IT WAS THIRTY YEARS AGO TODAY…..

I went to a gig last Saturday night in the Glad Cafe on the south side of the city not too far from Villain Towers, but before I say a few things about it there needs to be a bit of context.

The Glasgow Garden Festival was held between 26 April and 26 September 1988. It was the first event of its type to be held in the city in 50 years, since the Empire Exhibition of 1938, and also marked the centenary of Glasgow’s first International Exhibition, the International Exhibition of Science, Art and Industry of 1888.

It attracted 4.3 million visitors over 152 days and was part of a sustained effort by the local politicians to use arts/culture/events as a way of providing a new meaning for a city that had been decimated by the collapse of its traditional industries and was something of a precursor to the year-long European City of Culture festival in 1990 which, quite honestly, was an astonishing and mind-blowing 12 months that just couldn’t be repeated nowadays.

The Garden Festival site covered 120 acres of land, much of it reclaimed from the filling in of disused docks that had long been closed and were a sad reminder of the decline of the River Clyde and its shipyards. There was a garden element to the festival but most folk were attracted by the likes of a 240-foot high tower, the then biggest rollercoaster ride in Scotland, the re-introduction of trams, a temporary rail line, the first new pedestrian bridge over the Clyde in a generation, boat trips, art installations and various music/dance performances which changed daily.

It was always intended as a temporary event with the site to be fully re-developed immediately afterwards, mostly for housing. It didn’t turn out that way and although a small amount of housing was built and the small Festival Park created, the vast majority of the site lay derelict for about 20 years although things have moved on a bit since then including it now being home to a media campus including the headquarters of BBC Scotland and Scottish Television along with a popular visitor attraction in the Glasgow Science Centre.

So…..what’s all this to do with last Saturday’s gig?

The answer is that the one-off gig paid tribute to and celebrated the 1988 event with the release of a new album by Jamie Scott.

Jamie first came to notice as on half of electronic duo Conquering Animal Sound whose debut album Kammerspiel was shortlisted for Scottish Album of the Year in 2012 and whose follow-up On Floating Bodies was released by Chemikal Underground in 2013. I don’t think the band have officially split up but they’ve been quiet for a few years in which time Jamie has moved to the forefront of Scottish rap/electronica – a genre which is quite unlike many other urban/ghetto scenes – under a number of guises and with other collaborators such as Jonnie Common, who is in fact his older brother.

Jamie has spent well over a year coming up with a concept of in which he wanted to write and record a series of songs which explored the heritage of the 1988 festival and to stage his one-off event because:-

The Garden Festival did so much for the soul of the city. Glasgow’s residents saw the best of their people, saw an enduring, open spirit, and they began to imagine how their city could be. It may have lasted only a few sun soaked weeks, but it changed the city forever.

Those words came from Jamie’s introductory comments in the specially produced 28-page programme given to everyone at the gig. His introduction also points out that very little, outside of people’s memories, remains of the 1988 festival and so it was his hope that the Glad Cafe event would explore its legacy and ensure the positivity, energy and inspiration from what is still a partially derelict pocket of land wouldn’t be forgotten.

The highlight of the event would be the launch of a new 10-track album, Glasgow Garden Festival ’18, to be played in its entirety by Jamie who was joined on stage throughout by drummer Roy Shearer and on occasions by backing singers.

In addition to the live music, there was also exclusive merchandise for sale, a specially brewed lager on tap at the venue and an array of free cakes and biscuits…oh and a replacement tower for Glasgow to replace the one that had been so popular at the 1988 festival.

Having been at the football in Kirkcaldy earlier in the day, I didn’t get back down the road in time for the 8pm Opening Ceremony of Glasgow Garden Festival 18, but it was clear from the packed crowd already in the venue that folk were enjoying themselves with a great buzz and vibe very much in evidence.

The night opened with a short set from Two Kings. It proved to be bonkers, bewildering and brilliant in varying measures. I can’t tell you too much about Two Kings – it was two men, dressed in capes and wearing crowns, who made all sorts of wonderful electronic sounds while recalling tales of ancient history from a long-forgotten and long-lost kingdom. They are undoubtedly from one or more of the many acts with whom Jamie Scott has worked with over the years and while I enjoyed what they were doing, I’m not sure if I could have taken much more than the 20 minutes or so they were on stage as the joke could well have worn off.

