The “new” 13th Note nestles at the corner of 2 streets (King and Osborne to be precise) in Glasgow. Situated near some good pubs and a rather excellent guitar shop, which is next to a nice bar/venue called Mono.
Diagonally across from The “new” 13th Note, is The Scotia, a nice wee pub with some great pool tables upstairs, and a venue for folk and poetry in the bar. I mention this geographical information for several reasons. One is my Dad always used pubs as directions for taxi drivers (a trait that must be genetic), another is that this part of town used to be pretty scary at night and hosts the worst bus stop in Glasgow only a few staggering steps away. However the main reason is that despite the potential for the “new” 13th Note being a shite pub/venue it actually is one of my favourites. Oh and before I carry on, people of a certain age (i.e. old punters like me), still remember the “old” 13th Note when it was on Glassford street. I’m not knocking the current location, more commending it as an earthy venue where you can have a pint, see some good bands and still see the true Glasgow in all it’s pain and glory when you go outside for a smoke.
So me and a pal called Derek went down to take some photographs of the bands. Derek originally comes from Maryhill but now lives in Glenrothes. Which was quite coincidental as the part of Eastcoastdefector playing tonight, Alan Clarke, came to weegie land from the Kingdom of Fife (it is a Kingdom by the way, it says so on the road signs to this very day) and started Eastcoastdefector. So at the bar before the show I got to introduce a West coast defector to an Eastcoastdefector.
Alan Clarke is a tall chap. I’d never met him in person before but seen his videos online. For some reason I had assumed the rest of the band were very small. So when Derek and I were at the corner of the bar and Alan came up from sound check I instantly recognised him and realised that my sense of scale needs reviewed. Imagine for a second if an even more affable and nice Krist Novoselic came over and said hello to you. That is what meeting Alan was like – I did look down to see if he was barefoot or wearing heels, he just had normal shoes alas.
Alan is a music fan who makes music. No pretentions or fake cool attitude, and that is very apparent when he speaks and more so when he performs. He asks for a diet coke as Derek and I are drinking whisky and lager, (pro photogs that we are) and we chat about pink maracas and music and stuff in general. But this is meant to be a gig review and not me prattling on about locations or venues or diet coke (or was it Irn Bru and thus he really has defected to the West coast? hmmm..) This is a gig review.
Eastcoastdefector started his set to a minimal audience, but on time so that the following bands wouldn’t be running late. And I need to make a note here; the drummer from The Dead Agenda – Derek McKee said it too. “It takes balls” to play to a small crowd. However by the third and then the fourth song there was a decent bunch of people in the Note. Eastcoastdefector are all about taking good music and adding that wee extra thing called “nice” to it. Even though it was a solo set by Alan Clarke, he played acoustic then electric guitar. And in the middle added some keyboard too, all to some backing tracks he had on a weird gadget that might have been a tablet or an ipad.
If you asked me what Eastcoastdefector are about I would say I don’t know. I think they are about quirky and clever lyrics and the joy of playing music, all without being too up themselves. My favourite song of the night ‘Videostore’ had to be restarted after the first chorus. But, I loved it. It was as if someone had welded The BMX Bandits to The Fall (that guitar riff), but had removed Mark E Smith. At the same time it had another whole thing going on that had nothing to do with those bands. ‘The Fool’ could be Stone Roses slowed down with a dash of Northern Soul on top. ‘Sad John Doe’ could be anything from Buzzcocks to Teenage Fanclub, again with that wee extra bit on the lyrics that show some resonance: “he had a son, called him Kurt” which really signals what that song is about. And then again it is actually about a dead guy on the TV show CSI.
The song that may be one of the best pop tunes ever (and I’ve heard a few so I should know) could be ‘Hasselhoff (oh David)’. Really! If you asked me a few months ago to listen to a band singing about the Hoff, I would have asked you to bugger off and that is being polite. This is where the true artistes show their art, not on crap talent shows on TV. In a small venue in a basement in Glasgow, near the worst bus stop in the City, and across from the Poetry pub and near the cool guitar shop…to hear the lines “Hasselhoff Hasseloff number one in Dusseldorf” ringing out on a Saturday night really made me smile.
