Whether you’re new to the city, or just looking for something to shake up your gig-going pattern, we have the perfect mix of artists from near and far that you just can’t miss next time they play Glasgow.
My heart goes out to fellow students who may have moved to Glasgow for the first time last autumn. This city can be pretty unforgiving from October through March – the days are short, the winter is long, and the weather is bleak, and all the while we haven’t been able to take refuge in the sanctuary of music venues. Some of you reading this may have never experienced a night out in Glasgow before, and for those who have, it might all seem like a distant dream at this point.
The packed-out basements of Nice ‘n’ Sleazy, the Hug and Pint, or the Priory on punk nights, when the walls are wet with sweat. The way the floorboards creak precariously in the Barrowland Ballroom, as 2,000 Glaswegians bounce together in harmony. Intimate folk nights at the Glad Café or McNeill’s in the Southside, or late-night jazz at the Blue Arrow. The endless warehouse raves at the Glue Factory in Port Dundas or G.A.S. in Laurieston, and the soundsystem parties at Civic House or the African Arts Centre. Getting some records and banging vegan food at Mono in Merchant City before seeing bands. Even the Hydro, with its seven quid pints, shite hot dogs, and sterile atmosphere… Anything!
Freedom is on the way though, folks. Virtual festivals are slowly beginning to fizzle out, tours are beginning to reappear on calendars for the end of this year, and 21 June is tentatively circled in everyone’s diaries (especially Mike Skinner’s). We can almost taste it now. So, here are my shouts for some of the artists you have to see when live music is finally unleashed upon Glasgow.
Nekkuro Hána, a five-piece all studying at the University of Glasgow, create music that is a mad and virtuosic blend of psychedelia, jazz, RnB and Afrobeat. Now that may sound like a pretty incongruous mix, but incongruity is Nekkuro Hána’s mission. When tunes like Lizardman are played live they are bizarre 10-minute odysseys with fantastically disjointed sections. The band keep you on your toes throughout the set – any time you get your dance moves locked in with a certain rhythm, the band suddenly take a sharp turn down a rabbit hole and you’re left gently swaying in the middle of the dancefloor as blaring horns cut across a raucous samba beat. It’s beautiful chaos. This band radiates joy and I defy anyone to watch them live without a huge daft grin on their face. Quite simply – the best live band in Glasgow.
Listen to: Lizardman
For fans of: Sonny Rollins, King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, Frank Zappa, D’Angelo, and The Mighty Boosh.
Imagine if the cast of The Wicker Man or Midsommar got their hands on some analogue synths, drum machines, and a bag of speed: that’s Free Love. I saw Free Love headline the Glue Factory at the Great Western Festival in 2019 and it was one of the wildest gigs I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending. Producer Lewis Cook, clad in a beret and roll neck, took to the stage alone and started off a moody kick drum and synth loop. Meanwhile, singer Suzanne Rodden, led a group of five flag-bearing dancers (all dressed in cultish white robes and masks) from the back of the venue, through the crowd and onto the stage. Rodden was an intoxicating cult leader that night, transfixing every audience member with her furious dancing, crowd-surfing and distorted screams. Incense was burning, flowers were flying, the Red Stripe was flowing – they were unstoppable. Not to be missed when the post-Covid summer of love kicks into gear.
Listen to: Pushing Too Hard
For fans of: Crystal Castles, Chvrches, hippie communes, and LSD.
Supercloud are another band of students, all studying at Glasgow uni. I first heard them after listening to band members Lloyd and Loup’s great solo records, and when joined by drummer Ollie, they make a high energy, art-rock band with great melodies, vocal harmonies and Velvet Underground-esque rhythms. Expect to catch them partying down the Hug and Pint on Great Western Road, where they strung together a load of gigs before culture was so unceremoniously derailed last year. One for all you indie fans out there.
Listen to: (she lives in a) high rise
For fans of: The Velvet Underground, Ultimate Painting, and The Lemon Twigs.
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
I won’t lie, it hit me hard when Ticketmaster refunded my Nick Cave tickets after his show at the Hydro was eventually cancelled after being rescheduled a number of times last year. For those who know Nick’s music and the godlike silhouette he cuts onstage, a Bad Seeds show is the closest an atheist can get to a religious experience. Seamlessly moving from crooning piano ballads like Into My Arms to twisted murderous rampages like Stagger Lee – Cave can make a grown man cry and headbang with furious, wailing abandon all in the blink of an eye. With an ability to make an arena show feel like an intimate club gig, Cave’s command of live music is unparalleled, and his newest material is begging for its live debut. Don’t miss out when he next comes to town.