The mesmerizing Adam Stafford was next to take to the stage. As ever he delivered a blistering set, via his guitar, effects pedals and mics, made up of familiar favourites, one brand new song and spellbinding versions of tracks from his latest opus, Fire Behind The Curtain, a double album of instrumental music that was released in May this year and which, to my shame, I’ve never got round to reviewing….but regular readers will know that as far as I’m concerned, Adam can do no wrong, and this neo-classical effort contains some of the finest pieces of work he’s ever done:-

mp3 : Adam Stafford – Zero Disruption

A short interval followed during which the soundtrack was Scottish pop/indie hits of the 80s…it was almost like being back at the Simply Thrilled night in The Admiral just two weeks ago….before the festival headliner took to the stage.

My comrade in arms for the night, Mike G, is a big fan of dance/hip-hop, rap and electronica music and has long enjoyed Jamie Scott’s work over the years. I’ve always been a bit less enthused, mostly as I’ve felt Scottish rapping to be a bit cringeworthy – there’s just something unconvincing about this style of music being delivered in such a broad and distinct accent.

But there was something on the night that made it click for me.

It is partly down to Jamie’s engaging personality and his ability to always seem to be enjoying himself on stage. This was a determined and genuine attempt to look back with fondness at 1988 for an audience who, with the exception of a handful of members, were all either born after it concluded or were so young that their memories would have been from a child’s perspective. He was passionate, reverent and caring about his subject matter, with the song titles and lyrics reflecting on the attractions of the original festival wrapped in love letters to the city and its citizens. The occasional slow song ensured it was a far from one-dimensional show but all the while the humour was never far away.

The show and album reflect on what is happening in the city and the country nowadays in this period of wider political upheaval and uncertainty but there’s also a number of nods to music of the era, including (Don’t You) Forget About Me in which Jamie reflects on what actually happened to the 88 site and the broken promises of an immediate regeneration. The show closed with a song that isn’t on the album, a beautifully conceived ballad version of Somewhere In My Heart with a co-vocal from Emma Carey, which seemed so apt given what had been recalled over the previous 45 minutes and also on a night when Roddy Frame himself was performing elsewhere in the city and no doubt getting his own audience on its feet with the same hit song. It was a moving end to a night with a difference.

mp3 : Jamie Scott – The Tower

Glasgow Garden Festival 18 is available to download from here.

JC

BONUS POST : THE NOT SO SECRET DIARY OF JC (aged 54 and a smidgin)

Wednesday 28 June : Paisley, 2017 Scottish Album of the Year Award Ceremony

The sixth year of the SAY Award and I keep my 100% attendance record. As ever, delighted to make it along and I’m in the company of Aldo. I see a few well-known faces who I manage to say hello to, some involved in the music industry, others who have become friends in recent years from this blogging lark. Someone I know happened to be talking to Stephen Pastel and so I politely barge my way in just to say thank you to the pop star for making Teenage Superstars such an enjoyable view. Turns out Stephen hasn’t seen the finished version nor indeed any of his own contributions. As ever, I come away from a few seconds in his company amazed at his modesty and the fact he doesn’t ever seem to understand how so many of us are in awe of him.

Last year’s winner Anna Meredith gets things off to a decent start before The Spook School take to the stage and deliver a 15-minute mini-set that channeled the energy and fun of Buzzcocks when they were at their peak.

mp3 : The Spook School – Books and Hooks and Movements

The next two acts to perform didn’t do anything for me so I won’t waste time writing about them.

The night ends with the announcement that the 2017 SAY Award is to Sacred Paws for Strike A Match. I’m pleased as it is a record I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of since its release back in March but it wasn’t the one from the long list of 20 and then the shortlist of 10 that I’d have put my money on.  Rachel and Eilidh were thrilled and stunned in equal measures when told they were to receive the £20,000 prize.

mp3 : Sacred Paws – Strike A Match

Thursday 29 June : Glasgow, launch of Reverse Drift by Adam Stafford

Regular readers will know how much I love the work of Adam Stafford.  There was no way I was missing out on the launch of his latest piece of work, Reverse Drift, which has just come out on the local indie label Gerry Loves Records.

