Its become apparent that age and aging will be the recurring theme of this visit to Glasgow. Turning up the day after my birthday, in the midst of a month which is always turbulent, means that it was never going to be far from the agenda. However, oddly, I seem to be enjoying the first flush of a mid-life crisis which is allowing me to behave cautiously badly. Yes, the late nights take their toll – and the ever present hint of a cold surfaces in the dark mornings – but mostly, I feel strangely free to do what I wish just now.
Hence tonight – originally my ‘evening off’ of the trip, but populated by a late showing at the 13th Note. It’s a fair number of years since I’ve been downstairs here – and I confess I can’t even remember who I saw. Tonight though, things kick off with GoLucky – essentially a one-man show, but helped on this occasion by “Mrs Go Lucky” on vocals and ‘rockenspiel’ and a colleague on keyboards and violin. Of the three bands on the bill I knew least about them, and possibly left most impressed by them. The tight, cleverly-worded songs were carefully accompanied with enough embellishment to draw out their intricacies. A fragile voice, buoyed when it counted, by his wife with a high, clear and alluring voice of her own. Bonus points to Go Lucky for naming a song “Texaco” – a word I used to obsess over slightly, noting how strange it sounds if you repeat it to yourself over and over. I suppose I had quite a sheltered childhood in some ways…But as for Go Lucky, they are very much worth your time and effort.
Looking around the dungeon which is the downstairs part of the 13th Note, I realised that the only people even close to my age were the parents of one or two of the bands, and some spectators who seemed to be linked to the rather wonderful Glad Cafe project – which recently benefited from a fine compilation CD released by 45 A Side Records featuring one of tonights bands. If this was making me feel old, then the next act surely would. The Lonely Oatcake sound like Hank Williams, had he been reared on Withered Hand and Nirvana. The music is clever, quick-witted and tinged with Ben’s sad violin. The lyrics however, are straight from a bedroom or a sixth-form common room. This isn’t always bad, and some of the songs, taken in context have an internal charm of their own. However, it gets a little hard to splice the music and the lyric at times, which is a shame – because it’s never less than enjoyable to listen to these guys. For me, raised on a diet of Dylan and Neil Young long before I discovered indie music, this is the band I wish I could have been in twenty years ago. The troubling matter is that I couldn’t guarantee I wouldn’t be in the same band today given half a chance!
Finally, we come to Barn Owl. Despite being ‘yet another animal named band’, these guys have done incredibly well over the past year or so. Certainly, I’ve been hearing their names in all sorts of places – which given the huge physical distance between me and the grassroots music scene in Glasgow, is no small feat. It’s a stripped down Barn Owl tonight without their organist – who also adds a variety of other tweaks to the sound. However, this didn’t change the fact that these gents can write a sterling song! Tight, clever and almost effortlessly, they slipped through a set of occasionally stratospheric pop songs. Dual vocals, with an occasional nod to Pavement, are supported by a really great little rhythm section who hold everthing together. Highlight for me is “When No-one Is Around” which appeared on the aforementioned Glad Cafe CD. It’s a complicated song which rewards a good listen. All sheen and pop on the surface, but with hidden depths.
So, I left the 13th Note feeling decidedly old, but also thinking that maybe I could use the excuse of a crisis of confidence to revive my own musical meanderings. I think, perhaps, I need a good night’s sleep!