RM Hubbert, HQFU at The Hug and Pint, 17/12/17

The small basement venue is packed as tonight’s support takes to the stage, Sarah J Stanley is an all round aficionado of the creative arts with music, filmmaking and art at her helm.

Stanley’s most recent musical endeavor, HQFU delivers a punchy and melodic brand of electronica that is impossible not to dance along to.

Her voice is both haunting and powerful, bolstered by slick beats, the resulting sound is a full and synth-laden set delivered by an undeniably talented musician.

There’s a palpable buzz in the Hug and Pint’s basement venue this evening, and I can sense that this is a room full of devoted “Hubby” fans.

As RM Hubbert takes to the stage, I swear you could hear a pin drop.

“I’m Santa’s edgier brother, I’m what happens when you’re bad,” he remarks, in the spirit of all things festive.

The room falls silent again as he begins to play; the notes of his flamenco guitar dance menacingly around the sinister lyrics of ‘I Can Hold You Back’; a track originally recorded with Kathryn Williams, tonight is rendered emotively by Hubbert.

Aware that the night has got off to a somewhat musically sombre start, Hubbert introduces his next song “A happy one,” called ‘Buckstacy’ a love letter to Buckfast and Ecstasy.

The driving beat which pounds throughout ‘Buckstacy’ is – I imagine – comparable to the palpitations one may experience during such a Glasgow-themed cocktail of caffeinated tonic wine and empathogenic drugs.

It is however a happy song, and there’s a lot of warm and smiling faces around the room.

Happiness is the elephant in the room tonight, as most here will be familiar with Hubbert’s well-documented struggles with anxiety and depression.

He takes a bit of time out in the middle of tonight’s set to talk about how music has been both a cause and a cure for his problems with his mental health.

He states that thanks to music, he’s come to the realisation that connecting with people is really important to him, and that playing live gigs allows him a platform to connect with new people, and in turn, feel emotionally well.

This perhaps is very evident in the collaborative nature of Hubbert’s records, and although he is on stage alone tonight, he seems content in a crowded room full of friends.

There are audible sighs around the room as he introduces ‘For Joe’ as if people are preparing for the heartbreak he is about to bestow on them.

It’s a gorgeous song that ebbs and flows gently, and regardless of your knowledge of the context in which it was written; delivers a steely punch in the pit of your stomach as the tempo peaks at the end.

As we move to the end of his set, he’s joined by HQFU for a song, and it’s clear from their on-stage rapport, that Hubbert is at the very top of his game when he is sharing his love of music with other like-minded people.

The intimacy of the venue, coupled with Hubbert’s self-deprecating humor, which permeates both his lyrics and his short, sardonic musings between songs, is why tonight’s show is one of those perfect couplings of time and place.

His bad Santa act isn’t fooling anyone, because by doors, there’s nothing but joy around.

Words: Amanda Johnston


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