It’s an ambitious piece consisting of a 40-minute piece of improvised music that was recorded live in one take with no overdubs featuring just a synthesizer, a sequencer, some effect pedals and Adam’s occasional vocal, along with a 48-page book containing photos he had taken over a period of eighteen years, between 1999 to 2017, mostly of landscapes in and around his home town of Falkirk.

Adam announces that as Reverse Drift was wholly improvised on the day it was recorded, he won’t be playing any of it at the show to launch its release!  Instead we are treated to 50 minutes of new, mostly instrumental music. Just one man and his guitar, foot pedals and various effects mics and made for an unforgettable and special evening. He’s hopeful that the music will be recorded in October this year for future release. It was everything those of us who like Adam have come to expect and appreciate, but it had added anger and energy that translated the music into gothic landscapes. Something to look forward to in the months ahead. In the meantime, here’s a lovely nimber that was an outtake from his 2015 LP Imaginary Walls Collapse

mp3 : Adam Stafford – Sound Of Fear Evaporating

It’s a song that features a vocal contribution from Siobhan Wilson who herself was launching her latest album the following night in Glasgow, an event I’d have gone along to except it clashed with something else….

Friday 30 June : Dunfermline, The Skids Homecoming Show

This was a huge surprise.  The 1,500th posting on the blog a few weeks back was an ICA featuring The Skids. I lamented that I had missed their show in Glasgow as they embarked on a 40th Anniversary Tour but I hadn’t minded as it had clashed with the bloggers’ weekend and the unforgettable hook-up with Dirk, Walter, Brian, Adam and many others.

I took a call from Mr John Greer, past contributor to these pages, saying that he had come into possession of four tickets for the band’s long sold-out gig in their home town; not only that, but it was part of a package that had been bid for at a charity event that enable the ticket holders to attend the sound check and have a meet’n’greet with the band. There was also some food and drink at a nearby pub thrown in (but not with the band!!)

I was thrilled to be invited along as one of the guests, mainly as I was keen to see the band on the back of consistently great reviews on the tour, but especially for the fact I would meet a long-time hero.

Yup. In a year that is proving to provide all sorts of wonderful first-time happenings, this was right up there.

The gig could have been an anti-climax but that was far from the case. In front of a manic but brilliantly behaved 600-strong audience in the splendour of the art-deco Glen Pavilion (another new venue for me), Richard Jobson and co really did turn the clock back. As he said, in his head he was on the stage still thinking he was a 16-year old punk looking out at an audience of 16-year old punk music fans – fat and bald 16 year olds for the most part, but still determined to singalong and dance away as if there was no tomorrow.

The set-list was majestic:-

Animation
Of One Skin
Melancholy Soldiers
Thanatos
Dulce et Decorum Est (Pro Patria Mori)
Working for the Yankee Dollar
The Saints Are Coming
Scared to Dance
Charles
The Olympian
Out of Town
Hurry On Boys
Circus Games
Masquerade
Into the Valley

ENCORE

Charade
A World On Fire
TV Stars
Of One Skin

Yup….they ended with a song they had aired before as they didn’t want to leave the stage. I’ve no idea just how these old troupers managed to keep up the sort of energetic pace throughout the near 100 minute set. It was sweltering hot from the word go but not once did any of them appear short of breath. Richard Jobson remains a front man who so many could learn from – utterly charismatic, witty and performing throughout with the widest grin imaginable. It was wonderful.

mp3 : The Skids – The Olympian

Saturday 1 July : Villain Towers, Glasgow

Lazy day to recover.  Was able to reflect on a few personal things such as my parents celebrating 55 years of marriage earlier this week, my many Canadian friends today celebrating 150 years of theirs becoming a country and the fact that one of my younger brothers would have been 50 years old today if he hadn’t passed away in a car crash in 2010.  I toasted his memory as I recharged my batteries

Sunday 2 July : Edinburgh, world premiere of England Is Mine

Once again, a late and unexpected invite courtesy of Mr John Greer as the 2017 Edinburgh International Film Festival comes to an end with the screening of England Is Mine:-

For all that the subject matter of the film is an utter twat these days, there was no way I was missing out on this invite. I’ll be on my way east as these words are posted.

