Review: Warm Digits – The Cluny, Newcastle – 16/12/2021

What can one say about the year 2021? Not a lot. It started out quite abysmally and it took quite a few months before things slowly started to feel like they were getting better. We deluded ourselves we were getting on top of Covid. The vaccine roll out happened and the FM (First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon) seemed pretty driven to get the Scottish population fully vaccinated as quickly as possible. Even now, statistically, compared to the rest of the UK, Scotland has the highest rate of vaccinated residents in the UK (I believe). As good as those stats are – a new variant has come along and now there is a new “evil” word joining Covid – Omicron! Covid cases are on the rise once more and there is a drive for booster vaccines to be given to as much of the population as possible in the quickest time.

This year I have been to as many gigs as I got to go to in 2020 before the Covid shit hit the fan – ie: not many at all. A couple of gigs I had chosen not to go to due to my own concerns still. Two gigs at Barrowland Ballroom I didn’t attend were John Grant and Manic Street Preachers. My list of gigs I went to is: Scritti Politti, Field Music (they were also one of my 2020 gigs), and Warm Digits (also on my 2020 list). I should have been going to one final gig this evening – to see Memes at McChuills. I had already decided I wasn’t going to attend it. I had taken enough risk seeing Thursday night’s Warm Digits gig. The good news is that in light of the Omicron variant and new restrictions coming into place, Memes have rescheduled their gig to April 1st next year.

The Warm Digits gig I have been concerned about for weeks. After the previous gig of going to the Stag and Dagger in Edinburgh to see them, and the disappointment of them having to cancel their Glasgow gig – and not being able to go to their gig in Manchester, it was all hinging on Newcastle. It had been a long while since I saw them play a full set and I really, really NEEDED to see a full set!

But with everything that hit with Omicron, I had my doubts about if I should go? Everything else I had put in place, determined to get there. I had purchased return train tickets straight after the Edinburgh Stag and Dagger and booked a room at a hotel nearest the venue. 

Other things were also playing on my mind. I actually thought the Covid things would be the thing of lesser concern. Vaccines were happening. Precautions were in place. I was worried weather would be a factor and had there been snowfall then that could stuff up the running of train services, etc, etc. Then about a week or so before the gig, this Omicron variant was spreading like nobody’s business around the world and I started to freak out. Esp. once Boris started talking about potentially going into lockdown again! I started to have my doubts that I would even be allowed to travel. And what happens if I end up going to England – will they let me back into Scotland on Friday? 

On Thursday morning I received a letter from SAAS about my application of my part-time fee grant. I was awarded the grant! Yay! But because this was my first time applying for the grant, I wasn’t sure how to interpret the letter other than I had been granted partial funding because the award was only for so much of the fee. So that left me believing I would somehow have to stump up the rest. I wanted clarity on this though and contacted the OU. They said I needed to specifically speak to the Scotland region of the OU, as they directly handle the fees and grant awards for Scottish OU students. During busy times though when you call the OU in Scotland number and the lines are busy, the calls are filtered through to the main OU phone lines in England. My call got filtered through to England twice. The second time, the adviser on the line said he’d put in a callback request for me so someone from OU in Scotland would call me back. Great. That was all good. But equally I am leaving for Newcastle with this worry that I am going to have to find 40% of the fee for the course! It was casting serious doubt on whether I could go ahead with my study. 

I packed a bag. Had a shower and got ready to head off to Newcastle. 

All the travel was running smoothly. Train into the city from Ashfield was on time. Arrived at Queen Street in good time for the connecting Edinburgh express train. Arrived at Edinburgh just after 2pm and the connecting train that was heading to London was already there on the platform. Found my carriage and seat and got comfy. About 40 minutes later we stop at Berwick-upon-Tweed, which looks like an absolutely STUNNING place, and is somewhere I’d definitely like to go and check out in the future.

Just after we pull out of Berwick, I get my callback from Ou in Scotland. I explained that I received the award letter in the post earlier that morning and had said I had been awarded so much – a partial award and wanted to check what I needed to do to pay the rest of the fee. The person on the phone asked me to clarify the award amount I was given, which I told them. “That is the maximum award they have given you. The university pays the rest. You have nothing to pay.” I don’t think I have ever been so relieved or felt so thankful for a phone call in a long while. I was like “Oh, my God! That’s incredible! I am so, so relieved. This is fantastic! Thank you so, so much!” I was on a cloud! So buoyed by that news. And just…so relieved and able to relax. 

