Into Music Reviews: The Wakes at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut

Band: The Wakes
Venue: King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut
Date: 1 February 2019

In a fitting commemoration to the 100th anniversary of ‘Bloody Friday’, The Wakes took the stage at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut and stoked the fires in the bellies of a new generation of like-minded social activists.

A night of true celebration of how far marginalised communities have come in our modern world, and the realisation that so much more still needs to be done to overcome an oppressive political and media narrative.

With four albums in the books, The Wakes have a musical manifesto to support any live show. Telling the stories of political struggles from Glasgow to Dublin and Jarama to the Middle East and back again, but these are not just words to the band, these are causes to believe in and a purpose to fight for change.

The band kicked the night off with No Irish Need Apply and The Battle of George Square, followed by a tribute to those two ground-breaking Scottish socialist stalwarts James Connolly and John Maclean, which defined the score for the session.

Still beaming from their recent exploits in London with fellow people’s poet Billy Bragg, the Glasgow folk-rockers blew the roof off the Hut as they led the sell-out crowd through a medley of melodies, song and stories to lift even the most weary soul. Playing for just over 90 minutes and squeezing in 20-plus toe-tapping, fist-pumping sole-searching anthems, The Wakes shone as a finely-tuned musical movement in unison with their fans.

The musical arrangements from the nine-piece band delivered a pulsating folk / rock, ska-infused message. The traditional mandolin and whistle sounds of the world of folk were complemented to incredible effect with the addition of the brass section of trumpet and trombone, never forgetting the impact of the flawless harmonica. The line-up only changed briefly for the haunting rendition of Gutter to the Whitehouse with Paul on guitar and Chris backing on sax.

The instrumental introduction to Peat Bog Soldiers raised the decibels another couple of notches as the night flowed into a crescendo of football and Anti-Fascist call and response between band and audience. From Bella Ciao to The Pirates of the League, the rousing unity between band and comrades in the crowd was stirring.

It’s not all politics and football though, there is still plenty of room for party tunes as the band Set You Free and take you to a Discoland and back to 8:30 a.m. at Glasgow Cross as part of a frenzied set finale and encore.

Walking back downstairs to the bar with the concert finished, the singing continues amongst the crowd. Smiles and clenched fists salutes greet you to the sound of Viva la Quinta Brigada.

Often listening to the stories of struggles and fight for equality can be difficult, but The Wakes triumphed in bringing these stories to life whilst keeping the burning desire for a better society at the forefront of an enthralling night of music.

Martin Donaldson

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