Deer Tick @ Broadcast, Glasgow

Broadcast is in a tough spot.  Right in the heart of Glasgow’s busy Sauchiehall Street it is fenced in by much larger venues across the road – the ABC and The Garage – and the world renowned independent King Tuts Wah Wah Hut a few streets over.  Glasgow’s music scene has always been thriving and there’s a lot of competition in the city, which is why you get the feeling that Broadcast isn’t doing itself many favours.

Gigs at Broadcast take place downstairs from the main bar – which is the same set-up as many venues in the city (Tuts, Stereo, Barrowlands, Oran Mor, etc).  I can’t imagine the spiral staircase being ideal in an emergency situation, particularly at a busy gig.  The venue itself resembles the Black Hole of Calcutta.  It’s tiny, and with a mass of people crammed in there movement is at a premium and – unless you are fortunate to be in the front 3 or 4 layers of people – it’s impossible to see the stage.  I think at one point last night I saw John McCauley’s forehead.  The ceiling is so low that you worry that one moment of excitement could result in concussion.  And there’s a big massive fucking pole in the middle of the room.  The downstairs “bar” (it’s literally just a table with warm beer, Jack Daniels, vodka and a bottle of coke) is pointless and the only toilets are upstairs.

But none of this is Deer Tick’s fault and they did the best they could in the circumstances.  The sound engineer did a tremendous job in getting a near perfect sound down there, and the band were sounding tight, with McCauley’s booze-tinged vocals crackling brilliantly.

The bulk of this set was formed from last year’s brilliant Negativity, and openers The Rock and The Dream’s in the Ditch transferred well to the live setting.  There wasn’t much let-up between songs (perhaps because of the venue’s inexplicable 10pm curfew, meaning this was an 80-minute set at best) and the night was a relentless chain of folk-rock songs.

An early cover of the classic American rock song Oh Boy by Buddy Holly provided the perfect lead in to the night’s rockiest tune, Let’s All Go To The Bar, and a surprise appearance from John McCauley’s new wife Vanessa Carlton brought with it a charming In Our Time.

My own highlight of the gig was a quite extraordinary solo performance of Smith Hill.  The album version is superb with its slow build to a soaring string finale, but here it was relying entirely on John’s vocals – and boy did he pull it off.  He brought that song to life before us.  The emotion was palpable and heartbreaking and beautiful.

The gig seemed to come to a very impromptu finish, though, in keeping with the general shambolic nature of the venue.  Deer Tick were off stage at 10.05, and naturally everyone was standing around chanting for “one more song” and expecting an encore.  After a few minutes I heard the sound guy tell the barman that the curfew is 10.15, and after a bit of panic the house music came on and everyone shuffled off mildly confused.  I personally approve of the no encore policy (if that’s what this was), but this was a strange ending to a good gig in a terrible venue.

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