It was pretty dark by the time I arrived in Newcastle. The sun had set and there was minimal twilight left. I decided to get a taxi to the Premier Inn I was staying at. Taxis were straight outside the exit from the station so I grabbed one and arrived at the Premier Inn several minutes later. 

Had a quick drink and a snack and after about an hour, I decided to head to The Cluny. I could see on Google Maps it was a really short walk to there from the Premier Inn. Less than half a mile. But it isn’t a busy part of the city and I was a little worried about the walk. But I knew that it would hardly be a taxi driver’s worth to come and collect me from the Premier Inn to drive me, quite literally, down the road and around the corner. So I walked it. But OMG, I was freaking out doing it! But I made it there safely (obviously!) but there was NO WAY I was going to take that walk back to the hotel after the gig. One, I knew by then my legs will have given out on me, and two, by 11.15pm, those streets will be even MORE terrifying. 

When I get to The Cluny, I familiarise myself with the place again and go to the back of the pub and upstairs to the quiet “lounging” area. I take a seat on the sofa and have been there all of a few minutes when I hear music start up and realise it’s Andy and Steve going through their soundcheck. Not only that, I can hear that they are rehearsing their Christmas song – Good Enough For You This Christmas. From the time of Edinburgh I had been saying “The Cluny is a Christmas gig. You HAVE to do the Christmas song! You just have to!” 

I got up off the sofa and snuck in through the doors of the auditorium in front of me. I stood towards the back, enjoying my little exclusive preview. Andy looked up at one point and I waved like a loon at him, grinning away that they were rehearsing the song. 

Steve was to the side of the stage and couldn’t quite see me from where I was standing, so when the song ended I shouted “YaaaaaaY!!!!” and that was Steve alerted to my presence and, bless him, he smiled and said “you made it! Excellent!”

Not only are Warm Digits bloody amazing musically – but Steve and Andy are just such lovely, lovely guys. They always make me feel welcome and they never make me feel a pest for wanting to hang out with them. They are just so, so fab. Speaking of FAB! We had a bite to eat together before the gig. Andy and I are very much “team Get Back”, the both of us waxing lyrical about what we thought of it and how great it was and how we’re both well up for completely ODing on the notion that Peter Jackson says he will eventually release all 60 HOURS of the footage! 

To the crux of the matter – the gig itself. There were two support acts. But with first support had to pull out of the gig unfortunately. That left Dextro as the sole support act. I really enjoyed his set. There’s quite a kind of “trance” vibe going on with his music. I find it hard to get into music with a lot of space like that and not much of a “groove” as such – more loops and repetition at a standing venue. I feel like it is more a style of music that needs to be enjoyed sitting down. As much as I was enjoying his set, after a while it started to play havoc with me and I feared I was about to have a vasovagal attack so I left the auditorium and went and sat on one of the sofas back out through the far doors. Just to give myself 5-10 minutes to compose myself and get my breathing under control. I was doing deep breathing inside to try and ward off the feeling but I was starting to feel like I better go and sit down for a few minutes while I was able to.

I went back and was able to enjoy the final 10 minutes of his set without the fear of keeling over.

Again, I will say that I enjoyed his set, but I would need to be at a seated venue to enjoy his set fully. I would see him again. I had checked out his music on Spotify before the gig and I liked what I was hearing and was interested in seeing him.

Hear more from Dextro by checking out his bandcamp page – https://dextro.bandcamp.com

As for Warm Digits? FANTASTIC! They sounded great from the off. The Cluny’s acoustics are fabulous and they get great sound guys in, I think. The levels were perfect. Nothing was too loud or distorted – so very different to how Edinburgh was. Crowd wise, despite Steve and Andy’s concerns there might only be a very small crowd, there was about (conservatively) 50 people in, which obviously doesn’t sound much – but given all other factors, it was pretty darn good. And everyone there was really into it and having a great time. It was great to see people enjoying themselves. And it was great for Andy and Steve too because of course they get to bounce off the reaction and appreciation from the crowd and it circles round. It was a lovefest in that room!

