- Stag & Dagger – first time seeing the band in ages and first time hearing songs from Helter Seltzer
- Manchester – my birthday, first proper headline gig of the new album tour
- King Tuts – well that was King Tuts, what else can I say, plus added DJ set after-party
- Berlin – finally I got to see a We Are Scientists show with my dear friend Kerstin
It’s taken me a few days to gather my thoughts on how to approach this one. Partly because I have been busy with normal life stuff, partly because I didn’t want to write a negative piece but had been struggling with a kind of negative mindset aftermath since the gig. I knew this had little or nothing to do with the show or the band itself, so wanted to figure it all out before writing.
I bought the ticket for this gig back in about March, not long after I saw Mystery Jets the last time. That was such an immense gig that I was full of enthusiasm for the band’s return and their new album Curve of the Earth. I have listened to the album a fair bit since its release, but in recent months I have found myself listening to new and different genres of music. I can feel a potential blog post about that brewing away inside me, so I won’t go into all that just now. I still love the record but found it difficult to build up any anticipation in advance of the gig. It didn’t help that it came less than a week after I travelled to Berlin to see a certain other favourite band (no blog post about that for various reasons but I had a thoroughly good time) so I was still in that post-holiday post-gig high combined with post-holiday post-gig low that it was all over. It was also in Edinburgh, which meant packing my bag once again and heading off, with the usual preparation regarding the kids that that involves.
I actually had a good couple of hours in Edinburgh the afternoon before the gig. I couldn’t remember ever going up Arthur’s Seat (although I may have been dragged up there as a child, my parents were big into hillwalking) so I decided to take a hike. Despite it being busier than Sauchiehall Street, it was a pleasant way to spend a couple of hours and cleared my head before heading to the gig.
After a quick return to the hotel (the very funky Hub by Premier Inn on East Market St) for a shower and a bite to eat, I set out. I had never been to the Liquid Room before, so I took a bit of a tourist trail up the Royal Mile.
I was there fairly early but the first support was already on. In fact by the time I checked my coat, went to the bathroom and got a drink, they were pretty much done. I didn’t really catch their name, it sounded like The Hoohas. I didn’t hear enough to form any proper impression. I had decided to take a position on the balcony rather than down the front, so had a good view of the stage but wasn’t right in the mix of things. The position suited my mood.
The 2nd support quickly came on, they were The Big Moon and I was looking forward to seeing them after hearing a fair bit about them. I liked them. They were energetic, kind of low-fi indie pop with tight playing, nice harmonies and catchy melodies. They really got me in the mood for the Jets and I started to relax into the vibe.
Ugh, I still have mixed feelings about the Jets’ set. I’m sure some of this is to do with my mood on the day, also to do with some other stuff I’m working through at the moment which sometimes leaves me in a bit of a funk, but I reluctantly have to admit it is also to do with the set itself. It was a good show, they were all on good form, they played well etc etc but I didn’t get on with the setlist at all. They played the obligatory old hits. Fine. They also played 2 songs from an EP that they released just a week or so ago. I had listened once, while at work so the songs didn’t really stick with me. A few enthusiastic fans greeted them with vigour, but the rest of the crowd was a bit confused. I suspect most people are still getting familiar with the album, never mind adding in a new EP. They played several songs from Curve, but neither of my favourites that absolutely rocked last time – Taken By The Tide or Blood Red Balloon. Saying that, the crowd were receptive enough to the slower album songs that they did play, so maybe the flat feeling I was experiencing was my own construction. I still can’t look back on this gig objectively.
New(ish) bassist Jack got the crowd doing a nice call-and-response thing during Bombay Blue and there was spontaneous arm-waving during a Will-lead song that I can’t remember now.
They finished on Flakes, which is always a crowd-pleaser. I went away with a mixed feeling but overall glad I had been there.
