Flashback to the early 80s. The Scars and Boots for Dancing are sharing bills with U2, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Killing Joke, and The Fall. Both bands have reformed, and were joined by Scorpio Leisure and Port Sulphur for a festive feast of post-punk for the 2020s ...
Anyone who listened to John Peel in the late 1970s, bought records at Bruce's in Rose Street, and attended gigs at Clouds, will be familiar with The Scars (they recorded two Peel sessions, in February 1980 and May 1981). Their iconic debut 45", 'Adult/ery,' was released on Fast Product, the innovative label launched by Bob Last in the capital, and featuring bands as diverse as The Mekons, Joy Division, and The Human League. Memorably described as "Scotland's Anarchy in the UK" in Douglas MacIntyre and Grant McPhee's celebration of Scotland's post-punk scene, Hungry Beat: The Scottish Independent Pop Underground Movement (1977–1984), 'Adult/ery' prompted catchy follow-ups, and an album, Author! Author! After splitting, ever-creative guitarist, Paul Research explored a diverse range of projects, including playing guitar in glam/punk outfit, Voicex, swapping guitars for classical violin and piano scoresheets with Scottish Simphonia, and contributing violin and keys to my own band, Desperation AM. More recently, he found time to write and record a solo album, Skate the Royal Mile and EP, The Silent Treatment, both available from Bandcamp (the former was my album of the year in 2021!)
Although a Scars reunion gig took place in December 2010 featuring the original line-up with Robert King on vocals, that proved to be a one-off. Fast-forward to May 2023, Paul and his brother, bassist, John Mackie, were invited to play at the launch party for Douglas MacIntyre and Grant McPhee's book, where they were joined by charismatic actor/spoken word performer, Tam Dean Burn, on vocal duties. Although his delivery was noticeably dissimilar to King's style, there was an undeniable chemistry with the original Scars. A second gig took place at the Voodoo Rooms - and photos can be seen on the blog Manic Pop Thrills. After the success of these ventures, The Scars were booked to headline a pre-Christmas jaunt at La Belle Angele in Edinburgh's historic Cowgate.
Boots for Dancing
Boots for Dancing have been treating audiences to their frenetic blend of funk and pop since the original post-punk era (I first saw them supporting Killing Joke in 1980). With engaging frontman, Dave Carson, and a succession of guitarists channelling Gang of Four and the Pop Group, BFD's family tree is tangled, with former members including Jo Callis (The Rezillos, Shake), Simon Templar (The Flowers, The Rezillos, Shake), and Ronnie Torrance (Josef K). Like The Scars, they were invited to record sessions for John Peel's show; in December 1980, July 1981, and March 1982. Upon reforming in 2015, they released an album of out-takes and versions of their earlier music, entitled The Undisco Kidds.
Scorpio Leisure are named after a former sauna familiar to thousands (it overlooked one of the main routes for fans trekking to and from Hibernian FC's stadium). Scorpio Leisure are something of a 'supergroup' in that their members are well-known for their musical DNA: Tam Dean Burn's brother, drummer, Russell (formerly of Dirty Reds, Fire Engines, Win, and Boots for Dancing), bassist, Coco Whitson (Gin Goblins), guitarists Ricky Maymie (of US psychedelic rockers, Brian Jonestown Massacre) and Mungo Carswell, and vocalist, Hettie Noir. Their debut album is due to drop on the Last Night In Glasgow label in 2024.
Port Sulphur feature Douglas MacIntyre (instigator of the record label, Creeping Bent and co-author of the aforementioned book). The collective's debut album on Creeping Bent, Paranoic Critical, included a star-studded post-punk collaboration list: Davy Henderson (Dirty Reds, Fire Engines, Win, Nectarine No 9, the Sexual Objects), Alan Vega (Suicide), Gareth Sager (The Pop Group), James Kirk (Orange Juice), and Vic Godard (Subway Sect). Along with The Slits, Buzzcocks, and The Jam, Godard's band supported The Clash on their White Riot tour in May 1977 at Edinburgh's Playhouse, the gig widely credited as igniting the fuse for Scotland's punk scene. Port Sulphur's 2nd album, Speed Of Life was more of an experimental soundtrack (see my Albums of the Year 2022).
The gig ...
Led by Douglas MacIntyre on guitar, Port Sulphur kicked off the proceedings with their dynamic garage rock, twin backing vocalists adding cool dashes of harmony. The changeovers were commendably streamlined; no sooner had Port Sulphur removed their shades to seek out post-set refreshments than Scorpio Leisure assumed position, their catchy grooves energised by enigmatic singer, Hettie Noir. Ricky Maymie's pedal-driven guitar effects demonstrated he has lost none of his enthusiasm for playing live, despite some members of his parent band, Brian Jonestown Massacre, getting into an ugly on-stage fracas at Melbourne's Forum Theatre last month! Scorpio Leisure delivered another tight set, giving the crowd tasters of their imminent album. Next up were Boots for Dancing, ringleader, Dave Carson giving a customary rousing performance. Waxing lyrical about seeing Subway Sect and The Slits supporting The Clash at that catalytic Playhouse gig, his band have always mined a rich seam of funky rhythms, taking this scribe back to the legendary Hooch and Manifesto clubs integral to the capital's alternative scene in the 1980s.
The Scars took to the stage shortly after 9 pm, tearing into a set blending reworked glories from their extensive back catalogue with new material. Steve Harley's 'Psychomodo,' previously the B-side of their 3rd single, 'Love Song' and a live staple from their first incarnation, segued into new song, 'Zero Sum Game.' Then Tam's growling delivery transformed another 'old favourite,' their cover of Mick Ronson's 'Billy Porter,' before another brash newbie, 'Meet the Swingers.' (Both the new songs are available to purchase on The Scars Bandcamp page.) Driven, as ever, by Paul Research's mesmerising fretwork, aided and abetted by their powerful rhythm section, Tam's confident stage presence was the final piece of a jigsaw which bodes will for The Scars as on ongoing project ...
Gig photos ...
Live footage ...
The Scars, featuring Tam Dean Burn, performing the band's debut single, Adult/ery
Port Sulphur performing Tomahawk Kid
Scorpio Leisure performing Driving
Couldn't find footage of Boots for Dancing from the gig; here's audio of their version of LCD Soundsystem's 'Losing my Edge' from the Voodoo Rooms in 2017 (with Dave namechecking one of my former bands, The Axidents!)