We Are Scientists, SWG3 Galvanizers Glasgow, 5th December 2019

So it’s practically the law that I have to see We Are Scientists play live at least once every year, so I’m pleased to say this has now been accomplished in the dying weeks of 2019.

When the gig was announced it was part of their With Love and Squalor “50th Anniversary Tour”. It has actually been 14 years since their first (well, first official) album was released but I guess 14th anniversary wouldn’t necessarily draw in the crowds. On the real 10th anniversary the band played 2 special album-in-full gigs in New York and LA, then a one-off in London. At the time I wasn’t bothered about missing out on these. Whilst WLAS is a fantastic album that I still listen to now and again, I feel like I have heard pretty much all the songs live many a time and I much prefer seeing their newer stuff performed on stage. I’m not generally a fan of anniversary tours, preferring not to dwell in nostalgia but rather look forward to what’s next. However, a WAS gig is a WAS gig and as it has been a whole 16 months since I last saw them, a ticket was duly bought.


The day of the gig saw Glasgow drenched in rain and battered by winds. Lovely. I had dropped my kids off and headed into town, forgetting that SWG3 doesn’t really afford the same opportunities for mooching around before a gig as the city centre venues do. So I sat and waited in my car as it got buffeted by the wind. Thankfully the rain eased off before the short walk to the venue so I didn’t arrive dripping wet. Been there, done that too many times. Often in June.

I’ve been to SWG3 twice before, once for Belle & Sebastian in the outdoor area and once for Major Minor Music Club gigs for kids, which I think was in the TV Studio. This time we were in the Galvanizers.  I used to go past what is now SWG3 on the train all the time and remember seeing the actual galvinizers yard in operation, so it was pretty neat to see the building repurposed in this way. Once in, I found a couple of friends, then settled on my barrier spot.

The support band was Marsicans who I seem to have heard/read about a few times but never actually seen or heard properly. They were lively, energetic, fun and succeeded in bringing the crowd in without it being forced or premature.I like a support who proves their worth, and these guys put on a good solid show, with some nice tunes, interesting turns and gave off a really positive and uplifting vibe. I’m not sure I’d seek them out specifically again, but if I saw them as support or on a festival bill I’d definitely be interested.


In between bands I got to thinking about how often I’ve seen WAS now. By my reckoning and a quick consultation of this very blog, I think this gig was number 17 or 18.  Since 2008, as I came “late” to the party and missed the original WLAS tour. If you are thinking that’s still a lot, I know some people who run into the 30s with their count….

So the WAS show was split into 2 parts – the WLAS album in sequence, then after a short break they came back to do a mixed set from their other albums.

The WLAS part was a lot of fun. The crowd were clearly there for it, and everyone was singing along. My fellow barrier buddies and I sang literally every single word and it was great to share in that collective experience. Although I would gladly ditch songs like Callbacks, Cash Cow and It’s A Hit from any and every future setlist, I still sang and danced (wiggled my ass off if you like) and punched the air on the chorus high points. The Scene Is Dead, Can’t Lose and Textbook are still among my favourite WAS songs ever and it was particularly special to hear Lousy Reputation (that bassline, ooft!) live, it doesn’t often make a normal setlist.

We Are Scientists

On to the second act. I was actually looking forward to this part more. It was nice to see Ghouls make a reappearance as the opening song, and Chick Lit sat nicely in there too, although I was happy to see plenty songs from Megaplex and Helter Seltzer.

They played KIT!!! Wow. It was beautiful, Keith’s voice so clear and strong over a muted but driving bass and drums. Keith commanded the attention with his vocals but it’s always worth checking out Chris and Carne during these songs, they are always doing something interesting and often unexpected. I actually preferred it without the whistle/flute/whatever over the top, that always reminds me of Orange Walks and makes me feel a bit uncomfortable. Anyway, KIT was the high point of the gig so far for me.

Until they played No Wait At Five Leaves. What is it about that song that gets me every time??? If I was open-mouthed enthralled during KIT, I was welling up during Five Leaves. The stage lights were low and moody, the song resonated around the huge, high-ceilinged room and the frequencies somehow met my own and swept me into the song and the song into me and I was overwhelmed. This. Band. These. Guys. They are doing it again. I love it and I love them.


They finished part two with Nice Guys then a short encore of Dumb Luck (yeah I could also so without either of those in any future setlist, sorry) and we were done. Afterwards we headed towards the merch stall. There was an impressive array of cat-themed items for sale, including a tea towel and a babygrow. Between waiting to get paid for some freelance work and the amount of WAS merch I already own (off the top of my head – CDs, vinyls, 1 mug, 2 tote bags, posters that are now in drawers, 3 setlists, 1 lyric sheet, badges, a wristband, 2 pairs of underpants, numerous t-shirts, 1 hoodie and quite probably other items that are stowed away) I felt that I should pass this time round. I did however have a good catch up with Carne and said a quick hello to Chris, although unusually couldn’t think of a thing to say to him. He did, however, tell me that they were working on new material for next year which was good to hear.

