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Mogwai in Rothesay


Mogwai, Rothesay Pavilion, Isle of Bute, 14 April 2001

Danny Cameron writes his impressions of Glasgow, Mogwai and the Isle of Bute.

How your first impressions are on a new city depend on too many factors. In the most extreme, you chose the cheapest way to travel, the bus. From London to Glasgow, a scheduled 9 hours with an unscheduled 3 hour stop in Birmingham’s aeroplane hanger breezy cold coach station, even the pigeons were trying to find somewhere warmer in Birmingham to rest their heads. So you arrive at 6am on to deserted main city streets, limited signs anywhere. No bookings, no accomodation, take things as they go. You find a small tucked away cafe to have a bowl of porridge and loads of double espressos to try and get the mind ticking, the new cafe owners are pretty stoked you’ve found this tucked away corner and give you all the info you need to know. And that info was solely, where do I go to drink.

Ah, Nice’n’Sleazy’s in Glasgow, playing Arab Strap and Mogwai’s new album on the stereo, baked beans on toast for lunch and a couple of well deserved Guinness, the barman gives me his spare ticket to the only possibly interesting gig in town tonight. So I check out Interpol, Chemikal Underground’s new signing from New York, and though my honesty did not win me any Glaswegian friends, Interpol pretty much sucked. Lead singer’s guitar was always out of tune, the drummer kept on missing his moments to hit it in for the big sections, and they dragged out their songs into unnecessary noise excursions that just didn’t fit the songs that they were a moment before. Like cut and paste pop and noise merchantry. Does not work. End song standard explosion long winded overblown ego crap. Yeah the friends of the band didn’t want to speak to me after I told them that.

So Saturday came around and onto the train station I descend, catching a train through the blue morning, around the port of Glasgow, as we venture further to the west, the wind intensifies, as if warning the local people of our expectant assault on the western isles. Off the train and onto a waiting ferry the rooms aboard are wee tiny, and so I sit upon the deck daring the arctic wind to become my friend, she blows through my razor sharp, but thick skinned I pretend to be and stand resolute, I earn her respect and she curves around me as we arrive into a little fishing bay of Rothesay on the Isle of Bute.

Golf seems to be big in these areas, as we alight their is a putt putt course of 18 holes. But we are not talking your synthetic grass strips of ten metres. We are talking a front nine and a seperate back nine expansive lawn of impeccable green fresh tightly mown grass. Ankle high flags and tee off signifying coloured concrete blocks (you know the ones – brick size – yeah- ! yeah you know – do they have a name?). Rothesay is booked out for this easter weekend, which is lucky that I booked the camping spot. I find out the camp ground is up on top of the hill, so winding round the roads whose gardens are filled with daffodils, and whose stone walls look aged and ragged, I ascend the mountain before me, walking backwards with my pack leading the way, I look down upon Rothesay castle, built by a nordic king in 1200’s, before the scots fought and repossessed this Isle of Bute. The stones are grey, and solid, and fortify a significance that is long since lost upon us.

Rothesay has not had a gig for twenty odd years, yet its pavillion still stands tall upon the harbour. The locals use it every Saturday night for their local disco, though what sort of disco they have I am not sure. The local staff had two people on the soft drink stall, two people on the bar, and about six security guards telling everyone to put their cigarettes out. The soft drink stall closed shop quickly, and the ladies were then employed to keep up trying to stock the fridges as we drank our way through all their alcohol. The security guards gave up telling everyone to stop smoking, and Eugene Kelly, the old singer from the Vaselines, played his acoustic guitar and sang to us in a chilled out easy start into the ensuiing night.

Mogwai came upon the stage, and in sweet lulling rhythm Christmas Steps started the ball rolling. Super Furry Animals dude sang a couple of tunes, the guitars started off on low volume, and as the set list continued the dials continued their way up and up, as did the intense ride swinging through sonic valleys. Guest parts by a string ensemble and a horn section created a magnificence of castle like proportions. The complete escalation of sounds have not been so surely captured since Spiritualized had their peaking moments. Some moments seemed like a battle of sounds, like the celtic glaswegian scots of Mogwai were rallying to take Rothesay back off the slow witted inhabitants that now called the Isle of Bute home. We came we conquered. We blasted sonic guns into the twigging ears and blew their brains across the ocean into the arctic wind. The room was full of blocks of hash the size of matchbox cars being burnt into the room of lights and the draped roofing sagged heavier in the atmosphere. There were no cheesey disco tunes here tonight.

Into the sleety rain we ventured into the night, back to our campground for nights of trust in terrible tent construction. The glaswegian siren songs of Mogwai could be heard throughout the night riding in the howling wind on imaginary horseback whaling and swinging her mighty axe, laughing at the scared Rothesay residents locked away in their grey steel stone houses and steepled rooves. Oh the night was recorded too. And the magic will take over many more islands still. Mogwai shall conquer. And in our scottish royal blue hoods, we the devoted army will throw boiling oil vats over the wretched and weak disco puppies of ignorance.

Mogwai website