Tuesday, 22 April 2008

A Proper Outing - Part 2: The Hippest Party in Europe

Sorry about the cliffhanger. I wanted to spare you all from staring at your computer screens for too long but so many people have been cross with me for dragging it out that I'm putting Part 2 up now...

WE have a problem and the problem is that we're not going to get in - the SWG3 is at capacity! Support band Punch & The Apostles are only just on but the place has been turning people away for the previous 20 minutes. Andrew, the sharp-witted bass player, is having a cigarette outside, "You'se'll not get in now," he says in his best Dad's Army Fraser voice. But I can tell he's not serious because of the grin on his face. One of the guys on the door recognises us and we're in.

Inside, it's absolutely heaving. The capacity is 300 and I'm sure for Health, Safety and Fire Regulations sake they haven't gone over but ... well, you know, it's bloody packed. The clientele is a mix of cool 20- and 30-somethings, plus a nice smattering of older hipsters. Behind the bar cocktails are being poured, onstage Punch & co. are blasting out a Lanarkshire version of Gogol Bordello and everyone seems to know each other. I get the impression that the whole audience is somehow involved in the local arts scene, I'm not sure why other than there doesn't seem to be the level of insecure posing that happens when a club is full of wannabes; everyone seems to already be someone. If we were in London, say at the ICA or the Scala - or in one of the studios in Hoxton, the sense of competitiveness and jealousy would be palpable; the girls would be checking each other out more, the men would be more obsessed with their clothing; superficiality would have been in the air. Of course, I'm making huge generalisations from the perspective of someone who is very excited that MY BAND'S PARTY IS THE HIPPEST PARTY IN EUROPE but hey, these are my thoughts at the time.

Soon it's eleven o'clock and the band are still not on stage. Just as I am going to round them up they appear from the doorway, clutching instruments. Christ, there are no lights on stage, William isn't wearing his bright top, Jack is wearing a grey T-shirt that some fan has forced him to, no on will see them ... It'll be fine, it'll be fine. I give them beers and retreat to the back of the room.

No lights go down and no intro is made. Suddenly from nowhere they kick off with Volcano - a cover of local blues band's tune which they've turned into a off-kilter, keyboard-squeaking monster. Except you can't hear it. The vocals are non-existent, the bass is barely audible above the continued conversation of the crowd and the keyboards sound like an 80s computer game. Shit! I see Geoff weaving through the crowd towards me. He's a self-confessed sound fascist, deriving pleasure in taking live engineers to task and I can tell he wants blood. At this point the vocal pokes through but it's still cripplingly quiet - like a builder's radio in the corner of the room. I've already turned to George behind me, "You can't hear anything, mate! - can you get the sound up?" George is calm as ever but his fingers are all over the desk like a card sharp.

Amazingly, by the time Geoff reaches me the sound is alive and well. The crowd are now rapt and the band have hit their stride. Within two songs the whole room is captured. I turn to Charlie and we smile. The room is loving them, they manage to convince without lights or even much chat between songs. At one point there's a crowd surge and audience members collapse in a heap on top of a Jim Lambie table. A casualty is carried out through the back exit by two members of staff - disastrously it's not one of the drunk audience but a £10K table. Hope they're insured.

The rest of the evening is a blur, of course. They play the single, the gig finishes. The DJ starts playing old Motown records which must be against some sort of DJ bylaw but somehow works in this context. Someone tells me that since the venue reached capacity they've turned away over 150 people, including Stuart Murdoch from Belle And Sebastian. That'll teach him to be fashionably late. Wonder if another Scottish rock celebrity who had promised to DJ suffered the same fate ...

A large proportion of the audience head back to Jack's flat where the partying continues. There, I chat to the ex-keyboard player who now appears to be working in the House of Commons, the video director who is an old friend, and Jack's lovely girlfriend... By the time I leave, I know I'm too drunk to walk back to the hotel because I'm deciding to walk back to the hotel. On my journey to Room 504, I discover a street booth selling bacon rolls at 4 in the morning. I buy one and, pulling my manager's coat tighter against the cold, continue walking whilst I eat. It's the most delicious thing I've ever tasted.


  1. T'was a great night to be sure. Only just remember talking to you at the party. Seeing as you never mention 'your Glasgow band' by name, does that mean I can't post a link to the video? Oops.

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