Duncan Reid & the Big Heads – Nice n Sleazy, Glasgow 6th October 2017

Duncan Reid & the Big Heads

I’d been looking forward to this gig since the 3rd of December last year. Well, technically this gig hadn’t been announced then, but it was the day after the last Duncan Reid gig and I was still pumped. If anyone has followed previous posts they’ll know I rated it as one of my gigs of 2016.

On that occasion the support bands were Mercury long-list nominees The Media Whores and fast rising Scottish punks with a masterplan, Heavy Drapes.

That night saw all 3 bands put in top class performances so the last gig had a lot to live up to.

They have all had a great year since then.

media Whores, Heavy Drapes and Duncan Reid and the Big heads – since last year

As mentioned Media Whores were long-listed for the Mercury Music Prize with their 3rd album, “Dangerous Minds”. Post punk with a conscience, the album is packed full of songs on a variety of subjects with some well-constructed lyrics and the tunes to back them up. I recently interviewed the band – you can read this here.

Heavy Drapes and Duncan Reid & the Big Heads have both gigged relentlessly and had acclaimed performances at this year’s Rebellion Festival. Heavy Drapes with their first appearance on the main stage. Duncan Reid & the Big Heads playing on more than one occasion including an impromptu extra performance. They have also releasing a sumptuous 3rd album in “Bombs Away”.

There had been a lot of promotion and interest in the gig on social media in the run up so the anticipation was undeniable.

Nice n sleazy – 6th October 2017

As I walked into the venue, there were a number of familiar faces outside and a friendly face at the door in “Main” man and gig organiser Alex “Mainy” Main. As I ordered a drink at the bar I noticed that Mainy made a point of making everyone that arrived feel welcome. This was going to be more of an event than a normal gig.

WESTGAP

Being the all-round great guy that he is, he’d also arranged a collection for WESTgap. WESTgap are “an anti-poverty community group providing independent advice, information and advocacy relating to welfare rights, housing, homelessness, benefits, sanctions, fuel poverty, work, rent arrears and more.” A fantastic organisation providing an unfortunately much needed service in this day and age. Find out more about them and how you can help on their website.

As I stood and took in the surroundings, noticing the place filling up I was pleased to see how many regular friendly faces there were but also many more that I don’t know. I’m always pleased to see bands well-supported, if we don’t support live music we’ll see bands not able to continue and venues closing as has happened around the UK.

It has already been mentioned on social media, but it was satisfying to see how many members of other bands were in the crowd. I think it says a lot about the respect and high esteem in which Duncan Reid is held.

3 Minute Heroes

And so to the music. I said this wasn’t going to be a normal gig and I was proved right by opening act “3 Minute Heroes”.

A band of which I’ve heard loads of great things but never seen live before. Based on what I saw, it won’t be the last time. To call them a covers band would be doing them a dis-service. Yes, they play covers but they make them their own.

Their set was a run through of classic punk/new wave tracks such as “Sound of the Suburbs”, “Oliver’s Army”, “Beat My Guest” and “Ever Fallen in Love” amongst many others. I have to say one of the highlights of their set for me was a punked up version of ABBA’s “Does Your Mother Know”. They followed that with “Hungry Like the Wolf”. Is it wrong that I knew all the words to both these songs?

That was the audience clearly warmed up.

I mentioned the presence of members of other bands in the audience. It was also great to see the other 2 bands watching and clearly enjoying 3 Minute Heroes set.

Heavy Drapes

Next it was the turn of punks on the rise, and one of last year’s supports, Heavy Drapes. I’ve seen Heavy Drapes on several occasions recently and they just seem to get better and better. This was their second Glasgow gig with new(ish) bassist Paul Research after their appearance at Kiss This in Broadcast in September, his first gig with the band. Paul has settled in well and has added his own influence to the band with his “rollerbass” beefing up the sound.

The band played all the, by now, familiar tracks – all 4 from their debut EP along with other live favourites such as “Janie” and “Lets Free the Working Class”. The latter always has the crowd singing along to the “Up against the wall” refrain and is one of my live favourites.

DeLiberate dedicated “New York” to his dad before the band ripped through the song while he channelled the spirit, filth and fury of Rotten. They romped through “Get Your Head Skrewed On” and fan favourite and often set-closer “I Wanna be Maladjusted”.

That wasn’t the end though, they finished with a fine cover of “Search & Destroy” joined by friend of the band Chris on backing vocals. I’m sure that anyone that was there to see the headline act and caught Heavy Drapes for the first time will be a convert.

Next up for Heavy Drapes – a support slot for many peoples “favourite Pistol” Glen Matlock.