AS PROMISED…..A LOOK AT HIS NEW VIDEO (A BONUS POSTING)

This new single isn’t all that typical of Adam Stafford, but it does show he can turn his hand to catchy pop tunes (but then again, he was great at that in the days when he was part of Scottish indie/folk band Y’All Is Fantasy Island).

Here’s what one astute reviewer has said about the new video:-

Adam Stafford is a real voice of independence.

A songwriter moving to his own, very unique, set of rules, he recently unveiled new album ‘Taser Revelations’.

Out now on Song, By Toad, it’s a wonderful record, one rich in allusion and autobiographical detail.

Album highlight ‘Phantom Billions’ has now received the visual treatment, and it veers between dreamscapes and evocative dance routines.

Check it out now.

Enjoy.

BONUS POSTING : ADAM STAFFORD ALBUM LAUNCH

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I normally never put up a bonus posting on the day of a guest ICA. But this is for a special reason.

Along with my regular gig-going buddy Aldo I was at the gig last Friday night when Adam Stafford launched his new album Taser Revelations. My mate Mike from Manic Pop Thrills was also there, accompanied as usual by Mrs MPT.

Mike is one of the best at reviewing gigs, and he’s no mean photographer either. As I was already lined up to contribute to the evening by selling the merchandise after Adam had finished his set, we agreed that I’d be able to use Mike’s words as a review, on the basis we agreed with each other’s take on the evening.

Which we do. So here is Mike’s take on things:-

“Friday night at Summerhall was the album launch for Adam’s new record ‘Taser Revelations’ (reviewed on here on Thursday) and the show was every bit as special as the record.

Compared to previous shows where Adam performed on his own this one was, for me at least, a bit different as producer (and former bandmate) Robbie Lesiuk provided bass guitar on most of the songs.

Over the course of more than 75 minutes, Adam again illustrated what a singular performer he is with a set drawn from his last three albums and even one song from the repertoire of previous band Y’All Is Fantasy Island.

The songs from ‘Taser Revelations’ came first and the album’s closing track ‘The Penumbra’ eased us gently into the show. It was followed by a selection of other songs from record including a superb ‘Atheist Money’ and forthcoming pop single ‘Phantom Billions’.

It was also fascinating to watch what I’d imagined as being some sort of rhythm sample on ‘Railway Trespassers’ in fact being built from scratch by a series of percussive strikes to the guitar.

Promotional duties dispensed with (his words not mine!) the back catalogue was then raided for the remainder of the set.

Particularly well received were ‘Vanishing Tanks’ and ‘Shot-down You Summer Wannabe’ the latter which Adam had to restart as the rather lusty singalong from the Gerry Loves crew had put him off!

If that was an example of how difficult the technical aspects of these live shows can be it only served to emphasise how impressive this type of performance is.

Add in just how compelling a performer Adam is (and of course the records) and it’s hard not to regard Mr Stafford as one of Scotland’s premier musical talents at the moment.

Beforehand Dan Willson had delivered a well-received Withered Hand solo set. These are always enjoyable experiences given the quality of the tunes and Dan’s between song repartee and Friday was no exception. We were also treated to a new song.

Opener Robbie Lesiuk also impressed in his own right despite having crawled out of his sick bed to play. I’ve seen audience members frequently looking at their watches during support sets before but never the artist which suggests that Robbie was checking how quickly he could get backstage to take another Lemsip!

But he still delivered an enjoyable set, even if for the second time in a row I didn’t see the full performance (in this case due to interview duties).

Adam played:

1.The Penumbra 2. Phantom Billions 3. Atheist Money 4. Black Lung Applications 5. Railway Trespassers 6. Cold Seas 7. Vanishing Tanks 8. Please 9. Shot-down You Summer Wannabe 10. His Acres

Encore

11. Phased Return 12. With Handclaps

Adam will be out an about in Scotland over the next 2 or 3 weeks (dates here) even if a Dundee show will have to wait until his co-headline show with Book Group on Saturday 21 May.

