- 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
Ok, if I’d known at the start of the year that WAS would eventually announce a UK mega-tour, I would probably not have gone to see them in Manchester, but hey, that trip was fun and I’m not complaining about a few more WAS shows. The Glasgow gig was in King Tuts and on a Friday, so there was no question that I was going to be heading along. Then PAWS were confirmed as the support and an after-show DJ set was announced, it promised to be a special one.
I didn’t have the best run-up, with both girls being up all night the night before, so I was exhausted before I even got into town. I went straight from dropping the girls off at their dad’s, so got in pretty early. I then found out that the gig was going to be a late one – stage time 9pm for the openers PAWS. Oh well, decision to bring the car and ensure a passage home vindicated and it would give me some time to decompress and get into gig-mode.
I got a bite to eat and had a wander round town. I was due to meet up with some people but they were getting food elsewhere. Unfortunately, the rain came on and I wanted to conserve my energy, so after checking out the location of the after-show party, I wandered down to Tut’s. It was cool to see the board outside Tut’s, and the excitement of seeing my favourite band in the best small venue in Glasgow gave me chills of anticipation.
The bar area was fairly quiet, so I ordered an “I’m driving” diet coke and sat reading while I waited for the others to arrive. Yes, I have reached the point of not-giving-a-crap that I will sit in King Tut’s bar with a soft drink, reading the poetry of Edwin Morgan while the bar fills up and people start to get annoyed with me. BTW you should also read the poetry of Edwin Morgan. I was lost in his Instamatic poems for a pleasant hour while I was waiting.
The bar got really busy, with some really tall blokes. I was sensing that I would have to be down the front if I was going to see anything other than the back of someone’s shoulders all night. My friends arrived just as the doors opened, I was introduced to some friends of friends and we split into those who wanted a barrier spot and those happy to hang back. It was nice having some gig buddies for a change, it turns out we’d been to a lot of the same shows, so we shared stories and recommendations for a while as we waited for PAWS to come on.
PAWS were awesome as usual. Loud, raucous and energetic. Despite listening to their records a fair amount since I saw them a few months ago, I still don’t have a handle on their lyrics, so I was once again left showing my appreciation through dancing, jumping and belting out the occasional line that I had picked up. They were playing with a different bassist, but were still tight and held together well.
In the near 45 minute wait for WAS to come on, I was seriously flagging. It was literally past my normal bedtime, I was beginning to wish I had brought an inflatable pillow to lay on the barrier and have a disco nap.
It was kinda surreal seeing WAS in King Tut’s, but they definitely had the measure of the place. The setlist was liberally injected with older hits, Keith M clearly intended to get the place jumping and keep it that way. I think it was during Nobody Move that we felt the first rush of people behind us, and from that point onward we were crushed, squished and thrust upon. I could barely breathe at times, and my arms were pinned into position. It made signing along a more onerous task.
“My body is your bo-aahgh-ugh-dy”. “I’m gonna wai-gah-umf-hauaahh-t right here”
At one point I heard a girl somewhere behind me yell an apology to someone, “I’m sorry if my husband’s penis is against your bumhole!” Glasgow – classy as ever.
Adding to our discomfort were 2 spotlights that shone with the light and heat of a thousand suns, and regularly turned on us. Blinded at intervals and unable to focus for good periods of time. Did we care? Not at all. It is amazing the things you’ll put up with to see a good band storm a belter of a show.
It wasn’t all oldies, thankfully, we also got all 4 singles (not sure if they are proper singles, but the ones with videos off of Helter Seltzer) and the usual suspects from Barbara and TV en Francais. I had myself a real moment during Sprinkles. Sprinkles is one of my favourite songs from TVeF (notwithstanding Don’t Blow It, d’ya hear me, Mr Murray?) and it sounded immense last night. I love that their newer songs are more expansive and deeper sonically than the older stuff, I don’t know how they do it with just 3 of them (ok, I hear ya Mr Murray) but Sprinkles last night just gave me that wonderful resonance in my gut, the hairs standing up on the back of your neck-type feeling and it was glorious.
We were in a central position on the barrier, but I kind of missed my usual Chris-side view, Chris’ facial expressions and sheer coolness are entertaining to watch. I was closer to Keith M, especially as he kept moving his mic stand over to the middle of the stage, but it was verging on that uncomfortable closeness where you feel weird staring that them. I spent a good deal of time watching Keith C, due to the less-weird distance, my newly re-discovered drumming activity and just because he is proving as entertaining to watch as Chris. Carne spent 95% of the gig with the most massive grin. I’m so unbelievably glad he’s still with the band and apparently having such a good time. The PAWS drummer, Josh, spent their whole set hunched over his kit, literally thrashing it as if his life depended on it, gripped by some rhythm-induced mania or seizure. Carne, on the other hand, is the epitome of control and composure. And grins.
During Textbook, Murray took off into the crowd to locations unknown, his disembodied voice carried back to us through the speakers for the duration of the song. The tempo, energy and Glasgow spirits were all high for the near-hour of the main set, then they came back for a short encore, with PAWS joining in for After Hours. Too Late is a perfect set closer and I was pleased to witness a mass sing-a-long to the chorus of this newer song.