Set list:

Number 1/Should I Suck or Should I Blow/Into the Blue/New York/Janie/Nightrippin’/Hanging Like a Suicide/Muchos Respectos/Lets Free the Working Class/Get Your Head Skrewed on/(I Wanna Be) Maladjusted/Search & Destroy

And so to the main event. Headliners:

 

Duncan Reid & the Big Heads.

The last time I saw them they provided the lucky gathering with a masterclass in entertainment.

Tonight it was equalled…..and surpassed. The band were ebullient and dynamic throughout the set. Not only are they accomplished musicians and songwriters but they really look as if they are enjoying every minute of what they do.

Kicking off with the high octane opening track from Bombs Away, “Can’t Stop” they maintained the fire and spirit throughout. The title is appropriate as Duncan literally can’t stop, he bounces around the stage with more zest than bands half his age.

Next we’re off for a whistle-stop tour of “Montevideo” and I think we’d all like to join him for cocktails in the Clash City Rockers bar.

Power Punk with Pop Sensibilities

Duncan & the band write tracks that should be blasting from every radio station around the world and they deserve to be massive. Their accomplished power punk with pop sensibilities is addictive and easy to fall in love with. Sophie K Powers is an incredible guitarist, Nick Hughes a welcome addition to the band since the last time I saw them live and Karen Jones the powerhouse at the back keeping things together. And of course Mr Reid, bass genius and vocalist extraordinaire.

Just ask the youngsters (Jesus – how old does that make me sound!) that Mainy brought down from the bar who danced and sang throughout the set even though they had never heard the songs before.

The songs keep coming. The audience hanging on every word – and singing along including perfect “sha la la lee’s” on “C’est La Vie”.

I can’t possibly pick out one highlight in a set that was just one big highlight. “Thinking”, however, is a favourite of mine and as Duncan started the bass line recognised immediately by the gathered masses, it was obvious that it was loved by many more.

“Just Because You’re Paranoid” was introduced as a song he couldn’t imagine being played live when he wrote it, but is now a staple in their live set. Pure pop perfection with its effervescent keyboard parts and its Madness-esque sound.

bombs away!

The bombastic glam stomp that announces “Bombs Away” is another welcome intro and what a song it is. All masterful driving drums from Karen Jones, glam-tastic guitar riffs and melodic ooo-eee-ooo’s but with an eerily ominous message based on the idiot currently in charge at the White House.

And they kept coming…”Kelly’s Gone Insane”, “C’mon Josephine” (co-written with Andrew Matheson) and “That’s Just the Way It Is” continued the high-spirited performance.

Nick Hughes took centre stage and lead vocals for a well-received version of The Boys classic “Brickfield Nights” which resulted in a lively response from the crowd.

A vibrant and spirited “Soda Pressing” followed. Perhaps too vibrant as Duncan managed to break a string on his bass. A short lull ensued while quick repairs and temporary borrowing of Paul’s rollerbass took place. Nick ad-libbed and joked about that being the reason he wasn’t a song writer.

impromptu worm song

While repairs continued we were treated to an impromptu “Worm Song” which brought smiles to faces and an exuberant sing-along.

With borrowed bass, Duncan introduced “a song about 1977…..” before – well you know what song followed then…..

Another Boys classic – “First Time” with Duncan making a foray into the crowd all chanting along to the “oh oh oh” refrain. Phenomenal.

With curfew fast approaching it was a quick punktastic journey around “One Night in Rio” before the last blast of The Boys Hollywood Brats cover “Sick on You”. This saw euphoria breaking out with a pogoing frenzy and vigorous singalong.

There were smiles on faces all around – band and punters – as the gig finished. Tonight was an event that was not to be missed and definitely repeated.

gig of 2017?

I’ve seen some cracking gigs this year. Is this contender for my gig of 2017? You bet it is. Massive kudos to Mainy for putting it on again. What time next year?

As we all drifted away into the night, I met a lovely bloke who had just moved from Hamburg to Hamilton. He’d asked for directions to Central, but I ended up walking down with him. A massive Boys fan, he’d been looking on the internet and came across tonight’s event. He raved about the gig and we had a brilliant chat about the music scene in Glasgow/Scotland, he was stoked about what was coming up. We could have talked for hours! A lovely way to end a superlative evening.

