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.

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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.

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Marsicans

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.

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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.

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Keiths

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.

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It’s hard to rely on the rhythm section

 

PAWS & WAS pt2 – Dunfermline & Kilmarnock August 2018

Well, well, well. I wasn’t sure that I would write this one up, because I wasn’t sure I had anything more to say on a band I have written at length about many times before.  I am also tired, so very physically and mentally tired from life stuff that I wanted to enjoy these gigs, immerse myself in the escapism of the moment and not have to remember details or come up with descriptions.  Saying that, I never write about gigs as a chore, it’s something I enjoy doing.

I wasn’t even going to go to these gigs.  When they were first released, the thought of going to Dunfermline or Kilmarnock, even for We Are Scientists, wasn’t particularly appealing.  I had seen them twice earlier this year and expected that to be it, but when PAWS were announced as support, my mind was changed.  I have missed PAWS recently, as we await news of their next album so a double-whammy of two of my favourite bands persuaded me to buy a ticket to the Kilmarnock gig which handily was on a Friday.  As the date drew nearer, I caved and made the necessary arrangements for me to go to the Dunfermline gig on the Wednesday too.   I knew that I would kick myself if I had been sat at home.  I arranged to meet up with a gig pal in Dunfermline and I had persuaded a non-WAS-fan friend to accompany me to Kilmarnock.

Both shows were in tiny venues, Dunfermline was a nice Irish-style pub, with the venue in the basement including tiered levels and booths.  Kilmarnock was a small nightclub with the stage set up on the dance floor that had to be quickly vacated afterwards by the band to make way for what helpful local “big Billy” let us know was sure to be a “crackin’ rave”.  We didn’t hang around long enough to find out if this was true.

I’ll not go into too much detail about each gig, but here are some selected highlights and lowlights:

Highlights

PAWS – consistently a great, solid, entertaining band.  New songs sounded fab and make me want the new album right now.  Philip’s delivery of vocals has that raw emotional edge but solidity of conviction in what he is singing.  Josh’s drumming is as vigorous, riotous and lightening quick as ever.  I still can’t get used to watching him in action and do so with jaw dropped and a sense of impending injury to either himself or those in the vicinity.  As it was them that had really drawn me there, I revelled in every second and didn’t take a single photo.  There aren’t many bands that have grabbed me from day 1 and have kept me wanting more, but PAWS are one of them.  Top guys and a band you should check out if you haven’t done so already.

No Wait at Five Leaves – I love this song more and more every time I hear it live.  We were treated to it both nights, and each time I wanted to run up to Keith Murray afterwards, hug him, shake his hand and tell him how utterly gorgeous that song is and how it makes me feel some weird mixture of emotions that I can’t comprehend yet but I think one day I will.

Sprinkles!! – one of my favourite all time WAS songs ever, I was delighted to hear it in Dunfermline.  Again, one that is supremely emotional for me, gives me shivers each time but I still sing along with a huge smile on my face.

Catching up with the guys – over the 2 nights I had a few chats with all 3 guys, talking about holidays, New York City and small Scottish towns.

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Letting go – even though it was in 2 towns that I had rarely, if ever, been to before, a WAS/PAWS gig is a comfortable, friendly place.  It was so nice to be able to be in that space again, singing along to every word, waving my arms in the air and dancing along with people who were strangers but who were sharing that moment and experience.

New merch!! – in the absence of Heart is a Weapon shirts in my size (see below) and having a rather extensive collection of both WAS and PAWS t-shirts already, I opted for a new tote bag.

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Lowlights

Still no Heart is a Weapon live – I really hoped that they would start playing Heart is a Weapon, but sadly we didn’t hear it either night.  And they still don’t have the associated t-shirt in small size.  Come on guys! Pretty pretty please….!

The locations – I understand the rationale for playing places other than Glasgow and Edinburgh again, but I’m not sure the small town thing really worked.  I don’t think either venue I attended was sold out and they were tiny venues.  I can’t help but think they would have been better off in one of the smaller venues in the bigger cities.  To be honest I don’t think WAS have a big enough fan base in Scotland any more, and PAWS don’t have it yet, to warrant playing these small towns.  Saying that, it was nice that we didn’t get kicked out immediately after the set was done, and the security staff were MUCH nicer than the ones usually encountered in Glasgow.

