So last Thursday I got a call from an old friend to say that she would be photographing a band that night at Oran Mor, and she asked if I’d like to come along. The main act was Los Campesinos!, and she had been doing some work for Strange News From Another Star, who had been touring with them. I didn’t know much about either band, but it had been a while since I’d seen her and she lured me with the promise of a guest—list spot, so I couldn’t refuse. I’m not at liberty to divulge the name of this friend for various complicated reasons so I’ll just call her Holly.
After receiving a parking ticket last time I attended a gig at Oran Mor I decided to play it safe and get the bus. I got to the venue, doors weren’t open yet (do Oran Mor ever open on time?) but I couldn’t get Holly on the phone so I just waited in line and hoped for the best. Eventually they let us in and I was relieved to find that my name had indeed been added to the guest list. First time that’s ever happened and it was for a band that I had barely heard of prior to that morning. I could see people in the queue behind me wondering why I was so special, I daren’t let slip the tenuous connection I had with their favourite band lest they blew my cover and stole my little chitty.
Once in the main hall I found Holly who told me she had also managed to acquire an Access All Areas pass for me. There was a bit of time to kill before Strange News were on, so we headed up to the band’s changing room. Now if this was any band that I liked I would have been freaking out at this point. As it happened I was casually sharing a lift and being introduced to people that I had no idea who they were and I’m sure some of the kids downstairs would have given their right arm to be in my position. It was probably just as well because I was able to act like a normal human being among other normal(ish) human beings rather than a blithering idiot or start-struck fangirl. I will say that everyone I met was very nice and I got offered several beers and food from their rider.
I chatted to Holly for a bit and we caught up on her recent adventures. Then it was time for Strange News to go on so we headed back downstairs. The band and Holly were a bit disappointed to see that the hall was still quite empty and no-one was down at the front. I tried to explain that this was fairly normal fro Glasgow and that people would drift down eventually. The band were having none of it. Say what you want about Strange News, but they are not shy and they do like a bit of audience participation. Lead singer/guitarist Jimmy was practically herding people to the front and demanding that they join in. Strange News are a loud band to say the least. I had learned my lesson after sustaining ear-trauma at The Airborne Toxic Event earlier in the week and had purchased some ear plugs. I was glad of them. There are only 3 in the band but they go hell for leather and thrash, wail, yell and shout their way through their songs. I think most of the audience was somewhat taken aback by the sheer force of nature in front of them but with some encouragement they were soon jumping around, squatting on the floor and yelling as per Jimmy’s instructions. Holly was down by the stage taking some shots, and went back for a second burst after the drummer, Harry, took his shirt off. Towards the end bassist Mark, who had been playing the whole set perched on an amp, came down into the crowd, gave his guitar to some unsuspecting bloke at the front then went for a wander and a dance with some other people.
After they were done Holly and I wandered back upstairs again. I met more of the guys from Los Campesinos! who were mostly just quietly preparing by themselves. Unlike Strange News who had been scoffing burgers or kebabs or something about 2 minutes prior to going on stage. Oran Mor used to be a big church, so all the rooms are quite grand with arched ceilings and remnants its former glory scattered around. There are two or three different performance spaces, a couple of bars and restaurants. The dressing rooms were upstairs and the guys were all impressed with the facilities, although they kept getting out the lift on the wrong floor and bursting loudly out into the dining rooms where genteel West End ladies were trying to enjoy their supper. I kept pinching myself to make sure this wasn’t some surreal dream.
When it was time for Los Campesinos! to go on Holly and I went down to have a look. She had already seen them a couple of times, but it was the first time for me so I was curious to see what they were like. I liked them. Thankfully they were less angry and shouty that Strange News, but the earplugs still came in handy. There were loads of them on stage, I think about 7 in the band. We hung about at the back for a bit, then Holly wanted to try and get some shots so we went round to the side nearer the front. I couldn’t see most of the band members but I got a good view of the lead singer and a couple of others. Realised I’d been chatting to the lead singer earlier. Once again thought to myself how different I’d be feeling if this had been a band I was really into. It was a nice reminder that they are just people.
The guys from Strange News came to join us at the side and I’m afraid my attention was diverted from Los Campesinos! for a while as I chatted to Jimmy et al, discussed the show and got lots of hugs from each of them. Well Holly was getting hugs so I thought I might as well get in on the action too. Strange News joined Los Camp on stage for their last number and a final goodbye.
