Waaaaaaay back in March I heard that Mogwai were going to play at The Hydro in Glasgow… in December. I got excited, then forgot, then remembered, then booked tickets so that P and I could go see them. Not long afterwards I saw my sister and suggested that she should come too and should bring her boyfriend (B) since they’re both fans.
I think it’s reasonable to say that Mogwai’s album, Happy Songs for Happy People, was something of a formative album for me and my sister. I guess I first heard it when I was 14 or 15, so my sister would have been about 11 or 13, and I think she might even have introduced me to it. We both liked rock but this was the first post rock album either of us had heard and we both loved it. It got played. A lot. Even now, sometimes I just want to listen to Hunted by a Freak or Kids Will Be Skeletons. When my sister arrived we told each other not to hope for our old favourites, and that they’d probably mostly play songs from their (admittedly excellent) new album.
Hapily enough, P is a big fan too, although his favourite album is probably The Hawk is Howling (it’s a great choice, to be fair). Needless to say, we all spent a lot of time looking forward to the gig. When the weekend in question came, we agreed to head into Glasgow early, just in case we had trouble with trains, given that is was the dead of winter We got a few beers atand some food at Bloc and then wandered over to the veue, where my sister needed to pick up her tickets from the box office.
The Hydro is kind of a cool venue. I remember watching it being built from my Minerva Way flat in Finnieston back in 2012. I also remember it catching fire when it was basically just a shell and worrying that the fire might get much worse than it ever did. It’s been an enormous and beautiful addition to the Clydeside skyline since then, often lit up in bright colours and attracting enormous crowds (it has a capacity of 13,000 people). Mogwai was my first visit.
I’d heard that if we posted a selfie at the venue, along with the hastag #getmeinthevault, we could win a VIP upgrade. So we did, then collected the tickets, dropped bags off at the cloakroom, bought beers and wandered inside to catch the last couple of songs from the fist support act, Sacred Paws. They were fine, but the arena was still pretty empty so I doubt they sounded their best.
Next up we had Ride. They did a little better (the arena was filling up by this point). I wasn’t previously familiar with either band and I think I might have to look them up properly at some point. Neither were quite post rock, which surprised me given thatthey were supporting Mogwai, but they were definitely rock, and kind of fun.
Towards the end of Ride’s set my phone buzzed in my pocket. We’d won that VIP pass! So, off we went tothe Hydro Club reception to give the password Hungry Face (yeah, that’s the title of a Mogwai album, I don’t reckon it’ll get you in for any future gigs). We were congratulated, handed very fetching luminescent yellow wristbands and led to “The Vault.” Down a corridor, up some stairs, through a room, round a corner into a dark room with a red sofa and a curtain covering one wall. Our guide opened the curtain to reveal an amazing view of the stage and explained that the button to our right would summon a waiter when we got thirsty. Um, yes please?
By this time, Ride had finished. We summoned a waiter, ordered mo
re beer and laughed at how ridiculous and brilliant the situation was. We didn’t have long to wait before Santa came on stage to introduce Mogwai (weird? Yes. Uncessary? Certainly. Kind of a hilarious and brilliant touch? Absolutely). They wandered onto the stage to thunderous applause and immediately launched into Hunted By A Freak. Yeah, from Happy Songs. Yeah, my sister’s and my favourite song. I might have slightly completely lost it. I wasn’t the only one.
The rest of the gig went from that to better with lots of old favourites interspersed with the highlights from Every Country’s Sun (the new album). They played incredibly and we really appreciated that they hadn’t seen the gig as simply an opportunity to plug the new stuff. Our elevated position meant I could actually see the band without having to push my way to the front or hope that tall people would magically all move to one side and the sound quality was amazing.
This was a strong contender for one of the best gigs I’ve ever been to. It’s certainly in the top 5 or 3. It’s also true that, unlike some bands I’ve seen, where seeing them felt like ticking off an item from a must-see list, and that I didn’t need to see them again, I would see Mogwai again tomorrow. Even if they played the same set. The whole experience was flawless.
Guess I’ll just have to keep on playing Happy Songs.