JC adds:-

Here’s two examples of Adam’s genius.  It’s all live….

Shot Down You Summer Wannabes

Enjoy.

IT’S FINALLY MARCH 2016

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The rather strange title of today’s posting simply reflects the fact that I’ve been waiting patiently for an awful long time for March 2016 to arrive as it marks the month when Adam Stafford finally gets to release his new album.

I’ve said before that if Adam lived and worked in somewhere like New York, Berlin or Tokyo he would be hailed as a visionary genius making the most extraordinary music, much of which would be famous to millions thanks to it being snapped up by directors and producers for use on film soundtracks or as themes to strange and unfathomable TV commercials. It’s his rotten luck to be Scottish and while he is revered by those of us who are fans there are just far too many folk out there who never get the chance to hear or experience this most incredible of talents.

His last work, Imaginary Walls Collapse, should have won the Scottish Album of The Year after its release in 2013 but had to make do with simply making the long list of finalists. It was an album that defied conventional description, with a thin white duke playing his guitar, beat-boxing, crooning and using effect pedals to make sounds unlike any other release that year. And it worked even better in the live setting.

I feared that an album of such magnitude couldn’t be topped but I’m thrilled and amazed that Taser Revelations, which comes out on Song By Toad Records on Monday 14 March, achieves that by some distance as it is an alt-music opus in the truest sense of the phrase.

If you like your music to be accessible, radio friendly and occasionally danceable in an indie-disco sort of way then there are a number of songs on this album which will more than tick all of your boxes. On the other hand, if you prefer things to be more experimental, weird and reminiscent of the sort of stuff that would stop you in your tracks when spun by John Peel, then there is a great deal within its grooves that you will never tire of.  It’s a captivating album that seems to offer something new and different with every listen with all sorts of subtle and clever bits of melody, instrumentation and vocal delivery (often thanks to the wonderful harmonies provided by Anna Miles). Oh and then there’s the continued evidence that Adam Stafford is one of the finest guitarists of this era.

The songs have been in the live sets for quite a while and indeed it was as long ago as ten months that a taster single was released :-

mp3 : Adam Stafford – Atheist Money

A second single, Phantom Billions is due for release soon. It contains steel drums and is set to a foot-tapping, head-nodding and infectiously catchy beat that pisses all over anything in the charts right now. I’ll get round to sharing that tune with you when the promo video becomes available!! (one has been made which is a first for the record label and the artist). In the meantime, I recommend that you demonstrate your impeccable taste by getting a hold of the album, which is available on pre-order, from here.

Finally….and at the risk of becoming repetitive, I have to emphasise that hearing the music of Adam Stafford is one thing – seeing him perform on stage is something else altogether. Thankfully there’s an upcoming short tour:-

March 11th (Fri): Summerhall, Edinburgh, The Dissection Room w/Robbie Lesiuk & Withered Hand (solo)
March 17th (Thurs): Mad Hatters, Inverness w/Robbie Lesiuk
March 18th (Fri): The Old Bridge Inn, Aviemore w/Robbie Lesiuk
March 19th (Sat): Aberdeen, Downstairs, w/Robbie Lesiuk & Special Guests
March 20th (Sun): Glasgow, The Hug & Pint w/Robbie Lesiuk, WOLF and Sweethearts of The Prison Rodeo

I’ll certainly be at the Edinburgh and Glasgow gigs. Most likely weeping with unbridled happiness down the front.

GAZING INTO MY CRYSTAL BALL….

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I’ve never shied away from talking up the talent that is Adam Stafford.

The world should by now have taken full notice of the truly magnificent music he has been offering up over the past decade, initially as part of the band Y’All Is Fantasy Island and more recently as a solo performer; but sadly, and despite being feted by just about everyone who is anyone in the Scottish music industry, he is still very much a cult figure.

Things could have changed a bit this time last year when Imaginary Walls Collapse made the 20-strong longlist for the 2014 Scottish Album of The Year (SAY) Award but sadly, and criminally, it fell agonisingly short of the ten that made it onto the shortlist.

But perhaps that is just as well, for I think it will be impossible for any singer or band to pick up the SAY Award more than once (not until it has been going for at least 10-15 years) and I’m willing to say with extreme confidence that Adam Stafford is a great bet to win outright next year.

