The return of Haight-Ashbury!


Yes, indeed!

I first reviewed Haight-Ashbury nearly five years ago when they supported The Waterboys.

Now, time has flown and little more than a year after they released their debut album Here in the Golden Rays they are set to return with their new album Haight-Ashbury 2:The Ashburys, due out on May 7.

The first single to be released from the album is entitled, perhaps rather appropriately, ‘Sophomore’, which will be released on February 27.

The band, meanwhile, will be playing the following tour dates:

23/02/2012 Gwdihw, Cardiff
25/02/2012 Fibbers, York
26/02/2012 Hebden Bridge, Trades Club
02/03/2012 Birmingham, Hare & Hounds
03/03/2012 Brighton, Green Door Store
06/03/2012 Oxford, The Cellar
07/03/2012 Edinburgh, Sneaky Pete’s
08/03/2012 Glasgow, Captain’s Rest
09/03/2012 Halifax, Dog House
10/03/2012 London, Club Surya

Album review – Haight Ashbury


Haight Ashbury -‘Here In the Golden Rays’ (Lime Records)

Haight Ashbury occupy an interesting musical space of their own in 2010. Despite hailing from Glasgow, they sing in American accents.

Maybe this wasn’t comment-worthy thirty years ago, but it’s unusual now when so many acts from the Proclaimers to Aidan Moffat are comfortable and happy with performing in their own accents. Then again, the combination of sixties folk sounds with garage rock (both Pentangle and the Jesus and Mary Chain are names that have been bandied about when discussing this band) is quite a winning combination. And it kinda figures that -whilst they might seem poles apart on paper – this band have supported both the Waterboys and the Vaselines. I should know: I saw them supporting both those acts.

Within this debut album, there is some exciting experimentation going on; yet perverselythere are also times when tracks seem to get a little boring, fading into the next one, and I get anxious for them to get on with the next track. But there’s quite a few highlights on here, including album opener ‘Freeman Town’ and also ‘Favourite Song’ and ‘Molotof.’

Some great ideas here, and I look forward to seeing what they do next…


Here In The Golden Rays is out now on Lime Records.

Haight Ashbury -‘Freeman Town.’ mp3

Stream more tracks at myspace

Gig review – The Vaselines


The Vaselines/Haight-Astbury/Foxgang -Edinburgh Bongo Club, September 15, 2010

A pretty-muched packed crowd tonight at Edinburgh’s Bongo Club for what leaves a glow for some time to come.

First up are Glasgow’s Foxgang (not to be confused with Foxface, obviously) who have an excelent take on a post-pink sounds that already sounds uniquely their own. ‘Easyjet’ in particular sounds like The Fall meets Franz Ferdinand (with additional help from the Dexys Midnight Runners horn-section when you check it out on their myspace). This being Edinburgh, most of the crowd are too self-conscious to dance, but they win the crowd over, leaving me and many others wanting more.

Haight-Ashbury I first saw supporting The Waterboys three years ago. I thought they were great then -and I think they’re fantastic now. Though the name and part of the the sound nod to 60s San Francisco, there’s an appealing darkness here that also owes much to the proto-punk of the Stooges and The Velvet Underground. Recent single ‘Freeman Town’ encapsulates much of what they’re about: three people making a sound that sounds like there’s way more involved, great harmonies from the girls Jennifer and Kirsty Heather and awesome guitar work from Scott james. Their given surname is Ashbury, and they are all family, apparently.

This is the opening night of the Vaselines tour and the crowd are clearly delighted to see them. Some people probably did see them twenty years ago, but then there’s others a good decade younger than me. They open with ‘Oliver Twisted’ and then tear straight into ‘Molly’s Lips.’ It’s great stuff.

The new album, Sex With An X has generated some good reviews as you would expect, and it’ll be interesting to see whether there’ll be more of it included earlier on in the set on future dates on this tour. The likes of ‘The Devil’s Inside Me’, the album’s title track and ‘I Hate the 80s’ are all interspersed with the songs from the back catalogue. I genuinely think that even in self-conscious Edinburgh the crowd might even start dancing if there was room to do so…

The day after will see Edinburgh visited by the Pope, and while Eugene and Frances don’t comment on this, it’s clear that sex and religion still occupy an important part in the vaselines’ mindset, quite often in the same song, though in a rather different way from how Prince used to approach it circa Lovesexy. ‘God’s Coming to strike us down’ remarks Eugene before they tear into ‘Jesus Wants Me For A Sunbeam’*

It’s a show for happy fans, and I can only begin to imagine just how good things will be by the time they reach Glasgow on the tour. Whilst the album features Stevie Jackson and Bob Kildea from Belle & Sebastian, they are joined by two ‘Vaselines virgins’ as Frances McKee refers to them as, Gareth on bass and Paul on guitar, (no surnames apparently). There’s the right balance between the shambling sound of the records and being as tight as live band, and they’re even more powerful than when I saw them supporting Mudhoney last year.