Setlist: Can’t Stop/Montevideo/TCP/C’est La Vie/Baby Doll/Lets Skip to the Good Bit/Thinking/Just Because You’re Paranoid/Rolling On/Bombs Away/Kelly’s Gone Insane/C/mon Josephine/That’s Just the Way it is/Brickfield Nights/Soda Pressing/The Worm Song/’77/First Time/One Night in Rio/Sick on You

Duncan Reid & the Big Heads – Glasgow preview

Duncan Reid & the Big Heads – Nice ‘n’ Sleazy, Glasgow 6th October 2017

Duncan Reid returns to Glasgow with his Big Heads this October to play a hotly anticipated gig. I say hotly anticipated as anyone who has seen the band play before will know that those with a ticket for this are in for a treat.

Last year they played in Audio with support from Heavy Drapes and The Media Whores and, in my opinion, was one of the top gig of 2016. Apologies for anyone who has read previous blog posts, I may have mentioned this several times…

Anyway, that night saw 3 sterling sets, each band was totally on form. Duncan Reid & the Big Heads provided a masterclass in entertainment – they had it all – the tunes, the songs, the banter and so much energy!

This year, the support comes from 3 Minute Heroes and, once again, Heavy Drapes.

Duncan was good enough to take some time out to answer some questions in advance of the gig. You can find this interview further down the post.

But first, the man responsible for bringing the band back to Glasgow is promoter and all round good guy, Alex “Mainy” Main. I caught up with him to find out more about his experiences in gig promotion.

Alex “Mainy” Main – Interview

You promoted last year’s Duncan Reid & the Big Heads gig (one of THE gigs of 2016 – have I ever mentioned that before?) and you are promoting their Glasgow gig this year too.

As a music fan, I love going to gigs. I would love to go to more (better hope my wife isn’t reading this) but work and family commitments don’t always allow. I like to support the effort the bands make to get their music “out there”. I’ve been to plenty of gigs that have been packed. However, I’ve also been to some (too many) that have had amazing bands playing, but only a handful of people have turned up.

I don’t know if a lot of people put much thought into the work that goes in to promoting and putting on a gig. I thought it would be interesting to get another angle on gig experiences and what it takes to make it happen for us, the punters.

thegingerquiff: How did you get into gig promotion?

Mainy: I have no idea. It feels silly saying that out loud, but I really don’t. There is no one moment that stands out as a beginning. I just drifted into it from the position of being a music fan.

One day you are doing the door for a mate in a band and the next you are the one putting the show on yourself. Then there is a point you lift your head up and five gigs are under your belt and people are calling you a promoter.

It was evolutionary in so many ways. One thing was just the catalyst for the next. Before I promoted any shows I was writing for other people’s fanzines, and then putting out my own, doing the door at gigs for friends and touring bands, sometimes doing the merch.

Then people started to get to know me and at some point someone must have approached me to put a show on and I said yes and that was it. No great mystery or entertaining rock and roll story to it. Rather mundane really.

It wasn’t a result of coming out of a college course on it all as so many seem to know, (Equally mundane) and there’s no one person that I learnt the ropes from either. (Possibly exciting)

I’m a drifter, the proverbially jack of all trades, but master of none.

tgq: Well to me it looks like you are master of several. Probably a stupid question based on what you’ve just said about things being a blur, but what was the first gig you were involved in promoting?

M: That’s a tough one as it’s all sort of lost in the mists of time. I was involved in a 4 Past Midnight gig in Nice and Sleazy (Glasgow) and that could lay claim to being the springboard I jumped from.

It wasn’t my show, but it allowed me to see the process at play. I honestly can’t recall the first solo promoted gig at all. It’s part of that drifting process. I have a dim memory of being contacted and asked for the name of Glasgow promoters and when no one was biting to put the band on I did it myself as I wanted to see them. That’s a common theme across the years. When no one else has been interested then I have done it. Not a great business philosophy.

tgq: It must be a great feeling when you sell out a gig you have been involved in promoting or hear people raving about it. What are the most memorable gigs you have promoted?

M: When people don’t just have a good time, but rave about it being the best time. Thats when a gig becomes very emotionally rewarding.

I had a show in Kilmarnock with Mike Peters (The Alarm) and there was a point when he walked into the middle of the crowd with his guitar and microphone and sang with everyone surrounding him. The atmosphere was electric and the people who were there certainly experienced something magical.

That stands out, but there are so many more. The Damned Damned Damned gig with Brian James and Rat Scabies was as raw as a gig can be, but the fire and passion from the band and the people attending made it something very special. Hurray for the Riff Raff, All the Eureka Machines gigs I have been involved in, Duncan Reid that you have mentioned.

I’m now concerned that I will miss someone out. So much water under the bridge and I know I will be thinking later about this one or that one.

tgq: I’m glad you mentioned that Duncan Reid gig and I’m sure you can be forgiven for missing someone, as you said, you’ve been involved in loads.