We returned to the dressing room where a bit of a celebration was going on. Well Strange News were celebrating by drinking lots, Los Camp had a brief period where they analysed their performance then decided they might as well drink some more too. I borrowed Holly’s camera (yay!) to take some group shots. I haven’t seen the results yet, and I’ll admit I’d had a fair amount of vodka by then so I’m sure they were all blurry or squint.
We decided to go out and get some food, because the rider had been pretty well decimated. Holly, Jimmy and I went round the corner to a fast-food place where she got some pizza, I got some questionable-tasting chips and Jimmy tried to chat up a girl who had been at the gig, and was clutching one of his EPs, but who turned out to be a 15 year old lesbian who was having none of it.
We wandered back round to the venue. Actually that may have been when we took the photos. I can’t remember exactly. Anyway, things were winding down, people were starting to move on. The tour was heading to Leeds next, and more than once I got invited along, they seem to just pick people up as they go, but I had to decline as I had a small child to take care of at home. One of Los Camp (I think) suggested that I bring her along, which I’m sure she would have loved, but I’m sure once the reality of having a toddler in a tour van hit home they would have chucked us out somewhere around Carlisle.
The group were heading on into town to go to Nice N Sleazy’s and much as I would have loved to go there with Holly I had to go and get a bus home. I found the Strange News guys, said goodbye and thanked them for letting me in and arranging the guest-list and pass. They were such cool, friendly guys. It had been an unexpected, fun, surreal evening. All in a day’s work for an indie-band on the road and their photographer.
At last! A gig to attend and something to write about! It’s been really quiet gig-wise for me since, ooh June? That’s way too long. I have tickets booked for November but just couldn’t wait that long.
My music-loving friends have been recommending new music to me, so when I get the chance (not often) I’ve been working down the list. A week or so ago I tried The Joy Formidable. They turned out to be one of those bands that I was instantly drawn to. I listened to the album several times over and started doing some research on them. Found out they were playing in Glasgow in a few days time. Those same friends encouraged me to go and said their live shows were always good. I didn’t need much persuading frankly. It was too close to order tickets online, and there seemed to be plenty left, so my obliging husband offered to pick them up when he was in town for work.
Unfortunately by the time he got there, Tickets Scotland had sold out. I phoned the venue and they said there would be some available on the door but I would have to get there as early as possible. Argh – I had a parents’ night at my daughter’s nursery to go to beforehand! I had been planning on doing that, then just wandering down to Oran Mor in time to catch TJF, not caring much about the support bands. So the race was on. The wee one was left at home playing with her new lego set with her dad, I raced down to the nursery, exited as soon as was polite and legged it to the West End. After literally running from my car to the venue, arriving dead on 7pm, I found a note pinned to the door saying that due to unforseen circumstances doors would be opening at 7.15 but there were still tickets available. I breathed a rather large sigh of relief, then noticed that there was nobody else there. No queue, no loiterers, no touts, nothing. Odd. Then I realised that it was bloody freezing and everyone had probably gone upstairs for a drink. I couldn’t risk missing out on getting a ticket so I stayed put, trying not to think about the squillions of rats that used to live there before the venue was done up into its present condition. Slowly people started to emerge and queue, I bagged a space right by the door for maximum ticket grabbing opportunity. Eventually, it must have been after 7.30pm, the doors opened, I got my ticket (still with a fecking booking fee, my current pet peeve!) and I got into the warmth to thaw out.
I’d never been to a gig at Oran Mor before, so I had a wander round, initially taking up a spot on one of the comfy seats round the side, but as the first support band came on I ventured out on to the floor. Well what can I say about Creatures of Love? They were loud, but I would discover that was par for the course as the night went on. They certainly put a lot of effort into their image, the lead singer wore a hooded black cloak and her actions and gestures seemed to be rehearsed and overly theatrical rather than spontaneous reactions to the music. They had lots of small but very bright lamps everywhere, and strobing all over the place. I hate strobe lighting, it makes me feel uneasy. And I am inherently distrusting of bands that put too much emphasis on style over substance, but actually they were not that bad. The singer had a strong voice, and the elongated lyrics and soaring melodies allowed her to show that off without being too self-indulgent. The accompaniment was a kind of wall-of-sound approach but it suited the look and vocals. It took me a while to get into them, partly cos I was focussing on thawing out and partly cos I really wasn’t expecting that kind of thing. I probably won’t seek them out further, but I’ve certainly seen worse support bands and they did set the tone for the rest of the night.