There were a lot of people waiting outside, but not previously having the best of luck with meeting the band after gigs, I decided to wait for a limited time only. It then transpired that most of the people hadn’t come from the gig, but were waiting to go into the club night in the venue. Only a handful of people were actually waiting for the Jets. I stood around a bit, replying to messages etc then Jack emerged. In true rock-star style, he gathered up a posse of waiting bright young things and headed off into the night. I decided to call it a day and walked back to my hotel. No sooner had I arrived, got a cup of tea and into my pjs than I saw a tweet from the band giving the location of the “after-party”. Oh well. Tea and jammies were far more appealing at that point.
It WAS a good gig, I DID have a good time and I’m glad I went, so maybe it was just that it wasn’t quite as good as the previous one, maybe the setlist just didn’t do it for me, I don’t even know myself.
Ugh, it’s been too long.
So in an increasingly old-fashioned kind of way, Mystery Jets have a newsletter. Ok, it’s an email one, rather than the old style printed sheets you used to get when you joined a band’s fan club. But still. They put one out a few months ago with news about their fourth album and a pre-album tour. It was described as an intimate series of gigs, getting them back face-to-face with their fans. Tickets were released to subscribers first, then any remaining ones would go on general release. The only Scottish date was Edinburgh (I’m hoping they save Glasgow for the full post-album tour) but I couldn’t resist and had to snap up a couple of tickets. I even persuaded T to come with me and we decided to make a mini-break of it (small person went to her grandparents for a holiday) . Going to Edinburgh is almost like going on holiday anyway, and with a gig thrown in too it would be all the better.
We arrived to find Edinburgh was basking in the same sunshine that most of the country had enjoyed for the previous week. We checked in to our hotel (the cheap but functional Travelodge) and took a walk up Calton Hill then through Princes Street Gardens. A quick freshen up at the hotel, dinner at the Mussel Inn (yum!) then we headed over to the gig venue.
I’ve never been to a gig in Edinburgh before, and had never even heard of the Electric Circus. However we found it no problem. It was indeed a small intimate venue, pretty much just a bar with a tiny stage and small dance floor type area. I didn’t know who the support was, and although I was keen to get down the front I didn’t want to be standing right in their faces if they were crap. Also, after walking around Edinburgh all afternoon I was glad of a seat. We settled near the bar with a wee drink and kept an eye on movements in front of the stage.
The support were The Peace. Or maybe just Peace. Not sure. Here’s their website anyway. They were ok. T really liked them, I think I’ll need a few more listens, but I’d definitely give them further consideration. A bit melancholic, but melodic and with some nice hooks.
After them I decided the time had come to make a push for the front. Thankfully I didn’t have to actually push anyone, most people drifted away back to the bar so I was able to take up a position at the side of the stage. The stage was so tiny that the guitar rack and various bits of kit were set up between the stage and the bar. There was a flimsy rope cordoning it off, and the crew and bar staff used that way as a thoroughfare, so we just moved right up in front of the rope and let them all go behind us. I could almost reach out and touch the rack of guitars. I was REALLY tempted, but there were a couple of roadies hovering by and the last thing I wanted was to be chucked out at that point. If it had been Keith Murray’s telecaster I totally would have. That would have been worth it, but then that Telecaster is legendary. There was also a Tele in the rack, and I tried to remember whose it was. I thought William was more of a Gibson guy? Anyway that amused me for some of the lengthy wait.
One of the roadies also taped a setlist to the kit. I tried to sneak a peek. Then decided I didn’t want to know. Then decided I did. I swithered for a while, but eventually my curiosity got the better of me. Ooh we were in for a treat! The anticipation started to build.
Finally they came on stage. Well, Blaine, William and Kapil came on with 2 guys I didn’t know. Then I remembered Kai had done some solo stuff and maybe had a baby? Not sure if I remembered that right, but maybe that explained his absence. The other guy was there to play the lap steel among other things. Nice. Blaine was even wearing an authentically country-style shirt a la Rich Hall. As usual William and Kapil were wearing terrible patterned shirts. The other guys looked normal, which actually made them look abnormal on stage.
