PAWS (album launch), The Spook School, Adam Stafford at Stereo, 25/6/16

Adam Stafford opens the night with an intense set of long repetitive soundscapes, using looped riffs to create atmospheric noise between prog-rock and post-punk.

The crowd maintains a subdued vibe for the first half of the show, with a solitary Saltire hanging in the sound booth in the middle of the room, the one clue as to the political disaster getting many people down.

The Spook School bring the energy up with their medley of queer pop songs.

Singer Nye Todd prefaces the poignant ‘Try to be Hopeful’ by recognising how hard hope feels in the wake of Brexit, but wisely urges us to “keep focussing on making life as hard as possible for Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage”.

The melodic indie pop song, sung from one friend to another about staying positive through adversity, is the perfect antidote to the defeatist mood of the weekend, carrying the character of the band with it: challenging dominant thought and hard issues through affectionate and catchy music.

The Spooks’ merchandise game grows stronger by the year as they now sell mugs branded with the slogan “Burn Masculinitea” in tribute to their song ‘Burn Masculinity’, about how “being male doesn’t give you the right to be a dick to other people”.

Headliners PAWS go straight into old favourite ‘Catherine 1956’.

Bassist Ryan Drever head-bangs vigorously, risking concussing himself on the pillar on the industrial basement’s stage.

There are throwbacks to 2012’s Misled Youth EP, including the melancholy emo of ‘Bainz’.

Angst-fuelled anthem ‘Get Bent’ elicits a passionate sing-along from the crowd.

Drever hands his mic to some keen fans in the front during ‘Bloodline’, transforming the show briefly into punk karaoke, which gets painful to listen to by halfway through ‘Owls Talons Clenching My Heart’.

Many in the crowd must be transported back to being 15 and bored in small Scottish towns, watching the actual teens moshing at the front who invade the stage as a concerned Phillip Taylor warns them not to hurt themselves.

For an album launch show the new songs are not the focus of the set as expected, but the band please their hometown crowd with songs stretching back to when they played their first ever show in this venue, six years ago.

Title track ‘No Grace’ from the third album, which is their first ever to chart since its release, is a rousing call-to-action for creative youth inspired by being skint musicians giving it their all on tour, with the lyrics “you don’t even know who you are yet / cut the crap and give until you’ve got no more.

The first release from their new set of songs, Mark Hoppus’ production makes a clear impact on its punchy chorus and urgent drumbeat.

Inviting two guitarist friends on stage with them, PAWS finish with the darkly atmospheric and bass-heavy ‘War Cry’.

Words: Ellen MacAskill


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