Comedy moment of the night – when a group of girls at the merch stand were urging Chris and Carne to draw a “boaby” on their posters. Then explaining to Chris and Carne what a “boaby” is in this part of the world. For the record, Chris went for an abstract approach with a worryingly angular boaby and Carne went full-on realism with a little more attention to detail than was strictly necessary for a boaby on a cat poster.

Sweet moment of the night – when a burly security guard approached Carne asking for a copy of their record, then shyly asked if he could have it signed.

So I’m still not sure about the whole anniversary gig thing. Whilst it was good to hear some of the lesser-played songs from WLAS, I would much rather have had them randomly thrown into a regular setlist. Saying that, judging from the proper tour bus and the bigger lighting rig they have on this tour, if it hadn’t been marketed as such then this tour likely wouldn’t have happened and we wouldn’t have been treated to a rare 90 minute long WAS show. I’m still much more interested to hear what they have to offer us on their next album, but it was good to catch them at least once this year.

It’s hard to rely on the rhythm section


Belle & Sebastian, SWG3, 25th May 2018

I got off to a bit of a rocky start with Belle & Sebastian.  When I was at Glasgow University in the late 90s/early 2000s, they seemed to be everyone’s darlings.  Having a tendency to make a point of avoiding things that everyone else likes, I decided I didn’t like them on principle (mature, I know).  They seemed to fall between the harder rock and folk-rock that I favoured, offering a kind of soft-rock that I wrote off as bland and boring.

Then about 5 years ago I heard a song on the radio that I liked.  Looked….bloody hell it was Belle & Sebastian.  But I don’t like them! (Yeah I held this grudge for about 15 years) Convinced this was a one-off, I decided to prove the point to myself and listen to them properly.  Queued up a few albums and had them on the whole day at work. Loved them. Dammit, I had to admit I was wrong.

But that’s where they remained – occasional background music at work.  I had seen a few gigs announced but had either not been free, or felt motivated enough to go to them.  The open air gig at SWG3 did have a certain appeal, but outdoor gigs in Glasgow are risky, so once again I passed it up.  Until the weather took an unexpectedly sun-drenched turn and a friend offered up a spare ticket.  Ok, the fates are aligning, I need to go to this gig.


The outdoor yard at SWG3 was set up more like a festival – massive stage, food stalls down one side and a bar tent all the way along the back.  There was also a food court and rooftop bar in the adjoining building.  We arrived and people were chilling out, eating, drinking, sitting around enjoying the sun.  Groups were seated around the yard, others were standing milling around.  It was a lovely relaxed atmosphere.  We paid a quick visit to the bar, browsed the merch stall then took up a mid-way back position.

We had missed the first support but caught the 2nd.  A electronic 2-piece called Sylvan Esso. They were an intriguing duo.  A Bjork-esque singer who put her all into winning over the crowd, by dancing all over the stage and letting loose some impressive vocals.  The other half of the outfit was a guy who jabbed, prodded and poked at a little synth/console set-up and writhed around it like they should really think about getting a room together.  Whilst not my kind of music, and not really what I expected for a warm up for a band like Belle & Sebastian, they did get people dancing and brought a ton of energy and enthusiasm to the stage.

Sylvan Esso

Belle & Sebastian were brilliant, and perfect in that setting.  There was a real chilled out party vibe going on.  Barring some die-hards at the front, we all had room to move, couples were swaying, friends were dancing in circles and impromptu ceilidhing broke out here and there.

The band were on great form, tight as a unit despite there being about 10 of them and being so spread out on a large stage.  I really like that collective approach to music performance.  Various members of the band stepped in and out on different songs, sometimes mid-song.  People would drift from one section of the stage to another and pick up a whole new instrument.  I don’t know if it was all planned and choreographed or spontaneous, but it worked.


They played for a good length of time, fitting in all their well known songs as well as some newer ones.  I think they announced one as a new single, or off their new record, and it was actually one of my favourite songs of the night.  There was a nice variation in the singers, with guitarist Stevie taking lead vocals on a couple of numbers and beautiful harmonies from several members of the band.

Stuart Murdoch was an engaging front man, frequently stopping between songs to relay an anecdote, tell a joke or just make observations about the venue, surroundings and setting.  He was genuinely funny and witty and interacted a lot with those in the front rows.  Towards the end of the main set he invited some up on stage to dance, which turned into a full-on stage invasion, but the politest stage invasion you will ever see.  They let the band get on with playing the song, and carefully sang and danced all around them, leaving when asked and shaking hands with the band as they went.

Dancing party on stage

All in all it was a fun night, I have finally got over my Belle & Sebastian aversion, and will definitely be interested in seeing them live again.  The SWG3 venue is a welcome addition to the Glasgow live music scene, and I’m sure I’ll be back there for more events, hopefully with suitably un-Glasgow-like weather.