Charisma is a thing that cannot be faked we all know it. That’s why when you go home after a gig and you are still humming tunes from the band you saw. Weeks later you are left wondering where that cool riff or hook you are playing on your guitar came from, then you remember and you buy the record or CD. You proceed to tell anyone who will listen to go and see them. If they chose not to you know that they are the ones who lost out in the secret deal between the audience and the artist.
I won. I saw Eastcoastdefector live and up close. You should too.
More about Eastcoastdefector:
Next Show: 29th November: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/450529
FB page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Eastcoastdefector/175348939171968
The Dead Agenda are an enigma wrapped up in a puzzle, contained in a Matryoshka doll. You keep on opening it up and there’s another one inside. But instead they are larger instead of infinitely smaller, thus defying the laws of physics! Well, not really. But that seems like a good lead in to a review of a band that does defy the law in a way. Depending of course on what you think the law is.
The Dead Agenda take no prisoners from the get go. Sure, there are dynamics and slow passages in their songs, but only to break out into faster louder choruses and breaks. They are not noise merchants, but more so sonic desperados hitting you with tunage and riffs that spills and jumps all over you. (Can you tell that I quite like this band?)
I kinda know their drummer Derek McKee. One night in 1986 I played my first live gig ever. I was a drummer and so was he. There is a secret code between drummers. I ain’t spilling the beans when I say that drummers like to hit things…loud as fuck! But, with a certain grace and panache too. Years later Derek’s band and my band used to bump into each other in the same rehearsal rooms, us going in, them coming out and vice versa.
But that was “back in the day“. Tonight The Dead Agenda rip it up with what I can only describe as beat up punk modern blues (did I just create a genre there?) I’m not sure if I hear Stooges wah wah or Clash chords with some blues metal and a bit of Pumpkins being smashed. I feel The Jam too, but only as an undercurrent or an edge. It’s a small venue but it’s pretty full. I’m trying to take photographs but find myself letting my camera drop as I listen to the band. The sound is actually quite good regardless of where I stand and I almost drift off to when I was a lot younger and would be jumping about like an idiot.
But I contain myself and just tap my foot (I do that a lot at photo gigs, and see the results from my camera the next day, only when I enjoyed the band though) my shots are blurry but my ears are happily ringing. I’d dearly love to be in my late teens or early twenties and see The Dead Agenda. Instead I’m 44 and feeling the bass guitar through my feet. My ears are getting acoustic shock from the octave notes. My heart is pumping to the drums. I almost feel like the old uncle at a rave. But hey, I’m taking pictures and seeing a cool band play some excellent music. And there are people older than me getting torn in. And to really, and ultimately make me feel good about live music, The Dead Agenda actually have songs about real subjects/people/situations. This justifies my presence.
I’m trying to take a picture, that’s what I’m supposed to be here to do. It’s an easy job. Well it might be if your ears are full of those yellow or pink things that pro photogs pop in their ears. I want to hear the band. See the band, shoot the band, feel the band so I don’t.
“Demon blues” is a showpiece. It blows away a lot of contemporary efforts at what people used to call rock. I like it because it sounds like the title. And if Satan really existed, and heard this he would shite his pants and cry for his mammy. The end of the night is taken to a new area with “Take me to the Hospital“. What starts as a tingly semi operatic intro cuts into something completely different? I’m hearing Husker Du and maybe The Ruts, but that might oversimplify to an extent. There is a lot more going on than you hear at first. You want to hear it again, but that is the finale…
The Dead Agenda really surprised me. They sounded good when I was listening to them on my stereo. But they sounded FUCKING really good live. I want my kids to listen to bands like The Dead Agenda. Even just for a moment. Turn off the TV and the “talent” shows and listen….
More about The Dead Agenda:
I met a good friend for a pint afterwards, just the one pint though, honest. Got home and hit YouTube just to make sure that the people I had just seen playing were as good as I thought they were. I wasn’t disappointed at all. We live in a City where just about every night of the week there are bands playing live. From new and young bands to old and global ones. Sometimes the small venue bands deliver something quite special and unique so we should all really give them a try. You have nothing to lose and a lot to gain. And if you see me at one of those gigs buy me a pint (just the one mind) you might be at one of those gigs, the last one the band does before they become hard to see and get covered on The X Factor…
Writing and Photos By Pat McGuire (Twitter: @patmcguire1969)