Stag and Dagger, Glasgow, 5th May 2019

It’s been aaaaaaaages since I wrote about a gig.  I did go and see Chvrches a few months ago but I went along with what I thought was a bad cold, but turned out to be full-blown flu, so I wasn’t in much of a state to write about it afterwards.  They were amazing by the way, Lauren Mayberry is phenomenal and she and the band exceeded my expectations several-fold.   I also had tickets to the Twilight Sad but didn’t make it because my daughter had just come out from a short hospital stay.  Buuuuut, May is my birthday month and thankfully a whole bunch of shows were announced to end the gig drought.

I went to Stag & Dagger 3 years ago and had a blast. I kept an eye on the line-up for the previous 2 years but nothing stood out for me.  This year it looked a whole lot better and being only 2 days after my (scary big) birthday I decided it was time to return.

Suitably fuelled up, we dropped into the Garage to collect our wristbands and venue guide with stage times. Unfortunately I managed to give myself a paper cut retrieving the programme out of my back pocket which wouldn’t stop bleeding and had to cadge a bright blue plaster of the staff in Costa’s.  Always glam and dressed to the nines, me…


As it was still fairly early in the day, only 2 of the venues were open.  After a quick Google & Spotify search on the bands on offer (neither of us had gotten round to doing any research on the unknowns prior to the day) we first tried to get into Nice n Sleazy’s but found it was already full, so we popped next door to Broadcast and came across a band called Pleasure Heads. The place was also packed.  We assumed because other eager music lovers such as ourselves had got there early and were crammed into the only place letting folk in, but we soon discovered that Pleasure Heads have a whole lotta fans who like to sing along at the tops of their voices.  I liked the sound of the band.  After a few songs-worth time of a comparison nagging at me, I realised they somehow reminded me of the Manic Street Preachers.  I couldn’t exactly say why, but this is definitely a good thing.  My only slight downside was that I felt the singer’s vocals were a bit shouty, but this could just have been the venue/circumstances/reaction to the crowd joining in.  Overall I liked them, although I couldn’t see them at all, positioned as we were just by the stairs in our own little weather system with cold air from outside meeting the very hot air from the small packed room.

Pleasure Heads. Somewhere. Honest.

A quick drink pit-stop later, we made our way over to the Garage to see 2 of the bands that were on my To-See list, Honeyblood and Dream Wife.  Honeyblood had been vaguely on my radar for a while but have been getting a fair bit of 6Music radio play recently.  I was convinced that I had seen Dream Wife before, but couldn’t remember where or when.  In any case,  I had been listening to their stuff online for about a year or so.

Honeyblood were very good.  Loud, not afraid to rock out, but with beautiful, occasionally delicate lyrics and melodies.


Dream Wife were something else. Full of lively stage presence, they captivated the whole room and quickly had us under their command. Their songs were catchy, infectious and uplifting.  Lead singer Rakel engaged constantly with the crowd, encouraging participation, throwing teasing looks and then the next second delivering a stark warning to anyone who dared to get in the way of her “bad bitches”, the group of girls she drew, pied-piper-like down to the front for a safe, respectful mini-mosh.  The mosh kinda failed, but you couldn’t fault her enthusiasm and charisma.

Dream Wife

After a stroll back through town to pick up a free birthday burrito, we headed back to the festival area for Pip Blom.  I had heard them, again on 6Music (god bless my car’s digital radio), and was interested to see what they were like live and to hear more from them. They were playing in the CCA, which had pressed one of the larger halls into service, maybe to compensate for the lack of ABC.  Maybe it was the less-than-optimal venue, maybe it was that we were still riding the wave from Dream Wife, but Pip Blom just didn’t hit the mark.  They were good enough, but not very….interesting.  There was nothing to pique my interest or make me get an insight into what their USP might be.  It was all a bit samey.  That was until the guitarist started singing.  His mic was for some reason turned up about 8 notches louder than everyone else’s, which jolted everyone every time he piped up.  My friend had to leave a bit early to get her train, I thought they got a bit better on the last 3 or 4 songs, the sound a bit grungier, but I was still a bit disappointed.

Pip Blom

All in all, it was a good day and night.  I really like the way you just flash your wristband and can dip in and out of any venue, seeing any band that takes your fancy or discovering new ones along the way.  And given that it was bloody freezing, I was most definitely glad it was an indoor festival.  I’m glad I finally saw Honeyblood live and Dream Wife were awesome and my highlight of the day.



Trapped in Kansas and other bands

Well I never quite got round to writing up my last gig but seeing as it featured the same band as my most recent gig I’ll combine the two.

Back in April I had a ticket to see Maps & Atlases with support from Trapped in Kansas and Tall Ships.  I really wanted to see Tall Ships, as they were very impressive as support for We Are Scientists back in June last year.  I listened to a bit of Trapped in Kansas and Maps & Atlases in preparation, and they all seemed to be in the same vein so I was really looking forward to it. However I got struck down by some awful lurgy before the gig and after finishing work I was shattered and badly needing my bed. But it was Tall Ships, after all this time, in Scotland! Urgh. I dragged myself up to Nice N Sleazy’s (the venue was another attraction of the gig) and thought I’d see how it went.

