Mogwai On Curating Big City Festival

A celebration of psychedelic guitar music…

Scottish band Mogwai have decided to enter the festival organisation business with Big City Festival 2024. The day-long festival has been pieced together in partnership with Regular Music, and it all goes down on June 29th at Queen’s Park on Glasgow’s south side. The event sports two stages – both inside a big top tent – along with a separate literary tent. The line-up has been curated by Mogwai themselves, and it includes acts such as seminal shoegaze group Slowdive, the wonderful Nadine Shah, Beak>, Neu! legend Michael Rother, SAY Award winner Kathryn Joseph, bdrmm, Cloth, Elisabeth Elektra, Free Love, Goat Girl and Sacred Paws

CLASH recently had the opportunity to interview Mogwai’s lead singer Stuart Braithwaite about the festival and the band’s vision for the event. 

When discussing what inspired Big City Festival, Stuart says the band had been thinking about creating their own festival for a while, commenting that while there are loads of festivals he loves, he feels they are changing and there are less he would go to. According to the guitarist the Queen’s Park location is a great place for fans, one that’s easy to get to with a nice atmosphere, and the tent covering the stages is ideal for the rainy Scottish weather. “It would take something pretty biblical for the weather to stop it happening!” he jokes. Stuart adds that it appeared to be good timing, and “it just seemed like a good opportunity to make something new happen”.

The band initially aimed for the festival to span two days but due to circumstances that couldn’t happen, but hopefully this is an avenue they can explore in the future. The idea was to have musicians involved who they were excited about playing, and to have a “balanced” and “more representative line-up” – just good bands which will make a great day, in other words.

Stuart says that he believes criticism about the lack of women in festivals is fair and that it’s not because there is a lack of female artists. When the band were planning they had representation in mind, and felt it was not hard to achieve as there are lots of amazing female and non-male artists out there. 

When talking about how Mogwai began curating the festival he chuckles and recalls “just lists really, just lists of bands” while also pointing out the difficulty of booking bands due to clashing itineraries; it’s not the easiest thing to do but they drew on previous experience. Mogwai had enjoyed their experiences creating line-ups for All Tomorrow’s Parties festival and had been hoping to get another chance to work on similar projects. The band wanted to “create something different for people… something that maybe hasn’t happened before in Glasgow”. 

The idea of the literary tent came primarily from Stuart’s 2022 book Spaceships over Glasgow: Mogwai, Mayhem and Misspent Youth, and the positive experience he had whilst talking about the project and listening to other authors. His publisher White Rabbit planned the literary tent’s line-up, which Stuart feels is apt as “there’s a lot of little dots being joined up and I think having a lot of the authors there is a big part of it”.

As fate would have it, The Cure was the first band he ever saw – barely a mile away from the festival’s location – and now he will be talking to writer Simon Price about his book on the band, Curepedia: An A-Z of The Cure. Meanwhile Stuart recalls that David Keenan – another guest and author of This Is Memorial Device – introduced him to Krautrock at a 13th Note club night, and (funnily enough) the festival will also include Michael Rother, a member of various Krautrock bands.

Stuart further believes it is appropriate as there’s been a boom in music books, and it shows that people still want to read about music so “it’s going to be good! There’s a lot of interesting people involved and I’m looking forward to it”. 

When discussing their involvement in the Glasgow music scene, Stuart states that the band are excited about the festival, and they like the idea of giving something back. “We’ve taken so much, and we’ve been given so many opportunities by being part of the music scene in Glasgow and it feels nice to be doing something that maybe will inspire some younger musicians, in the same way a lot of musicians inspired us when we were starting out. I think it’s important to do what you can”. 

Stuart feels that this festival is possibly more in tune with the grassroots music scene that they started out in at venues such as 13th Note. “I’m glad we’ve got a lot of international stuff as well, it’s not just Glasgow… but yeah, I think the sprit definitely is!”

As he touched on the band’s hopes for the future, Stuart expressed the desire to have this as a yearly event; “Definitely, that’s the intention at the moment, for it to happen every year”. The guitarist also mentions that they would be open to expanding if it started heading that way. He does again mention the hope for the festival to span two days but can’t promise anything right now – the future is unwritten, in that regard.

Finally, returning to the topic of this year’s festival, Stuart says he would just like people to “hear some music they haven’t heard… the same as every good event: meet new people, hear new music, have a good experience, a shared experience”. Commenting that this is why live music is still thriving, it is a “real genuine community experience” and in everyday life there is less and less of that. In every sense, bringing people together to play and listen to music is so important. 

To end I asked Stuart to give an ‘elevator pitch’ for the festival, and he composed himself before saying: “I would say it’s a kind of celebration of psychedelic guitar music… you might not know them but there’s some real legendary musicians playing at the park down the road, you should really go!”

Big City Festival takes place in Queen’s Park, Glasgow on June 29th. You can buy tickets online.

Photo Credit: Antony Crook

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