People on phones – oh my good god – the people and their phones!!!! I was on the barrier in Dunfermline and once or twice was distracted by people using flashes on their cameras/phones.  It was bad enough for me, I only saw it out of the corner of my eye, I hope it didn’t distract those on stage at all.  In Kilmarnock there wasn’t a barrier as such, more some steps and a railing.  We were behind the folk who were right at the railing.   Despite there being only a handful of people between us and the band, we were still faced with a constant visual interruption of cameras being held aloft for multiple photos and lengthy videos.  One couple stood right at the front, stock-still and miserable-looking, filming almost the entire WAS set.  Not otherwise participating, just filming.  At one point the girl took a photo, fiddled with filters, posted it to Instagram, then showed her companion the results, apparently proud of her achievement.  This took a whole song.  Which meant that I missed that whole song cos this malarky was happening right in front of my nose.  When I’m at the barrier I do take some photos myself, but there you can be more discreet and not disturb those behind you.  I did take 2 short bursts of photos during 1 song (It’s a Hit, I’m over this song now, sorry) in Kilmarnock, but otherwise kept my phone in my bag, sticking to my plan of giving myself over to the experience.  Unfortunately my experience was blighted by other people’s lit up screens.

I know that some artists have banned phones from their concerts.  I wouldn’t go as far as that, having your phone at a gig can be particularly useful if you go to gigs on your own or need to meet up with mates, if you have kids or other reasons you might be called away urgently.  But bands have power.  Mystery Jets insist that all the venues they play at are fully accessible, The Spook School require bathrooms to be gender neutral.  Venues oblige, or the band’s business goes elsewhere. So I wish more bands would use their platform to remind people to be considerate and respectful of those on stage as well as their fellow audience members and instruct people to limit their camera/phone use and instruct security to have a word with repeat offenders.

Anyway, I did take a couple of snaps, they weren’t great, but I was glad that I stuck by and large to my plan of living the gig as it happened and well, I have enough photos of those guys anyway….

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We Are Scientists, Glasgow & Sheffield, May 2018

New music and tour dates from my faves? Of course I’m there. We Are Scientists released Megaplex last month, along with details of an extensive worldwide tour.  I grabbed a ticket for Glasgow, and, as experience has proven that 1 gig per tour just isn’t enough, I scanned the dates to see if any others would be feasible.  Unfortunately logistics prevented me from going back to Berlin again, but I was due to be down in Preston the weekend that they were scheduled to play Sheffield on the Sunday.  In my Scottish mind, Preston and Sheffield are practically neighbours, so that was settled.  Even better was the fact that my friend Zoe, someone I had made contact with 9 years ago via an old WAS message board and had kept in touch with ever since due to a shared taste in music, tv shows and comedy podcasts, was making the trip to Sheffield from Peterborough.  Sorted!

Support came from Cora Pearl (Sheffield only) and The Pale White (both nights).  I didn’t really warm to The Pale White in Glasgow, but found them much better in Sheffield.  They were loud and thrashy.  Each song was kind of a 1-idea thing, but they played with great enthusiasm and energy.  Cora Pearl I found to be much more interesting musically, with some funky basslines, intricate lead lines and they shook it up with different rhythms that kept it interesting.

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Cora Pearl

Whilst I am always excited about new music from We Are Scientists, I am also more than a little trepidatious in case I don’t like it. I WANT to keep liking what the guys do, but am not uncritical and always get the fear before a new album that they will have taken a turn down a route which I will be unable to follow them on.

So it was with the usual nervous apprehension that I listened to the first public offering from Megaplex, “One In, One Out”.  The fear took hold as synths started up, but to my great relief the levels remained suitably palatable for my taste and the track overall was really bouncy, catchy and infectious.  As other singles and eventually the full album came my way, I was delighted to realise that I liked it all.  Seriously, despite my love for the band, this is not a given.  I couldn’t get into TV en Francais AT ALL until I heard it live, and I have some ongoing reservations about some tracks on Helter Seltzer.  Given that I came to W.A.S. just after Brain Thrust Mastery, and had bought that and With Love and Squalor together after release,  Megaplex is the first album that I have fully embraced from it’s unveiling and been able to appreciate as recorded, straight out the sleeve.  That said, I was super excited to hear the songs live.

