Nice ‘N’ Sleazy is twenty years old. It might be a terrible thing to say, but it is interesting to speculate on what alternative future might of unfolded had the venue been consumed by last February’s freak inferno. I say this with a particular problem in mind, one that Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap nailed on the head when asked to describe Sleazy’s in five words – ‘Very, very difficult to leave’.
Many will attest to the Sauchiehall Street bar and venue’s narcotic qualities. During the day you see the weekend’s hangover cases stumbling in from the cold to the bar’s welcome-home environs. There they slowly sip that essential recovery pint, stuff their faces with all manner of greasy treats, and talk rubbish about bands that not even they’ve heard of. In the evening they scuttle downstairs to that evening’s gig. Occasionally it’s some rising starlet the house promoters have grabbed – ‘post-dubstep’ poster boy James Blake played two stunning, packed-out shows earlier this year, complete with drunken forty-somethings loudly flirting with the man himself on stage, and that infuriating guy who, with his eyes closed and his head tilted back, insists on crooning along with every goddamn lyric. More often than not however, the gigs are local affairs, perhaps with touring bands, organized by those who’ve discovered just how frighteningly easy and satisfying it can be to put on and promote your own events. And then, finally, the night descends. The Halt and The Captain’s Rest have kicked out all the hipsters who then descend upon Sleazy’s to vegetate in a river of White Russians and sweat. And next week, the same. The locust eaters are alive and well, and they’re sleeping in Sleazy’s.
So what if this had all been taken away? What if the rumors that blustery February morning had been true, and not the unfounded hysteria of a tutor group with nothing else to talk about? What if, god forbid, we’d have to start going elsewhere?! At the time, it was a kind of sweet relief. No more would anyone have to pay for the pleasure of standing about in a meat market of hormones, swilling a foul mix of semi-skimmed milk and Glens, desperately trying to hold a conversation over the impossibly loud music and wondering how everyone else seemed to manage it just fine. Perhaps we could use this opportunity to transform our nightlifes into more civilized affairs, and get on with the business of admiring each other’s Aga ovens and talking bitterly about the novels we’re trying to get published.
And then the rumors were dispelled and the doors re-opened. Business continued much like it had, perhaps with a renewed appreciation. One thing became clear though. There are venues in Glasgow guilty of living off a reputation that has long since withered – chief among them are King Tuts and the QMU. This is an accusation that can’t be convincingly leveled at Sleazies. Nobody I knew heard about the fire and said ‘Oh my god, that’s where such and such happened’. It’s a venue that’s not anchored to the past, despite the fact that very significant things probably DID happen there, and that’s a really refreshing thing. Perhaps that’s part of the reason why we’re all so comfortable getting drunk there.
Could it really have been replaced? In-house programmer Fielding Hope, partly responsible for the wonderful month-long party happening at the venue right now, suspects not. ‘Apart from being a friendly after-hours drinking hole,’ he says, ‘I think the best thing about it is it’s one of the most open-minded venues in Glasgow, and one that almost everyone feels home at. Without it I think Glasgow would lose one of its central hubs for creatives and definitely make these people feel less connected. Its unpretentious, independent, dark and a bit rough round the edges: a lot like some of the best art and music in Glasgow’
These kinds of retrospectives can be dull affairs, always in danger of amounting to a list of things you’ve missed and any amount of fawning over the famous regulars. Of course you’re likely to see Aidan Moffat, Malcolm Middleton, Mogwai et al at Sleazy’s! They bloody LIVE in Glasgow and believe it or not they enjoy gigs and pints as much as you! More over, few can really claim to have a deep knowledge of the entire twenty years Sleazy’s has seen, least of all this writer. Many reading this will have been little more then a twinkle in the eyes of their biological fathers when it opened. But the beautiful thing is none of this matters. Important things still happen at Sleazy’s, meaning it doesn’t need to bang on about the first Franz Ferdinand gigs to maintain credibility. So let’s keep it simple and say simply this – Sleazy’s is still around, and appears to be as relevant as people say it was back then. Happy birthday buddy, but for all our children’s sakes, don’t get complacent.
Recently at Sleazy’s:
Blurt – Recruiting Glasgow’s own Prayer Rug as a band, post-punk pioneer Ted Milton played the whole of the excellent ‘Pagan Strings’ LP. Afterwards he moaned about the sound, to the bemusement of many.
Aidan Baker – The Canadian brought his improvised guitar-based ambience to Glasgow to accompany the cold, misty nights.
Holy Mountain – In Sleazy’s. Playing Black Sabbath covers. At Midnight. On Halloween. If that doesn’t make you shiver, seek medical attention.