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Not exactly an up-to-date photo.

Not exactly an up-to-date photo.

A great weight of expectation & excitement befalls the Glasgow Barrowlands ballroom this evening as shoegaze and general noise merchants My Bloody Valentine return to the stage. The My Bloody Valentine camp has seen a wealth of activity* with the recent reissues of their back catalogue & a new album to tour ‘MBV’. Can a group as mighty as MBV live up to the heights written about them & the expectations of this sold out crowd… the next two hours should hopefully answer that**.

Casually walking onstage, the band were greeted with a deafening reception from the audience, which really made the earplugs given out for free upon entry rather useful***. Heading straight into ‘I only said’ the crowd were instantly hypnotised and proceeded with the moshing down front. The pace of the opening continued into ‘when you sleep’ and progressed for a good portion of the set peaking and culminating with ‘only shallow’****.

The set plodded forward after this with songs from every release of MBV’s back catalogue. There was a surprising lack of new material but those that they did play melded easily into the set just fine. Second to lastly, MBV played ‘you made me realise’ which of course has the much spoken of Holocaust section which drenched the crowd in a cacophony of feedback and squealing***** to much delight. Finishing with, all band members down front, new album track ‘wonder 2’ leader Kevin Shields finally acknowledged the crowd with a “thanks” and they left very much as they came on – with a captivated and enthralled Glasgow crowd bellowing out their name.

However, I was not as enamoured as most of the crowd. The band came across as so disinterested in what they were doing that I was left wanting******. It seemed that the band’s focus was to try and recreate their albums onstage as closely as possible that I found it intriguing that Belinda Butcher was not playing her guitar at several points in the evening*******, considering it is well known how many guitar overlays there are on tracks especially on ‘Loveless’. This led to an air of doing things by numbers, especially with the lack of audience interaction, and which culminated in a safe show without even an intimation of spontaneity.

Having once been the peak purveyors of ethereal noise, My Bloody Valentine are now running behind those that they have inspired, more or less summed up in the ‘Holocaust’ section. At one point this would have been astounding, but now rather run of the mill and rather lacking impact. A major disappointment for myself but who am I to complain? The crowd seemed to fuckin’ love it!

*Unbridled for this group…

**Can any group… except for Neil Young… and even he can be inconsistent.

***It proved to be the only time they did.

****’You never should’ was fucking ace to be fair.

*****So that is what they were for.

******I even went out for a cigarette at one point… I’m not proud of it.

*******I am not a guitar player so apologies if I am missing something.



Well it’s been 11 years since the release of Desaparecidos first, and only, album ‘Read Music/Speak Spanish’ so it has been a fair wait to see them perform on those shores. Now that I have grown oh so much in that space of time, have I matured too much to still enjoy the angry, quivery wails of Conor Oberst and company*?

Entering Glasgow’s Arches to the echoed bombast of support act We are the Physics, coming across as a shoutier and angrier version of the Futureheads. There were some good tunes there but not enough to keep me from heading bar wards for the remainder of their set.

Positioning ourselves left of centre** in preparation for the main act arriving, I must admit that the song selection on the PA (Fugazi, Far, etc.) which seemed to get everyone in the mood and the mind-set of 2002. Kicking right into ‘Greater Omaha’ without any necessity for a grand introduction the band looked like they had something to prove and the set continued this way for the next 50 minutes. The set was scattered with the newer entries in the bands catalogue with ‘Backsell’ showing to be a highlight of the entire evening. If the new tracks are anything to go by then Desaparecidos have taken their jackhammer, youthful frenzy and honed it further into adulthood where nothing has been lost in the transition, if anything it is further enraged***.



Crowd interaction remained at a minimum except for drummer inciting some unison hand clapping. No one seemed bothered though as we had all patiently waited some time to hear these songs live, testified by the reaction from the crowd for ‘Survival of the fittest’ and ‘Mañana’****. After the band played everything in their repertoire they exited looking very happy with the reaction they had created in the crowd. Alas no encore*****, much to chagrin of the stationary audience who had to be escorted out by security in the end.

So was it worth the wait? After seeing Bright Eyes a couple of times in their heyday I don’t tend to revisit those records that much anymore, they just don’t mean the same thing to me that the use to. Desaparecidos on the other hand have been a mainstay in my record player for those 11 years this wasn’t really a nostalgia trip but just seeing a band that are as still relevant to me when I first heard them******.

*You fucking kidding, course not!

**The company I was with was scared of a mosh pit occurring.

***They have aged pretty well too…

****’Survival’ being a personal favourite.

*****What else were they gonna play? A cover?

******Yes it was worth it, I need to stop being so damn poetic in these things.

Ted Leo

On my second expedition to Glasgow in a week for the punk music selection offered by the Celtic Connections festival, I found myself running to Glasgow’s ABC venue from the train station. This was due to receiving the knowledge that Ted Leo* would be on at a sharp 7.30pm. Luckily due to a recent bout of health consciousness prompting some running on my part prior to today, I entered the auditorium as the first song of Ted Leo’s set was finishing.

