“There’s more to this place than just a misplaced traffic cone.” Jamie Scott has created and curated The Glasgow Garden Festival ’18, celebrating the 30th anniversary of The Glasgow Garden Festival ’88. A long-forgotten event with hardly a mark left as proof of its existence, Scott’s record and event seeks to contextualise the impact it had on the city, what it could have stood for, and where Glasgow has gone in the years since.
Poet Liam Patrick Hainey, introduced as Glasgow’s makar, commences proceedings (alongside a Princess Diana lookalike and a bloke in a Prince Charles mask) with a class-conscious take on the notion that People Make Glasgow. Rousing and angry words are a brief overture of what is to come from an evening of city-wide introspection, remembering that behind the slogans and sheen, there has always been a people forgotten about.
Opening musical act Two Kings are the other side of the coin, indulging in something far more mystifying. Cloaked and crowned, their analogue sound is a mix between dungeon synth and 16-bit video game soundtracks, telling the story of a king doomed to roam the Earth for eternity. It is all a bit bewildering, but captivating in large part thanks to their prog-length songs and atmospheric world-building. It ends with a silent bow to each other and no further explanation.
Adam Stafford puts in a virtuosic solo performance, using multiple loops throughout every song to layer rhythms and build to walls of noise. He opens with An Abacus Designed to Calculate Infinity from 2018’s Fire Behind the Curtain, which we are big fans of at The Fountain, an intricate song built upon a repeated two-note pattern, incorporating everything but the kitchen sink, all done with a guitar, some effects pedals, and an infectious whistled melody. It’s a colourful track compared to Museum of Grinding Dicks, a song as sinister as its name with a repeated riff filled with crusty distortion and a hellish tremolo. It’s a whistle-stop tour of his vibrant musical arsenal, his songs sounding like they could fit into each of the four seasons. He is clearly appreciative of a receptive audience, and his stock will only grow with more performances like this.
On a stage adorned with plants and a projection showing footage of 1988’s festival, Jamie Scott takes us through his concept album Glasgow Garden Festival ’18. “Maybe with the right seeds we can flourish one day” Scott raps on opening song Make Scotland Shite Again, alluding to the city’s Make Glasgow Flourish motto. The record is packed with allusions to the city’s popular image, and set against video from the late 80s, it is a performance in conversation with the hopes of the time and the realities of now.
Another World! is said to be a celebration of the south side, a part of the city ignored until the original festival, making The Glad Café an ideal place for the album launch show. It is a tight performance, with Scott’s spoken word-delivery at the heart of the beats and electronics. It is a lyrical and narrative piece of art, as if being taken by hand through the No Mean City to understand an identity crisis both personal and metropolitan.
The Paper Boat is an ode to George Wyllie’s 80-foot boat that sailed up the River Clyde, lamenting the diminished spirits of not only industry but also art in Glasgow. By performing the song in a trendy southside bar, Scott is pumping life into a scene that has ebbed and flowed across decades as shown in the multimedia Rip It Up project. The funky Cathedral asks “Did I love you? I think I loved you, but will I always feel so sure?” in a resonant tussle with nostalgia and genuine adoration.
Ending with a cover of Aztec Camera’s Somewhere In My Heart, what began as a celebration of The Glasgow Garden Festival ’88 becomes a State of the Nation address for the city. The show itself is faithful to the album, but by performing the album in this venue, in this context, the show acts as a conversation starter. Scott is asking what Glasgow will have to show for itself thirty years from now, and if we will put aside romantic notions of what the city can be and grapple with what it is.