We Are Scientists, Liquid Rooms Edinburgh, 24th October 2016

I almost didn’t go to the Edinburgh gig.  I had bought a ticket in the heat of the moment when they were released, but this was during a time when various phases of the tour were being released at different times, and I could hardly keep track and ended up buying tickets for every gig I thought I might be able to go to, thinking I would work it all out later.  Having done the Stag & Dagger, gone to Manchester, a spontaneous decision to go to Berlin, then the King Tuts gig coming up, I figured that was more than enough We Are Scientists for one year. Plus, the Edinburgh gig was, well, in Edinburgh (I may be an east-coaster born and raised but I have lived in Glasgow long enough to have adopted the sense of rivalry/superiority, especially in terms of live music). And it was a Monday night, which would mean arranging things with the girls and it all just seemed like too much hassle.
I also feared that this would be something of a let-down after the previous gigs.  They had all been special in some way.
  • 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
So all of these gigs had something unique about them.  I was concerned Edinburgh would be an anti-climax.
However, in Berlin I got speaking to Keith and Chris (for clarity and brevity Keith Murray will be referred to as Keith, Keith Carne will be Carne).  When I expressed my reservations, they wouldn’t hear anything about me not going to this one, so they persuaded me to make the journey to Edinburgh for my final WAS gig of the year.
So, children duly taken care of, public transport options ruled out, hotels found to be prohibitively expensive, I set off in my car after work.  One of Keith’s arguments had been “hey, Edinburgh is only half an hour from Glasgow!” well, Murray, it’s an hour at best and I’m coming from half an hour the other side, plus rush hour traffic, endless roadworks and getting slightly lost in the centre of Edinburgh meant it took 2 and a half hours(!). And I still had to walk up the Royal Mile to the venue.  This had better be worth it…
Edinburgh is undoubtedly pretty, and thankfully on a Monday evening it is quiet, so I legged it up the Mile, grabbing a Subway sandwich on the way to fuel the evening.  As I finished my “dinner” outside the Liquid Rooms I saw a tweet that the set times were going to be early, in fact the first of two support bands were due to be on.
When I was there for Mystery Jets a few weeks ago, I had a chance to scope out the venue, and I had planned to take up a space on the balcony again.  I didn’t feel much like being down the front this time, still experiencing a sense that this might not be a great night for me, as WAS gigs go. But on arrival I found that the balcony was closed that night. Oh well, down the front it was. I wanted to make sure I was able to see and wasn’t in the mood to be around hangers-back who would spoil things by talking during songs or taking selfies, or getting pushed out of the way as folk made off for the bar / toilet etc.
By the time I had visited the bathroom and checked my coat, the first support band were on their penultimate song.  I didn’t catch their name, but they were a local Edinburgh band and were ok from what I heard.
Support Band of Unknown Name
They weren’t kidding about the early set times, the 2nd support, Beverly, came on at about 7.30pm.  I had listened to them a bit earlier in the week to get a feel for them, having heard good reviews from folk who had seen them earlier in the tour.  On record (well, let’s be honest, on Spotify) they seemed like a fairly generic-sounding 90s grunge type band.  They sounded better live, with more variation in sound and texture than was apparent on record and harmonies that reminded me of the Cranberries (this is a compliment – I went through a huge Cranberries phase once upon a time).
Another tight turnaround and it was WAS time. I was getting more into the mood now, realising this was the last time I was going to see them for a while, so I had better buck up and make the most of it.  They opened with The Scene is Dead again, which I think works really well as an opener, and there was a nice energy from the outset.  The venue had filled up, the crowd was warming up and there were clearly some super-fans in the mix.
Although I have seen them an embarrassing number of times this year, the dates have been well enough spaced out for me to see an evolution in the setlist and approach, particularly to the new album songs.  Kerstin and I were delighted to be treated to Headlights in Berlin (I may have told Keith just how much we both love that song when I spoke to him at the Tut’s after-party) and we rewarded its inclusion in the set there by dancing along, complete with cheesy actions.  I’m glad it has now formed part of the regular set, although without my partner in crime I refrained from the actions this time round.
