Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Clutha

There’s nothing I can add to the story of last night’s events at The Clutha that hasn’t already been said better and with more eloquence than I could hope to match.

The accident was random, horrible and surreal. The result was terrible. The response was magnificent, and continues to be.

I think all I can really do is talk a little bit about what The Clutha meant to me, to perhaps articulate why this incident has affected me, and so many others, so intimately.

First, a quote from my friend Esther Frain, posted earlier today on Facebook:

To those outside Glasgow who don't know, The Clutha was a really special wee pub full of artists, writers, musicians, poets and other performers. It was run and visited by warm and friendly folk with open minds who cared a lot about equality and community spirit and it was a place where women could socialise and feel safe. It wasn't just any old pub, it was one of the best in Glasgow.

Esther nailed it, right there. The Clutha is more than just a pub (although it is a very good pub), it is a haven. A hub. A home. Not a single person ever walked through its doors who wasn’t welcomed. They have no truck with pretension, no desire to be a ‘destination’, no need or reason to be anything other than what they are – a good place full of good people enjoying good music and good times. It is, and always was, a good place.

My own relationship with The Clutha happened in the 1990s. I was in my 20s, skinny, single, still had hair and played in a blues band. I even had a decent job and so had enough money to buy a drink now and then. It’s fair to say I was a confident boy, back then. Then I discovered The Clutha.

More specifically, I discovered the musicians who played there, mainly on Thursdays and Sundays. And every single one of them could blow me away with the merest flick of a fretboard. These guys were incredible. Bands like The Blues Poets, Doctor Cook and the Boners, The Hideaway Blues Band and many others swiftly taught me that I had no fucking reason to be confident at all.

If that had been all I learned, that would have been enough. But no. What actually happened was that every single one of them brought me into the fold. They let me jam with them. They gave me tips. They helped me understand that playing guitar is about more than technical ability, it’s about emotion, feel and, most importantly, grace. It’s about silence and the spaces between the notes, not just the notes themselves. They took the cocky little shit that I was and helped turn him into the slightly less cocky but much better musician I now, hopefully, am.

I was also single, skinny and still had hair, so I won’t pretend I didn’t learn plenty of other, non-music, lady-related lessons back in those days.

By that point I had been to three different Universities. Not one of them could hold a candle to The Clutha when it came to providing me with an education.

Just as there have been a handful of people who have made a massive difference in my life, so there has been a handful of places. The Clutha Vaults was one of them.

I truly hope we don’t need to talk about it in the past tense for too long.

If you're in the area, there's a benefit weekend planned for the New Year. Go here for details:

Get there if you can. Knowing the people of The Clutha, and the people of Glasgow in general, it'll be a hell of a party.