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I’ve said before that I would happily enjoy a gig comprised solely of songs from their most recent record/s, I wouldn’t miss the older ones if they got ditched.  We were treated to a whole 5(!) songs off Megaplex – half of the album – and of course they proved me wrong by re-working old songs to give them a new lease of life.  Your Light Has Changed makes a great show opener – upbeat, stomping and with a recurring triplet theme that I may have actually squealed at the first time I heard it.  Now or Never and Notes in a Bottle both showcase the gorgeous harmonies that Keith, Chris & Carne can deliver together, but both underpinned by driving drum and guitar parts that sustain the lively pop/rock element of their shows.  One In, One Out got a massive crowd reaction, deserves to be a hands-in-the-air, everyone-belt-out-the-chorus-in-unison kind of anthem.  My favourite of the new songs played was No Wait at Five Leaves.  Soaring, immersive, beautiful.  I felt like I was enveloped in it’s wondrous, velvety, spine-tingling gorgeousness.  My “moment” of the gig, both times.

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Of the older songs, I love the makover treatment that Chick Lit has been given, I was glad to see Scene still included in the setlist and Make It Easy remains a triumph of Keith’s vocal abilities, moving me every time I hear it.  Both gigs also saw Keith foray into the crowd during the Textbook finale.

The set list was near identical on both nights, we got the same 5 songs from Megaplex each time, and while I was happy to hear so many at this stage, I do wish they had played Heart Is A Weapon.  Also I think Properties of Perception would be a lot of fun live. Hopefully next tour….

 

The Glasgow gig was a bit special because it was Keith’s birthday, so he received a cake on stage, as we all sang the traditional song.  I had been able to say a quick hello and happy birthday to him prior to the gig, and caught up with Carne afterwards, as well as meeting the wives/girlfriends who had been co-opted into staffing the merch stall.  They were really lovely and helpful, trying to find me a Heart is A Weapon shirt that wasn’t tent-sized, failing, agreeing that they should have either extra-small men’s sizes, or ladies-fit shirts, and finding me a setlist as compensation.  Thanks ladies, hope you enjoyed the rest of your trip 🙂

After the gig in Sheffield we spoke to Carne and Chris, and again had a quick hello/goodbye with Keith.  It was my first time in Sheffield, (yes, really!) but sadly I didn’t get to see much more of the city than the road between the station and the Premier Inn, and was there for only around 14 hours total.  After we left the venue, Zoe and I went back to our hotel, had a very rock and roll cup of tea, nattered a bit then finally had to call it a night.  I had an 8am train the next day, so was up and out, on an admittedly beautiful day, but sad to be leaving and not getting more time to explore or hang out.

I have come away with a deeper appreciation of Megaplex, which I already thought was pretty incredible in the first place.  It may have taken me a while to catch on to TV en Francais, but once I did I was captivated by the themes and imagery in the lyrics.  Megaplex doesn’t resonate thematically in the same way, but I am glad to see a return to  more complex, poetic lyrics.  Chris’ bass lines are a masterclass in pop/rock deceptive simplicity.  The drums…well you will never hear me criticise Carne’s drumming.  The lightness of touch, the themes and variations, the interplay with other parts (inset heart eyes here etc).  Riffs, hooks and guitar solos aplenty, as well as the aforementioned harmonies.  The whole package chimes exactly on my wavelength and I can breathe a sigh of relief that I am still on the We Are Scientists journey right along with them.

So, as the post-tour blues kick in, and I return to a reality of school runs and cleaning the gunge off the recycling bins (so glam), I try not to get too despondent.  I had a really fun couple of days, hung out with someone I would not have known were it not for the band, and re-connected with some of my favourite people in the world.  No, my life isn’t all rock n roll, but I’m glad it is a little bit.  I might not ever go on a world tour, but I have been to places I would never have been otherwise to see this band.  I might never see my band’s name up in lights above a venue, but I can try to deepen my understanding of music and play drums with the creativity, passion and sheer unbridled joy that Carne does.  I can pursue my career and my studies and do something I love, which also has a positive impact on others.  And I can look forward to the next tour.

