The Garage, Glasgow – live review
19th June 2015
Seymour Rants caught up with the ex-Get Cape. Wear Cape. Fly. man Sam Duckworth at his recent Glasgow show, which she also reviews for us.
After wasting 20 minutes due to confusion about how to enter – for those of you who have not attended an event at The Garage’s attic venue, the entrance is hidden round the corner of the chip shop next door – we eventually made it up the stairs and into the room where Lewis Capaldi’s set was already in full swing. Despite missing the first half due to the aforementioned confusion, his was a performance that I will not forget in a rush. His voice betrays his years, leaving goosebumps up and down the arms of anyone lucky enough to be listening as he pelts out Béyonce mash up covers and his own cleverly constructed melodies. Imagine Paolo Nutini is a 10 year malt, Capaldi is his 20 year aged and undeniably better counterpart. His voice is soulful, powerful to the point microphones could be mistaken for mere props while maintaining a technical control far above average. I would encourage anyone with a spare 5 minutes to do themselves a favour and peruse his Soundcloud account. You will not regret this.
The second act of the night, Seán McGowan, a self described “storyteller” with fire in his belly, took to the stage shorty after. He drowns out every voice in the room as he spins tales about drinking with mates, struggling with minimum wage, the importance of friends and family & of course, giving a middle finger to ‘the man’. He is reminiscent of Frank Turner, there is a charm about his stripped back style and I can see those watching nodding along with grins on their faces; the lyrics resonating with them all. Having heard of McGowan around two years prior, I had been meaning to get to a show for a while and was not let down. There are no smoke and mirrors, no frilly metaphors, just a normal guy with a great voice, an ear for mellifluous chord progressions and songs that are accessible, relatable and honest in a way that is refreshing amidst a musical community whose seams are splitting with theatrical prose. Watch this space, McGowan is a name you’ll surely be seeing more of in the near future.
Shortly after McGowan’s set, Sam Duckworth himself stepped in front of the mic. It may seem odd for a musician who spent years gaining attention and acclaim under a stage name to suddenly abandon the name and, to an extent, much of the fame that was gained with it; but that is exactly what Duckworth has done. He has abandoned not just the moniker but also the band he had assembled, trading busy and ambitious songs for a more simplistic live approach and it has paid off. His most recent album, Amazing Grace, captures a more mature songwriting style, finger-picking aplenty complimented by hazy, calming vocals and exploration into a variety of styles. In spite of the few rude punters who refused to stop speaking until Duckworth himself apologetically asked them directly, and the one over zealous fan who was enjoying her beers and heckles in equal measure, his set included many new tracks and was almost meditative.
It was an intimate experience not just because of the small venue, not just because of the small crowd, but because of the lilting, genuine calm of the songs themselves. Duckworth is a seasoned musician who, when speaking as he does near the end of his set about the current government’s appalling treatment of immigrants, does so in as articulate and educated a manner as expected for a musician of his calibre. A topic that is often approached in a ham fisted way, Duckworth is a man of few but excellently chosen words and receives a resounding applause when he proclaims that he has bean beaten for his beliefs before and would gladly do so again, that he is not afraid. It is a sentiment felt by many and reflected in his music. You’d be hard pushed to find a better way to spend a Friday evening.
After the gig, and after a very inebriated and gushing fan had her moment of fawning over the boys, we caught up with McGowan to find out a little bit more about the Southampton based songsmith.
Hey, Seán, thanks for taking the time to talk to us, we’re very excited at the prospect of introducing your music to more people. Tell us, to someone who has never heard of you before, how would you describe yourself?
Myself or my music?
Six and half a dozen isn’t it? But we’ll play safe and say your music.
I get pigeonholed in various different ways but the best way for me to describe it is storytelling. It’s a little bit weird to describe music as storytelling, but most of my songs are memories and my songs are just relaying those memories. All of my songs are worryingly true, so I’d definitely use the term storytelling.
What inspired you to start playing live music instead of just writing in your room?
OH! Well, I’m well into football – I’m a QPR fan – and I always thought I was going to be a footballer… Then I started smoking and doing other stupid things. At this point he gives a wry grin and continues drinking, y’know, nothing too bad. So at that point I just thought, ‘shit, I have to do something else!’ Which was my first thought. But I’m a big Billy Bragg fan and a big Clash fan, so I’d always written poetry. Then I got a guitar and just slowly got a bit better. It was quite natural, I just realised I had to do something and I enjoyed writing so it felt the most natural thing for me to do.
And so far what has been your favourite experience of playing live?
There are a few. I did a show the other day with Billy Bragg in the pub I clean the toilets in and that was pretty fucking cool. Glastonbury too! Playing Glastonbury! I was on the stage with Sam (Duckworth). It was Sam, Kate Nash, Billy Bragg and loads of my friends that I’ve met through Sam. Leftfield is probably the ‘coolest’ thing that I’ve ever done. That was great fun.
Sounds incredible! We hope to see more of you on the festival circuit in the future then! Getting down to the music, yours can be pretty politically inclined at times…
…is that an intentional move, or is it more just you venting your own frustrations?
I think it’s more venting than intentional because where my songs are just stories, it comes quite naturally. So, I have this new song – I didn’t play it tonight unfortunately – but it’s basically about 0 hour contracts. I just call shit as I see it and the politics kinda squeeze in through my own experiences. There are certain things, where if you’re on a stage and you have a microphone, if you can do something good or in some way be inspirational – I know that sounds really cheesy – but I think it’s quite a cool thing to do. To be able to talk to people and have conversations, more than anything, more than party politics, just to be able to come at it from grassroots and inspire people to just be a nice person… that’s something I try to do. I don’t know if I do it very well, if it’s working, but I am trying to get better at it. Well we think you’re doing a pretty good job!
Speaking of your own music, what is your favourite song that you have written?
Oh, god, I dunno! Uh, I think Come Unstuck was an important one for me because it took me ages to write and I probably redrafted it about thirty thousand times. The story, not so much the song, but the story is something that it took me a while to get out and I think that’s one of my favourites. Although it depresses me every time I sing it, it’s one that I think resonates with a lot of people in the sense of feeling let down by people, being let down by your mates but still standing by them regardless. I think it’s an important message, so for that reason it’s probably my favourite.
So if someone has never heard of you before would you like that to be the first song they hear by you or what song would you prefer people to check out first?
Well as someone who writes songs too you’ll understand that whenever you write something new you always think that that’s the best you’ve done at the time, so I’d say probably something new. I’m about to put a new EP out so probably a track off there. Maybe ‘Place your bets’ which is one of the new songs I played tonight. It’s probably a good intro to my work.
Duly noted. You already had a pretty solid release – The People’s Music – under your belt and with this new one on the way, we were wondering…if you could leave any legacy from your music, anything to be remembered by or for, what would you like that to be?
My patchy beard… Fuck that’s a tough question. Probably just someone who tried really heard to be honest. I think I’d like my music to be remembered as something that was honest. I’d like for people to know it’s legit and that I am legit with it, so I think the honesty of what I do would be the best legacy to leave behind.
So there you have it, and if you would like to hear any of Seán’s (or Sam’s) music they can both be found on spotify or via their facebook pages.
All words by Seymour Rants. More writing by Seymour on Louder Than War can be found here.