Getting myself to the front of the stage proved to be no great achievement as the audience was meagrely populated at this early hour**. Despite appearing with a lack of his backing band the Pharmacists, Ted Leo still had all the impact that I expected as he remained an enthralling performer despite flying solo on a rather large stage. He treated the audience early to his ode to Glasgow ‘A Bottle of Buckie’ followed by ‘Bottled in Cork’*** from his last release ‘the Brutalist Bricks’. As a gift to those who arrived early; our headliner Aimee Mann joined Ted on stage to perform a couple of songs from an untitled EP that they have collaborated on. A bit more country influenced than usually expected from Mr Leo, it was an interesting detour in the set with ‘The Gambler’ proving to be a highlight of the whole evening. Previous to Aimee Mann joining our support act, an in the know member of the audience shouted a polite request for the song ‘Timorous Me’ which was initially refused due to limited time. Upon pondering his response before heading into the next song, Ted Leo returned to address the audience member and stated that his request would be the song that finished his set which was the case****. A real treat for those that got there in time, and judging by the decibel level of applause I was not alone in discerning that.

Next up in our speckled evening of entertainment was Amelia Curran, who presented what would be more in line with the music presented usually, be Celtic Connections. For the next half an hour or so we were plied with whiskey soaked tales of love, and with the announcement mid-way through that we were hitting the ballads, the loss of that very love. Everything was well written, impeccably (if a little endearingly shyly) performed and Ms Curran was a charismatic character. However it just didn’t grab me wholly and in such an over populated bare bones market of singer songwriters’ oot there I would say that being grabbed was fairly essential*****.

Aimee Mann

Now for the closure of our adventure in Glasgow, Aimee Mann & band****** arrived on the platform. Despite the relatively low keyness of her music, Aimee Mann certainly has presence and was the focal point throughout the set. After the obligatory opening of relatively oldies, Mann forewarns the inclusion of new material from this point on. She admits this is a precarious move as explained by an anecdote involving her brother stating that no one goes to a gig to hear the new material*******. Ironically, things really come alive when she plays her biggest hits ‘Save Me’ and ‘Wise Up’ from the Magnolia soundtrack followed by a pleasant cover of ‘One is the Loneliest Number’. This more or less sets the template for the rest of the show, a solid mixture of old and new, finishing up with ‘It’s
Not Safe’
. Returning for an encore that ended the evening with ‘4th of July’, but not before Ted Leo re-joined her onstage for some Thin Lizzy noodling. To come clean, I wasn’t too au fait on Aimee Mann’s back catalogue, but I had read that she was a rather stand offish and cold artist. I did not get that from her this evening. I was entertained throughout and found that when she really comes alive is when things get really quiet.

*The main reason that I was going to this show.

**By gig standards anyway.

***Are we all drunk or something…?

****Jolly nice if you ask me.

*****Even Bon Iver went all E-Street on us.

******Do you ever get the fear when you see a band that looks like they have just stepped out of that move ‘Almost Famous’?

*******Depends on the artist I suppose…

Hamell on Trial

Another Celtic Connections is upon me and one of the required viewing gems is Mr Hamell of Hamell on Trial playing at Glasgow Oran Mor. I wasn’t quite sure of the set-up as Celtic Connections tends to throw a few curveballs each year* to fuck your expectations up a little. For a festival that brings together folk, country and world music genres to the fore, I always seem to end up at a punk gig** and tonight was no different…

Upon entering the venue support act Lach was already on stage*** regaling the audience with twitchy folk rock goodies. Looking like a cross between Christopher Lloyd and Elvis Costello****, he was treating the sparse crowd to some jokes and banter which wasn’t fully connecting with the audience. This seemed more than apparent to the man himself thus audience interaction was shunned for the next few numbers. However, as the venue began to fill up with late arrivals, Lach was greeted with a friendlier and louder response – a highlight being his shout out to the Kiss army*****. Sadly as Lach was hitting his stride and audience appreciation grew, time was up.

Strolling onstage to rapturous applause looking like the bastard son of Fu Manchu if he had made a cultural visit to Syracuse, New York, came Hamell on Trial. Opening with ‘Glad You’re Gone’ and continuing on for a couple of numbers before we were promised by Mr Hamell himself that there would be no jokes or stories, instead we would be treated to an evening of interpretive dance with the finale involving the sight of our main act in a thong******. Mr Hamell is not a man to keep his promises…Continuing on, we were diverted with an ode to Mr Hamell’s 1937 acoustic guitar, which by the man’s own admission he wields like a Tommy gun, which I can confirm is the truth.