And it was just so great to hear a full set! To have things like Frames And Cages, Fools Tomorrow and False Positive (which now seems a wonderfully prescient title for that track!) on the setlist, as well as Flight Of Ideas stalwarts Feel The Panic and The View From Nowhere playing. Replication had been played a few times as well over the past 18 months but Thursday night allowed a great showcase of tracks from Flight Of Ideas. But there was a great mix of older tracks in the set too, End Times was sounding the best I’d ever heard it and Rumble And The Tremor was bloody fab too. Then quite the oldie, playing Connected Coast from their Interchange album. 

After the world’s shortest “end” of the gig was the encore with the much enjoyed (by me especially) Good Enough For You This Christmas and then a finish with the fabulous title track from Wireless World. 

The best. Just the best! Everything I was anticipating this gig to be. Nothing disappointed. The guys played great, the sound was fab. Everything was on the mark. And I was buzzing. And I wasn’t the only one. 

It’s still not been the easiest of years this 2021, but at least live…musically, for me it has ended on a real high. 

Thanks once again to Andy and to Steve for not only being my favourite band in the entire universe (along with Simple Minds) but for also being such wonderful men and being ever so great to your number one fan – in Glasgow, at least. I really hope to see you guys out there on the road again next year.

A Tale Of Woe (But Joy Too!) – Warm Digits – Edinburgh, 14/11/2021

I had shelved going to this Stag & Dagger event for quite a while. Once Warm Digits had announced a gig in Glasgow, I felt there was little need for me to see them a few days before in Edinburgh. They weren’t headlining the show which made me aware their set would be short, so I had settled on just seeing them in Glasgow and then seeing them in their home city of Newcastle. To have them play in Glasgow would be the ideal. 

Sadly the gig had to be cancelled a couple of weeks back so that meant putting the Stag & Dagger back on the gig list. I had planned to go alone. I had booked a place to stay overnight, then decided that seemed an unnecessary expence – Edinburgh isn’t THAT far from Glasgow, FFS! So I cancelled the night away.

Late last week I got a promotional email from ScotRail detailing a ‘BOGOF’ travel deal. Between Sunday and Thursday for the next two weeks, one adult could travel for free across the whole ScotRail network with one full ticket paying companion. With that I asked the OH if she wanted to accompany me to Edinburgh seeing as her travel would be free (you know these Cancerians – they never say no to a bargain, or a freebie. Lol).

When it came to the Stag & Dagger, my only intent was to see Warm Digits. I’d have perhaps liked to have seen Billy Nomates, but there weren’t any other acts playing I was that familiar with. To see Steve and Andy was all that I was worried about. 

The day started well. The train travel was smooth. No worries getting the train at Queen Street. We arrived from Ashfield on platform 3, and the Edinburgh express was there ready to depart a few minutes later on platform 4. 

We did a bit of wandering, not too much sightseeing. With Covid and lockdowns, our exploration of the rest of Scotland has been quite limited. The only time we’ve been to Edinburgh together so far was to spend a couple of hours at Portobello Beach. We just went straight to the beach and didn’t go into the city itself. So it was a bit of mindfuck,when the OH reminded me that it was her first visit to Edinburgh – the city itself – the Royal Mile – in 20 years.

After a bit of a wander about aimlessly, we went and had a bite to eat. I coaxed her into the Cafe Andaluz we had passed by. 

We were back out by 4pm and the light had faded to deep dusk. It’s Sunday, 4pm, the light is fading, I’m not wanting to walk too far and the boys aren’t on until 7.30pm – what are we gonna do?! 

Wander some more! We went down to Cowgate so I could see where the venue was, and exchange my ticket for my wristband. We went down to Grassmarket and wandered about there for a while. I didn’t want to abandon my OH to wander the streets of Edinburgh alone for three hours, but I didn’t want to move far from Cowgate. She’s not a drinker and at this point in time she’s still not wanting to be indoors in more confined spaces for longer than is necessary so just whiling away some time having a drink in a bar wasn’t on the cards. I was feeling bad for even suggesting she accompany me at this point in the afternoon. 