I had heard on the grapevine that We Need A Word (“Flexor”, wtf?) had been making appearances elsewhere in the tour so I was glad we got to hear it in Edinburgh.  I told Keith after the gig that it was my least favourite song on the album, but that Kerstin had been trying to persuade me of its merits.  I had to admit it has some good elements (the drums, the harmonies) but seeing it live, as tends to happen, brought out new aspects of it for me, particularly seeing Keith’s on-stage interpretation of it.  It was a good reminder that a setlist full of your favourite songs isn’t always a good thing.  I had a flashback to a London gig on the Barbara tour where they played Foreign Kicks. My initial reaction was “ughh” but, by the end, images and meanings had been evoked and I found myself transported somewhere unexpected.  I like being challenged and having my mind changed about a song.
I love it when WAS put a new spin on an old(ish) song.  This time, Make it Easy sounded really different. The verses were gentler, more tender, it had a kind of lean-in-and-take-notice effect, which I liked.  We got In Your Head, which was missing from Berlin and which is one of my favourites on the new album.  Also missing from Berlin had been Sprinkles, another favourite of mine. Although during Sprinkles in King Tuts I had a “moment”, so wasn’t sure how I would feel about hearing it again.  The second it started, though, I found myself getting emotional. I don’t think I have ever cried at a We Are Scientists gig, but I came damn near close last night.  It’s a good job Keith ruled out ever playing Don’t Blow It because I would be at risk of a meltdown.  As much as I love Helter Seltzer, I’ve spoken before about my love of the imagery in the lyrics of TV en Francais and that album will always hold particular meaning for me personally.
The encore ended in now familiar fashion with Too Late.  This time, however, we were treated to the extended version, complete with mega-guitar solo from Keith (yaasss!), drum solo from Carne (double yaasss!), although sadly no bass solo for Chris. It was a pretty spectacular way to close the show and felt like a fitting way for me to end my WAS-heavy year.
After I collected my coat and checked out the merch stall I was contemplating my next move when the security guys started ushering us out. There were lots of people waiting at the stall or just getting coats etc organised, but they were moving us upstairs, quickly. Once outside and layered up to cope with the autumnal Edinburgh night, I checked messages from folk wondering how the gig had gone, then started thinking about whether I should wait around or not.  They guys are usually good at coming and saying hi, but you never know, especially in a city where they have friends and I knew they would here. I got speaking to 2 other people waiting, we chatted a bit about times we’d seen the band before and the setlist.  Beverly, the support, came out and packed up all their stuff into their tiny van. Then Ian, WAS tour manager, came out and he told us the guys would be out soon.  Not long after, they come out, laden with boxes and cases.  They said a quick hello as they packed their van, then we all had a proper chat afterwards.  The other 2 were getting photos, stuff signed etc, but Carne and I just picked up conversations we had held previously.  That’s the nice thing about seeing them so often in a short space of time, there’s a comfortable continuity in resuming where we left off.
One of the nice things about this blog is that people sometimes get in touch, and lately quite a few fans of the band have read my previous posts and have sent me messages, eager to share their enthusiasm and relating their own experiences.  Some have told me quite touching, personal stories about how much the band means to them.  I took the chance to let Keith know this (following on from telling him that people were loving Headlights and me expressing my delight at them including it in the set again).  People are often too shy to say this directly to him/the band, but I wanted him to know it (I didn’t pass on any details, just the sentiments).  And no-one should be shy about approaching Keith, he is the sweetest, funniest, most charming guy and genuinely cares about his fans and wants to connect with people and know they are having a good time and relating to his music, in whatever way is meaningful for them.
Anyway, after a while Ian was herding them all into the van so it was time for final hugs and goodbyes.  I walked back down through a beautifully deserted Edinburgh Old Town, reflecting that it had in no way been an anti-climax, it had been a thoroughly decent gig, with some great time with the guys afterwards, and some more good memories to add to my collection from this year.  I was glad that I had decided/been persuaded to go, even during the 90 minute drive home (seriously, Edinburgh is such a pain in the arse to get to/from) I was glad of the time to process and let my thoughts coalesce.
Edinburgh being all pretty and smug

We Are Scientists, PAWS & some Disco Dancin’

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.




