Wednesday, 24 December 2014


Today in The National there's an article celebrating the 80th birthday of the Barrowland Ballroom, aka the Barrowlands.  It made me come over all nostalgic - must be the Christmas fairy dust or something.

I studied at Glasgow University in my youth, and at that time the major rock concert venue in Glasgow was the Apollo (giving away my age there!).  I saw quite a few bands there, ranging from Adam and the Ants to AC/DC, and the atmosphere was always pretty special.  I stayed on in Glasgow for a few years after graduating, attending gigs at various venues, before moving to my current location.

The Barrowlands, however, is something special.  I've seen some of my best gigs ever there, and the atmosphere is like no other venue I've ever experienced.  It doesn't always happen, but sometimes there's a strange alchemy that turns a few hundred people into sounding like a stadium-full and feeling like one organism.

The venue itself is nothing special to look at.  It has a sort of seedy charm, with lots of glitter and neon, but it's never going to win prizes for the decor or facilities.  But when you get the right gig, none of that matters.

I learned my mosh-pit skills there, in the company of total strangers all as much into the music as I was.  You'll never meet them again, but for a couple of hours they're your comrades in arms.  I also gained my first mosh-pit injury there - a broken foot, sustained by landing badly while leaping around to the music of the Stranglers.  Such was the joy of the music, though, that I didn't really feel the pain until the next day.  The DMs, de-rigeur footwear for the mosh-pit, also helped by supporting my foot solidly.  Taking them off was the big mistake.

My best gig there?  Has to be Iggy Pop on 15th December 1988.  Two solid hours of manic moshing,  My T-shirt was literally dripping with sweat by the end, and my voice was hoarse from singing and cheering.  Other gigs have come close, but that one sticks in my memory.

My best gig so far, I should have said.   I continue to go there occasionally, and you never know, the best gig might be yet to come!

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