- 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!!”
Yes! Another post about We Are Scientists! You’ve missed them haven’t you?
My favourite band did make an appearance in Glasgow in July last year, but seeing as I had just had baby no. 2 a few weeks earlier I really wasn’t in a position to go. First time in 6 years that they’ve played Glasgow and I’ve not been there. However in October last year they released details of a full UK tour, complete with Glasgow date so I was determined to make this one. Then I saw that they were offering a VIP option. For a few extra pounds (ok, more than a few) you got gig ticket, t-shirt, entry into soundcheck and a meet & greet with the band. I considered this for about 3 seconds. I remembered I had just the right amount of money sitting in my PayPal account after selling my maternity clothes on eBay. It was like fate.
Suddenly, it is March and the date is looming. After chasing up the ticket broker and WAS Management, I finally got through the details of the VIP package, just 2 days before the big day. I started to get nervous. Why? Because I had been listening to the new album and had mixed feelings about it. Because I was worried I would be surrounded by squealing teenage fangirls. Because I was worried the guys might not be on form. Ok, by that I mean Keith. If he wasn’t into it the whole thing might be a bust. The international WAS fan network came to my rescue and assured me it would be fine.
We made the usual military-grade arrangements to take care of the kids which inevitably went slightly awry (older one needing the toilet at the last minute with no toilets to be found, younger one refusing to feed) so I was running late, and literally running up the length of Sauchiehall Street to get to the ABC in time. As I arrived panting at the door, the huge security guard took one look at me, “Ruth?” and ushered me inside. They had waited on me. Thanks Mr Burly Security Guard Sir! I was taken upstairs and handed a goodie pack. As well as the promised t-shirt, there was a 2nd t-shirt, the VIP access pass, a set of Brain Thrust Mastery badges and a 7″ vinyl Something About You/Let Me Win, luckily with download code enclosed cos I don’t have a record player.
Just as I was checking my haul we got ushered down to the floor to watch the soundcheck part. One of my fears was allayed as I realised that my fellow VIPs were all 20-/30-somethings with no squealers in sight. Unfortunately they had all come in pairs, so I was stood like a lemon on my own. One of the many times I wished my international WAS fanclubmates lived a wee bit closer.
Anyhoo, Keith, Chris and new Keith duly emerged. They said hi, we didn’t quite know what to do, so we mumbled and smiled and waited. There wasn’t so much a soundcheck as a brief performance. I had imagined something technical happening. I was kind of looking forward to that, the frustrated musician in me would really like to know how the set up for a gig works, but they launched straight into playing a song for us. Frankly, I have no idea which song. I was still out of breath and flustered from running up the road, the transition from mother-of-2 to gig-goer had taken all of 10 minutes and I was still catching up with myself. I think it was from BTM. The 2nd song was Central AC. I remember because I had almost composed myself by then and I wasn’t expecting that song. I was pleased, though because I like it, especially live. We still didn’t know what to do, so we gave a smattering of applause. Then Keith (damn, why did they have to pick a new drummer with the same name, this is going to get tedious – Keith Keith is Keith M, new Keith is Keith C) said, “shall we mingle?” and they came down. Soundcheck/mini performance over.
We were stood awkwardly in small groups/pairs, there was only about 8 of us, and like I said the others had all come in pairs. We were spread out so the 3 band members took a group/pair each and the others waited. It was like a weird speed-dating set-up. I was standing nearest to one pair, and Keith M came over to us first, then he moved on and we were joined by Keith C and Chris. Then later there was a more generalised mingle.
The girl from our wee group was a bit nervous, the boy didn’t say much, which left me. I tried not to dominate the conversation, but couldn’t really help it. So Keith M and I talked about Glasgow, food, allergies, Greggs, earplugs at concerts, seagulls & pigeons and chips. At one point he said he was going to go off later in search of a hand juicer. I briefly hoped he had re-evaluated his lifestyle and had embarked on a healthy juice diet, but no, it was for juicing limes for margaritas. We discussed the merits of John Lewis vs Argos. Later, I joined in a conversation he was having with another pair, about movies on the Sci-Fi Channel. He was adamant that Debbie Gibson and Tiffany starred in a monster movie. I thought this sounded like something he dreamt up, but turns out it is in fact true.
Other things I learned from Keith M:
- Chris Urbanowicz has a severe peanut allergy which has lead him to be hospitalised on tour when the rider hasn’t been properly prepared.
