Gems of Glasgow #2
An incredibly satisfying highlight in Glasgow is the humble music venue. As I mentioned in my introduction to this fine city, there is a cacophony of places to go and see live music right from the 50 person capacity local to your serried halls
One of the most inspirational venues is Bar Bloc on Glasgow’s Bath Street. The risk you run with any establishment when it comes to music is ‘the clique’. Bloc consistently defies being stereotyped as elitist by opening its doors to as many weird and wonderful music outfits as possible.
Bloc’s stellar music reputation was initially thrust on the map by Crag Carrick, whose DIY ethic was refreshing and heartening. He wanted to help as many underrated bands as possible have a live platform without the fear of dodgy promoting or poor guarantees. After Crag’s departure on a round the world jaunt, the role has since been taken over by Chris Cusack who has continued to advocate the ethos that Carrick initiated. Cusack has since developed a roster of regular nights and gigs that represent the mind-blowing talent Glasgow has to offer, not only that – he and his team have brought some of the best touring bands to our city’s attention.
Arguably one of the best outfits to put Bloc on the map is the passionate team Detour - started by David Weaver (who now is part of Bloc’s full time booking team) and Radio 1’s Ally McCrae, the boys met on Stirling student radio and wanted to do things a bit differently. For anyone that doesn’t know these boys, they really do let their personalities shine through their work. Weaver says ‘we didn’t want it to be the same as other gigs. We didn’t want 3 bands, a DJ and then everyone to buggers off. We wanted people to be part of something, have a community and show videos from the night. We wanted to do mad things and Bloc got straight back to us and said they were up for it’.
Detour’s live nights have become legendary amongst a large proportion of the DIY community and having put on a host of great bands not to mention a ‘Wee Jaunt’ – where they planned out a music route of the city and had bands play in toilets, parks, alley ways and more whilst the public were guided along was something that Willy Wonka would have even been jealous to the ball hair of.
The aforementioned regular live nights that Bloc has curated are another of the strong pulls of the venue. Every gig is free – yes, every single gig. A minimal payment is taken after 12am, but Bloc still pays the bands a fee and makes their money from the bar. This is something that is not for everyone, but definitely a massive incentive for artists and promoters.
A selection of the best nights include: Struggletown which is punk perfection. The collective have been putting on some of the most bombastic artists such as No Island, Cavalcades, Great Cop and more. Newly formed TYCI (Tuck Your Cunt In) is a female collective started by Chuvrches frontwoman Lauren Mayberry who felt it was time to illustrate the magnitude of talented women and her well thought out live nights have been as popular amongst men as women, most recently Glasgow’s Divorce pretty much ripped Bloc a new hole. Shaka – brainchild of 3 snow sports instructors who run another night in this microcosm of joy. They blend their original DJ styles with live percussion and visuals. Teenage Riot are new night that just put on 1 band and focus all efforts on that 1 artist, they also expose their audience to essential listening with their playlists. Recent artist Cuddly Shark was the latest headliner and a band that blew the cobwebs out of a fair pair of knickers.
Extraordinarily enough, when it comes to curated nights it does not stop there. Slow Club was an acoustic night start by Graeme MacDonald and now taken over by Friends in America (a band to keep a close eye on) drummer Liam Chapman. It is a monthly night that showcases the cream of the crop when it comes to acoustic music. Recent artists such as Fake Major and Washington Irving have played and prior to them the night has seen Admiral Fallow’s Louis Abbot and Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison play to a packed audience.
One of my favourite things to have ever bloom through the intriguing imagination of Bloc however is Blochestra. A mini orchestra assembled by the aforementioned Crag Carrick and Craig Grant (Song of Return, Union of Knives). Blochestra features members from an eclectic array of bands and also the solo musician that just wants to play music for the love of it. They arrange covers of well known songs including Sufjan Stevens ‘Chicago’ and have even been known to perform original songs. It really is a heartbeat of this venue and completely epitomises the love that people have for music. It is free time given up to create something memorable.
Bloc is an independent music venue and it is staggering to think how many artists I have discovered through live nights and often by chance. It is one of the most important venues in Glasgow in my opinion as it fully encompasses the appetite that music lovers in this city have when it comes to DIY. I truly hope that as the years pass, the next generations of gig goers and artists really take to the helm and keep this venue in the limelight as one of the best.