Birthday Trip to Manchester and We Are Scientists, Academy, 3rd May 2016

Well, it was my birthday yesterday. I didn’t really expect to do anything special. It was mid-week, not a significant birthday. Well, turning 37(!) now does feel significant because I am no longer in the mid-30s zone. I am distinctly in the approaching-40 zone. Bleaugh. But then…those buggers We Are Scientists announced they were playing in Manchester that day. Given that I wasn’t sure at that point how much of a proper gig the Glasgow Stag and Dagger thing would be, and there were no other dates nearby, I decided to go for it. I couldn’t let them play somewhere on my birthday and NOT be there.  Luckily, I was able to get a day and a half off work, found a cheap train and Premier Inn room so it was on. Also, shout out to my lovely dad who came down to mind the girls and let me away.
The train ride was entertaining in itself. I busied myself writing up Sunday’s events, but shortly after we left Glasgow, an announcement came over the tannoy explaining there would be no trolley service due to the trolley attendant suffering a “mishap”. This lead the lady opposite me and I bursting out into inappropriate giggles. They later found a replacement trolley attendant and my fellow passenger asked what happened. “He poured hot water on his hand. He’d only served 1 cup of coffee! Had to leave the train! It’s not like he was having a baby!” Cue more laughter.  About halfway through our journey, a couple got on and the bloke had one of those adult colouring books. His was a Bill Murray one which he kept telling us was a gift. The lady opposite me was fascinated and kept asking questions about it. It was nice to have a bit of chat to pass the time, the bloke was funny and the woman hilarious in that northern (English) way. “Eh up, ‘e’s doing shading now!”
Arrived in Manchester which was lovely and sunny, checked in to the hotel, finished off the Stag and Dagger blog piece with photos etc and then took a walk round Manchester. I wanted to find the venue so went there first, then took a walk around town. I thought about going into a museum or something but was feeling too energised after sitting still for 3 and a half hours on the train and in anticipation of the gig. I was too restless to meander slowly and focus. Unfortunately, Manchester is still 30% building site and 40% roadworks so it wasn’t the most pleasant walk. I grabbed some food and went back to the hotel to shower and change before the gig.
I had opted for the VIP package because y’know, birthday treat and all, and because the similar event in Glasgow a couple of years ago was definitely worth it (read all about that here). I arrived outside. A few people began to gather. A security guard came out and asked if we were there for the event. She told us they were running a little late, we should wait about 15 minutes or so. We waited. She came back, let us in. Looked at my ticket and pass and told me I was in the wrong place! I was now 15 minutes late and in the wrong building. Legged it next door, another security guard took my pass, gave me a wristband and said they were upstairs.
Then I spotted Chris speaking with a group of people just by a staircase. I still have no idea if there was a soundcheck this time, I asked one of the group but he seemed to say he had just stumbled on them and joined in.So much for VIP.  Didn’t really get to chat to either of them (Other Keith wasn’t there) but then someone from their team offered to take photos. We took a group shot, then had individual pictures.
I took the chance, figuring everyone else has had their shot and spoke to both Keith and Chris while we did the photos.
I gave Keith a present, a reference to a conversation we had last time in Glasgow. It’s a sombrero juicer. He was well impressed that it would juice straight into a cup.
No idea what he’s doing here but he is wearing it proudly.
I chatted to Chris a little about the gig on Sunday and they both signed my ticket.

