Godspeed Pin Up Nights….
Wednesday, March 21st, 2012
The first time I became aware of Pin Up Nights was back in the early 2000’s. My uni friends attending in Glasgow had been raving about the night and as I was at uni in Manchester it was nice to have something being brought to my attention upon my homecoming.
One of my favourite nights was following Editors at King Tut’s and we went to Woodside Social Club and it ended up as one of the most brilliant nights ever. Thanks to that night I was picked to interview Editors down in Birmingham after chatting to them at length. So a belated thank you Pin Ups!
Following this my friends and I attended regularly. Then came the sabbatical of real life. In the last few years they have come back on my radar and whilst I have not attended every night I have attended a fair few and it has always been a haze of dancing, great tunes and of course lots of refreshments.
When Pin Ups announced they would be stopping their nights it was very sad and so I thought I would catch up with the guys to find out their highs, lows and what the future holds for them.
We started in 2003. I loved the National Pop League in Glasgow because the atmosphere was terrific, the playlist was pretty indie/C86-centric but you still heard pretty unusual stuff like Wire, Pavement, Dinosaur Jr and Yo La Tengo. I would also sometimes go through to the Edinburgh Art School‘s Wee Red Bar on Saturday nights. The night was (and still is) called “The Egg”. The mix of music was fantastic. They played the Clash, Toots and the Maytals, New Order, The Specials, Pulp, Marvin Gaye, Kraftwerk, Roxy Music, Super Furry Animals, Northern Soul. So, come 2003 I decided I wanted to start a night in Glasgow that offered that sort of quality and variety. Over 8 years in, Pin Ups is probably about different things than it was about when it was started. I always loved Vic and Bob’s “Big Night Out” and the idea of an “indie disco” with added hilarity, and we have made things more shall we say “warped” as the years have gone by.
Please tell us a short interesting fact about everyone involved?
- Paul Smith is a fan of glowsticks and can name all 11,234 products currently stocked in Poundland.
- James “Butcher” Cassidy is a natural sportsman who will take you to the cleaners in pretty much any contest involving a club, racquet or paddle
- Iain OC is the suavest of the Pin Ups chaps and is rarely seen with a hair out of place, and not just because of the amount of gel and wax he religiously lavishes upon it
- Young Niall is aged only 19, and is allergic to nothing except dark rum and calories.
- John D has watched Talking Heads documentary ‘Stop Making Sense’ over 10,000 times.
You have been running nights since I discovered how shit faced I could get on a night out. Name 3 nights that have stood out for you since Pin Up Nights began?
I recall having a really good laugh at our 1st birthday in June 2004. That was the night we stopped being a sort of pre-club for the Glasgow Barfly and went it alone by booking a wee social club in Queen Street called the Queen’s Club. We booked the brilliant Viva Stereo to play live, my own band The Friday Night Motel also played, and through Viva Stereo we got hold of Malcolm Middleton to Guest DJ. The List gave us a feature (we wouldn’t get another List feature until 2008!), there was a good buzz about the “scene” because Belle and Sebastian were playing in the Botanics the day after, and when we went back to the Queen’s Club to set it up, it suddenly looked tiny! Sure enough it became packed, we had to let people in when the staff weren’t looking, and we were “banned for life”.
We resisted moving to the Woodside Social Club for ages but we eventually made the jump in August 2005. Our live bill
was headlined by the really wonderful Mother and the Addicts, supported by The Tall Boy and The Fridays (who later morphed into the equally good Paper Planes). Editors also turned up to Guest DJ following their gig at King Tut’s. The place was packed, lots of amusing action unfolded, and I think at that point I reckoned I had the club night promoting lark cracked! The naïveté of youth!
We advertised last September’s Red Light Night as the third in a trilogy of September Spectaculars”, following our “Circus” in 2009 and “Geek Night” in 2010. To be honest Red Light Night was maybe too weird and wasn’t stupidly rammed like the Circus and Geek Night, but it was still jumping, and the sight of Frank McAvennie, Aidan Moffat and Paolo Nutini in conversation at the end of the night is possibly the best thing we have ever been responsible for!
What has been the lowest point of your Pin Ups experience and how did you turn this round?
We had a very bad night at the (now defunct) Winchester Club in May 2009. I was shocked as I thought it would be a belter, especially since it came after a very busy night the month before (live acts were The Phantom Band, Ross Clark and a proto-Three Blind Wolves, The Plimptons and There Will Be Fireworks – not bad eh?) Unfortunately the pull of Guest DJs The Super Furry Animals didn’t seem enough to break the West End Force Field and convince folk to venture to the Merchant City. Headliners Trike (from Canada) were also an interesting duo who were nice as nine pence on the night, took their not ungenerous £100 payment – then wrote a quite vicious blog a few days later entitled (I think, I can’t find it) “Super Furry My Ass”.
Their gripe was that the Furries had been too stoned to watch them, the Glasgow crowd was “too cool” to dance with them, and that they had to stop playing at midnight because of the Winchester’s license, meaning that friends from Glasgow’s Second Hand Marching Band couldn’t get onstage for an encore. I had given Trike fair warning of the timescales, but hey. I think members of the Second Hand Marching Band probably still tear down Pin Ups posters in Sleazys to this day. If any of you are reading: sorry about the mix-up.