Hamell has always seemed to me to be an artist who moves with the times, not particularly his style of music, but in terms of mood and feeling. He provides a document of what the collective are feeling and offering possible solutions that only a man who has lived his life according to punk rock can. Hence a lot of this evenings set list focused on highlighting tracks from his new album ‘The Happiest Man in the World’*******.  After the midpoint in the set the audience were treated to a double whammy on the effect of the economic recession on the working person. ‘Jennifer’s Stripping Again’, explaining the measures people will take to keep things going. This was followed by ‘Richards Got a Job’; displaying some hope and that if people keep trying things might be alright.

The rather diverse characters******** in attendance lapped it all up, especially when the floor was open to requests. I am surprised he was able to make any of it out due to the barrage of ineligible cries*********. Obeying those that he could comprehend & finishing the evening with two tracks from his beloved album ‘Choochtown’ (When Bobby Comes Down and Choochtown) left things on a really fucking high note. Not exactly a Celtic evening but Hamell on Trial made a connection with everyone who turned out.

*Or the Scottish equivalent of that saying.

**Hey, I am not closed minded, kay!

***At 7.35pm you can’t say Celtic Connections aren’t prompt.

****If they both went into that machine in Cronenbergs ‘The Fly’.

*****Kiss rules Motherfucker!

******Say what you will, I would clearly have remembered it.

*******It’s pretty tidy.

********Dead Kennedy beanie hatted gents next to those in full tweed suits.

*********I did shout for Coulter’s Snatch, but was denied… yes it is a song.

Metal dudes can go out during the day.

Metal dudes can go out during the day.

Due to the potent cocktail of limited funds and an extraordinary liaise faire attitude  I had not ventured to see Cult of Luna, playing Glasgow’s Ivory Blacks, in around 10 years*. Touring on the back of forthcoming release ‘Vertikal’, their 4th album since I last saw them (6th in total). I came to the hypothesis that things would have changed substantially… I was wrong but as it turned out that aint no bad thing**.

Arriving in the densely occupied venue to the sounds of support act Humanfly, me and my partner in crime headed immediately bar wards*** before nestling in between some dashingly tall gentlemen to watch the events on stage. Humanfly were perfectly enjoyable; mashing a mix of metal, prog and alt. rock, which reminded me of Cave-In circa their Jupiter album.

Once the stage had emptied we fuelled up on beer before an endurance test of Adam Richman proportions took to the stage. Her Name is Calla were the next band on, what followed was a lengthy 30 minutes where we were treated to 5 songs that went nowhere. Channelling Radiohead Pablo Honey era if Radiohead had spent all their time at the art school, smoking too much weed, listening to Yes records and coming to the conclusion that violins are fucking rock and can carry a 10 minute rock song****. Yeah, 30 minutes of despair where it seemed that the bright spark idea that long automatically means epic, was unfortunately cunting deluded. To be honest I was more angry with myself… It only dawned on me that I could go out for a cigarette during the 2nd to last song…

Next, thankfully, the overhead lights dimmed to reveal a Michael Mann-esque blue haze stage as the Swedes walked on to the backing of new album opener ‘The One’. Considering that the venue was packed oot I and the good lady were watching a platform of heads moving around with the occasional torso for good measure*****.

This is where the modest but rather exceptional lighting work from the stage came into play. The blue haze was mixed up to compliment the music  which was exemplified as the audience was aurally assaulted by the music whilst simultaneously the same being done by the blinding white lights, working particularly well with ‘Finland’. This gave proceedings an oddly cinematic quality, where you could easily imagine the music being used to soundtrack a silent movie. No surprise then that Fritz Lang’s Metropolis was an influence on the new record ‘Vertikal’.

The evening consisted largely of tracks from this very album. From the sounds of it the band have continued to progress down the post-metal route with the vocals being less of a central component than before. Despite this there was no let-up in the music’s ferocity, it just felt that there was a bit more breathing room now. The biggest roars from the audience came late in the evening with the ‘Owlwood’ before ‘In awe of’ brought the night to a swift encore-less close******.

It took a good few days for my hearing to recover & I have begun to investigate the back catalogue, before purchasing the latest*******. A mighty evening which exceeded the memories of the last occasion when I was a hardcore/metal obsessed lad. It did get me wondering why the band has not achieved greater success than their peers such as Pelican, Isis, and Mogwai etc. Is it the vocals? Too metal for the post-rock crowd? Either way they are up there with the best!

*Supporting Dillinger Escape Plan at the Glasgow Cathouse.

**If it aint broke…

***It was a Saturday ok, and we were in Glasgow!

****If you can call it a rock song.

*****Can you really say you saw a band live if you can’t actually see them?

******If they did it would probably be about a ¼ length of the main set.

*******How old school!