For a relatively small country, Scotland punches above its weight with regards to music and the arts. It is home to a thriving music culture, not only in terms of classical and folk traditions, but also in the field of contemporary music. Scotland, in the last 20 years, has been home to some of the most prestigious and influential bands and record labels. These have included The Proclaimers, David Byrne, Mogwai, Del Amitri and Franz Ferdinand. This is just the short-list. Here is a more comprehensive one:
So what is being done to make this the case?
Firstly, Great Live Music Venues
The live music scene in Scotland is based around the two major cities, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Whilst Edinburgh is the capital, Glasgow has a better reputation for gigs. It features the Barrowlands, a legendary venue which saw early gigs from bands like Nirvana. It’s also just a brief walk from the railway station. The post-gig dash back to catch the last train is something of a rite of passage. Even the name of the place just exudes coolness.
There’s also King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut, where Alan McGee of Creation Records famously saw Oasis play for the first time in 1993. It continues to enjoy a superb reputation. Glasgow also has the SECC, an indoors venue which larger bands can play, along with the O2 ABC. Bands of all sizes can find a venue to play in this city.
Edinburgh, despite its reputation as a festival town, has lagged behind its sister city somewhat in the live music stakes. There are some good venues, however- Whistle Binkies, Henry’s Cellar Bar and Bannerman’s are three long-established small venues where you can see live music most nights of the week.
Decent Record Labels
The grand success of alternative music in Scotland is Chemikal Underground records. Formed by veteran Glaswegian band The Delgadoes, Chemikal Underground has been home to a diverse array of Scottish talent, from Mogwai, Arab Strap and Bis. It has supported a staggeringly diverse roster of artists in its 20-odd years of existence. Also of note is Fife-based Fence Records. Fence are a loose collection of musicians who have produced success stories like Found and KT Tunstall.
The most notable one is The Skinny, an NME-sized periodical dedicated to the Scottish scene. It covers all of Scottish popular culture, above and beyond just music. The List is also widely read, though as its name suggests it focuses more on listings than reviews.
The real source of good information on music in Scotland can be found online music blogs such as Aye Tunes, the Scotsman’s Radar Music Blog, and smaller home-grown efforts such as music-banter.com. They all provide recent updates regarding listings and venues.
Current Great Scottish Bands
St Jude’s Infirmary, Frightened Rabbit, Meursalt, The Twilight Sad, Sparrow and The Workshop are all attracting attention. Any one of them could be the next band to follow in the footsetps of KT Tunstall, Glasvegas, Mogwai or Belle and Sebastian and find a wider audience. Paolo Nutini has just completed a sold-out tour of the UK. These bands, and many others besides, are what ultimately makes Scotland’s music scene a vibrant and exciting place to be.