my coursework etc etc….but I used to go for cycles, play drums, meet friends, do projects around the house or garden. A few weeks ago I had a “free” weekend and realised that I couldn’t focus on anything, had no interest in anything and was just zoned out and disconnected from everything I used to enjoy doing. I made a decision to try to turn things around before I really spiralled out of control. I made some plans with friends, arranged to borrow a dog for the afternoon to go for a walk and started planning out my time to incorporate actual rests and time to recharge.

I’m not going to get back to my old self overnight, but small steps are important and going to this gig was a pretty massive step. I felt at home, I felt relaxed and for the first time in ages I could switch off from the worry and the to-do list and the frustration and just enjoy myself in the moment. I needed that so badly. And it had to be this band. This band who are so familiar, who always come through, who can make me laugh and cry and want to throw my arms in the air like I’m also 18, not 42. Immediately after the show, the reality of what I’d just experienced hit me. I couldn’t help but get a bit tearful. It’s a good job I was driving home, having to keep a clear head and eyes to focus on the road. If I’d been on the train I’m sure I would have been a blubbering mess.

Before I left I stopped by the merch stand and bought some We Are Scientists socks. Well, obviously I need them to go with my We Are Scientists underpants.

Editors, Glasgow Barrowlands, 3rd March 2020

Last night I was at one of the best, most fun gigs of my life and I almost didn’t go.

To be honest, since the last time I saw Editors in 2015 I haven’t really given them much attention.  I tried to listen to some of their new releases over the years but they didn’t really do it for me. I got bored listening to the same 2 or 3 albums and just sort of stopped. They were still on my radar, following them on social media etc but that was about it. They announced a “Greatest Hits” album and I ignored it. Then they announced a “Greatest Hits” tour and I took a sharp intake of breath. Ok, here we go. As I’ve said before, I’m not much one for nostalgia. Ordinarily I wouldn’t give this kind of thing much thought…..BUT….I never caught Editors during their first two (best) albums.  I saw them in 2013 and 2015 post-Chris, heavy into new album cycles with only a smattering of the old favourites.  This could be my chance to go back in time and finally see those songs live.  Ok, ticket bought.

Then I realised it was a Tuesday, mid-week gigs are tricky at the best of times but especially when the girls have evening activities. But things have been kind of stressful lately, I haven’t been to a gig since early December and since every free minute of mine has been spent studying I have rarely been out at all, the necessary arrangements were made and out I went.

The support were Whispering Sons. I had never heard of them. I didn’t think much of them. I could explain why but don’t want to waste time being mean so I’ll just say they didn’t appeal to me, but might appeal to you, so check them out anyway.

I decided to aim for the front of the crowd this time, after the previous 2 times I was either on the sidelines or further back. I was surprised to be able to get a spot in the 2nd row behind the barrier, to the right side.  People around were friendly and gave each other lots of room.  A few of us shorties stuck together to ensure we all had a decent view.

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Editors

Editors. Were. Phenomenal.

I was thrilled to bits to hear all those old songs live, I had to admit sometimes a bit of nostalgia isn’t such a bad thing. Honestly, missing seeing this band from becoming a fan in 2007/8 ish through the Chris years caused me actual pain.  The 2013 and 2015 shows were good, but not great.  Last night’s gig erased that pain and fed my musical soul with enough tonic to keep me elevated for quite some time.

They have so many good songs, it’s ridiculous. They played a fair few that I either didn’t know or only knew vaguely, but I enjoyed them nonetheless.  The vast bulk of songs were from The Back Room, An End Has A Start and The Weight of Your Love, which suited me 100%. I really haven’t even listened to any of their stuff for about 5 years, which is a long time.  In a way made it all the more special when my memories were reawakened in a live setting, the whole of the Barras singing along making the songs 3-dimensional again. Papillon is still my favourite, but when they started songs like All Sparks or Blood, I would think to myself, “f*ck yes, this one is brilliant too!” and so it would go on.  For a full hour and 45 minutes, thank you very much

The people around me were singing, dancing, jumping, hands-in-the-air, full-on having a ball, it was such a lot of fun to be down at the front but not get crushed, we had space, we used it to dance and jump around, everyone had a great time and left without any bruises.

