Homecoming Final Fling - ditch cynical, think musical
The massive Final Fling gig in Glasgow this month marks the end of a year of Homecoming celebrations. Mark Robertson reckons it’s a moment to stop being cynical and enjoy the music
You know the big speech by Renton in Trainspotting where he goes on about how it’s ‘shite being Scottish’? Well, he was only half right. His defeatist rant is a quintessential example of that under-a-dreich-cloud Scottish pessimism, rubbishing everything as a half-hearted attempt to avoid any real issues. What is easy to forget is that at our hearts Scots are really optimists – from the heady hopes for the people during the Enlightenment to the blind faith of football’s tartan army.
But what does all this have to do with a big gig in Glasgow this month? While Homecoming could be seen as something that is easy to dismiss outright, it is actually a positive thing. So, when 20 or so bands converge on the SECC it will mark the end of a year of celebrations and the climax of a huge investment from both Scottish Government and bodies like Visit Scotland to attract Scots back to their homeland. Homecoming serves as an umbrella exercise, drawing hundreds of events under one banner as well as originating one-offs like the Clan Gathering at Holyrood Park in July. And as easy as it is to rubbish a marketing campaign, it’s also easy to forget that it was not really supposed to be for us natives anyway but for (potential) visitors. Roddy Woomble of Idlewild, one of the bands performing at Final Fling, appreciates the logic behind the whole thing.
‘Homecoming is a government initiative to bring people to the country to boost tourism, which is what Scotland makes most of its money out of, or at least a lot of it. It’s like releasing records, you have to think of new ways to present yourself, or people will move on somewhere else. When we were asked to do Homecoming I was cynical, thinking: “Oh, you want people that left Scotland to come back? That’s a bit weird.” But then I thought, “You know, it’s not.” It’s just highlighting the positive aspects of the country: the culture, literature, the food, the beautiful scenery – and music’s just one of those things.’
The three stages of the SECC will be filled with a vivid mix of home-grown talent from Scottish music’s cornerstone figures like Mike Scott and Deacon Blue to young upstarts like The View and Twin Atlantic plus everything else in between, including The Skids, King Creosote and Teenage Fanclub. Thankfully, any potential political undertones to the event have been swept away leaving the music unadulterated as the main attraction. Woomble agrees this could only be a good thing.
‘I don’t think writing about politics [in music] directly is a great idea anyway because it really dates your work but I think there’s a place for flag waving. I’ve been to highland games a few times and they’re great fun! And they are almost kitsch when you see it, but you’re thinking, “This is an ageless tradition, but there’s something deeply eccentric about it.” And that makes me appreciate the country even more.’
Ever the optimist, Woomble points out there’s one great Scottish cliché that pretty much guarantees this to be a pretty special night: the crowd.
‘There’s a real nice union between groups and an audience who are all from the same place, and you can just see that. I mean, I’m as happy to play in Birmingham as I am in Aberdeen, but I do think that when you play in Scotland and you are a Scottish band, there’s a sort of connection with an audience. It’s difficult to explain without sounding a little bit cheesy, but there is, and everyone feels like you kind of know each other better. It is very easy to be cynical about it – but I’m not. I think it’s really positive that they’ve assembled a bill of Scottish bands that mean lots of different things to different people of different ages, who are going to go to the SECC on a Saturday night in November and who’re going to have a good time. And I don’t think it’s any more complicated than that, and I think that’s enough to have a pretty cool night.’
Homecoming Live: The Final Fling, SECC, Glasgow, Sat 28 Nov.