I ain’t no music critic.
I’m in Glasgow for one night only. On a Tuesday evening, this town is apparently not a’rockin’, as a pre-visit internet search turns up just the one gig that I might be interested in going to, at a bar called Bloc, a few blocks west of George Square.
It’s hard to look – or rather, feel – inconspicuous in an empty room. This one is not so much empty, but it does have a low population density with a half dozen groups – generally couples, but also some threes, some fours. It’s got a nice, dark basement feel – low slung ceilings, poorly lit corners, very little natural light, and a view out a window of the steps heading up to the street. The beers are nothing special and the food is pizza or a “themed” option. I came on Burger Tuesday, and obliged them by eating one of their Tuesday burgers.
Came with fries.
I like this place.
The bands are due to start around 9, so it says on the sign behind the bar. There are going to be 3 of them, starting out with a band called abandcalledboy, from Northern Ireland. Interesting name that, abandcalledboy. I imagine the discussion around the band name going something like this: Let’s call our band “Boy”. No way, we’re Irish, and people will immediately think we’re naming it after that feckin’ U2 album. Yeah, true that. Why don’t we call our band “A band called boy”? Aye, good idea. Why don’t we make italloneword? Brilliant. Abandcalledboy.
I have a drink. I eat my burger. I read my book. I overhear a conversation – or rather one sentence of the conversation “…a letter signed by Hitler…”. I’m intrigued but find it hard to imagine Hitler signing letters. I have seen a letter signed by Stalin though, who I can imagine as more of a bureaucratic type. I have another drink. A little drunk now.
The first band, who I have to assume are abandcalledboy arrive, and unroll their stage carpet out on the floor just beside me. I am going to be in the way here – if not in the way, I am going to have my ears blown out when they start playing. They have their own sound guy, which is quite impressive I think. At first I mistake him for the lead singer, and worry that there must inevitably be a lot of tension in this band because he seems a bit bossy. But I eventually cotton on to the fact that he is just doing his sound check – the band are made up of a lead guitar, a bass, and a drummer who sings.
Oh, I love a drummer who sings! The only one I can really think of is Levon Helm from The Band, and he was a very good drummer who sings. Maybe he’s a better singer who drums, I’m not really sure of the intricacies and technicalities of drumming, nor whether Levon Helm is considered a good drummer. But he can jolly well sing.
Also, there is Phil Collins.
The band are set up, and understandably they disappear for a pre-show cigarette and drink, and I guess a discussion of how the gig should pan out. They are supposed to start at 9pm. Nine comes and goes. I get another drink. As I am draining that one, I notice through the bottom of the glass that the sign behind the bar that once advertised 3 bands is now showing just the one. Abandcalledboy. And because they are now the only band on the bill, abandcalledboy won’t be coming on stage for another hour. I buy another beer. I check the sign behind the bar again. Yep. Only one band. Abandcalledboy.
But they do come on stage. As they plug themselves in and switch everything on I get up from my seat and head toward the back of the venue, the opening scene from Back to the Future upmost in my mind as the low electric hum kicks in. They start playing, and they are pretty darn good. Good and loud, certainly.
They have a maturity beyond their years, music-wise at least. It seems strange that bands as young as this should be doing what much older and more accomplished bands took years to perfect. I guess it’s all about learning from others, and the general evolution of music, the shared knowledge, the shared consciousness. They are playing with an easy confidence, all three of them. It amazes me that a drummer can sing and keep his voice steady, but he does sing, a voice with a gravelly quality – a bit Kurt Cobain; and a drumming style that reminds me of Dave Grohl. However, they’re not Nirvana nor are they pretending to be. Their sound is meaty, base, full of loud, chest-impacting guitar and drums. Bands really must be driven by drummers!!
There are moments of immaturity – a song with “Serotonin” as a refrain – “Lithium” anyone? Also a slightly cringing interaction with some female fans – not creepy, but the drummer asking the young ladies if they find the guitarist attractive. Dude – you’ve got great hair, you sing and play the drums at the same damn time – why wouldn’t they find you attractive? The song about Dead Academics thankfully offset by one with a refrain “I wanna be someone I can believe”. Great line that.
I loved them for their noise, their confidence, for the fact that they made a couple of business types who had happened upon the place look distinctly uncomfortable; these two wolfed down their Tuesday Burger Night burgers with indigestion-inducing haste and got the hell out. A bit rock ‘n’ roll – scaring off the squares, man!
It felt like being in at the start of something. One of the first gigs of a band with big ideas and big potential. They made me wonder what it was like at that first meeting of The Rolling Stones; or when Ringo reportedly elbowed his way into the Beatles. Getting in on something, on the ground floor. Most times those things crash and burn and not much comes out of them; but sometimes those small or young or immature things go on and become great things, given half a chance. And this can happen on a Tuesday Burger night, in a bar called Bloc in Glasgow.
With a band called abandcalledboy.