There are 5 Editors now, and clearly it is a team affair. The sounds, the energy, the melodies, rhythms and backing come from all 5 members.  I was Russell side and it was amusing to watch him play as if he had just strolled on to the stage to have a wee jam with his mates and look mildly amused that hundreds of people were watching him.  Unfortunately I couldn’t see Ed, as he and his kit were obscured by a piano otherwise I would have been interested to see him in action.  I couldn’t see the other 2 Chris-replacement members on the other side of the stage at all. None of that really mattered, though because whilst not detracting from the very real and important fact that all 5 members contribute to the awesomeness of Editors, there is also Tom Smith. When Tom Smith is on stage, one can only look at Tom Smith and behold his magnificence.

He is an intense performer without being scary or off-putting. Rather his intensity draws you in, you are a part of it.  He focuses on a specific point on the stage, singing to it, gesturing to it, addressing it, then he suddenly turns to the audience and looks us in the eye and we are transfixed. We are part of it too. He sings with his whole body. He writhes, turns, twists, crouches, elongates and almost spasms but somehow does so gracefully, elegantly, sensuously.  It is a continuous gyration that either generates, or is generated by the song, we aren’t sure. The song and the man are one. His voice. Oh lordy, his voice. I have never heard anything like it. Deep, resonant, each syllable enunciated almost too precisely but that is his style and it suits him. It isn’t forced or for effect.  The whole package is just…mesmerising.

But he also makes some expressions while singing that are, frankly, quite comical.

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Tom’s funny faces

Anyway, before I write a 5000 word essay on how awesome Tom Smith is (and I could, believe me) I will just remind myself to go back and listen to those old records again, maybe give the newer ones once more try and wallow for as long as I can in the feeling of finally seeing (almost) “classic” Editors live and glad that I was able to go to what turned out to be a very fun, very emotional, uplifting kind of gig.

We Are Scientists, SWG3 Galvanizers Glasgow, 5th December 2019

So it’s practically the law that I have to see We Are Scientists play live at least once every year, so I’m pleased to say this has now been accomplished in the dying weeks of 2019.

When the gig was announced it was part of their With Love and Squalor “50th Anniversary Tour”. It has actually been 14 years since their first (well, first official) album was released but I guess 14th anniversary wouldn’t necessarily draw in the crowds. On the real 10th anniversary the band played 2 special album-in-full gigs in New York and LA, then a one-off in London. At the time I wasn’t bothered about missing out on these. Whilst WLAS is a fantastic album that I still listen to now and again, I feel like I have heard pretty much all the songs live many a time and I much prefer seeing their newer stuff performed on stage. I’m not generally a fan of anniversary tours, preferring not to dwell in nostalgia but rather look forward to what’s next. However, a WAS gig is a WAS gig and as it has been a whole 16 months since I last saw them, a ticket was duly bought.

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The day of the gig saw Glasgow drenched in rain and battered by winds. Lovely. I had dropped my kids off and headed into town, forgetting that SWG3 doesn’t really afford the same opportunities for mooching around before a gig as the city centre venues do. So I sat and waited in my car as it got buffeted by the wind. Thankfully the rain eased off before the short walk to the venue so I didn’t arrive dripping wet. Been there, done that too many times. Often in June.

I’ve been to SWG3 twice before, once for Belle & Sebastian in the outdoor area and once for Major Minor Music Club gigs for kids, which I think was in the TV Studio. This time we were in the Galvanizers.  I used to go past what is now SWG3 on the train all the time and remember seeing the actual galvinizers yard in operation, so it was pretty neat to see the building repurposed in this way. Once in, I found a couple of friends, then settled on my barrier spot.

The support band was Marsicans who I seem to have heard/read about a few times but never actually seen or heard properly. They were lively, energetic, fun and succeeded in bringing the crowd in without it being forced or premature.I like a support who proves their worth, and these guys put on a good solid show, with some nice tunes, interesting turns and gave off a really positive and uplifting vibe. I’m not sure I’d seek them out specifically again, but if I saw them as support or on a festival bill I’d definitely be interested.

