Start to End: celebrating great albums at the best covers night in Scotland

Music Preview: Start to End

L-R: Craig McMahon, Joe Rattray, Martin Johnston / credit: Beth Chalmers

A unique regular night at the Hug and Pint is breathing new life into classic albums

Like many things this year, it began with David Bowie. Specifically, a full tribute performance of Bowie's Blackstar at the Stretched night in Glasgow's Bar Bloc organised by Scott Murphy of Fat Suit, at which Murphy asked his bandmate Craig McMahon (also of Pronto Mama) to play keys. 'The night was a total success,' says McMahon, 'and the next day I phoned up Joe (Rattray, of Admiral Fallow) and Martin (Johnston, of Pronto Mama and American Clay, and a member of Emma Pollock's band) to see if they wanted to co-host a series of similar nights at the Hug and Pint. They were up for it.'

The result is Start to End, a live show organized by the trio in which a classic album is played in full by a team of Scottish musicians. It's a covers night, but somehow more intensive and immersive, with flexibility in terms of involving a range of different musicians. Last month's first edition featured Radiohead's In Rainbow's, this month it's Louisiana indie-rockers Neutral Milk Hotel's 1998 record In the Aeroplane Over the Sea, with Three Blind Wolves' Ross Clark on vocals alongside the three organisers. Members of The Vegan Leather and Roddy Hart and the Lonesome Fire have also played.

'Last month's was originally going to be Kid A, but we thought that might be a bit too ambient and difficult to pull off successfully for the first one,' says McMahon. 'Radiohead fans are precious of that album, so we didn't want to completely slay it. The night sold out really quickly and everyone was really into it, having a room full of Radiohead fans there listening and singing along was amazing.' The Neutral Milk Hotel date has also sold out.

'Originally we chose In the Aeroplane… because there wasn't much time between the nights and we thought it would be easy to pull it off live,' says McMahon. 'But we hadn't considered the trumpets, trombones, accordions, bagpipes and banjos. Luckily between the five of us we can pretty much cover it all, although Ross, who will be taking on the role of Jeff Mangum, is in China until two days before, so our rehearsals are the day before and the day of the gig. It'll be fine, though.'

The night is an early success, and there are talks about taking it to other venues around Scotland. McMahon says there's a lengthy list of albums the group would like to tackle at future dates: 'Amy Winehouse's Back To Black, Bon Iver's self-titled album, Jeff Buckley's Grace, Pavement's Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, Arcade Fire's Funeral. I'd really like to do Linkin Park's Hybrid Theory or Daft Punk's Discovery, they would be mental.

'It's intimidating to an extent, because you don't want to do the music an injustice,' he continues. 'But getting right into the chords, the melodies, the wee extra bits of production you didn't even know were there, it makes you appreciate the album on a whole new level. There were loads of moments of revelation in the rehearsal room when we worked through In Rainbows. Every musician on the gigs has a really distinctive character, which is evident on whatever they play, so it just kind of works itself out. We make it our own.'

Start to End presents Neutral Milk Hotel's In the Aeroplane Over the Sea is at the Hug & Pint, Glasgow, Thu 15 Dec.

Start to End

Start to End gathers various Scottish musicians together to perform classic albums in full.

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