I’ve been writing about music in Glasgow for the past 25 years and going to gigs for even longer. In the summer of 2015, I helped found Glasgow Music City Tours, a guided walking tour company that tells the story of Glasgow's music scene through its venues.
For me, these are the venues which have helped make Glasgow such a great city in which to see gigs and make music.
You can purpose build venues which tick all the right boxes in terms of acoustics, audience experience and customer service but you can’t manufacture a gem like Barrowland. The former ballroom with the star-spangled neon sign is one of the best loved venues not just in Glasgow but the world. The sprung dancefloor is kind on the knees of old moshers such as myself, the curved ceiling is studded with fluorescent stars – David Bowie keeps one in his bathroom – and something special happens to that room when you add 2000 crazy fans. Take a stroll along the Album Pathway in nearby Barrowland Park for a glimpse at some of the stellar names who have played there over the years.
Anywhere that Scarlett Johansson hangs out is fine by me. While the Hollywood star was in town filming Under the Skin a couple of years ago, she spent an evening chilling with friends in this Sauchiehall Street institution – and then came back again the next evening. That’s the relaxed pull of the place. Sleazy’s doesn’t try too hard but everything about it is utterly distinctive, from its distressed décor to its John Peel-endorsed jukebox to its murkily lit red basement where the bands play. It’s also where you will find the city’s off-duty indie musicians, possibly drinking White Russians.
Everyone knows the story about Oasis being discovered at Tut’s, right? But they are not the only future superstars to have clambered on to the first rung of the ladder at this most respected of club venues. Band booker Craig Johnston talks about playing King Tut’s roulette and taking a chance on an unknown band. Anyone spinning that wheel over the last 25 years might have witnessed early outings from Blur – that was me, that was - Pulp, Radiohead, Coldplay, The Killers, The White Stripes and Scottish favourites Biffy Clyro, Paolo Nutini and Calvin Harris, none of whom have done too shabbily.
BRITANNIA PANOPTICON MUSIC HALL
If you thought Barrowland was a perfectly preserved time capsule, you need to check out the Panopticon, the world’s oldest surviving music hall, situated right here in our fair city. Stan Laurel trod the boards here, as did a young cove called Archie Leach – later better known as Hollywood heartthrob Cary Grant. But it’s not just a museum to music hall tradition. Visitors are welcome to stand onstage or play the working pianola and there are regular variety-style shows – though none as hair-raising as original turn Dr Walford Bodie, who used to zap himself with electricity.
This award-winning vegan café and microbrewery may not put on as many gigs as other venues but Mono wields a benevolent influence over Glasgow’s grassroots music scene, being a relaxed, idiosyncratic gathering place for like-minded artistic souls - and avid vinyl junkies. In-house record shop Monorail is co-run by Stephen Pastel, Glasgow indie royalty (though he wouldn’t thank you for the description), and that bar(wo)man who just served you could be the next big talent to emerge from our thriving music scene.