I make this bold statement not on the back of having secretly invented a time machine that fast forwarded to the 2016 Awards Ceremony but purely on the basis of hearing the first bit of music that will feature on Adam’s next LP – tentatively called Taser Revelations – which is due for release this coming autumn.

Said bit of music is coming out as download single tomorrow (Friday 1 May) via Song, By Toad Records. It is called Atheist Money and it takes everything that was so special and extraordinary with the last LP up to a whole new level.

There’s no way of course that I’m providing a link to an mp3 of the song – instead you can click here to listen on soundcloud and then click here to take yourself over to the Song, By Toad shop where I hope you will give the single your full support.

But as I’ve said before on T(n)VV, hearing the music of Adam Stafford is one thing – seeing him perform on stage is something else altogether and I’m delighted to pass on the news that he is embarking on a small tour of Scotland and England to coincide with the singles release, the dates are:

May 1st – Newport-on-Tay – New Port Sound, Rio Community Centre,
May 2nd – Aberdeen – Cellar 35
May 5th – Stirling – Tollbooth
May 6th – Glasgow – Glad Cafe
May 7th – Leeds – The Fox & Newt
May 8th – London – Disorder at The Old Blue Last
May 10th – Edinburgh – Summerhall, Dissection Room

Go along and be astounded. And remember, buy Atheist Money now so that you can boast to everyone that you were among the first to pick up on it.

In the meantime please enjoy this, a single from 2012 (shared with Rick Redbeard) that was later re-recorded for Imaginary Walls Collapse

mp3 : Adam Stafford – Vanishing Tanks

Enjoy

SATURDAY’S SCOTTISH SONG : #3 : ADAM STAFFORD

Adam Stafford @ Limbo, The Voodoo Rooms, 14 September 2013.

I may well be biased as I booked him as the support act to Butcher Boy in the first ever gig that I promoted back in 2011 to celebrate the 5th birthday of the old blog, but I think that Adam Stafford is one of the most underrated and under-appreciated talents of our time.

My first exposure to his work was when he was part of Y’All Is Fantasy Island but it is what he has done since the band broke up in 2010 that is really extraordinary. The first few times I saw him live in the solo setting I was completely in awe of what he was doing as the sounds that were coming from the stage were equally bewildering and bewitching and the result of highly clever and imaginative vocal and instrumental looping. I had never seen or heard anything like this before and even now, having seen him perform maybe 20 or so times, I still get a huge kick from watching him in action.

His contribution of Vanishing Tanks to a split 7″ single with Rick Redbeard on Edinburgh-label Gerry Loves Records was my favourite bit of vinyl ib 2012 while the following year he found himself on the radar of many a Scottish blogger and music critic thanks to the brilliance of his LP Imaginary Walls Collapse again on an Edinburgh label, this time Song, By Toad Records.

Adam is also a highly regarded film, documentary and video maker with his 2009 work The Shutdown gaining a number of international awards on its release while his 2010 video for Seven Years of Letters for The Twilight Sad also gained much favourable comment.

The last I spoke to him was at the tail end of last year when he opened for The Twilight Sad at one of the gigs of 2014 at The Tolbooth in Stirling where, as his norm, he set a very high standard for the main act to follow. He told me that he is working on new material that hopefully will see the light of day in the months ahead.

In the meantime, please enjoy one of what was nine outstanding tracks from his 2013 LP:-

mp3 : Adam Stafford – Cold Seas

But given I believe he is a talent best seen live, then please also enjoy this performance of the same song as recorded for a Song, By Toad session:-

And while I’m here….I’ll feature something recorded back in 2010 as Adam Stafford & The Death Bridge Convention as part of for a seven-track covers LP entitled Music in The Mirabel. The title track set to music a poem by the Austrian poet George Trakl (1887 – 1914) while the six songs had originally been recorded by Daniel Johnson, Devo, The Handsome Family, Jandek, The Police and The Twilight Sad…which is about as eclectic a set of influences as you could ever imagine:-

mp3 : Adam Stafford & The Death Bridge Convention – Walking For Two Hours

Enjoy.