Although it said doors were at 7.30 when I arrived the first support was just finishing their set. I have no idea who there were and frankly the minute or two I heard of them didn’t make me want to find out. At the break I saw Tall Ship no 1 manning the merch stall.  I went over and browsed while he served someone.  Sitting on the top of the pile of t-shirts was a wee hand-written sign appealing for somewhere for “4 nice guys” to stay that night.  Once he was done I asked him if the sign was his.  Yes, he replied, they had nowhere to stay that night and couldn’t afford a hotel.  I said I had a front room they could use, but it was about 10 miles away and they’d be woken by a toddler at 6am.  He politely declined.  Tall Ship No. 1 (ok, I now know he’s called Ric but that still sticks) was so sweet, as he had been in Brighton, I fully believe that if they had crashed in my living room they would have been very well behaved and tidied up after themselves.

I told him I was ill but had ventured out just for Tall Ships. He seemed genuinely touched. I  then reminded him that after the Brighton gig he’d invited our posse to his place but had then fallen asleep in the pub. He seemed genuinely embarrassed. No, really, he apologised several times. I felt sorry for them in their impoverished state and contributed to the accommodation fund by buying a t-shirt.

So Trapped in Kansas were on next, I got up the front to get a good view and I was really impressed with them.  They were tight, interesting, melodic and thoughtful.  The lead singer looks the part, all skinny and indie-looking but actually has some charisma and personality to back it up. I liked them.

Then it was Tall Ships. I was suffering badly from my lurgy but persisted. They didn’t disappoint.  They played many of the songs from their 2 EPs, maybe a new one too but I was too ill and it was long ago and I can’t remember.  They sounded good though.  Tall Ship No. 1 has the courage to sing Vessels with the a cappella closing lines in front of a Glaswegian crowd who didn’t really pay them much attention. I loved it, and can only hope that before too long they are playing larger venues where the whole crowd sings those lines along with him.  The only thing I missed was them changing instruments. That was the highlight of the London / Brighton gigs but they didn’t do it this time. Maybe there wasn’t enough room. It was pretty squashed. Anyway they still have a good energetic performance and even won over the guys behind me who had initially scoffed at their synth to guitar ratio (not enough guitars for them, a sentiment I usually share but am willing to suspend for Tall Ships).

I would have dearly loved to see Maps & Atlases, but was almost dead on my feet and the thought of the early, direct bus home was too much so I bailed.  I felt bad, but really I had gone to see Tall Ships and had done just that, so it felt like mission accomplished.

Fast forward a few weeks and I see that Trapped in Kansas are due to play in the Captain’s Rest as part of the West End Festival.  They were on the bill with 6 other bands as part of Overlook Records 1st birthday showcase.  Fellow gig-goer Susie assured me it would be a good night, and for only a fiver I couldn’t argue to off I went.

After meeting Susie in the bar, we headed downstairs. As we were among the first 20 entrants we were treated to a goodie bag containing a piece of cake, chocolates, party poppers, 2 plastic frogs(?) and a condom. I gave my cake and condom to Susie. I also bought a compilation CD they were selling featuring 1 song from each of the bands. Another bargain at £2.

It was a slow starter, not many people were in the room when the first band came on, but it got progressively livelier.

Once again I’m afraid I only made half the gig, the Captain’s Rest had helpfully turned on the air conditioning in the basement but it had seemingly stored up all the pollen from the previous week and blew it down right into my nostrils, so I was sneezing and wheezing within half an hour. I did see Vasa (instrumental, not too bad) and Bellow Below (better, very good drummer). Then came Salo and I was just scared. They were a lot more hardcore than the others – loud, shouty, screamy and one point drive-nail-from-wall-into-head-y. I’m sure they were aiming to shock, but I found their aggression quite disturbing and unnerving. I was also very glad of my earplugs. Thankfully all bands were being kept to a strict timetable so after 20 minutes it was all over.

By this time the room had really filled up and it was the turn of Trapped in Kansas. The instant they started you could tell they were on another level from the preceding bands (nail-heads aside cos you can’t really compare that kind of thing). Their sound was just so much more smooth, together, coherent.  I had remarked to Susie earlier that the trouble with instrumental bands is that they really have to make extra effort to tell the story through the music alone rather than relying on lyrics.  Although TiK do use vocals there was, for me, much more of a connection to the music with them, I felt something when listening to it (other than nausea from the nail-heads) rather than being disconnected and just observing.  That is not an easy thing to achieve, especially on 2nd time listening.

Although the room had filled up, it became apparent that it was full of people from / associated with the other bands.  They all went a bit mental, cheering, jeering and trying to distract the guys on stage.  Susie and I got caught up in an impromptu mosh/rammy/crowdsurf and given that we are a good foot shorter than most people we were in no little danger of being crushed. I started to wonder if we were the only people who had actually come along as regular punters. Anyhoo Trapped in Kansas managed to finish their set, no thanks to their label-mates, and at their urging even played their last song with their tops off. Well 3/4 of them did, apparently 1 was too modest.