By 6pm my feet are feeling weary and I want to sit down a while so my legs aren’t aching TF by the time Warm Digits’ set starts. Me and the OH depart company. 

I catch up with first Steve and then Andy in the venue around 6.30pm. Both of them welcoming me like they’re seeing an old friend. These guys are far too lovely to me! There wasn’t too much of a chance to chat as the act performing before them got under way. Bit hard to have a convo in the middle of a gig. Perhaps a chance to chat later?

The act before them, Pet Shimmers, finished their set at 7.15, giving Steve and Andy just about 10 minutes (once Pet Shimmers had removed their kit) to set up. I was getting flustered just watching them! Such a tight schedule to set up, perform your set, then get all your equipment back off the stage ready for the next band to do it all.

Technical issues started. Gremlins had been let loose. The bass feed wasn’t coming through the channel it needed, so they had to do a rework, and then Steve’s laptop – where the graphics are, so well as that bass feed was kept dying. Trying to get that all sorted meant their set started late, and there was no time to run over so their set was cut short. 

They played Feel The Panic, End Times, One Track Groove (Living Stereo) and Growth Of Raindrops.

It was LOUD. I stood to the right of the stage, so I was right in front of the amp stack on the right side of the stage. I ended up with tinnitus in my right ear. For a while there I was worried lasting damage had been done. I’m still not sure whether lasting damage hasn’t been done. Since then things have not sounded quite right…

Yeah, incredibly loud and very distorted. But Pet Shimmers were sounding distorted too and that was at the very back of the venue. A shame. And not down to them that they were sounding like that. 

A good catch up afterwards. A bit more of a chance to talk and blether on. Both parties were apologetic for varying reasons. I felt for them so much. Esp. Steve – his frustration and disappointment with the technical issues growing ever visible on his face. But they could at least play something and didn’t have to leave the stage not being able to play anything.

Steve very kindly offered me one of their newly added lines of merchandise – a Warm Digits t-shirt, which I will wear with absolute pride as, if not just Glasgow’s biggest Warm Digits fan, then perhaps even Scotland’s…maybe even the UK’s?! Lol. I don’t know. But I know I love these guys and I can’t wait to see them again next month at The Cluny in Newcastle. It’s all set to go! I have my ticket. And I have my travel and accommodation already sorted. I am really, really looking forward to it!

An arduous journey home followed. A depressed OH (not very happy with hours of hanging about Edinburgh in the dark with nowt to do), a wrong route back to Waverley station, a slow “all stops” train back to Glasgow. No trains running on the Anniesland line at that time on Sunday evening. A bus to Milton that didn’t arrive when it was scheduled to, then a cab home from the city and in the door at 11.30pm.

And knackered after my version of a dance at a gig and nearly 15km of walking. But to see them for just that short space of time made it all worthwhile. 

ROLL ON NEWCASTLE!

I just took a few quick snaps on the night. No other footage. But here is a live version of One Track Groove they recorded many a year ago for you to enjoy.

Belated Birthday Swings And Roundabouts

Beauty and the Beast was fab. As was the Sunday birthday lunch. Weather was iffy but…meh. It’s Scotland. What are ya gonna do?

Yesterday was the belated added bonus of my Warm Digits boys being on the radio doing a live session on BBC Radio 6 Music on Marc Riley’s show.

They played The View From Nowhere, Feel The Panic and Replication. Replication sounded particularly fantastic. It is clearly going to be a live favourite for me. I remember particularly enjoying that when seeing them support Polica back in Feb. 2020 at St Lukes.

Just before the show was under way, I had an email from Eventim, the ticket agent I bought my tickets for their upcoming Glasgow gig with. The email was informing me that their Glasgow gig is cancelled. Oh, damn!

And yes, it is true. Sadly it is cancelled. But I will get to see them in Edinburgh at the Stag and Dagger in just under two weeks time, so that’s some compensation. Might have to see if I can get to Manchester as well. I have a ticket for their gig at The Cluny in Newcastle, but that’s near Christmas. But I’ll hope that the weather and travel is okay and that I can actually get there too. The Cluny is a fab venue.

In the meantime, here’s a link to BBC Sounds and the Marc Riley show from last night. He played a great blend of music. I recommend listening to the whole show. It was very entertaining.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m00112m0