They opened with the new song, “Someone Purer”. I had only listened to it once or twice before, but it is instantly captivating. I have still only heard it maybe 3 times but often find it swirling around my head. It is beautiful and the thing that struck me most about it is how well it suits Blaine’s voice. Blaine has really matured, he looks older, and actually looks like he has grown into himself and is more comfortable in his skin now. He looked good and sounded great. His voice has also matured and although it still has an edge of frailty and softness, it now has a depth that comes from age and experience. I had to remind myself he’s only about 25.
They played a few songs from the forthcoming album, I’m afraid I can’t remember the names. I was going to take a picture of the setlist, but it was too dark and I was still slightly scared of the roadies. However 1 roadie in particular seemed to also be a very enthusiastic fan. He was jumping about, singing along, playing air guitar, air drums and waving his hands in the air. I think he would have quite liked to have been down at the front of the stage. He was enjoying himself so much that at one point he forgot to do a guitar change for William. Either William was used to it, or he was embracing the whole back-to-basics ethos, but he just climbed down and got the guitar himself. Again, I resisted the urge to reach out…
Also at the business side of the stage was William’s current girlfriend. She sings on one of the songs, and spent the rest of the show alongside Enthusiastic Roadie cheering and clapping. William spent most of the show glancing over at her and grinning at her. It was both sweet and somewhat sickening. I wondered how my life and hers differed that she got to be 19 and a successful singer in her own right, and not only on stage with a moderately-famous indie band, but also dating one of them. When I was 19 I was a mess. But I digress…
One of the new songs (Greatest Hits?) is a proper Americana country hoe-down, full on lap steel guitar etc etc. I really liked it, the kids in the crowd were singing and jumping along, for a first outing the song got a great reception. Girlfriend remarked to Enthusiastic Roadie that they should definitely release it as a single. Enthusiastic Roadie declared that it would never happen. I’m afraid I think he might be right, while it is a stomper of a tune it is probably too “out there” for mainstream radio etc. But it was awesome live, I hope they keep it in the set regardless. The duet with Girlfriend was a nice ballad.
As well as some of the new songs they played plenty old favourites. Two Doors Down, Young Love, Elizabeth etc were obvious crowd pleasers, but I was glad to see both Melt and Flakes played, the latter was the overall show closer. But I was even more excited to hear “Bunhouse” as the main set closer, pre-encore. It is one of my favourite Jets songs, and I had never heard it live before. It was one of those songs that I had just kind of assumed they didn’t play live. But it was luscious. Blaines’s quiet quivering lyrics on the verses, contrasted with huge guitar and drums crescendos on the “chorus” parts. Referring to Mystery Jets songs as “verse” and “chorus” doesn’t usually work, but if you know the song you’ll know what I mean. They had re-worked the arrangement of it and it was a glorious tour-de-force of a song. I had one of those moments where I fell even more in love with the band that before. And whilst Kapil was out of my line of sight for most of the show, he was literally jumping on his drums during Bunhouse creating quite a spectacle.
Once again I was highly entertained and somewhat terrified by William’s guitar technique. I’ve mentioned it here before, but it has to be said again – that man is insane! He never uses a pick, just batters away at the stings with his bare fingers. He strums, picks, flicks, swipes, bends you name it he does it to those strings. He produces a beautiful sound, but by god he works hard at it. His hand was literally a blur at one point. I was fascinated and not a little scared. I half expected to be covered in blood by the end of it. Those fingers must be calloused to buggery.
Above all I was pleased that the band were back on form. I’m still not sure what happened last time I saw them, but something wasn’t right. All my fears were certainly swept aside as soon as they started playing, there was a real buzz and chemistry between them, even with the two new guys. The set lasted about an hour, I’m sure we all could have stood more, but the venue had a 10pm curfew so it had to end. Happily it ended on the mass arms-in-the-air sing-a-long extravaganza that is Flakes. I joined in, along with Girlfriend and Enthusiastic Roadie, and left with a grin on my face that lasted quite some time. I can’t wait to hear the full new album and here’s hoping I’ll see them again for a “proper” tour soon.