Arkells at King Tut's Wah Wah Hut, November 2018

Arkells at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut

When I first heard Arkells’ song Leather Jacket back in 2014 I added it to my “Indie & Alternative” playlist due to the quirky nature of it. Fast forward a few years and that track had been joined by a couple of their others on my playlist but I hadn’t actually taken the time to listen to everything they’d done.

That changed when I was listening to their latest album one morning and, after working through their back catalogue after it, I was impressed enough that I thought I’d check if they were touring. It turned out that they were both on tour and playing at King Tut’s in Glasgow just a few weeks later. I was surprised that tickets were still available for just £10 and snapped up a pair. Even though it was on a Sunday night, I couldn’t believe my luck!

The venue was a place I’d never actually made it to, though I’d bought tickets to see Haim there years before. They had also been playing on a Sunday night and despite buying the tickets well in advance, I ended up having to fly down to London for a conference that afternoon so I reluctantly passed them on to a friend.

It doesn’t take much knowledge of the Glasgow music scene to know that King Tut’s is a storied venue, where countless bands have cut their teeth before going on to require far a far bigger stage. With that in mind, I was looking forward to seeing Arkells play there – I thought a cosy venue would suit their style.

On the night, the line outside moved reasonably quickly and we were inside over an hour before the main act was due on. When we got upstairs to the stage area it was already rammed with people and, even if it hadn’t seen that the gig was a sell out on a sign at the door it would have been obvious by the turnout.

As we’d filtered in the doors I observed that there was a wide collection of demographics surrounding us, with people of all ages and, seemingly, all accents. I also noted that there were a lot of Canadians in the crowd – some carrying maple leaf flags, some wearing hockey shirts. I thought it was pretty cool that they’d come out to see a band from back home.

The support band, Felix Hagan & the Family, were both surreal and great fun. I had never heard of them before but they evidently had enthusiastic fans who belted out the choruses along with the band. The two backing singers whipped up the crowd with a distinct set of quirky dances that went with each song. The area in front of the stage became a sea of reciprocated arm movements and it was pretty hilarious to witness!

I commented to Carol that the group were like Butlins’ Redcoats who had moved on to form a band, such was their stage presence and command of the crowd before them. I don’t mean that in a disparaging way, it was just an observation of how they had crowd participation nailed and I enjoyed their contribution.

Once they were done it wasn’t much of a wait before a throbbing baseline indicated that Arkells were about to take the stage and, wow, what an opener! Beginning with Relentless, a track from their new album they threw everything into it before moving seamlessly into Leather Jacket.

I was surprised that they went for that one early on, but it had slipped my mind that they had several albums to pull from and the next hour was filled with a solid selection of crowd-pleasers.

Max, the frontman, had an intoxicating personality and at one point made his way through the crowd before performing a number from up the back. This kind of thing always makes me nervous that something is going to go badly wrong, but the crowd were good sports and he got away with it!

As they worked through the set I was pleasantly surprised at how many of the numbers I remembered from infrequent listening and there were a few that I could easily sing along to. There was definitely more energy in experiencing them live, though – each song definitely had more punch than they did on a Spotify stream.

Unfortunately, all too soon we had to leave for the last train home and the band were probably still fifteen minutes away from finishing. Such is the way with a Sunday night gig in Glasgow and it was disappointing to have to leave early.

Recently I saw an online advert for the Foo Fighters playing at “Glasgow Summer Sessions” next year. I’ve never seen them live so I clicked through to learn more about the ticket prices but when I saw there were “payment plans” listed I just shrugged and closed the browser tab.

Somehow I resent paying a ridiculous amount to see a band playing in a field somewhere when there are so many more intimate venues right in the city where I can enjoy live music for a fraction of the price. Given how good they are, I doubt I’ll see Arkells playing King Tut’s again, but I’m certain they won’t be the last band I see in there.

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