Lucky Just To Be Here

Lately I’ve been trying to find the positive in things. Sometimes good things come through effort, other times through luck.

I had bought tickets to a couple of gigs over the past year but ended up selling them on due to either difficulties with the logistics of getting there or a reluctance to be in large crowds. I’ve not even really listened to much music lately, I’ve been struggling to find anything to really get into. Also music = emotion and I’ve had quite enough of those without inducing any more. Music = opening myself up and I’ve been doing the opposite for a while. Saying that, I have BBC 6Music on in the car and on longer journeys I’ve been giving my kids a musical education with playlists from the 60s, 70s, 80s and a Beatles only special, cos, The Beatles. They like the 60s best so far, although I’m excited to make the 90s playlist next despite them objecting when I sing along. I’m lucky that they both have an interest in music and that I can share this with them. Anyway, when We Are Scientists announce a new album and tour, then you know I’m going to be there no matter what.

I think, I’m pretty sure that this was We Are Scientists gig number 20 for me. I tried to count them all (I’ve written about most on this blog but not all) and I reckon I’m at 20. I’m lucky to have seen them that many times, even luckier to have done so in about 8 towns and cities across 3 countries.

Their album, “Lobes“, came out last month. Initially I popped it on in the car and didn’t really think much of what I heard. Bit too much disco-pop all at once. Then I realised that I wasn’t properly paying attention (due to the driving) and that I had put it on shuffle by accident. I started it again, in order from the start and paid attention (also to the road, I got there safely). Unexpectedly, I got a bit tearful. Those guys. I suddenly remembered all the good music, good gigs, good people that I’ve met through this band and the good times we’ve had. I’m lucky to have that in my life.

The album is great. It’s probably the only We Are Scientists album where comparisons to other bands have sprung to mind (all good ones). It is another highly produced album, which I’m not usually a fan of. I don’t like when bells and whistles get in the way of the essence of good melody, rhythm, hooks and lyrics. Fortunately in this case the not-quite-literal-but-almost bells and whistles only enhance and complement those core elements which are as strong as ever. It’s a more consistent album than previous ones, no big surprises like Headlights, KIT, or Bought Myself a Grave. Parachute maybe comes closest but anyone familiar with the band’s acoustic work won’t find it straying too far from their wheelhouse. Actually perhaps Turn it Up is the outlier of the group. Perhaps I’m also changing my mind about this album’s consistency, there are indeed a couple of nice surprises in there… I’m lucky that my favourite band keep making music that I genuinely enjoy and keep finding new depths in.

So to gig night. I haven’t been to a gig since…well the last gig was also We Are Scientists, unless you count the Strictly Live Tour… I made the necessary arrangements for the kids and puppy and ventured into the West End to Oran Mor. I got there in the middle of the support set, a band called Bleach Lab. They were good. More confident and polished than some support bands I’ve seen. They had a solid, atmospheric sound and the singer had a great voice.

Bleach Lab

My usual gig compadres couldn’t make it so I was considering just losing myself inconspicuously in the middle of the crowd, but then the inevitable Tall Ones appeared all around, so I slinked forward, eyeing up a free space on the barrier, hoping that it wasn’t reserved for someone at the bar/loo when I luckily found people I had met at previous gigs. I secured my favoured spot and wasn’t a lonely loser.

The guys set up their own equipment, so we saw them busy about the stage then go off for a quick costume change and pause for dramatic effect. I kinda miss the days of coordinated outfits or matching smart suits but they all looked great, despite both Keith and Chris wearing dad jeans. Carne was channelling 1970s George Harrison (the hottest Beatle, obvs). They kicked off with Lucky Just To Be Here which is a bold move considering it features Keith singing with minimal accompaniment for a long stretch but it’s a great song that builds in energy and vitality. It’s my favourite song on the new record. Most days. I have trouble picking absolute favourites. Keith’s vocals are powerful and captivating enough that he could easily hold the attention of the crowd that was still warming up. By the end of the number we were thoroughly warmed and ready for more.

We got a generous helping of Lobes, the catchiest tunes from Huffy and a nice mix of older stuff. Kudos to the person who requested Return the Favor, that was an unexpected bonus inclusion in the setlist. I was not at all sorry that It’s a Hit has been ditched to make room for newer/better songs. The additional sounds of the new record sounded more funky than disco-ey live, with most of the elements being added by Carne’s Amazing Magical Effects Gizmo, that he masterfully played in addition to the usual percussion. Despite having a gazillion things to hit all at once, he still amazingly looks like he’s just having a chilled fun bash about, always under control, energetic but never frenetic. I do love that amongst all the trigger pads, loops and effects, a single orange maraca was wielded to the greatest effect. Keith had busy time of it too. With each album comes a signature guitar sound, by now after album number eight, his pedal board must have expanded exponentially and he was as frantic with his feet as he was with his fingers, and the small matter of lead vocals as well, obviously. Chris was as cool as ever. The basslines on Lobes are particularly outstanding and Chris delivered them with aplomb. We are lucky that the band love Glasgow and keep coming back here.

Afterwards I joined the merch queue to see what was on offer, unfortunately the guys themselves weren’t manning it so it was left to a poor fella who had to contend with piles of shirts overflowing on a too-small table, trip-hazard boxes all around his feet and a payment system that seemed to require manual typed entries each time, making for very slow progress indeed. He persevered bravely and eventually got through the long line of people. I picked up a deck of the tarot cards cos they have cool artwork and I really don’t need any more WAS t-shirts. Many thanks to the Oran Mor staff who luckily helped me out the locked door after they let me stay and chat after chucking out time.

It’s been tough times for us all over the past few years. We all need a little bit of luck now and again to help us on our way. All of us who secured tickets to this gig had some luck. We saw a great band have a great time playing some great songs. We were all lucky just to be there.

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.