It was over around 11.15pm and revitalised by the gig I decided to join some of our group and head over to the after-party. I wasn’t familiar with Firewater, the venue, but we soon found the small dance floor with Chris at the controls, playing Editors Papillon. Chris, it turns out, is a pretty hot DJ, the mix of songs got everyone dancing and singing and raised quite a few cheers. Keith M was dodging in and out of the booth taking requests and a fair few selfies with people. He said hi to me and we had a quick chat. Later, Carne joined the party, eschewing the DJ booth for the dance floor. We managed to have a quick catch-up chat too, before returning to the dance floor for the final few songs.
I haven’t been dancing in years. I was never much one for dancing, I was always too self-conscious. But I remembered something I had read Amy Poehler say – “No-one looks stupid when they’re having fun.” I took this to heart and had the most fun I have had in a long time.
It’s hard to convey just how much this band means to me. I have had a pretty crappy couple of years with one thing and another, and things like going out to gigs have been a saving grace for me. Going out to gigs, taking up drums again, reconnecting with old friends and making new ones. Dancing. I can’t explain how important it is to me that I am doing these things, taking time for myself and pushing myself out of my comfort zone. The trigger for this could have been anything. Some people in my position aren’t lucky enough to find such a trigger. For me, the trigger happened to be a rock band. I left feeling so much love for them, the people they had brought me into contact with and all they represented for me.
Next stop – Berlin!!
P.S. my phone photos are a bit crap this time due to aforementioned pinioning and lack of breath / sight. Luckily, my companion Fiona takes a much better picture than me, you can find her photos here.
I asked Original Keith if Other Keith would be down because I had something for him too. He said he wouldn’t be at the meet and greet but he would ask him to come to the merch stall after the gig. One of the girls had a green I Are Scientists t-shirt on, Keith asked how old it was, reckoning it was a vintage. She explained she got it on the TV en Francais tour. I said I had one of those shirts from the first time I saw them in 2008. I’m not sure if they were impressed or appalled that I had been following them all these years. As part of the VIP package, we were able to pick a t-shirt or hoodie from the merch stall. I was really tempted by the smoking cat shirt, but opted for a hoodie for a change.
We said goodbye and after a while we were allowed into the venue. I got a spot on the barrier pretty much dead centre. There were 2 support acts. The first was The Alibi. From the outset they were egging the audience on in quite an aggressive way, demanding we clap along and join in. On the first song and we had no idea who they were. They were good enough, but I think a first support act should kinda have to work to win over the crowd and participation is better if spontaneous. Or at least later into the set once we’ve got a feel for them. Then the lead singer made some comments about joining him backstage which were just creepy so I was even less impressed.
Fortunately, the second support were much better. I thought maybe I recognised them, but wasn’t sure where from. They were a 3-piece called Flowers, fronted by a female singer/bassist. It was the kind of music that gets called “ethereal”, “dreamy” and “expansive” and because I’m writing this on a train after about 4 hours sleep that’s what I’ll call it too. Vaguely reminded me of Pixies. I really liked them and will be following them and hopefully seeing them again soon.
Then WAS. I don’t even know what to say. I’ve written about them so often I’m in danger of repeating myself. The girl next to me was seeing them for the first time and asked if I’d seen them before. “Yeah, a few times…” Like, about 10? Maybe this was the 10th time? I need to think back over those 8 years and try to remember… One thing I have said before that bears repeating is that you are guaranteed a good show if Keith is in good form, and you know he is in good form when he is so busy jumping, dancing and shredding his guitar that he has to rush back to his mic to sing the next line. That happened a lot, ergo it was a good show.
Old favourites were refreshed with a heavier, bassier, stompier sound. The Scene is Dead and Impatience sounded great again. We got Cash Cow this time too. Sprinkles is one of my favourites from TVeF so I was delighted to hear it. Once again the new songs just come alive on the stage. We got the same 3 as on Sunday – Buckle, In My Head and Classic Love. Listening to the record the vocals are sometimes a bit sparse. When I first listened, I got the impression of Keith sitting on a stool, occasionally leaning into a mic to record a line. In reality, when performing live, he is singing as well as providing lead and rhythm guitar, as well as leaping around and going crazy on stage. When it all comes together like that, along with the heavier bass and drums, the new songs feel completely and utterly different from the way I interpreted them on record. Now that I have those images in my head, I’m listening to Helter Seltzer in a new way and hearing new aspects of it. Images like this:
Towards the end there was some problem with Chris’ bass, engine noise or not, that reverberated weirdly and extrmemely loudly, meaning all of us in the front felt like an earthquake was going through us. Keith described it as demonic and they debated whether to go ahead with the last song. They did, we all felt like our guts were being ripped out but it was worth it,
As they headed off stage, Other Keith gathered up his stuff, then came down to the front and handed me a drum stick, saying “Happy Birthday” again, then telling everyone else who was clamouring for things “It’s her birthday!!”