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Butefest 2017

I went to Bute on holiday last year, and everywhere I went, I saw posters advertising the then-upcoming Butefest 2016. I had never heard of Butefest, but looking at the line-up they had some pretty decent-sized names as headliners (Idlewild, The Magic Numbers) which I found surprising for, well, Bute.  When I got home I looked it up and thought it might be worth checking out in the future.  Fast forward a few months and a certain favourite band of mine, We Are Scientists, announce a smattering of summer dates in the UK, including Butefest 2017. I have to admit, I was taken aback.  I couldn’t reconcile quiet, unassuming, land-of-country-estates-and-fancy-gardens-and-Victorian-Toilets Bute, with loud, energetic, New York-based indie rock. I asked around some local fellow WAS fans but no-one was keen to spend the time or money that attending a gig on an (albeit very accessible) Scottish island entails.  Initially I thought I would have to give it a miss too, but there was something about the festival that was very appealing – it looked small, but with big ambitions, it gave off a friendly and chilled vibe, it clearly had a focus on music-lovers and promoting and supporting artists, rather than the commercial side of things and the location was idyllic.  I explained my musings to a friend, and she said, “Let’s do it!”. Well, that was all the encouragement I needed.  Childcare was arranged, annual leave was booked and tickets were bought. Operation Butefest17 was go!

I have never taken a ferry to a gig before. It added to the excitement, however, and we could tell this was going to be a special weekend.

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On board the Wemyss Bay – Rothesay Ferry

Stepping off the ferry, it was still surreal to see We Are Scientists listed on the banner

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Rothesay harbour with festival banner

We decided to go for the all-in festival experience and attend for the full weekend, including camping.  Which, if you are at all familiar with weather on the west coast of Scotland in summer, was a choice not taken lightly.  We knew we would either be battling the rain or the midgies, but not ones to be deterred by water nor wee beasties, we set up camp.

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Our homes for the weekend, and a rare photo of me

Tents pitched, the festival was our oyster.

And what a gem of a festival it was!

Our first impression was that it was tiny, but there was so much going on that it was very soon obvious that it punched above its weight. There was 1 main stage, 2 tents and a campfire stage.  They were all very close together, and we experienced occasional noise bleed, but due to carefully considered positioning and scheduling, this wasn’t generally an issue.

There was also a small range of food stalls, shops and campaign stalls.  Shout out in particular to the owners of the cutest wee tea stand who kept us in supply of earl grey tea when the weather meant we couldn’t fire up our wee stove, and the hippie goods shop who supplied us with appropriate festival attire and mementoes.

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Seriously the only time there was this much blue sky.

We had anticipated an easy-listening mix of folk and indie.  We got that, but we got a whole lot more on top.  Whoever curated the line-up has excellent taste and a keen sense of what music fans like and respond to.  Whilst the majority of artists were Scottish, their music spanned genres far and beyond folk and Scottish indie.  There was also an impressive range of non-Scottish acts.  We heard drum & bass, ska, reggae and a multitude of fusions that I can’t even describe.  There were certainly more trombones and saxophones than I, for one, was expecting.  Which is definitely a good thing.  The standard was exceptionally high.  On a couple of occasions we drifted away from a performance, but only because the style wasn’t our taste (Russia’s answer to Coldplay, anyone?), it was no reflection on the talent on show.  I would never in a million years have anticipated seeing and hearing such an incredible variety of music from 1 stage and a couple of tents on a playing field on Bute.

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A rare break in the weather.  Quick, take a photo!!

Despite the near-constant presence of, or threat of rain, the atmosphere was positive and uplifting, yet chilled. Those attending were clearly either seasoned festival goers, or used to holidaying in Scotland, and were prepared for the rain, mud, midgies and more.  There were also a lot of locals in attendance, which was great to see. I grew up in Dundee and at that time there was nothing like this, I can only imagine how cool it is to grow up on a Scottish island and suddenly be able to attend an event like this and be exposed to live music from around the world. All the locals I spoke to were keen to find out where we had come from, why we had chosen Butefest and were set on ensuring we had the best time ever. Which we did. Citizens of Bute – you are the best.