Next up was As So I Watched You From Afar. I’d heard of them, vaguely (kind of memorable name) but had no idea what they were like. They set their own kit up, and I just thought they were the roadies, but after much twiddling of knobs, complex electrical engineering and discussion of tunings and levels etc, they gave the stage the ok, walked offstage, paused for about 3 seconds, then walked back on again, picked up their guitars / sticks and immediately began thrashing about, louping around the stage, bashing into each other and producing the most incredible sound. It was actually kind of funny to see that transition, and the seriousness with which they undertook each role. At first I found it hilarious and a bit weird, but once I started to listen to the music I was well impressed. They are an instrumental band, no vocals at all, so that in itself makes them interesting. In the middle of the 2nd song the term “math-rock” crept into my mind, they have lots of complex rhythm and timing changes, and a tightness to their playing through multiple pauses and changes of direction. Well I say that, they did rely on lots of rather obvious nods and winks between each other, but regardless it was pretty impressive. I had properly warmed up, in both senses of the word, by that point and really got into their set. The floor was still quite empty so I had moved down to the front and managed to get on the edge of the barrier. There was a group of dedicated ASIWYFA (even that isn’t easy to type) fans in the middle, and at one point the lead guitarist jumped over the barrier and threw himself in amongst them. Most non-ASIWYFA fans kind of leapt back in horror and didn’t know what to do with themselves. I just laughed.
Once they finished their set they walked off, to great applause and cheering from the whole crowd, I reckon they’ve got a bunch of new converts there, again paused for about 3 seconds then were back on to pack up their stuff. I know a lot of bands do that, but it was just so funny to see the contrast with the way they act during their set.
The good thing about the delay in us getting in was that there was less of the interminable wait between bands. TJF’s set was all prepared (they had their own roadies) complete with nautically themed backgrounds, a mini ship’s wheel and bell, an electric harp and a massive gong. I mean a humongous gong. I wouldn’t like to be responsible for moving that. So they came out and I was dissapointed to see that Ritzy’s head was obscured from my vision by the aforementioned ship’s bell. But thankfully she is just as prone to louping about the stage as the guy from ASIWYFA was, so I didn’t miss out too much. They were awesome. The crowd were really up for it after the 2 supports, and the band looked like they were having a good time too. I’m still not that familiar with their songs, having only been properly listening to them for a couple of weeks, so I wasn’t able to sing along etc but it was kind of nice for me to be able to watch a band as a kind of impartial observer, rather than having a lot invested in them. The performance was energetic, raucous and loud. Very loud. My ears were ringing for 2 whole days afterwards. But it was good, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
I liked that the drummer was out at the front of the stage, to the right of us, perhaps to accommodate the harp and gong, but it’s nice to see drummers being able to escape the confines of the back of the stage. There was nice interplay between the band members and some chat from Ritzy. My only problem was that the bassist, Rhydian, tried to spur the crowd on by repeatedly shouting, “come on you f*ckers!” which, given that I was standing right in front of him, felt quite aggressive and uncomfortable. Actually the crowd were remarkably well-behaved, usually when I’m on the barrier I get a bit crushed, but there was no surging forward or stampeding at all. Well maybe in the middle, but not where I was. They finished and went off and everyone was expecting an encore, but the roadies mercilessly began ripping the set up, without so much as a pause to give us time to bask in the glory of what we had just witnessed.
It was only about 10.15pm when I got out but I didn’t feel like we had been short-changed, I think the sets were all a decent length they had just reduced the usual massive break beetween bands. It was mid-week and I had work to go to the next day so I was quite grateful to be out early. I wasn’t so grateful for the £60 parking fine I found on my car when I got back to it – apparently it is metered until 10pm there. I hadn’t even checked because every other street I have ever parked on in Glasgow is only metered until 6pm. Oh well, I had had such a good night even that didn’t bring me down.
So now I can add The Joy Formidable to my list of must-see bands, my wise friends (that’s be mainly you Zoe 😉 ) were right, they are an excellent band and their live shows are even better. I’m glad I made the effort, I feel much better for having seen some live music again and I have another new band to check out in the form of And So I Watched You From Afar too. Not bad.
PS I apologise for crappy images, but I only had my phone and I was right at the front, so didn’t want to be fiddling with it and trying to get shots all night. To the guy who was 3 along from me and kept waving his camera and using flash(!) all night – you are a twat and should’ve been thrown out.