- He prefers Glasgow to Toronto
- He isn’t a fan of Greggs
- He feels sorry for Glasgow pigeons but once a “cute but obese” dove sat on his window ledge in New York for 2 hours. He stressed how cute is was several times and described is as being the size of a grapefruit. I suspect he may have had a drink that day
- He has never heard of John Lewis, is aware of Argos, but doesn’t have time for the catalogue business
- He has awful taste in movies
- He really likes Margaritas
Keith C fits in with the others like he has been there all along. He is just like them, it’s kind of uncanny. He was of course lovely, asking all about us and chatting about drink drive limits, maternity leave, drumming and sleeping (or not) on tour busses, the difference between the West End of Glasgow and Sauchiehall Street,
Things I learned from Keith C:
- When he’s not touring with WAS he teaches drumming to adults and children, including a baby/toddler class
- He can say the word “gig” with an authentic Glaswegian accent, claims Scottish blood
Chris was the last one we spoke to. He explained how it was their new management’s idea to do these meet & greets, but he thought it was a good idea cos going out to meet fans after shows was often becoming unmanageable.
Things I learned from Chris:
- Adam Aaronson (ex-drummer no. 2) now lives in Utah where he has trained as a therapist for “troubled youths”
- He talks about Stravaigin like a local, complete with proper pronunciation
Once we had chatted for a while, the support bands were coming on to do their soundcheck, so we took some photos.
Just at the last minute I remembered to hand over the book I had wanted to give them, it had been to London and Brighton with me 3 years ago but I never got the chance then, so I took it now. I explained to Keith M that last time I saw them in Glasgow I had given Chris a creative writing anthology featuring my friend. This time I gave Keith a novel I had read a few years ago and had really liked. Something to while away the hours on the tour bus. He thanked me and asked a bit about the book. Keith C was pleased, said it would draw him away from the Parker (I think these?) books, to which Keith M tried to explain about a series of novels he is currently addicted to. We were all being ushered out, so we all shook hands and said goodbye for the time being.
I had just over an hour to kill before doors opened, so I stashed my goodie pack in my car, grabbed a bite to eat then headed back to the venue. I thought about staying back on the raised bit by the bar, but in the end the barrier was the only place to be. Took up a position “Chris side”.
Although the Meet & Greet had gone well I still have some apprehension about the gig. I am not uncritical of WAS. I admit, the new album hasn’t grabbed me. I only really liked a few songs, and even then they weren’t ranking high for me. I could see the potential of them as live songs, but overall I was ambivalent about the album. Also, there’s always a chance that Keith (M) is being moody and that doesn’t make for a good show. Once they came on stage, however, I could see that it was going to be fine. Keith spoke to the crowd first – always a good sign, and from the outset he was laughing, joking, bouncing around and soaking in the atmosphere. I relaxed. I could feel this was going to be a good one.
It was better than a good one. It was one of the best ones I have seen them do. Up there with the last Glasgow ABC gig, which was one of my best gigs ever, of any band. I’ll try not to gush too much, but they were on top form. They work very well as a trio, I REALLY hope they keep Keith C on board, cos he is an excellent drummer, I like the sound he brings to the songs – old and new – and he just gels so well. He’s the….*counts carefully*…4th drummer I’ve seen with them and must proclaim him to be the best. Adam was fine but always acted like a hired hand (which he was, to be fair), Danny was lovely but didn’t make his own mark, Andy was also lovely but too fecking busy to concentrate and I can’t forgive him for getting too drunk to play and ruining a gig I had travelled the length of the country to see. Keith C has his own take on the songs and when you have only 3 of them up there, that is really important to the overall sound and direction of the band. Chris was, well, just Chris. Steady, funny, silly dances, groovy moves and bizarre stories involving Bon Jovi’s pronunciation of “Glasgow”. And Keith. As I said, Keith makes or breaks WAS performances. Last night Keith reminded me why I love this band so much. He made the songs of TV en Francais come alive in the way that I hoped he would. He played his beautiful, beautiful Telecaster like an absolute boss. What I DO like about TVeF is the heavier guitar sound, and to see Keith play those riffs and hooks was an absolute pleasure and a joy. He rocked out harder that I have seen before and was having a ball doing so. His voice sounds better live than it does on the record. How is that even possible? The vocals on Courage make me cringe when I hear it recorded but for some inexplicable reason on stage he manages to belt out each song with a strength and clarity that just doesn’t come across on the album. You always know a good gig when Keith is bouncing about so much he has to sprint back to the mic to sing his next line. He missed a few words last night but nobody gave a damn because we were all singing with him.
They played a good mix of old and new, reworking some old ones with new, heavier sound to keep the feel of the new ones, which I really liked. They played Textbook, which I don’t think I’ve ever heard all the way through properly without Keith disappearing into the crowd. They played songs I haven’t listened to for ages and had forgotten how much I loved, like Can’t Lose.
One poor sod in the audience got caught up in an exchange between Keith M and Chris and ended up on the stage with Chris’ bass around his neck. In general there was much love and appreciation of the Glasgow crowd from the guys. From what they were saying beforehand, this is a genuine love of Glasgow. According to Keith M, his mum texted him that morning “cos I know how much you love Glasgow”. The love was mutual.
After a 90 minute set, including a 3 song encore ending on The Great Escape, it was all over. A sizable crowd had gathered outside hoping to meet the guys, but satisfied with my VIP experience I headed home, the warm glow of a great gig keeping me going through the foggy night.