Thinking about any personal experiences, what is the impact on a you or promoters in general and bands when there are only a handful of people turning up?

M: The impact can’t really be measured. It ranges from the financial to the emotional.

Both my partner and I had a show that we lost over a thousand pounds on. The finger of blame couldn’t be pointed at the artist, or the venue, and of course we picked over our involvement. To be frank we did everything we could have done too. All the boxes were ticked off. It was just one of those things, but I needed bailed out to make sure everyone got their agreed fees. Then I had a few weeks of living like a hermit and existing on supermarket brand spaghetti hoops until I could get back on my knees.

I would be exaggerating to say back on my feet. I wouldn’t wish that sort of experience on my worst enemy. Well maybe the most deserving. It’s not like a month of spaghetti hoops will kill them.

That’s an extreme example of course, but often everyone is just looking to break even. Losses are common. There’s no money in it unless corners are cut and artists are being abused. Very often it is a ‘one gig to the next’ survival course and while I take my hat off to those who do it I also think we are all probably mentally ill too. It’s madness.

As for the artists, the finances are what cover getting them from one venue to another. It puts fuel in the van and food in their mouths. If only a handful of people turn up at a show then that makes their lives very difficult. Bands that are doing the circuit at club level are never ever living the high life. It’s an ongoing struggle for them.

On the emotional level it can be heartbreaking for the promoter if you are invested in the gig. The artists are people you respect and like. If it’s not purely business then it is horrible. Just indescribably horrible to look about you and count the people attending on the fingers of one hand. Especially when you know it has no reflection on the talent of the people performing.

And who knows how difficult it is emotionally for the bands and solo artists themselves. The head down and lets get on with it attitude that gets people up on a stage to entertain an audience, no matter how small, can’t be understated. They are all heroes in my book.

tgq: So there you go folks, if you want to ensure Mainy can avoid spaghetti hoops for dinner, get your finger out and buy your Duncan Reid tickets. And while you’re at it have a look and see what other gigs you can get along too.

On a more serious note thought, I know recently your posters have been going missing and re-appearing on e-bay (don’t buy these people – if you want one – contact Mainy or get one from him at the gig). This is obviously a pitfall, but what are the other pitfalls of promoting live music?

Oh, don’t get me started about that. Anyone stealing posters is a problem, as is the simply removing them to be replaced with a poster for another show.

What they are really doing is limiting the reach of the advertising. It’s all brutally cut throat. You hear people talk about unity in the music world, but there is very little of it in reality. Most of the pitfalls come down to other people and their actions. The lack of a communally supportive approach is a serious problem. Very few want to help others out. It’s a selfish business from top to bottom.

It’s not really that complicated a concept to grasp that if people want a better and more vibrant scene then help, and don’t hinder. Don’t take a poster down; don’t replace it with your own when there is space for it elsewhere.

Little things like that do matter.

So yeah, now that I have got that off my chest I suppose I could list other pitfalls, but they are so wide and varied that this would become an essay.

Some you have no control over such as a venue double booking a night. Others are unavoidable, for instance you could have a gig booked for months, a mid-level rock band. Two weeks before your date a well known band in the same genre is announced for the same night. There’s not a lot that can be done about that. You can’t forward plan to avoid things that come out of left field.

Then there are the problems that you can avoid. For those it’s just a matter of common sense being applied. Independent promoters, good ones, are probably all fantastic at problem solving on their feet. You never know what is coming next.

tgq: What advice would you give someone who was considering promoting live music?

M: It’s probably twofold. First is that if you are considering independently promoting gigs as something that will provide an income that will pay the bills then don’t. It’s that simple. Go and work for a promotion company rather than do it on your own. Or just do something else, anything else.

Maybe one day if you can secure a job with an established company then contacts will be built up to make it worthwhile, but in general it isn’t something that will keep a roof over anyone’s head. Like artist the success rate is minute and the failure rate is huge.

But if it is something that you need to do, your passion, then look about and do a bit of research and copy what works. Ditch what doesn’t, streamline what has come before.

And don’t over extend yourself (I’ve been there). Always treat people with respect of course. Always pay what you owe, and enjoy the highs as there will be lows. Oh, and start working on a thick skin too.

That thick skin is essential.

STOP PRESS:

M: I gone did one of those dang interview things about promoting last night.

I missed a bit out about word of mouth promotion. You can’t buy it and it’s the best. So tell someone about the Duncan Reid gig today.

If you are attending tell anyone you think might like it too. If you’re not coming along that’s fine, but be that proactive lover of ye oldie good times and do tell someone who you think would love it, and let’s be honest, who wouldn’t?

