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Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Tragic City Thieves - Captains Rest - Glasgow (30/3/10)

The trials and tribulations on the road to becoming a rock star

The reality behind the scenes is rarely something that the audience sees, and sometimes this lack of understanding leads many people to think that bands just appear out of nowhere, entertain them, and then vanish into the night.
That’s part of the magic, but it’s an illusion created by the band for their audience.
A great deal of effort is actually expended in making this the reality for you.
It is more often than not a long arduous and unappreciated journey to get from a practice room to a stage.
If more people were aware of just what goes into the process then I think that it’s possible that a greater degree of respect and admiration would be given.
I could argue that it is never ever as easy as it looks.
Take for instance the gig I went to last night.
The real story started weeks ago.
The Tragic City Thieves were offered the support slot opening for Thomas Tantrum, an up and coming band from London that are playing club sized venues.
They accepted the offer and started spreading the word.
Friends are contacted, bulletins are posted on myspace, and an events page is placed on Facebook. Everyone that may be interested is contacted in one way or another on a daily basis to build up a bit of a buzz and initially it’s looking good.
People are regularly confirming their attendance and on paper it’s a guaranteed busy night.
So far, so sweet.
However on the afternoon of the gig the band get an email stating that Thomas Tantrum have canceled and the gig is pulled.
No real explanation, just that the show is no longer going ahead.
The band themselves then attempt to get in touch with the promoter to salvage the show as people from near and far are coming to see them.
A bit of negotiations wins over the venue and the gig is back on with the Tragic City Thieves headlining and a last minute support sorted.
The word goes out and the night is snatched from the jaws of an apathetic and inept promoter.
That makes it sound like a minor hassle averted, but it’s actually multiple phone calls, emails, further postings on social networking sites and a back to square one approach needed to sort out equipment etc for the show. It’s at least two weeks work leading up to a gig squeezed into a matter of hours.
However fate is determined to put the boot in and it doesn’t end there.
Half an hour to show time and the band are there, but the last minute support is AWOL, as are the majority that confirmed that they would be attending.
I’m sure some will have legitimate reasons, but most will be running excuses for their non appearance through their heads to see how they sound.
The weather conditions will be a contender for top excuse I presume. It is a cold night, no argument about that, and the snow has been on and off for most of the day, but if I can make it from Ayrshire for the doors opening then people who live in a ten mile radius could have surely managed it.
So as one problem is solved and another rears its head I reckon most bands would have thrown the towel in, had a little tantrum, cast the rattle from the pram and run off crying about it all, but then again the Tragic City Thieves aren’t most bands.
The never say die attitude is really something to behold as Div, the drummer, hits the streets and returns with a young guy called Chris daly who was looking for an open mic night.
The show is definitely going to happen, even if the audience could be counted on the fingers of one hand, they are still going to go ahead with it.
A few of us congregate downstairs in the Captains Rest and Chris Daly opens with his take on the Foo Fighters Wheels. He’s got a rough country tinged element to his voice that lends itself to the material. He’s also has a rawness that permeates his performance and it’s good. If it was smoothed out then he would sound just like so many other people who proliferate wherever anyone gives them a stage and a mic.
He then did a couple of originals that were of a pretty high standard before finishing on Use Somebody by the Kings of Leon. He stumbled on the lyrics of that one, but carried it off with a bit of easy charm.
I would have preferred to have seen him play a bit longer, but have to give him credit for what he did. This is a guy thrown in at the deep end to play in front of a handful of people he doesn’t know in a basement. That takes some bollocks.
Next the Tragic City Thieves took to the small stage and all the anger, disappointment and sheer fucked-off-ness of the day spewed out of them in what must be one of the most exhilarating gigs I have seen them play.
When a bands backs are against the wall and they are under pressure then this is when you can tell if they have what it takes, and they have it in spades.
They could have easily used this as a glorified practice session, but instead played like rock and roll gods strutting a festival stage in front of thousands of adoring fans.
Everything was on fire. Faster, louder and wilder than I’ve previously seen them.
Stuarts fingers fly over the frets, Div is assaulting the drums, Jim is acting like a man possessed and in the centre of it all CJ grinds, howls, struts, shimmies and shakes like his life depends on it.
It’s very obvious that he is exorcising the demons of the day through this performance.
Then it all goes off kilter again as his guitar cuts out. It’s thrown savagely to the side and Stuart loses a couple of strings, but they aren’t stopping for anyone now and fire into Lady Machine.
CJ is off the stage and writhing on the floor. Everything is about to hit a climax and when the song comes to an end he launches himself into the drum kit. Div kicks it all out like he’s the bastard son of Keith Moon and Jims bass is cast aside contemptuously.
There is no going back from that.
This is what people who regularly go to gigs wait for. The one show where they know that the band has went beyond performing and are at the mercy of whatever it is that drives them.
In thirty years of attending gigs I have only seen this happen on a handful of times. It is a very rare occurrence and once you have seen it happen then it serves to enforce a lifelong quest to see it again and again. It’s shows like this that make all the mediocre ones worth attending. You never know when you will witness it and because if this you don’t want to miss anything.
Personally I’m glad I was there. I wouldn’t swap it for anything, and I’m glad that there are bands like the Tragic City Thieves that just don’t know how to lie down and take the kicks.
For a while now I’ve thought that they are the best live band to come out of Scotland in a long time, and last night they proved that beyond a shadow of a doubt. It’s just a shame that so many people missed it.
If they had been there then they would have been talking about it for years to come.

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