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:

Keith Murray in full voice
We Are Scientists rocking out
Cool-hand Cain
(I don’t normally take so many photos but I have a new phone and the camera is a million times better than my old one. At least being barrier I didn’t have to hold it up and obstruct anyone’s view. But they are only phone photos, I’m not a pro.)
I’m almost at the point now where I could do without hearing the likes of It’s A Hit, Great Escape and After Hours because I’ve heard them so often, all I really want to hear is the newer songs. I was having that kind of thought during Nobody Move last night when Other Keith mouthed “Happy Birthday!” to me. (We had chatted about this on Sunday, it was his birthday the day before)  I kicked myself and realised that those songs are still awesome, they get the crowd going and I should be revelling in every moment of my birthday treat gig. Getting a “Happy Birthday” and a big grin from one of the band during their biggest song is pretty amazing.
Other Keith is brilliant. I love his drumming style and the sound he brings to the band on the old songs as well as the new. He looks like he’s having the best time and who could blame him?
Keith Carne (aka Other Keith) subject of the #CampaignToKeepOtherKeith
There were the typical WAS between-songs discussions, last night’s mainly involved Chris trying to convince us he could make an engine revving sound with his bass. Repeatedly.
We got Textbook! I suppose it’s not a surprise that we are hearing a lot of songs from With Love And Squalor as they gear up for the album gigs later this year, but it’s always nice to hear Textbook. This was the song that made me fall in love with WAS. Whilst I am a huge fan of the rockier songs, my very first listen of WLAS had me hooked, but Textbook showed me they had more depth. And those drums! I fell in love with the changing rhythms on Textbook. And Keith’s use of language on “makes me wish I were dead”. So even if I don’t get to the album show we heard a good chunk of WLAS last night. Actually scrap that, I would kill to hear Inaction, Can’t Lose (I love Can’t Lose, that and Scene are my favourites on the album I think), Lousy Reputation, jeez they are all so good I really want to go to a WLAS album show! Either record it or do it in the UK please guys?

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!!”

Not a bad birthday present!
 Afterwards I headed towards the merch stand thinking I might get a smoking cat t-shirt anyway, but there was a huge queue. I wondered what the chances were of a) Original Keith remembering to tell Other Keith, and b) Other Keith making it down, given that he’d just done the thing with the drumstick. I waited in the merch queue anyway, until the girl in front of me got the last cat tshirt. Then I turned round and Other Keith was there! I hugged him and thanked him for the drumstick and gave him the present I had brought for him – a book with a collection of modern facts and info about Scotland. This was part birthday present and partly because I have given Chris and Keith books on previous occasions. We chatted about what we had done since Sunday, his involvement with the band, the sound of the new record and his contribution to it and future UK tours. Seriously guys, keep him, he fits right in and is just awesome. He remembered that I used to play drums, so I promised that when I make it to New York I’ll bring the stick and he can give me a drum lesson.
He left to join the others, who had come down to the lobby, but there was quite a gaggle vying for their attention so I left, pleased that my evening had ended better than it began.  Went back to hotel, couldn’t sleep, eventually did fall asleep then woke up at 5am re-living the gig and remembering how great it was and reflecting on what a good decision it had been to make the trip.
Writing this on the train now heading back to work and the real world. I’m listening to the album with fresh ears. I realised that it has all the elements that I love about WAS. Beautiful harmonies, complex and varying rhythms, head-banging rock parts mixed with delicate fragile sections. Whilst the live performance didn’t create a eureka moment for me, like with TVeF, Helter Seltzer has been a grower, and the live experience only enhanced my understanding of an album that is more complex than first appears.  Roll on October and let’s get some dates confirmed fellas!

I’m a Very Important Scientist

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.

Goodie pack
Goodie pack

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.

Chris suggested an action pose
Chris suggested an action pose

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”.

Stage all set
Stage all set

The support bands were The Heartbreaks and Superfood, neither of whom I had heard of, but both were surprisingly good. I will add them to my list of bands to check out further.

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.