Tuesday, July 27, 2004

My Kingdom For A Ticket

Getting tickets to a live music show in Scotland can often be a challenge. If you wait for the official announcements in weekend newspapers, oftentimes the best shows are already sold out. I tend to check out a few music web sites during lunch to get an edge on the average punter. But sometimes you just need to get lucky - as I did recently when they announced the lineup for T On The Fringe, the music portion of the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August. I just happened to be on the NME site when it was announced that Morrissey would be playing on the 31st of August. A quick jump to Ticketmaster and I had two tix to my name. Needless to say, demand was high and the show sold-out in hours. So not only do I have a pair of tix to one of the most anticipated concerts this year, but I am - after all these years - finally going to see the Mozzer live!

Bard in the Botanics, a series of Shakespeare plays put on by the Glasgow Rep Company over in the West End, has recently come to an end and much to my regret we only managed to catch one play. Well, one and a half actually. We made it halfway through Midsummer's (set in a jazz club and featuring Gershwin musical numbers - seriously) when they had to call it off because the Musical Director had fallen ill. Shame as it had been quite enjoyable. But we did catch all of Richard III, performed as a farcical comedy and done to brilliant effect. The wholly unexpected twist came near the end when Richard's decent into total madness brought a shift in the tone from comic to tragic, ultimately ensuring the poignant ending. Wonderful stuff, and all done on a park sidewalk with minimal props.

Christy will be the first Canadian visitor of 2004, and is due up in Glasgow later today. Will be great to simply spend a day pottering about the toon with an old friend tomorrow.

Sunday, July 18, 2004

T Time

The weather was mostly overcast for the weekend, but we managed to avoid the rain for the duration. The distribution of talent between the two days was noticeably lopsided. The newspapers described Day One as "killing time before the main event on Sunday". I'd more positively say that Day One was a good warm-up before the brilliance of Day Two. There were a lot of choices to be made, but in the end this is who we went to see:

Day One

Dogs Die In Hot Cars
One of the latest Glaswegian buzzbands doing the intellectual indie-pop thing. An enjoyable set and a good way to start the weekend, but no wow-factor.

The Zutons
They sound a bit like The Coral, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. Good set, but not a band I'd need to run out and see again.

British Sea Power
I was surprised how much I enjoyed their set. BSP remind me of the good mid-90's indie rock that I used to be really into. Quality stuff.

Funeral for a Friend
I went to see this set because of the hype this band receives. Couldn't tell you why, it was just nu-metal shite with a capital S. Two songs was all I could stand.

What can I say - I've got a soft spot for this band. The songs are perfect festival sing-a-long anthems, the singer has a brilliant voice and the energy from the band is tangible. They were booked to play the smaller NME stage before they became huge, so it was well packed. Somewhere Only We Know still sends the chills up the spine. Fi and I are turning into obsessives as we've already bought tickets to see them again in November.

Keane making the ladies swoon

My first disappointment. Not because of the band, but because I couldn't get in the King Tut's tent to see them in the first place. Security were blocking the tent entrances with placards saying "Tent Full". I debated trying to listen to the set from outside the tent but thought that would be a bit excessive. Ash should have been on an outdoor stage.

Ben Kweller
I had read a bit about him in the paper, so decided to catch this set at the smaller X-Tent. It was a pleasant surprise - he's got a bit of an old school Weezer-esque sound complete with the sunny harmonies and fuzzy loud guitars. Enjoyable, and would love to see him again.

The Libertines
These guys are adored by the NME, so I thought I'd give this set a go. I've heard a few tracks and they're pretty good. The main problem here was that weeks before T, the lead singer left the band (rehab - how rock n' roll!) so the guitarist was taking over the vocal duties. I guess it sounded okay, but it was clear that something was missing from the live set. 6 songs in I decided this would be a good time to take advantage of the short beer queues.

The Delays
My personal discovery of the weekend (like The Thrills from last year). I'd only heard one song from this band beforehand, and thought it was fab. They sound a bit like a rockier Cocteau Twins, featuring what I thought was a female vocalist with an amazing voice. Imagine my surprise when said female vocalist was in fact a guy. That said, the band was amazing and by the end the entire crowd (including the folk that I had convinced to check out the set) were converts. We've since picked up the album (Faded Seaside Glamour) - highly recommended.

The Darkness
A band with one album (yes - one) is hardly what I'd call headlining material. I spoke fondly about The Darkness last year after hearing their ironic 80's hair-metal singles with the killer hooks. But that was a full year ago. As another band once said - that joke isn't funny anymore. We hung around long enough to hear I Believe In A Thing Called Love and then caught the bus home before the queues got huge.

Day Two

Scissor Sisters
Undeniably crowd pleasing, you'd be hard-pressed not to enjoy the camp disco vibe of this band. The perfect band to start the day with as the party atmosphere was high. Singer Jake Shears oozes charisma. He was sporting a tartan toga, and revealed at the end that we was in fact a true Scotsman. Shamon indeed.

Franz Ferdinand
My first live exposure to Franz was back at the QMU in Glasgow back in April. They were big then, but they have now become full-fledged rock gods in Scotland. It was quite possible that all 55,000 people were in front of the Main Stage for this one. And rock they do, blasting their way through their debut album. Always brilliant to hear Take Me Out live. And after all, it's always better on holiday (that's why we only work when we need the money).