Listen to: Jubilee Street
For fans of: Leonard Cohen, The Fall, Johnny Cash, God, love, death etc.
Sacred Paws! It’s literally impossible to resist dancing when this Glasgow-based duo are in full swing. Their music is a gleeful mix of indie, post-punk, and afrobeat; a formula which earned their 2017 debut Strike a Match the Scottish Album of the Year accolade. Guitarist and singer Rachel Aggs is a force of nature on stage, bouncing around with uncontainable joy whilst Eilidh Rodgers’ lightning-quick four-to-the-floor drumming sets heads bobbing throughout the venue. A band with a mission to get Glasgow dancing.
Listen to: Almost It
For fans of: Foals, Two Door Cinema Club, The Cast of Cheers, Fela Kuti, and cutting mental shapes in the club.
Avocet take their name from Scottish folk hero Bert Jansch’s 1979 album and their music takes inspiration from the rich history of Celtic folk music which Jansch was steeped in. I first saw Avocet play in the bar of the Burbank Bowling Club on Woodlands Road in 2019 – a venue definitely not equipped to hold the many dozens of people it did that day. The difficulty of soundchecking a harp in a fully functional music venue must be a hard task at the best of times, let alone in the cramped front room of an old sports clubhouse, and so the soundcheck ended up lasting a strong 40 minutes. The trio navigated the awkward situation with great patter, before eventually treating the Guinness-nursing audience to a set of shimmering folk balladry complete with masterful and understated playing. Arrestingly beautiful music for you moody, broody folk fans.
Listen to: Causeway
For fans of: Bert Jansch, John Martyn, Nick Drake, and Fairport Convention.
“I don’t give a fuck about the past / All our glory days gone by” Aidan Moffat sings on the opening line of the Arab Strap’s first album in 16 years, but it’s important to remember the momentousness of this recent reunion; this is the second coming of one of Glasgow’s most important bands of all time. Moffat, Middleton and co. have been chronicling life in Glasgow for over two decades, with cult anthems like The First Big Weekend and The Shy Retirer telling the stories of wild, intoxicated nights in town with sincerity and bombast in equal measure. New album As Days Get Dark sees a matured but angrier Strap, and you won’t want to miss them debuting it when they reunite at the Barras in September.
Listen to: The First Big Weekend
For fans of: Red House Painters, Belle & Sebastian, Sleaford Mods, and poetry.
From one Glasgow giant to another. Mogwai are back and are riding high after topping the UK album charts with As The Love Continues, a collection of soaring post-rock soundscapes. Mogwai have always made music cinematic, and they’re on sparkling form here with tracks like Ritchie Sacramento and Dry Fantasy, songs that serve up opulence at an eardrum-bursting volume. To paraphrase music journalist John Doran – this is music so loud you’ll shite your kecks. Catch Mogwai blowing the roof off the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall this November.
Listen to: Mogwai Fear Satan
For fans of: Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Ros, Godspeed You! Black Emperor, and long winter walks.
Demented local duo The Bleeders are well known about town for their outlandish live shows which combine their uniquely silly and sardonic sense of humour with pummelling hard rock “bangrangerdangers”, as they would put it. The online launch party for their most recent single COOL! was a treat for fans, featuring bizarre guest appearances from Paul Chuckle and one of the Oompa Loompas from the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory film. If there’s one thing to take from their absurdist launch party, it’s that The Bleeders are quite clearly a band that needs to play live, and a band that must be seen live. With guitarist Jackson once running off stage during a Paisley gig last year to use the toilet (and continuing to play live guitar while doing so) – make sure you’re queueing up to see them don their vampiric makeup for the first time post-lockdown.
Listen to: COOL!
For fans of: Queens of the Stone Age, FIDLAR, Limmy, and questioning reality.
Right, listen up. All bets are off. On Friday 30 July, you’re going to see Underworld headline Playground Festival at Rouken Glen Park. Do not pass “Go”, do not collect $200 – you’re going. Underworld, godfathers of British techno and IDM, might well be the best live group this planet has ever produced. I once bumped into singer Karl Hyde in a London pub whilst off my face and told him he danced like a snake being charmed, and I am fully prepared to make a tit of myself again whilst basking in the decadent glory of Underworld this summer. If dance music’s your thing, then – sincerely – there is no better way to spend your time.
Listen to: Rez
For fans of: Aphex Twin, Goldie, Orbital, rave culture, festivals.