Glasgow is scattered with some cool little bars offering live sountracks. We all like a bit of live music, but we like it even more when it’s free. David Pollock tells you where to find it on the scrimp
As you’ll know from reading the feature on Hinterland festival elsewhere in this mighty organ of Midgieness, it’s going to be an even more exciting spring than usual for Glasgow’s musical scene. But hold on, you’re travelling and you’re on a budget, right? And those gig tickets aren’t going to buy themselves. Have no fear, though, because the good people of Glasgow eat, sleep and breathe music, and many of them have so much they’re willing to give it away for free!
Open mic gigs and very good value pay-in nights abound around the city, almost guaranteeing you a dose of free gig nirvana (but not Nirvana). Set on Woodlands Road, right in amongst the West End’s heartland of students and artistic types, the old-school Halt Bar is a fixture among many of the locals. Their weekend kicks off early with the self-explanatory Open Mic-ing night (every Wednesday, 8.30pm-midnight, free) and then continues with Bazodee (every Thursday, 8pm-midnight, free), featuring live reggae dancehall vocals and Caribbean food. Halt Bar Hijack (every Saturday, 8pm-midnight, free) presents three fine local bands absolutely gratis, while the monthly Woodlands Creatures (last Sunday of every month, 4pm-midnight, free) has connections with some of the city’s better lo-fi musicians. It’s a bit of a one-stop shop.
Sitting right next to the much-loved Nice ‘n’ Sleazy, is Box; a shiny new bar which is making a real commitment to live music. Every night of the week between around 8.30pm and midnight, local bands take to the small stage next to the window over-looking Sauchiehall Street to entertain a lively crowd - and they’re all free. Of course, with so many acts ploughing through the venue (not forgetting the Brother Louis Collective’s open mic night on Tuesday) the standard of music can occasionally be a bit hit and miss. But Box’s quality control is generally good and many of the best young bands in Scotland right now have swung by this stage. So you pay your money (or don’t) and take your chance. The bar stays open until 3am with resident DJs playing mainstream indie tracks, and that’s all free too.
In a similar vein is Bar Bloc, which run (almost) nightly free gigs and their own open mic session (Bloc+Jam, every Sunday, 9pm-1am), which features the respectable local line-up of Union of Knives’ Craig Grant, Brother Louis Collective’s Louis Abbott and Baillie and the Fault’s Mike Baillie. Their list of regular groups isn’t quite as exhaustive as Box’s, but they do some decent pub food to go with the show.
Also look out for Brel, a Belgian-themed bar and restaurant on the West End’s prettiest alley, which hosts regular genteel jazz and acoustic sets in its back room. Check listings because not everything is free, but quite a few shows are, and others - for example, the weekly Concrete Campfire acoustic set (every Thursday, 8pm) - won’t cost more than £2-3, leaving all the more money for the beer fund.
60 Woodlands Road, Glasgow (D2), 0141 352 9996, www.myspace.com/haltbarofficial
Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow (D2), 0141 332 5431, www.myspace.com/boxglasgow
117 Bath Street, Glasgow (F3), 0141 574 6066, www.myspace.com/blocglasgow
Ashton Lane,Glasgow, 0141 342 4966, www.brelbarrelrestaurant.com