Thursday morning became pseudo Christmas morning as I woke up to the reality that today is the day Mogwai come to town. In their honour I deep fried a mars bar and put on Jeremy Kyle with my morning tea, but unfortunately he was only picking on working class Brits today. I didn’t let that damper my good mood though. 5.30pm came (it was a marathon Jezza session) and with it came an invite to go down to Trinity for a drink. The mood was good. So good in fact, that even the Mormans of which I passed en route couldn’t dampen it. I even humoured them, as maybe this glorious weather coupled with Mogwai playing really is in God’s plan.
Though I soon zoned back in and went to the gig, instead of listening to their asinine B.S.
I had no clue who was opening for Mogwai as it just had “plus special guest” printed on the ticket, but I was pleasantly surprised by Scotland native RM Hubbert who I’d never previously heard. Hubbert’s style of music is very much centred around his percussive, classical guitar playing with the odd bit of singing here and there. His playing is a mish-mash of Spanish flamenco but with a more drum n’ bass influenced flavour, as he tends to play amen breaks in between guitar strums which added a more urgent and choppy element to the songs. He went between open and standard tunings however, favouring some drone centred post rock arrangements unattainable with standard tuning (unless you’ve 3 hands to spare). He did of course bang out a few Lydian mode runs here and there to give it that spicy Latin kick.
You could feel RM was influenced by Mogwai themselves as he tends to create very sparse soundscapes using just his classical guitar. He still managed to take things from basic bass runs in a very subtle manner, to higher accents favouring ninths, often bringing the percussive – almost dubstep – sounding hand beats in after 16 bars. He would elevate things by adding a sort of second tier techno 16 beat into the fold to bring the songs to the penultimate climax, whereafter he would bring the tune down again using the basic chordal structure. He packed lots of surprises too as he played some blues riffs but with major 2nd notes instead of the usuals – it was truly immense. John Gomm this man is not, and honestly the world doesn’t need any more John Gomms. R.M Hubbert is in his own world and for that I am thankful – I am an instant fan. I must also praise his stage banter, he was a direct speaker and spoke as if he knew everyone in the room.
Next onto Mogwai themselves. At this point all the Estrella Gallicias had bio-accumulated and I was getting teary eyed waiting for one of my favourite albums of all time in its entirety, played live by the soundest dudes in rock. The opening bass notes to “Yes I am a Long Way From Home” floated into my ear and by God was I a happy camper. I was onto them though… Dublin is only a 35 minute flight away from Glasgow! That’s not that far! They played the track so enthusiastically it was like they had written it just two weeks ago, and for the first time in a long time I could see a band playing a really old song but with smiles of satisfaction on their faces. This is a rarity if ever there was one… we of course got to hear Stuart Braithwhites wee whisperous Glaswegian “thank ye very much” after the massive wall of sound and it made me LOL as I clapped like thunder. This is one of the defining moments of 90’s post rock and you’d be well silly not to check it out if you are reading this article with no prior Mogwai experience
Next they went into – wait a fuppin minute?! What’s this?! “Killing All the Flies?” This is not on Young Team, WTF happened?! It was at this moment I realized they were only celebrating the first album. I was both sad and relieved as it meant we would have access to other noise walls from any other album, but it also put my favourite all time Mogwai tune “King Herod” in jeopardy. This tune is slow paced and haunting as they make heavy use of the vocoder as is characteristic on Happy Songs for Happy People. It is the perfect tone setter for the beginning of a gig.
Next up they played “Friend of the Night” from Mr. Beast and I can see a pattern… Sherlock Holmes to the rescue! They’re playing all their singles with strange videos! However Mogwai live is not the same Mr Beast (pun intended) as Mogwai on storage media. The dimensions they have access to in a live setting are very much taken advantage of, due to the size of the room (and the cracking top tier sound system at the Olympia (sound engineer,you are a genius). Their innate ability to completely obliterate the entire spectrum with distortion is too difficult to describe, from 65hz to 20khz there is an overdrive unit colouring inside all the lines and outside the lines again. It conjures up images of that dude sitting in the chair being blown away by the gramophone – only we’re standing, being exposed to the very nature of the universe for a small period of delicious Mogwai infused time.
What happened next blew my mind. The pattern I was onto was all a big lie. It’s as if they knew I was onto their pattern so out from their collective rectum they pulled the gigantic number “Christmas Steps”. When I was younger I used to think I was the cool kid who only knew about this track but everyone in the whole venue went bananas after it kicked off. This is the track people were singing “Lose Yourself” by Eminem in a piss-take manner for about 16 seconds due to the musical similarities. New headline for the papers afterwards – “Mogwai Drummer Buys Stage with Drumming Ability Alone – Owns Stage.”
I could babble on about every track in their setlist but it was effectively a greatest hits and you know what they sound like. Thankfully they played “Tracy” from Young Team, but it still wasn’t “Mogwai Fear Satan” or “King Herod”, they played “Auto Rock” from 2011’s Hardcore Will Never Die, But You Will.
I was impressed they even remembered writing “You Don’t Know Jesus” off of their notable Rock Action album. I find this album often gets buried by fans and under appreciated so I might as well give it a mention as it’s an epic, energetic track heavily reliant on 5th notes being droned out which is one of my favourite ways to rock out. It’s as if this band had gone out of the way to figure out how to entertain me specifically, as this is one of the best gigs I have ever been to. In terms of how sound the crowd were, the atmosphere was so chilled, but loud. Mogwai had really gone out of their way to mix up this set and pull some serious classics out of the bag, playing but one track from the most recent Rave Tapes, “Remurdered”. There was something here for each generation of Mogwai fan and I was glad to be a part of it. They ‘ended’ with “We’re No Here”, though they didn’t even pretend to be finished – they just looked at the crowd from the side of the stage (probably lol’ing at us haha).
Their encore was spectacular. It started with “How to be a Werewolf” and went into a song I thought I’d only ever hear on my Mp3 player, “My Father the King”. This was too good to be true, twenty minutes of pure Hasidic Jewish music with low end, lathered with insane distortion and epic amounts of energy. Of course the crowd was taken aback by the crunchy punk style bass, uncharacteristic of traditional Mogwai tracks. On stage, they had Luke Sutherland on the violin and occasional 3rd and 4th guitar but this time he was banging out traditional gypsy lead runs on the fiddle over the rambunctious metal in the background. It ended in a massive crash of a crescendo and band took a bow. What a great gig! Fiftytwelve out of ten…. that’s number wang!!
Over and out of it.