The only other band that I was keen to see was the Darien Venture, but they were on last, after my last bus home so I would have missed them anyway, so I thought I might was well leave at that point and get the earlier bus and home to a pollen-free environment.

It was a good night though, I’m glad the West End Festival has embraced that kind of event and it confirmed for me Trapped In Kansas as one of my definite bands to look out for.

Music Snobbery

Hmmm it’s been a while. Classic case of too much to do and not enough time. New job is 4 days per week, as opposed to the 3 I was doing after I went back from having the wee one, so 1 less day per week “free” plus toddler to run around after has meant very little time to sit down, never mind do any writing.

But here we are.  I was thinking about some stuff in the shower this morning (always the best place to mull over ideas, mainly due to absence of aforementioned toddler) and made a promise to sit down and get some ideas written down. Typed. Whatever.

So…what first? Well it’s been very quiet on the music front these past few months, no gigs and not much time to even listen to much.  I drive to the new job, so I miss my 2 hours per day bus/train commute listening to my ipod.  I tend to stick with the radio in the car for the traffic reports. How dull and grown up. The plus side is that I have my own office so I can have BBC6 music on when I’m there, no more Radio1, hooray! Bye bye Fearne Cotton, shut the hell up.

A few days ago I was listening to the radio at work, and a song came on that I didn’t recognise, but I quite liked it – it was kind of acoustic, folky/poppy bob-you-head kind of a song.  At the end the presenter said it was by Belle and Sebastian. Aargh! I thought, I’m not supposed to like Belle and Sebastian!

Then I realised that this was one of those instances where I decided that I didn’t like a band, but couldn’t actually tell you anything about them or their songs or even (evidently) identify them.  Occasionally I have to admit that that’s not fair, and actually I’m wrong.  It is a painful moment, but it has to be said.

The whole Belle & Sebastian thing was really just that when they first came to be known around Glasgow (1998 ish?) every man, woman, child and their pet rabbit were raving about them.  I had just moved to Glasgow for uni, and as previously discussed here was in a bit of a music black hole, I had lost the passion for it, had found other activities and really wasn’t bothered.  Looking back I think I must have been mad, moving to Glasgow and not even bothering about the opportunities for live music etc. I think one time in my first year a friend was visiting, and we were wondering what to do, when a flatmate said her friend’s band was playing somewhere, so we went along, but the band was dreadful, so we left.  I took my friend into Nice N Sleazy’s cos I had heard it was the cool place to go, but to be honest I was quite intimidated and we didn’t stay long. The next time I would grace Sleazy’s would be in the company of one Mr Keith Murray, but that’s another story….

Anyway, so yes, much as I love and appreciate the Glasgow music scene now, back then it didn’t feature in my life, so when everyone was talking about how great  this new band were, at first I didn’t care, then I was sure that I’d hate them cos if everyone else liked them, then surely I wouldn’t. I remind you that at the time Steps, B-Witched, Robbie Williams and Gerri Halliwell topped the charts. You can understand why I had lost interest.  So they kind of passed me by, and ever since if I have heard them mentioned I have just kind of dismissed them as something that other people like.

And then there was my radio encounter. So I felt like I should give them another chance. After all almost 15 years had passed, maybe it was time to let go of my grudge and open my mind a little bit. I was still sure that I wouldn’t like them, that maybe that one song was an exception. So I went on Spotify and listened to a couple of albums, one recorded and one live album. Damn, they really are good.  I mean they are acousticy, and folky, and definitely something I’d have to be in the mood for, my usual preference being for something louder and rockier, but I have to admit I liked what I heard. I was disappointed in a way, partly for being wrong but partly cos I’d missed out all these years and would have a lot of catching up to do.

It does tend to be a habit of mine.  If I “discover” a band first, either by accident, via friends, maybe seeing them as a support band then I’m happy when they gain wider recognition. But if the first thing I hear about someone is everyone else telling me I must listen and they are the greatest thing ever, then my automatic reaction is a negative one and I will almost be determined NOT to like them.  Some might call this music snobbery. Some might call it a hipster attitude. Whatever, I really can’t help it. I put it down to the fact that the overwhelming majority of “popular” music is dire, so I don’t trust most people’s taste. Yeah, ok, snobbery it is. I’m once more greateful to the internet for allowing me to connect with like-minded people, who share my tastes in music and whose opinion I trust.  I really can’t talk to friends or colleagues here about music, but I know there are people in Germany, Seattle and California who “get” me. Fellow music snobs unite!

So I’ll give them a proper listen, and look out for the next time they are in Glasgow and maybe even go along to see them, as a recent but enthusiastic convert.  And I’ll try not to dismiss anyone out of hand, but I will. I’m already sick of hearing about Lana del Ray, Ed Sheeran and Florence and her fecking Machine…