I then had to pick myself straight up because we were promoting The Rosie Taylor Project (from Leeds) the night after, in a separate standalone gig. We had a lovely band called The Cliftons supporting, and enough people attended that gig to more or less pay the sound engineer and the band’s fee. Nevertheless overall the weekend definitely made me think “what the hell am I doing?” and “is anybody into this?” I stepped back, made a load of changes, and they seemed to work. Unfortunately one of those changes was to really limit booking bands from outside of Glasgow. We still do it occasionally but only as part of the club night where we can absorb the inevitable loss a bit better.
In your own words, what makes a brilliant promoter?
1. Somebody who puts on a party worth attending
Is dragging your neighbours and uncles and work pals to your Tuesday night gig in [insert dreary gig venue here] to pay £7 to see 4 local bands likely to encourage any of them to repeat the experience, or go to anything else you invite them to in the future? No. I’d like to think that they’d have a considerably better time at one of our nights (or perhaps a party you arrange yourself – Sonny Marvello and The Imagineers are 2 bands who are very good at that), where there’s DJs, special guests, themes, drinks promos…
We have shared out a lot of cash over the years. You won’t find anybody who has agreed a fee with us in advance and hasn’t been paid it. It took us years to work out a decent door-split system and whenever possible I prefer to agree fees with a band in advance, as that way there can be no reputation-risking haggling.
We have had 4 or 5 bands that didn’t agree a fee in advance, and thought at the end of the night that they were due a better cut of door money. Those bands saw a packed venue, but didn’t consider the big expenses we incurred (advertising, special guests, etc) in attracting the big crowd.
Ideally we would just always pay set fees, agreed in advance, but the DF (and PCL) stranglehold over “the scene” makes independent promoters me reluctant about guaranteeing fees. How do I know the band isn’t going to accept a guarantee of, say, £75, but bring nobody because they are pushing everybody towards their Tuesday night gig at Tut’s 3 weeks later? In a lot cases I don’t.
3. Somebody who respects the acts and venue staff
It’s nice to be nice and if you have spent time rehearsing, lugging gear, and performing onstage, isn’t it nice to be appreciated? If you’re working hard to serve/keep safe a load of drunks it’s also nice to be appreciated too. I always try to be decent.
If I’m being self-critical then personally I could be a good deal better at “schmoozing” bands and performers and staff when I’m at Pin Ups. However if I have knocked my pan in all week at my day job, and also done a load of Pin Ups work on top, by the time of the party I am usually quite knackered – mentally and physically done in. I hope most people understand that I’m still sincere even if I’m not being Mr Showbiz.
(I saw a comment on another interview piece about Pin Ups from a few years ago from somebody who worked in one of the venues we used to use, describing me as a “pure dick”. Ouch! I think that was pretty unfair. I can only recall being a “pure dick” to a member of staff once – a manager at Stereo who wasn’t going to sell me a bottle of vodka for Bombay Bicycle Club to drink in the dressing room. Apparently Stereo, quite incredibly, had no bottles of vodka to spare. We had a good go at each other but eventually shook hands.)
If you could curate the perfect gig in the perfect venue, what would it be?
The one dodgy thing about the Flying Duck is the stage, so a venue like the Duck but with a proper stage would be perfect. On the bill we would have acts like Prince, New Order, The Clash, Blur, Curtis Mayfield, and of course a very healthy Glasgow/Scottish representation too. Perhaps the debut of that Moffat/Macca/Nutini collaboration that was apparently being discussed at the Red Light Night…
How will your time be dedicated now that you are no longer doing Pin Up Nights?
The club night will definitely die on the 30th March, but I am going to keep the website going and there is maybe scope for other types of events, I don’t know. Film showings perhaps? Maybe I will also have the time to investigate a record label, at my own pace. I used to be in bands so making some music again would be lovely. There are also books waiting in my head to be written. I like the idea of a “How Not To Run A Club Night” similar to Peter Hook’s book about how not to run The Hacienda, though I expect there might not be most extensive market for a book about a local club night..
Write us a Jerry Maguire type mission statement about the Scottish music community please.
Perhaps I have had a sheltered life, because the first thing I had to do when I saw this question was Google “Jerry Maguire Mission Statement”!
There’s no need to sit in Sleazys all night every night: try out other venues and/or other bands. Beware just playing gigs with your own “collective” or to your own friends: familiarity breeds contempt. There’s no need to knock your pan in selling tickets for a gig at King Tut’s (unless you want to): arrange something far more fun yourself. Being in a local band or being a local promoter is very unlikely to make anybody rich: let’s just all try to get along. At some point somebody will get rich though: if so, don’t put a knife in their back (unless they deserve it). We should all go back on the Jockrock messageboard: it was a laugh.
Personally, I would like to say a massive thank you as Pin Ups as ultimately they have been a significant thing in my life. In their own small way they have helped shape my musical journey and for that I am always grateful. Podcart wishes all the team the best for the future.
The final clubnight will take place March 30that Glasgow’s Flying Duck: 9pm – 3am!