Spread the word far and wide, shout it from the rooftops, whisper it in an ear, slide it in a note across your desk and wink at the guy from accounts at the same time, ask not what Duncan can do for you, but what you can do for Duncan.

 

Some great advice and wise words there. Many thanks to Mainy for his time. I’d recommend you look up his interesting blog too, Reservoir Droogs and its associated facebook page.

Thats the thoughts of the promoter. What about what we can expect from the headline act?

 

Duncan Reid was kind enough to spare some time to answer some questions about his background in music and what we can expect from the band.

Duncan Reid

Originally a member of first wave of punk band, The Boys. Bass player Duncan “Kid” Reid along with fellow band members Matt Dangerfield, Casino Steel, Honest John Plain & Jack Black released a series of punk/power anthems in the shape of I Don’t Care, First Time (with Reid on vocals) & Brickfield Nights. The band released albums spanning the years 77 – 81.

Reid now has had 3 albums under his belt now under his own moniker. (With the 2nd and 3rd albums adding The Big Heads.)

All three albums are packed full of power pop anthems, effervescent tunes, captivating stories & thoughtful lyrics. Debut solo effort “Little Big Head” (2012) 2014’s “Difficult Second Album” (believe me it is far from difficult to listen to) and latest album “Bombs Away” (2017) featuring topical title track “Bombs Away”.

Live, the songs take on an added vibrancy and zeal. I’ve seen much younger bands with about as much get up and go as roadkill. Duncan Reid and the Big Heads ooze charisma.

tgq: So Duncan, you were there from the start of punk as a member of The Boys, what are your stand out memories from that time?

DR: So many to mention! Drinking with Joe Strummer at Dingwalls. He was so interested in everyone. In fact, most of the memories involved alcohol!

Playing in Paris for the first time to the select band of about 20 punks who lived there. It was a small club of people in the know at the time.

A general feeling of danger. Punk produced great feelings of anger in the long haired public. They were threatened and often reacted angrily.

tgq: I’d love to be able to say I had a drink with the mighty Joe Strummer.  I’ll buy you a pint on the 6th then I can say I had a drink with the legend that is Duncan Reid.

How would you compare that time to the music scene now?

DR: It was a time of change.

It was new whereas now tends to be more of a nostalgia trip looking back. Then we were looking forward for the next new thing.

tgq: I mentioned earlier The Boys released some classic tracks in their time – what are your personal favourite Boys songs and why?

DR: The two ultimate classics are First Time and Brickfield Nights. Great songs.

I’m very proud to have sung First Time as it’s one of the best songs ever. I can say that as I didn’t write it!

Can’t disagree there, and it feels like a good excuse to leave this here:

tgq: Your name in The Boys was “Kid” Reid, you’ve have held on your youthful good looks – what does the picture in your attic look like?

DR: Dreadful!

People ask me the secret of my young looks. I say it’s down to my diet of recreational drugs and chocolate!

tgq: This is a bit of a Smash Hits question . You have very unique and suave sense of style – why the colour scheme?

DR: To be different! I like black but so does everyone else.

I like looking at people who have their own style so try to provide the same service to everyone else.

Tgq: And a great style it is too. You are a great storyteller in your songs and lyrics – where do you get your inspiration to write from?

DR: My own life and things I come across. It’s quite a common source for songwriters. After all, what do we all know the most about? Our own lives is the answer.

tgq: Absolutely.

You and the band put everything into your live performances, last year’s gig in Audio was one of my favourite gigs of 2016, and you have a knack of drawing in and involving your audiences. It appears you are really enjoying the performances yourselves too. Tell me more about the Duncan Reid live experience.

DR: As you say it’s energetic.

We try to be the most lively, tuneful, and best looking band in existence and, of course, exceed all our targets on all fronts!

Lately we’ve been playing for hours. We play all the songs we know then start playing ones we don’t know. It gets interesting!

tgq: You’ve released 3 tremendous albums now as Duncan Reid/Duncan Reid & the Big Heads. Do you have any favourite songs across these albums?

DR: I think Bombs Away is one of the best things I’ve been involved with. It’s up there with First Time.

My favourite tends to change every day as all the songs are so brilliant!

What’s next for the band (obviously one highlight will be October 6th in Nice n Sleazy and it will be hard to beat)?

DR: Of course.

We carry on touring and are thinking of a live album which many people have asked for as we are quite different live to on record. Far more raw.

So there you have it – if you want a night with the most lively, tuneful and best looking (not to mention nattily attired) bands around today get yourselves along to a Duncan Reid & The Big Heads and don’t plan on getting home early

Make sure you are there in plenty of time on the 6th of October to catch all three bands. Show your support for live music and local bands