It’s been 25 years since I last saw Glasgow punk pranksters Hugh Reed and the Velvet Underpants play live. It was in this very pub in 1996, Hugh was coming off a cameo in that years hottest British film Trainspotting and it was cool to be Scottish again.
Back in 2021, I’m waiting at the bar to be served when a concerned patron hands in a wooden toilet seat cover. The confused barman puts it aside with a slightly disgusted look on his face, sanitises his hands and pulls our pints.
Tonight’s support is My Pet Rocket fronted by Perthshire Debbie Harry lookalike Petra Jolly. The band have ‘80s New Wave vibe and play a mixture of originals and covers. They are really good fun, particularly an inventive, slightly dunked up cover of Althea & Donna’s Uptown Top Ranking.
My Pet Rocket are followed by Dunfermline band Twins Town who seem to have a pretty significant fanbase in tow. Twins Town are a really tight, rocking band who have some decent tunes in their set but it’s all a little bit too late era Britpop for my taste. They do have a track about the Flintstones that is a yabba dabba doozy though!
Knowing what to expect, it’s interesting to watch newcomers reactions to Hugh as he rushes onstage in a pair of comically large boxing gloves and starts screaming the lyrics to Dog with fists raised and a come at me bro demeanour.
The sheer lack of inhibition and joie de vivre (with some cracking tunes and a wicked sense of humour folded in) that make the Unpep such a smile-inducing, thrilling live act. The songs are mostly the same as they were in the ‘90s but the band have definitely tightened up and play with more assurance while maintaining their old school chaotic momentum. Think Frank Sidebottom channelling The Sensational Alex Harvey Band.
As Hugh careens around the stage changing outfits between verses during Six to Wan a particularly troattered Twins Town fan says to me “aye but when I do stuff like that, they throw me out.”
The top songs of the set are a cover of Prince’s 1999 replete with special jakey lyrics,“I was steamin’ when I wrote this so excuse me if it goes astray … I got a carry-oot from Tesco it cost 1999”, and the James Brown apeing Scotch and Proud.
I’m Gonna Shoot Myself (and this Time I Won’t Miss) always struck me as Hugh’s counterpoint to the grunge era nihilism of I Hate Myself and I Wanna Die. As it starts, an exorcised Hugh leaps off the stage unto a table, and begins shout singing in the face of the audience.
All this excitement gets the aforementioned drunk guy all riled up again. He rips off his long sleeve Adidas 3 stripe t-shirt and try’s to engage Hugh in a bit of manly dancing. The security ask him to kindly leave and a sort of punk rock Benny Hill chase ensues culminating with the drunk guy on stage with the band, stealing the securities guys hat and knocking over a photographer before he is finally ejected. I know that in this day and age that kind of behaviour isn’t big and it isn’t clever, but you’ve got to admit though, it is kind of funny,
After the Underpants storming set I spy an irritated Hugh checking fretfully under chairs and tables. “Have you guys seen my toilet seat?” I retrieve it from behind the bar and reunited with his missing prop he happily poses for selfies with his fans.