Posted in SHOFT on Friday 22nd October 2010 at 11:49pm
I'd been to Paisley once before...I'd decided to fly up to Glasgow on a whim, and soon realised that the associated hanging around and the time wasted at the airport quickly made my much loved train journey a very sensible option. However, on the return I'd used the rail-bus link to get back to the airport, just to do a little extra track. I remember descending from the platforms at Gilmour Street to a grey evening and the minibus endlessly circling quiet, menacing estates on the way to the terminal. I'd not taken away the best impression.
Today dawned wet and grey, with some filthy weather predicted. I spent the day in record shops and drinking coffee, using a break in the rain for a wander down Byres Road for old times sake. Booking my ticket back in August, I'd envisaged a golden autumn evening in which to reappraise Paisley - it was pretty clear I wasn't going to get one. So stepping out of Gilmour Street and into the Town, rather than the backstreets, I was quite surprised to see a little bustle of activity around the Square. A new shopping centre was mostly closed for the day, except for a supermarket on the corner. However, I did note the presence of three separate chain betting shops next door to each other - either a bit of neat licensing and planning work, or an indication of the population's overwhelming propensity to gamble. Moreover, I noted some impressive buildings around the town, the red sandstone churches and municipal buildings dominating the area south of the station.
I headed for the Arts Centre, with the intention of having a pint first. I popped into a newsagent on the way to grab a paper, and almost kicked a chap sitting on the step, drinking mouthwash. Here I almost got angry because I didn't want to have to tell these kind of anecdotes about a place which was struggling hard to drag itself through difficult times, but he was minty fresh proof that Paisley wasn't a picnic just now. I found a fairly sensible looking pub, and ordered my beer - noting the barmaid giving me a very strange look. I thanked her and offered my cash and she stopped and fixed me with a glare. It seems my politeness had been mistaken for a chat-up line! I explained I was English which seemed to satisfy her immediate concern, and she noted that the locals only ever said thank-you when they were propositioning her. I eyed the large bouncers who were looking on with interest at our prolonged conversation, and decided against any attempt at witty response.
So, to the Arts Centre. A rather fine old church converted into a permanent arts venue. Stepping inside, a busy little cafe and reception greeted me, and I stopped for a coffee while the Music Industry Panel concluded in the auditorium. This meant a passing nod to DJ Vic Galloway as he popped out for a cigarette - thus completing the set of prominent Scottish radio celebrities for the trip! Sizing up the audience, they were certainly 'arts centre' material. Having been in the top quartile age-wise for the past two nights, I slipped down to the middle here, with some serious looking local 'arts' folk in evidence, sipping gingerly at beakers of red wine and talking about exhibitions in 'town' - which surprisingly, given the culturally diverse and exciting city on their doorstep, appeared to mean London!
First up, and to be totally honest the reason I'd trekked out here tonight, were Julia and The Doogans. I've loved Julia's songs since first hearing 'Collide' and had always hoped to have a chance to see her play. Tonight the band was small, but made a big sound with Jennifer on keyboards and Renata on cello. This conjured a lush, deep sound to counter the clear, high vocals. I don't often use the expression, but it was utterly beautiful to hear. Julia herself appeared nervous but soon got into the swing of things, playing among others 'Diamonds', 'Come Home', 'New York City' and 'Answer' which only exists as a demo as far as I'm aware. She intended to finish with a solo tune in 'Glasgow' - but a guitar tuning issue meant she decided to sing this acappela - a brave move but one which earned her rapturous applause from a tricky crowd.
The headline act tonight was former Delgado Emma Pollock. Two albums into a solo career she has proved that she justly shared the songwriting credit for her former band with some clever, often rather complex pop music. I confess her most recent record The Law of Large Numbers hasn't really clicked with me yet - but in listening to it last weekend to prepare for tonight, I recognised some really fine songs which I wanted to hear live. The set combined these with a handful from the first, rather more direct 'Watch the Fireworks' album. It was fantastic to see how much fun her live band seemed to be having, with multi-instrumentalist (and impressively bearded) Jamie Savage demonstrating a dizzying range of skills in particular. Standouts for me were the stunning 'I Could Be a Saint' and storming 'Adrenaline'. A thoroughly enjoyable set, which got the seemingly rather staid audience whooping and hollering towards the end.
So, back to Gilmour Street in the rain - and finally something of a reprieve for Paisley. The Arts Centre is a gem of a venue, despite it's deeply uncomfortable seating - and that they have the vision to book bands like these is heartening indeed. For my own part, I caught sight of my developing beard in the train window and realised with some horror that I resemble Henry VIII somewhat. Perhaps I should leave that to the professionals too?
I've had a home on the web for more years than I care to remember, and a few kind souls persuade me it's worth persisting with keeping it updated. This current incarnation of the site is centred around the blog posts which began back in 1999 as 'the daylog' and continued through my travels and tribulations during the following years.
I don't get out and about nearly as much these days, but I do try to record significant events and trips for posterity. You may also have arrived here by following the trail to my former music blog Songs Heard On Fast Trains. That content is preserved here too.