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Marsicans

In between bands I got to thinking about how often I’ve seen WAS now. By my reckoning and a quick consultation of this very blog, I think this gig was number 17 or 18.  Since 2008, as I came “late” to the party and missed the original WLAS tour. If you are thinking that’s still a lot, I know some people who run into the 30s with their count….

So the WAS show was split into 2 parts – the WLAS album in sequence, then after a short break they came back to do a mixed set from their other albums.

The WLAS part was a lot of fun. The crowd were clearly there for it, and everyone was singing along. My fellow barrier buddies and I sang literally every single word and it was great to share in that collective experience. Although I would gladly ditch songs like Callbacks, Cash Cow and It’s A Hit from any and every future setlist, I still sang and danced (wiggled my ass off if you like) and punched the air on the chorus high points. The Scene Is Dead, Can’t Lose and Textbook are still among my favourite WAS songs ever and it was particularly special to hear Lousy Reputation (that bassline, ooft!) live, it doesn’t often make a normal setlist.

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We Are Scientists

On to the second act. I was actually looking forward to this part more. It was nice to see Ghouls make a reappearance as the opening song, and Chick Lit sat nicely in there too, although I was happy to see plenty songs from Megaplex and Helter Seltzer.

They played KIT!!! Wow. It was beautiful, Keith’s voice so clear and strong over a muted but driving bass and drums. Keith commanded the attention with his vocals but it’s always worth checking out Chris and Carne during these songs, they are always doing something interesting and often unexpected. I actually preferred it without the whistle/flute/whatever over the top, that always reminds me of Orange Walks and makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. Anyway, KIT was the high point of the gig so far for me.

Until they played No Wait At Five Leaves. What is it about that song that gets me every time??? If I was open-mouthed enthralled during KIT, I was welling up during Five Leaves. The stage lights were low and moody, the song resonated around the huge, high-ceilinged room and the frequencies somehow met my own and swept me into the song and the song into me and I was overwhelmed. This. Band. These. Guys. They are doing it again. I love it and I love them.

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Keiths

They finished part two with Nice Guys then a short encore of Dumb Luck (yeah I could also so without either of those in any future setlist, sorry) and we were done. Afterwards we headed towards the merch stall. There was an impressive array of cat-themed items for sale, including a tea towel and a babygrow. Between waiting to get paid for some freelance work and the amount of WAS merch I already own (off the top of my head – CDs, vinyls, 1 mug, 2 tote bags, posters that are now in drawers, 3 setlists, 1 lyric sheet, badges, a wristband, 2 pairs of underpants, numerous t-shirts, 1 hoodie and quite probably other items that are stowed away) I felt that I should pass this time round. I did however have a good catch up with Carne and said a quick hello to Chris, although unusually couldn’t think of a thing to say to him. He did, however, tell me that they were working on new material for next year which was good to hear.

Comedy moment of the night – when a group of girls at the merch stand were urging Chris and Carne to draw a “boaby” on their posters. Then explaining to Chris and Carne what a “boaby” is in this part of the world. For the record, Chris went for an abstract approach with a worryingly angular boaby and Carne went full-on realism with a little more attention to detail than was strictly necessary for a boaby on a cat poster.

Sweet moment of the night – when a burly security guard approached Carne asking for a copy of their record, then shyly asked if he could have it signed.

So I’m still not sure about the whole anniversary gig thing. Whilst it was good to hear some of the lesser-played songs from WLAS, I would much rather have had them randomly thrown into a regular setlist. Saying that, judging from the proper tour bus and the bigger lighting rig they have on this tour, if it hadn’t been marketed as such then this tour likely wouldn’t have happened and we wouldn’t have been treated to a rare 90 minute long WAS show. I’m still much more interested to hear what they have to offer us on their next album, but it was good to catch them at least once this year.

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It’s hard to rely on the rhythm section