by Stephen Ramsay
Tom McGuire and the Brassholes, another contender in the proud lineage of Scottish bands who can pull off a surprisingly convincing soul-funk sound (the bar being set by Average White Band in the 70s) have been making waves in Glasgow for a number of years now. Their instantly catchy song-writing and immaculate chops give them an easy appeal which is backed up by clever lyrics and creative, dynamic arrangements, all of which are on full display on their lively 2019 self-titled album. Arguably, their efforts haven’t yet granted them the widespread recognition they deserve.
In the build-up to their biggest ever headline show, they promised to deliver their most elaborate and impressive effort yet, and the final product did not disappoint.
The stage was loosely organised chaos, with the band being backed up by all manner of extras. Despite the accumulation of Tennents and Buckfast at the brass section’s feet, however, the playing stayed tight throughout. Backing dancers entered then exited multiple times seemingly at random, donning different costumes. At one point during an instrumental interlude the keyboardist, shirtless, crossed the stage to square up with the trombonist, and Tom McGuire admitted he had no idea what was going on. A member of the audience crowd-surfed on an inflatable pizza slice. During the encore performance of Ric Flair, people who weren’t dancing or singing, but seemed to be part of the storyline, appeared on the stage in various costumes for reasons that, four pints deep, I couldn’t quite understand. I’ll probably need to brush up on my band lore.
The important thing was that everyone on the stage seemed to be having the time of their lives, and that energy was reciprocated by the crowd.
The highlight of the show for me was Plane Crashes, a tastefully done and heartfelt love tune that builds from a vulnerable falsetto chorus, with minimal instrumentation, to a gratifying explosion of horns in the conclusion. They also did an excellent rendition of their new single, D.R.E.A.D., featuring the addition of a killer synth solo. Unsurprisingly, the gig was mostly a high-energy affair, with the focus on up-tempo tracks, and if there was one criticism to be made it was that it didn’t slow down or shake things up much in this department. More smooth, laid back soul-bearing, as a counterweight to the rapid machine gun funk, would have offered some appreciated tonal variety – and it’s something they’re absolutely capable of, as they demonstrated with Plane Crashes.
The supporting act, Riot Jazz, also deserve props. Another brass-based outfit but with a rapper frontman instead of a singer, they slipped in some spicy horn harmonies, adding interesting textural colour without detracting from the accessibility of their tunes, which were disarmingly energetic, and easily as danceable as ska.
I asked my friend Ross, a fellow musician who was at the gig, to sum up the experience. He described it thus:
‘A funk masterclass. A lesson in tightness. Highly trained, highly attuned musicians operating at maximum output. Overpowering, exhilarating, life-affirming; it reminded me of the good times we had before Covid, it made me optimistic about the good times to come.’