The Twilight Sad Belt It Out (That was a bit special)

It is Valentine’s Day 2015 at nearly half past four and the inside of the shop is just too small and by trying to clear some space there are records all over the place and full boxes of records everywhere. I’m trying to move the records that mormally sit in the middle of the frontroom into the backroom and maybe some also outside as I’ve done before on these occassions. It has been a busy day and I started the preparation a bit later than I’d have liked. It is cold, it is Saturday the 14th February and I’m full of nerves. I don’t have an amp or a PA system and in the back of my mind, still think there may just be a small crowd. But I do have a wee fan heater and have bought some beer, wine and cider. Some fans have been in already to buy the single and The Twilight Sad will be arriving in a few minutes…

I was asked at the end of 2014 if I would be up for VoxBox being included as part of The Twilight Sad’s record shop tour to promote a new 7“ single –I Could Give You All That You Don’t Want. I generally say yes to any collaborations or in-stores, but this was a definite and smiley yes. Their label, FatCat are almost a Scottish label anyway with PAWS, Honeyblood, The Twilight Sad, Frightened Rabbit (Now on Atlantic), WWPJ and Vashti Bunyan as the Scottish contigent among other fine bands from the rest of the UK and the world so I always try to keep an eye out for their releases.

The picture disc single with unreleased B-side

The picture disc single with unreleased B-side

Seven shops were actually involved with their Record Shop in-store tour including the wonderful Pie and Vinyl, Rough Trade, Resident, Jumbo, Spillers, Banquet and Mono in Glasgow. It’s nice to be thought of in such good company as most are regarded the UKs best record shops. I was asked how long they should play for and had said twenty minutes to half an hour would be grand but hey, whatever feels right on the day.

With these kind of events, it can be really difficult to judge how may people will finally show up. In-stores are funny like that. To help plug it and to gauge the interest, I set up a Facebook page as soon as the appearance was confirmed and very quickly 50 folk said they would come but it then tailed off for a few weeks. For a Facebook event, 50 people saying they are going can often mean 15. Maybe is usually not. That’s ok though, 15 people would be fine for any photos on the day; we would still look full and we will be filming it for posterity too. The shop actually, at a push, holds about 35 in the front room fairly comfortably. (Withered Hand at Jannica Honey band photography exhibition launch)

Some of the participating shops had offered entry to fans that had bought or pre-ordered the single. I never wanted to do that, but getting nearer the day it seemed to became a necessity, especially after The Skinny magazine made the in-store an event of the week. Our Facebook event that had been sitting at 50 for so many weeks jumped to 200 in two days and with only a day or two to go, I realised that the majority were planning to come to this! I definitely needed to make some space and planned to have the front shop clear; anyone that bought the single could be guaranteed to see the band in the shop, and any overspill would have to peer in from outside. But just in case, we needed a contigency plan…

The Contigency:

Can we stick the band on the steps? It is a bit chilly after all. Wounded Knee played on the steps for our first Record Store Day and that was good fun. We’ll also need a PA to amplify it.
The instore in Resident from a few days before had already made it onto Youtube. They had mics and a PA and they were playing inside a cosy record shop.

I emailed the Twilight Sad manager to say there may well be too many people. I’m very sorry, but at such short notice, we don’t have a PA and getting mics and equipment needed could be tricky… Could they play on the steps unamplified? And the very nice and reassuring manager gets back to me… don’t worry! a small crowd is better than no crowd. And the the band say that playing on the steps will be ok if need be.

Andy from Gerry Loves Records who helps me with these kind of things and would be doing the filming, also said “Seriously, don’t worry, The Twilight Sad can belt it out”. He has seen them loads and my pre-gig jitters are eased a bit.

