As good as I wanted them to be
The Phantom Band’s Christmas Phantomime

Can there be any other band that would try and pull off something as wildly ambitious as there own version of a Christmas pantomime (or Phantomime, if you want to get it right), and involve some of the best live bands in the city, national radio DJs and a mega talented arts collective? Ok, maybe there are some that would attempt it, but there are none that could pull it off with such warped style and bravado as The Phantom Band.

Clash turns up unfashionably late due to shite public transport, but we’re immediately struck by what’s happened to the venue, which is usually a cavernous cave with walls of bare concrete. The entire place is decked out like a Victorian theatre, courtesy of Glasgow arts collective 85A. Onstage are Jacob Yates and The Pearly Gate Lock Pickers, dressed mostly as ghoulish police officers, and playing a kind of gothic rockabilly that resonates with the crowd. They finish with a garish tribute to the area of Glasgow known as ‘Maryhill’, and make us curse our own late coming to what already feels like the perfect Christmas party. And just like a real pantomime, we even manage to get hit right in the eye socket by a flying boiled sweet.

With the zombie caretaker on high, shaking his fist and abusing the crowd with dark insults, the compere appears as the master of ceremonies, taking the insults up a notch and welcoming the chorus of mock hatred from the cheap seats as he introduces us to the fabulously named Take A Worm For a Walk Week. If Fucked Up had grown up reading the Viz, and had somehow acquired a dry, twisted sense of humour as well as their distortion pedals, it might somehow sound vaguely like these Glasgow stalwarts, who have already gained an enviable reputation thanks to their unforgiving and often hilarious live shows.

After a brief interval, the evil half-man/half bastard rabbit compere returns to the stage (who knew it was BBC Radio DJ Vic Galloway?), then thanks everyone who helped make the event happen, before introducing ‘this next bunch of utter cunts’ and our hosts for the evening’s festivities, The Phantom Band.

Quite simply, The Phantom Band are nutty geniuses, unafraid to shift and twist from song to song, forever surprising and always delighting the listener with their gift for melody and imagination. Their difficult-for-some second album, The Wants, is a thing of beauty, a Scottish masterpiece that should, and does, sit beside all of the great and influential records that this country’s surprisingly healthy alternative music scene has ever produced.

Onstage, they are a juggernaut of aural delight, a dark and beautiful wall of noise that is punctuated by feverous electronics and twinkling percussion; beguiling, hypnotic and downright thrilling. Shamefully, this is the first time I’ve seen them live, and thankfully, they are as good as I wanted them to be. A brilliant live band.

And as a special Christmas present for all of you lovely people, let us end on another performance by Glasgow’s very own purveyors of …oh, I dunno…let your own ears decide…

Happy Christmas you lovely bunch of bastards!

Words by Mark Millar
Photo by Gemma Burke

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