The past few weeks have been a bit frantic and the blog has largely been running on empty, relying on pre-written posts that I’ve pulled out of a file that is kept specially for such purposes. There were gigs which took place a few weeks ago still not reviewed and with your agreement, I’d like to roll up all of them over the coming three days with lunchtime bonus postings.
SATURDAY 22 APRIL : BUTCHER BOY
GOVANHILL BATHS, GLASGOW
It’s been over four years since Butcher Boy last played before a live audience. This gig, arranged as part of Record Store Day, was to support the release of a new limited edition of 500 3-track EP on 7″ vinyl on Damaged Goods Records. I had been involved in trying to find a venue that was best suited to the band, preferably one that would bring out the best of their unique, gentle and often fragile chamber-pop sound, but efforts across ten locations in Glasgow came to nothing due to unavailability and in the end it was their guitarist Basil who used contacts to have this highly unusual location pressed into use.
Govanhill Baths was a victorian-era swimming pool closed by the council, amidst much animosity, in 2001. A community-led campaign has seen the building handed over to a community trust which is trying to raise the tens of millions to bring it back into full use again. In the meantime, the space is utilised in a number of different ways, including the occasional artistic performance.
The band, literally, played in the deep end of the drained pool and the 120-strong audience sat looking down from rows of seats in the shallow end. It was quite a surreal setting, especially as the targets for the archery classes which would follow the band’s performance (it was a show timed for 6pm-7pm) were in situ.
What followed will, like every Butcher Boy performance, stay long in the memory. The line-up was slightly different from before with Anna Miles on flute and backing vocals joining the regulars of Maya Burman-Roy (cello), Alison Eales (keyboards and accordion), Fraser Ford (guitar and keyboards), John Blain Hunt (vocals, acoustic guitar), Findlay MacKinnon (drums), Basil Pieroni (lead guitar and mandolin), Cat Robertson (violin) and Robert Spark (bass and occasional percussion)
The 14-strong setist was superb, drawing from some of the earliest EPs , all three of the studio albums while there were debuts for all the songs released on RSD 2017. My fears of the building not being ideal for sound weren’t realised initially with opening instrumental Every Other Saturday being gorgeously note perfect. However, it soon became clear that the high ceilings and echoey nature of a former swimming pool weren’t conducive to getting the best out of the vocals which often got lost behind the lush orchestration and arrangements. I was lucky in knowing all the songs and being able to follow the lyrics but it must have been tough on those who were seeing the band for the first time. It was a real shame as the contributions from Anna, whose work in the past has also added so much to the studio sound of Adam Stafford, were particularly striking and took the band to a different level again.
Everyone played their part in making for a hugely enjoyable hour on an early Saturday evening, but a special mention to Findlay on drums for staying so magnificently on top of things when the nature of the building was such that it wouldn’t have taken much for him to drown out the subtle sounds of his band mates.
The gig was a resounding success in that all the copies of the single available on the night were sold, although small numbers may still be available on-line or from stores that participated in RSD 2017. The audience capacity for the gig was reached and all profits went to the Baths Trust to support current and future activities.
Very few members of Butcher Boy are full-time musicians and getting them together for live shows is a tricky task, especially with Findlay living in the West Midlands south of the border. It remains to be seen whether more shows will emerge later this year but I’ve no doubt that everyone treated to the Govanhill show wouldn’t hesitate in getting along next time round, no doubt joined by those fans who couldn’t get tickets or who were otherwise engaged on what was a busy weekend, musically in Glasgow.
Good luck tracking down a copy.