The fan heater whirred away and the shop was getting warm as showtime approached. I had still been moving boxes of records all over the place to clear the shop for the 30-40 people that might buy the single and then I just stopped moving the stuff about. There were record boxes surrounding everything. There was no chance of having a band here in the shop at all. It had also become eerie, with the door open, no-one had even been in the shop for the last 20 minutes or so. Andy from Gerry Loves had arrived and was setting out his filming equipment… “What are you doing? Have you looked outside” he said? “There are people all over the street”.
Great, I like people!
“No. There are people ALL over the street!” So… with a quick look outside… there was everyone, EVERYONE was outside. THERE ARE PEOPLE ALL OVER THE STREET! You lovely Twilight Sad fans! Bloody hell, this is fantastic!

Just around then, James and Andy of The Twilight Sad come in.

Hello. Hello. Says they.
Hello. Hello. Says I… Thanks for coming… Erm… have a beer or a cider… or a wine.

After a few good minutes of record shop chat we realised there was a gig to be had on the steps – and in the backstage that had become the VoxBox shop, we shut the door and James sang some improvised scales. He went through the big notes he needed and coughed a bit and that was it. Ready.

So without further a do… The steps. Sorry it’s so cold.
And it was such a cold February day, I had worried that guitarist-Andy’s fingers would be too chilly to do any intricate guitar work.

Last minute, I decided to point the shop fan heater at Andy’s back, to point it out the door at the back of the chair he was sitting on to try to warm his fingers. Then with some help (in no uncertain terms) realised how crazy an idea that was. So with nothing else to contribute, I edged out past the 2 piece Twilight Sad on the steps, made my way through the throng and up on to the steps across the street to watch.

The street was blocked with fans standing in the road. Cars were turning into the street, seeing the crowd then braking suddenly and deciding against it. It was more than a wee bit dangerous.

Neighbour Olaf that runs Wide Days was there and asked “did you get permission for this?”
Did I need permission for this?! Erm.. no, I didn’t get any… I put it up on Facebook and in The Skinny and everyone turned up.
“That’s brilliant!” He said.

And it was.

Around 200 people came. Some left before the end. Some didn’t know it was on and were sucked in by the crowd to see what was happening (They became fans, queued and bought the albums on CD) and so many fantastic fans of the band were there at the start and leaned over railings and a parked (wrong) car and a bin to get as close as possible.

What I hadn’t counted on and had underestimated was the definition of “belt it out”. I thought it meant they played loudly. What the understatement had really meant was that James Graham has a voice of an opera singer. A self-trained voice from Kilsyth and that he can project that voice mic-free for hundreds of meters. There were moments when I worried about the rendering… (Edinburgh joke)

After half an hour and then for the following 25 minutes, I honestly thought that the police would come…
I started to worry and began thinking, why does he have to belt it out so much!? The voice reverberating between the tenements… And it was LOUD in places. Playing on the steps had given James a freedom to sing as loudly as he liked. And, dear reader, he took it. There’s a moment you can see in the footage where we all hear a police siren… James’s eyes say that he’s thinking the same as the rest of us but he keeps on singing.

Despite the cold Valentine’s Day, The Twilight Sad two piece played for just under an hour. Even with chilly fingers, Andy never hit a bum note.

They never actually played the single that they were promoting.

The Footage to date has had 23,500 YouTube views.

James and Andy are T-Rex fans.

“That was a bit special” – James

And in case you’ve seen the footage all the way through and are wondering, James did actually draw a cock on a fan’s copy of the album (at their insistence) -he really didn’t want to deface the artwork. They stayed for an hour chatting to fans that queued up to get the single and albums signed.

After the gig, I gave James a glass of red wine -well… a mug as that’s all we keep in the shop, Andy had some beer and we took a few pics. “Good luck for the upcoming Scottish Album of the Year Award” and with £20 for a taxi, they headed off up the road. Well, I suppose you could even say into the sunset or the twilight or something.

In lieu of a proper end of year blog post and while it is still January, I though it would be nice to share my favorite musical event of last year.

Super-thanks to FatCat Records, Essential distibution and The Twilight Sad. It will never be the same.


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