Just as the Wedding Present still refuse to play encores, so the Vaslines cheerily mock it by pretending to disappear off stage but they’re straight on, and the version of ‘You Think You’re A Man’ rules, as ever. Great to have them with us again.

Vaselines -‘Son Of A Gun.’ mp3

*For the last time: the Vaselines’ orginal title was this. It was the cover that changed the title to include ‘don’t.’ And yes, I know what their myspace says.

The Vaselines

Gig review: The Waterboys/Haight-Ashbury

Gig review: The Waterboys/Haight-Ashbury

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh, May 20 2007

I’ve waited bloody years to see The Waterboys. Since I first heard ‘The Whole Of the Moon’ and bought Fisherman’s Blues. Blown away by what I heard. Were they folk? Were they rock? Scottish? English? Irish…or had they relocated to the USA? Were they no more?

Well, The Waterboys are alive and kicking, as the soon to be Mrs. 17 seconds and I found out last night. Whilst the Festival Theatre is a seated venue – which means that if someone dances, they’re getting in your way- Mike Scott and his merry men brought the place alive, so far away from the staid impression you might have walking in.

Support Act Haight-Astbury are a Glasgow three-piece who were personally handpicked by Mike Scott to support them on this tour. The two female singers’ harmonies owe much to the west coast of the US, rather like their name suggests, but there are a lot of Scottish influences here as well. Songs like ‘Angels and Devils,’ ‘Free Love’ and ‘My Friend The Blues’ suggest a 21st century Bangles playing with Sons and Daughters. Their myspace page has four tracks. Isuggest you hear them and go and see them when you get the chance.

Is Mike Scott the Waterboys? It’s hard to imagine one without the other, though he made a few albums under his own name in the 1990s. but joining him tonight is longtime foil, Steve Wickham, on violin and mandolin, the man who played electric violin on U2’s ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’ but also who really brought alive the seminal Waterboys’ album Fisherman’s Blues in 1988. When they tear into ‘Glastonbury song’ – as their opening number, dammit (I thought a song like that would be saved for the encore), it’s abundantly clear why. Because they can. Because there are so many great songs in the Waterboys’ cannon.

Scott comes across as being very comfortable on stage, a man who knows his craft, is at ease, but also doesn’t take himself too seriously. The anecdotes, about the bands he’s seen (I am fairly distrustful of progressive rock, as I feel that punk came to save us from it), and if Emerson Lake and Palmer were the first band he saw live, well, maybe he learned part of his craft from them. Though it seems pretty God-given. There aren’t many musicians who can talk about their spirituality without seeming phoney, but during ‘Iona’ he talks about the experience that led to him writing the song and it’s so clear he talks from the heart.

Sometimes having heard songs on record (or whatever pre-recorded format you fancy in this day and age), the question is: ‘How will that be recreated live? Will it work? (Or should you use bloody backing tapes for certain parts? Bad idea, in my opinion).’ Two songs from the gig pinpoint what can happen. ‘The Whole Of the Moon’, the biggest hit the Waterboys ever had, is made by Roddy Lorimer’s trumpet (and if you haven’t heard tht trumpet on ‘Don’t Bang The Drum’ you are depriving yourself). There is no Roddy tonight, and the trumpet is synthesised. It works, but somehow, whilst the groove Mike Scott requests is there, it isn’t quuite as moving. On the other hand, ‘The Stolen Child,’ the setting of the W.B. Yeat’s poem that appears on the Fisherman’s Blues album, has Scott reading. This has my hairs standing on end. It is absolutely lovely (I knew a relationship at university wouldn’t work out when the girl said she couldn’t see what appealed to me about the track). It’s also a hair standing up moment during ‘Red Army Blues’ (currently posted by Mr. Toad at Song, By Toad.

For me, it’s the joy of hearing ‘Medicine Bow’ and ‘The Pan Within’ that I shall most treasure from this gig. Sheer, utter, unadulterated joy. Words cannot describe it, suffice to say it was wonderful and moving. Worth waiting sixteen years for, but I hope to see them again soon.