In some down time one morning, we took a stroll down to Rothesay town and had a wander round the harbour.  We also popped back down for some fish and chips one evening.  Well, it would be rude not to…  Everyone had a smile and a friendly nod and seemed to bear no resentment that hundreds of sweaty, muddy hippies had descended on their town.

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Rothesay harbour

Back at the site, we drifted between the stages, seeing some bands we wanted to check out and discovering others by chance.  The stages were close enough together that you could easily hop between them if something took your fancy.  We danced in tents, jigged in mud, rocked by the main stage, chilled out by the campfire and soaked up the festival vibes on hay bales (or bay hales, as they became known) while sipping tea, or something a bit stronger.

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Campfire stage

Unfortunately, Phil had to leave suddenly mid-afternoon on the Sunday, and for a millisecond we had doubts about me being alone at a festival. But we both agreed we felt safer here than we did back home.  The only unwanted attention had come from a 16-year-old local who, hilariously, fled the minute he found out how old we were.  Even the campsite was cool, with lots of families around.

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The campsite at 4.30am. The scene even made a night time toilet trip seem pleasant.

Over the course of the weekend these artists, in particular, caught our attention:

Manran  – due to the proximity of the campsite, we were able to continue to enjoy the music when we popped back for food or extra/dry clothing. We heard Manran mainly from there, and they were a lively group of folk/trad-rock, combining traditional instruments and sounds with funky beats and arrangements.

Samson Sounds – when we stumbled across these guys it sounded like drum & bass with latin sounds from the brass and sax on top, then it melded into reggae and then something else entirely.  Genre-splicing, extremely danceable fun.

The Coaltown Daisies – Duo playing jaunty Americana style folk about serious topics, but with a heart and a smile. Also allowed P and I to play “place the accent”. We were close.

100 Fables – one of the few bands I had seen before I was keen to catch them again having been impressed last time.  They didn’t disappoint this time around, owning the main stage and judging by the comments I heard from other punters afterwards, they won over many new fans.  80s-inspired electro pop.

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100 Fables

The Begbies – Scottish indie rock with added sax and ska influence.

The RPMs – More straightforward indie rock, from Brighton and mightily confused by the crowd suggesting “Rothesay” as a title for their as-yet-unnamed song, the band were tight and talented and I was obsessed with the bass player’s hair.

Gluten Freaks – Possibly my favourite find of the festival. When we saw the description of “9-piece party ska” we were there in a flash. Loud, colourful, high octane and fun. We danced and danced and didn’t want them to stop.

 

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Main stage. Although I can’t actually remember who this is on it…

Sophie Rodgers – we were walking by when we heard a Stevie Nicks-esque voice float out, so we went in to check her out.  She was worth the chance – interesting vocals and melodies, beautiful but simple guitar accompaniment. Folk with an upbeat poppy feel.

The Chair – Saturday night headliners, traditional Scottish music with stomping drums. We tried to ceilidh dance but got literally stuck in the mud. Cue some inventive upper-body-only dancing.

Maxiroots – Another favourite find, another Latin/funk/fusion mix that got us dancing in the tent until the close of play.

Flog the Dog – Irish band doing a mix of traditional Irish/Scots/Celtic tunes. Had us tapping our toes and singing along. Also turns out their bass player is a massive long-time We Are Scientists fan so I got chatting to him at the main stage barrier later. He even got a request in.

James Edwyn and the Borrowed Band – I stopped into one of the tents with a cup of tea to warm up and escape the rain, and came across these guys.  Low-key folk but beautiful arrangements and great to chill out to.

Dopesickfly – Feeling a bit melancholic at this point, running through some reflective thoughts, I parked myself on a log outside one of the tents, taking advantage of the rare sun break.  I was soon drawn to the performance inside the tent.  Dopesickfly are a cool combination of funky beats, groovy bass and engaging vocals switching between melody and rap/spoken-word-set-to-music.  Another genre-defying act with elements of funk, soul and jazz, they were just what I needed to pick me up, get me back in the moment and enjoy what I had in front of me.

