Let’s start by saying that if you haven’t heard of PAWS then you most certainly should check them out, and if you haven’t listened to their new album, “Your Church on My Bonfire” then you should get on that straight away as well, ideally throwing them some pennies for the vinyl or at least the download in the process. Remember – Spotify etc pay artists next to nothing and small bands need our support.
Ok, party political broadcast for the Support Independent Artists party over.
Paws are a band that I came across by accident but am extremely glad I did, because they have become one of my favourite bands ever. It doesn’t seem that long since their last album “No Grace” was released (it was 2016 so I guess quite long) but I was very excited to hear that they had a new record in the pipeline this year. The early singles from the record were previewed and I loved them from the second I heard them. There are certain bands that just seem to be on the same musical wavelength as you and their music fits in your ears and your soul like it was always meant to be. Yes, some music is challenging or takes multiple listens to “get” and that is good too (see my adventures in jazz for example) but when I listened to this record I just thought, “yeah, of course”. It is somehow what I expected without being predictable or derivative. As if the music had been in our souls all along and it just took this band at this moment to draw it out and give it life and form.
So of course I bought a ticket to the album launch gig in Glasgow and was excited to see Phillip from the band say that they were planning on playing every song from the album for us.
As I had to set a 5.30am alarm the next morning to catch a very early train down to Preston, I decided to drive into town to ensure a quick getaway back home after the gig. There was an after-party planned but sadly I would have to give that a miss. On the way in, the heavens opened, producing paddling-pool level surface water on the motorway. I feared for my life at several points as cars veered about and lorries threw up tsunami sprays. On arriving in Glasgow City Centre the rain was at deluge levels. I waited in my car for 10 minutes, but, showing no signs of abating, I made a dash the few blocks to the venue.
Despite my dashing, I arrived utterly soaked. My feet were squelching, my trousers dripping and my hoodie jacket soaked through. I had hoped to time my arrival to just catch the start of PAWS set, hoping for a 8.30-9.00pm start and be done by 10pm. Nope. There were 2 support bands, I had missed 1, the other was half an hour away with PAWS not due on until 10pm. But my super early alarm……!
Fiskur were the 2nd support. I liked them but wasn’t sure they were the right fit for this occasion. Phillip from Paws later told us that both the support bands were friends of his, so I guess it was good for him to have all his pals around supporting his album launch, but I would have preferred a band with a bit more…..oomph? I did like them, but they put me in mind of the kind of band you come across late afternoon at a festival, when you want to have a bit of time chilling, sit down, drink or lunch in hand and listen to a band that don’t look like much but actually surprise you and have some decent songs and you leave quite impressed. They did have some decent songs, albeit a bit sedate for me. Ross Clark is undoubtedly a good singer and I did like the rhythms played by the drummer, who I now read was/is in Washington Irvine who I saw years ago and really liked. It was also a bit distracting having Andy from Frightened Rabbit on the stage, especially given the date. I dunno, maybe I am being a bit too harsh. My friend liked them and there were plenty people standing in front of me who were really into them so maybe it was a better fit than I realised.
I’m not taken with the CCA as a venue. I know that Glasgow is sorely missing the sadly fire-destroyed ABC, but the hall in the CCA feels weird for a gig like Paws. It’s very large and airy which is nice in some respects, but a high ceiling without an Oran Mor mural or a Barras glitterball just feels sterile. There isn’t any decent gig lighting, the room overall was too bright and there was a lot of light and noise coming from a door just to the left of the stage. It looked more like a high school gym-come-assembly hall, complete with black cloth backdrop and temporary stage.
Anyway, after catching up with my friend about gigs past and planned, it was PAWS time.
They kept to their word and played every song from the new album, starting the set with the first track What We Want and ending on the epic Not Goodbye (See You Later) complete with spoken word performance.
Interspersed between the new songs were some oldies as well. The band have added a 4th member, a guitarist whose name I didn’t catch but they described him as “a proper musician”. He added layers of electric guitar as well as playing acoustic on some songs which worked very well. The songs on this album are fuller in soundscape than previous so it was great to get the full effect live. There were some technical problems during their set, but they took them in good humour and Phillip chatted easily with the crowd throughout, before on one occasion realising that he was to blame for the feedback on his guitar.
I’ve only ever seen PAWS play small, cramped shows where all members were giving high-octane, frenetic performances, so seeing them play the more acoustic numbers was interesting. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Philip show the kind of vulnerability he did when playing the slower, more intimate songs. Barring some people talking at the back, who thankfully realised the situation and ceased their yabbering, the whole auditorium was listening with awed respect.
Just when I was thinking that his performance was overall more confident, the openness and rawness of the quieter songs included, Phillip shared with the audience his fears that no-one would show up to the gig or buy his record. He asked if anyone had listened to it. Everyone around me was singing along, so yes, Phillip, we have devoured it, it’s brilliant. (See above for plea to BUY it not just stream it, if you can) There was a confidence in the performance, though, perhaps more of a feeling of being at ease with the material and the live arrangements, it looked like they were all very comfortable with the songs and were relieved to finally give them a public airing.
If the hall was like a high school gymnasium, then Josh was like an unruly student who had been fidgeting once too often in class and sent to burn off some energy on the drums, defying his teachers’ expectations and turning out to be a percussion playing genius. Adding to the illusion in a PE-style plain white t-shirt, he thrashed and bashed, head and body quivering as if in religious fervour. Whatever supernatural being is possessing him when he plays, is my new deity and we should all pray to it.
I sincerely hope that this album gets PAWS the recognition and appreciation that they deserve, I look forward to a full tour coming hopefully soon because those songs belong in packed rooms with everyone singing along loudly and sharing in the special experience that is PAWS live.