This gig was to have been at Glasgow CCA but… if you know, you know…
So Mono it was, on the day of another event which was allegedly viewed by over 20 million people in the UK on their TV sets… although BM is not sure what proportion of tonight’s audience were involved in that “celebration”.
Anway, the support act tonight were Port Sulphur, the current musical vehicle for one Douglas McIntyre, resident of Strathaven, current/ex-member of various beat combos dating back through the decades almost to the birth of punk itself, and co-promoter (through the excellent Frets organisation) of this event.
One downside (maybe the only one) of the enforced change of venue was that Mono isn’t really suitable for screening film behind or above a band during a performance, so film-maker Grant McPhee’s deliriously surreal imagery, so effective in the film shown at the CCA before Port Sulphur’s performance there last year, was unable to be shown.
Still, the band and the music more than made up for it with a furious set mainly drawn from their debut album. Sporting shades and playing a very large guitar indeed, McIntyre led a combo comprising keyboards, two backing singers/tambourines etc, drummer, additional guitarist and bassist. Tracks were mainly instrumental, a cacophonous melding of VU and Krautrock, with occasional touches of JAMC. Douglas made mention of the White Riot tour back in 1977 (“46 years ago”!) as being his original and continuing inspiration before playing Subway Sect cover ‘Nobody’s Scared’ (Vic Godard being someone who DM’s “other” band, or one of them, has been known to provide backing for).
Starting with the synapse-shaking ‘Tommy Glider’ and ending with the righteous and anthemic ‘Fast Boys And Factory Girls’ (a paean to indie music and record labels, which also mutated into Hawkwind’s ‘Silver Machine’, magpie eyes and ears indeed!), this performance was worth the price of admission alone – but there was more to come…
Edinburgh post-punks Scars existed for a relatively brief period back in the dim and distant (1977-82 roughly), although there have been a couple of one-off reformations, most recently in Edinburgh around 2010 or 2012 (accounts vary), possibly prompted by the use of a Scars sample by ambient electronica duo Lemon Jelly on their chart-shagging album of around 2005 (the same year which saw a Scars reformation – of sorts; like tonight, without original vocalist Robert King – Ed).
The three original members (Paul on guitar, John on bass and Calumn on drums) were joined tonight by a new frontman – Edinburgh-raised former punk and actor Tam Dean Burn (let’s just be diplomatic and say that original frontman Rab —was “not available”)… TDB came onstage after the others, resplendent in a Union-jack mask, covering his entire face, as befitted the occasion and immediately launched into ‘Speaking in Tongues’.
The spindly, spiky guitar parts built up into marauding riffs, the bass sound crunched (Richey Dempsey on sound did a typically great job tonight) and the drums clattered while TDB did his thing, singing, shouting, gesticulating, performing. It was perhaps apt that the set tonight contained an Alex Harvey cover, along with tracks from their one seminal album ‘Author! Author!’ with other old material, plus at least one brand new track (announced with delight by TDB). TDB hopped around like a madman, shedding his top garments and breaking a fair amount of sweat in his efforts.
It has to be said that guest frontman and band acquitted themselves exceptionally well, making this less of an exercise in nostalgia and more like a new adventure. Not a tired retread of former glories, more a re-imagining and mutation – yes there were long-dead memories to drag up for some people but for those of us who never saw Scars Mk1 (or even Mk2) this was new territory. Edinburgh is in for a treat when they perform there shortly…