By: Umrish Pandya
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The Roundhouse, Camden | June 25, 2015
Twenty years in any game is a long time. With it comes a grandeur of longevity, infallibility and respect from the rest of us acute dreamers, enviously wishing that we too could boast aptitude and adroitness of our own coveted craft.
Cue Mogwai – from Glasgow, Scotland. You all know the name and what they’re all about. It began June 26th 1995 when the original four founding members sounded out their inaugural rehearsal in the living room of Stuart Braithwaite’s parents. Almost twenty years later to the day, picking up the versatile Barry Burns along the way, the Scottish quintet now find themselves curating a week-long ATP season in their own honour, their own celebration – their own 20th anniversary of blown amps and bleeding eardrums.
And so as I ascended the Chalk Farm station lifts and exited into the London sunshine I was gratefully greeted by my good friend Dan, who marked the occasion by dressing up as Mogwai. Smooth on the scalp and rugged on the cheeks, he even sported plain black and white attire; almost as though he obsessively watched Burning for the last fortnight.
“Primrose Hill?” he inferred.
“Primrose Hill,” I concurred.
It was a good day to look good. It was an even better day to climb Primrose Hill with a pre-rolled joint awaiting our reach for the summit; the summit awaiting my arse on it’s sun-kissed grass. We got half-way before our pathetic panting forced a compromise. Still, was a beautiful view enhanced further by the Amsterdam grade hash I smuggled back over the border. It truly was marvellous day.
“20 fucking years. Can you believe that?” Dan growled whilst exhaling a thick smoke down the greeny gradient.
Before we knew it, we somehow found ourselves involuntarily striding down the hill towards the venue with a big smiles wrapped across our faces. The dread-locked doorman saw Dan’s hazy eyes and my rastafarian beanie before applying due leniency to our comical entrance. I even got to keep my Vitamin C and H20. So far so fucking brilliant.
Standing left of centre whilst bustling forward at every opportunity Dan and I await with itchy eagerness for the Scottish quintet to take stage and begin. When you’re that stoned every cell in your body is crying out for music – NOT for lifeless conversations between our suited surroundings who had questionable reasons for even being present. We bore the brunt for the core of cunts right up until Mogwai, in all their modesty and greatness, entered stage left with Stuart Braithwaite ceremonially introducing who they are, where they come from with an additional “…glad to be here” sentiment.
As the accordion keys of Superheroes of BMX seeped over the drum machine pattern an overwhelming sense of reassurance transcended from Mogwai unto me. Everything is good; great. There’s nothing to worry about. Not now, anyway. Before my eyelids drooped into post-rock purgatory I quick-glanced Dan whose immediate demeanour resonated the very same comforting feeling. All was very well at The Roundhouse.
With all our bodily hairs firmly upright, Mogwai went straight into The Hawk is Howling’s opening classic, I’m Jim Morrison, I’m Dead before floating us on a feather tethered together by Stanley Kubrick. And then, because it’s their birthday and, because they can, the opening chords of Christmas Steps confirmed what some of us already assumed. Their set was to be dominated by older material – more familiar to seasoned Mogwai fans who take 20th anniversaries seriously.
Whilst the highland maestros journeyed through Jesus, Thatcher & Remurdered I focused forward to the post-rock hombre in front. With every crescendo nearing he thrashed the air guitar with masturbatory conviction – at least from my angle anyway. Another elderly couple were eyes-shut, backs-arched and arms-open. Although pissing off everyone within an arm’s span of their giddy tendencies they gave off an entertaining vibe. So much so we could see Barry Burns on stage giggling at them and their lost moments.
And then, just for me, Braithwaite and Aitchison swapped instruments for New Paths to Helicon Pt. 1. Now it was my turn for my moment. As Braithwaite took a seat to play out the unmistakably beautiful bass chords the remaining members applied layers of gorgeous strummage accordingly.
After being Hunted by A Freak Mogwai treated us to their very own live exorcism – Mogwai Fear Satan. The loud bit was followed by the quiet bit, followed by the really quiet bit at which point fellow Mogwai fans snuffed out the suited fakes in the audience. The were chatting shit about how ‘Andy doesn’t pull his weight in the office’ and boasting that they were ‘they type of person who tells it as it is.’ Angered and offended, we awaited the almighty crescendo to shut them the fuck up. Mogwai put the fear of Satan into them whilst we simply moshed them apart.
The tale-end of the gig saw more crowd-pleasers and classics such as Auto Rock and Batcat being sabotaged by the Roundhouse’s sound engineers. It was cute at first, to see Braithwaite and co trying to signal at them to do their job properly. We could all see Mogwai visibly getting more frustrated at their incompetence. Burns & Braithwaite found it somewhat funny. John Cummings, however, in true angry Scotsman style lost patience at the very end. Whilst his bandmates left the stage post-encore he remained to, presumably irritate the sound staff. They asked him to stop. He responded by tearing the strings from his fender and hanging the defaced guitar on an amp before continuing to fuck about with the amp.
And then, he turned to the sound staff, still out of view and gestured towards them to come onto stage and fight him – knowing full well he’d kick their teeth in. We couldn’t tell what was serious and what was a joke. He smiled after provoking them – sarcastically gestured toward us, “YES!” before finally leaving.
If you’re a sound engineer at a future anniversary Mogwai show – don’t mess with the band’s sound, especially John Cummings. It’s his birthday and he’ll fuck you up if he wants to.