An American Music Lover in Glasgow

I’m not from around here. As badly as I might want to believe I can slyly fit in, as soon as I open my mouth – or in this case buy a ticket to a gig – it’s clear that I don’t belong.

Nervous as hell when flying away from my dear Pacific Ocean, I had one consoling thought that I knew would help me make it through my time here unscathed. Live music. A universal language in my Northern Californian – or as we embarrassingly yet proudly say ‘NorCal’ – mind.

I was rudely awakened from my fantastical dream idea that through all the differences, live music in Glasgow would be just as it is in San Francisco, Berkeley, Santa Cruz, Oakland, etc. UK slang that I can’t comprehend without explanation (not to mention the Glaswegian accent…), exceedingly fashionable students, and the metric system are not the only thing that makes me realize I can’t pretend this is home.

Walking into King Tut’s for the first time, I saw that my night was not going to be as I had pictured. The show had already started, and the crowd was still. I was confused. Back home people dance and move and groove all night to the music. If you just feel like standing and watching you better be prepared to be shunned to the back of the room as the excited event goers shove to the front.

As the show continued and the crowd stood still with drinks in hand, drinks a Californian would have spilt two minutes into the show in their dancing, I decided that these people looked like they weren’t having much fun.

When I looked closer, I realized that perhaps they weren’t wildly flinging there body here and there to the beat of the music, but it wasn’t at all as if they weren’t paying attention. In fact, it was clear that they were actually paying very close attention, and watching the musicians play their instruments.

That might seem like a strange statement, but in NorCal, the crowd isn’t necessarily there simply out of appreciation for great musicianship. And when I reminisced even further, deeply missing my NorCal music crowd, I realized that I might have just gotten used to it, and all those barely dressed girls at shows in California, dancing and fluttering their fake eye lashes in an attempt to win the highly respected title of “groupie” and everything it entails.

Granted I have limited myself thus far to a less than eclectic array of genres. But what I can say for Glasgow as of now, is that these are music fans. People go to shows to listen, experience, and watch the music, appreciating it on a deeper level. While I’ll never stop dancing, I now see the enriching qualities of paying closer attention, and will explain it to my friends in California (That is, if they can understand the thick Glaswegian accent I will have picked up by the time I head home).

Elsbeth Riley


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