Single by Sunday – I was taking a breather by the campfire when these guys came on the main stage. A bit too boyband for my taste, but they kept me entertained while I sat and replenished my energy for the evening. Lively guitar-based pop.

Elephant Sessions – excellent trad-rock on the main stage, I had a wee sway and a bit of a foot tap while I scoffed a pizza ahead of the headliners.

And, well that leaves me with We Are Scientists.

I think I’m still processing it. All through the weekend, it would occasionally dawn on me that the guys would be coming to this wonderful wee festival. Even as I saw them set up, it didn’t seem real. I wanted to secure my usual barrier slot, which had the benefit of being on a small base plate and would get me temporarily out of the mud. I quickly made some friends on the barrier, who were real fans of the band and as awestruck as I was that they were here on Bute.

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Keith (Keith) and Keith (Carne) in full flow

I had expected that a festival set would be largely hits and singles. Boy, was I wrong. It was a long and varied setlist, including some songs I don’t think I have heard for a long time (Can’t Lose!!!). There was more from BTM than I have seen in recent time, and they had been given the usual tweaks and twists that the boys like to play with. Lethal Enforcer, which my Flog The Dog bassist friend had requested, was particularly nicely done, with extra funk. It may have been the gin, but I definitely uttered a few “wow”s as this band, whose songs I know inside out and who I have seen live *ahem* a few times now…continue to surprise and delight me.

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Shadowy figures of Keith and Chris

Admittedly, I had had a wee drink, and it seems drunk me has a propensity for doing actions along to songs, but it was so cool to be alongside enthusiastic fans, who were not shy about belting out every word and cheering their favourite song, “Yeaaaas, Sprinkles, this is ma favourite song, mate!” was typical of the reactions.  We danced, shimmied, clapped, threw our arms in the air and air-drummed throughout.  One guy saw how much fun I was having and insisted on taking my phone so I could have a pic of me with the guys in the background. It didn’t really come out well, but I appreciated the gesture.  The WAS-family really is the best.

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Keith’s patented “Textbook” pose

In fact the crowd was one of the best, most enthusiastic I have ever seen at a WAS gig. During Textbook, Keith roved into the audience and was lucky to get out intact.  There was a nice moment when he was singing with a guy I had been chatting to, who was one of the locals involved in organising the festival.

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Keith, wearing luminous specs, with his new best pal Fraser

The guys, always responsive to a good crowd, looked like they were having a blast – Keith dancing and jumping around, Chris cool and steady but with his usual ridiculous stories between songs, and Carne alternately deep in concentration then grinning like the happiest man on earth.

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Carne #bestWASdrummerever #campaigntokeepOtherKeith (sorry, it’s a reflex)

I had to keep reminding myself where we were, and would often look back at the crowd, the fairy lights of the festival and the night sky (if you’re the night sky…no, wait..) and just wallow in the beautiful perfection of it all.

As it was a festival headline set, it was longer than I was used to seeing, but still didn’t want it to end. Sadly, there was a midnight curfew so we ended with Too Late, which the crowd kept up the chorus to long after the band had exited the stage.

I chatted to my new buddies a bit, then was able to get backstage to have a chat with the guys.  It was so nice to see them again and talk about, well mostly random nonsense and Victorian toilets, but that’s the way it usually goes.  Except not usually with the toilets.  Yes, I am a bit obsessed by the Victorian Toilets.  Gin certainly embellishes the flow of nonsense talk.  Then it was hugs all around before we said our goodbyes. I will no doubt see them again, but I doubt any occasion will compare to that.

So all in all, thanks to Phil for making our trip to Butefest happen in the first place, it was one of the best decisions I could have made.  What a magical wee festival in a very special place, organised, run and attended by some very special people.

If I ever need to conjure up a happy place, Butefest17 will be it.

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I HAD to purchase a festival hoodie in case I ever thought it was a dream

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.
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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).
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Beverly
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Edinburgh being all pretty and smug