There is no use in pretending that certain cities are inherently great for live music, least of all Glasgow. Yet the city’s ‘reputation’ is still paddled out in frustratingly shallow terms by any number of freshers guides printed in previous years. In the worst examples, it’s a reputation that seems to rest simply on the number of venues and the amount of touring acts that pay us a visit. Think about this. Every major city has their generic, oversized venues and annoyingly contrived alternatives, and if for whatever reason your new favorite band aren’t coming your way, the Megabus to London is never going to break the bank. In that respect, why should any of this mark out Glasgow as unique?
There are those that insist it’s the venues themselves that give Glasgow its accolades. For the freshers, one ‘legendary’ live venue you’re going to hear people repeatedly bleat about in the interests of increasing their membership is the QMU, which unfortunately is priding itself on an out-of-date reputation. The same is also true of King Tuts whose interior seems to consist of homage after dated homage to gigs your parents could have seen. It’s time to grow up – Kurt’s dead and nobody that mattered liked Oasis before eight pints of larger. This is not to say that they don’t occasionally put good gigs on, but if there ever was anything unique in these venues, it’s long since left the premises. And so long as they gestate in a past that’s no longer relevant, it won’t be coming back.
Over the last few years, there has been a process of decentralization that has shifted efforts away from the venues and profit-driven ideals that have staled the city’s music. Bands have shunned the exploitative pay-to-play schemes. Fans have left the spaces long since alienated by money-hungry promoters for the intimacy of their living rooms, abandoned buildings and wholesome venues like the 13th Note with cheap overheads and respect for bands. Collectives such as Winning Sperm Party have provided cheap, easy access to a wealth of creativity, and free parties by the likes of Croc Madame vs. Croc Mousier have given everyone a few reasons to feel better about live music, and life in general. Don’t label it, but if you have to, then call it DIY.
The weekend of the 3rd and 4th saw what will hopefully be the first of a new, annual festival called Music is the Music Language, organized by the independent, not-for-profit promoters Cry Parrot and Tracer Trails. Staffed by volunteers, gigs were spread across venues including Studio Warehouse Glasgow (SWG3), The Ivy, The 78, and an abandoned warehouse alongside the Clyde. Acts were as diverse as the Caledonia-suffused acoustic whimsy of Alasdair Roberts and the solo vocals of Wounded Knee (a man who once succeeded in transforming a curious, semi-interested Arches crowd into a mesmerising drone choir), to the playful terror of Ultimate Thrush and Divorce, to the infinite sonic explorations of Moon Unit and Vom. The festival celebrated the revival of artists and music-lovers doing it for themselves. The community spirit that built the festival endows it with the same kind of excitement we’ll have all encountered with our first experiences of live music.
The most incredible thing is, none of this is new – it has happened before on multiple occasions through various guises, and perhaps it is the spirit behind it that lends the city’s live scene the praise so often espoused in those annual eulogies. If there’s a difference this time round, it’s that everyone is invited. Welcome to Glasgow, where instead of paying fifteen pound for the privilege of standing at the back of the ABC, you can come and witness and involve yourself in something homegrown and thrilling for less then a fiver. Better yet, you can do it yourself.
Music is the Music Language (festival)
SWG3, Glasgow, 4th September 2011