The Thrills
The new album is due out soon, so this was a great opportunity to hear some of their new material and of course the best from their debut which was my soundtrack of last summer. The new single is not only catchy as hell, but has the best song title of the year so far -"What Ever Happened to Corey Haim?". Quite.

Amy Winehouse
The young Londoner with the killer voice whose music sounds like a funkier, jazzier Esthero. We unfortunately missed most of her set, but I enjoyed what we heard. Booty shaking abound.

Mull Historical Society
I knew the band had a bit of a following, but the King Tut's tent was simply heaving for this set. And rightfully so, the band was excellent (despite several technical glitches). Melodic rock and quirky lyrics galore. Can't wait to catch them in a more intimate setting.

Badly Drawn Boy
There is something about BDB that just doesn't sit right with me. I love a lot of his music, but there is something missing from his newer material and his stage shows. Pleasant, but about halfway through I thought it was more important to get a good spot for the Pixies.

I was almost sick with anticipation for this one. When the band walked on stage, all dressed in white, it was so surreal. Here they were - the Pixies - a band I've loved for over a decade but had been disbanded for the duration of this time, now before me on stage. In a field. In Scotland. For some artists, the comeback/reunion gig reeks of opportunism and appeals only to the diehards. But this show seemed so relevant. Yes, the crowd was full of folk my age and the 30-somethings that grew up with them. But the kids were out in full force too. The entire setlist (which can be viewed here) was full of songs that sound as relevant now as ever before despite being over 15 years old in some cases. Frank Black's howl, Kim Deal's bass and harmony, the tight drumming of David Lovering and of course the incredible guitar wizardry of Joey Santiago were on full display here. They dove right into Planet Of Sound ("One fine day in my odd past...") and checked off all the favourites (including Debaser...heavenly) before finishing with an incredible extended version of Vamos without saying a word between songs. They didn't need to as the crowd was in their hands. When all four came together at the end to take a group bow, the crowd was going insane. I can only hope that this newfound creative energy translates into new material at some point that is on par with their past catalogue. From what I heard on stage, the chances are good.

The Pixies - This Crowd Has Gone To Heaven

Buck 65
Any other artist would fail to sustain the post-Pixies high I was feeling, so you can imagine my excitement when I saw that Buck was playing the snug X-Tent immediately after. I say it again, the man is brilliant and as good as the albums are, you just can't beat seeing him live.

Buck 65 - Wicked and Weird

The Strokes
One of the main indications that the promoters of this event are a bit naive. I mean, you have the newly reformed Pixies and the homecoming gig of a world-conquering Scottish band in the form of Franz Ferdinand on the bill, and you decide to have the much less talented Strokes close out the festival? Stayed around for about half the set before our ride back to Glasgow said that perhaps it was time to go. I agreed.

The headliners may have been disappointing, but this was easily offset by the sheer quantity and quality of music that was on display over the two days with the Pixies as my personal highlight. I was still feeling the buzz well into this week. The BBC has great coverage of the event which you can hear on their website if interested.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

Worth a Thousand Words?

With summer upon us, perhaps it's time to get a little colour onto the site. Thus, a few pics from various events from the last year...

The champion of the Pollok Park Heilan Coo Exhibition, Glasgow.

The Rail Bridge over the River Forth, and the bridge I cross to get to work on a Monday morning. The view of the bridge from the hotel I stayed at for a few months late last year.

Nearing the end of the long climb up Bidean nam Bian, Glen Coe.

West Highland Way, Day 3. The valley near the River Fillan and at the foot of Ben More before the skies opened up.

West Highland Way, Day 5. Fi working her way up the Devil's Staircase in Glen Coe.

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Happy Belated 137th!

Canada Day has come and gone, and as expected there wasn't much in the way of celebration for the event in Fife. The best I could do was buy a bottle of "real Canadian maple syrup" (made in England) to pour over crumpets. However, everybody at my work is now aware that July 1st is in fact the birthday of the Great White North.

My thoughts couldn't help but stray to Canada Days in Ottawa, sharing a few beers at an impromptu Seanfest before heading downtown to see the crowds. Which subsequently summoned images of cottages in the summer, roadtrips through the Rockies or the Maritimes, Stompin' Tom and drinks at the Green Room.

Drew made my day in a huge way. A very wicked Canada Day package arrived in Glasgow on the 1st (impeccable timing that!) which included, among other things, the new Hayden album Elk-Lake Serenade which I listen to as I write this. Drew - much appreciated!

I guess I'm happy about the election results. The Liberals were sufficiently humbled, the Tories didn't get anywhere near the breakthrough they thought they would (thankfully), and the NDP has the opportunity to legitimately influence parliament for the first time in years. Hardly an inspirational campaign or result, but probably the best that could have come out of it.

T in the Park continues its unlucky streak of having one of their top acts pull out of the festival at the last minute. Last year it was the White Stripes (due to a broken finger), this year it is David Bowie (due to a pinched nerve). Lame injuries in both cases, but so it goes. Though to be honest, I'm not too bothered. I would have seen Bowie if he was there, but with The Darkness now taking top billing on the Main Stage, I will now be able to see both them and The Libertines on the NME stage which will probably be a lot more fun than pretending I'm really into Under Pressure or Ziggy Stardust.