Scottish Gig Highlights – December 2013

December's live highlights include retro rockers Rocket From The Crypt, industrial disco trio Factory Floor, the return of Pop Will Eat Itself, and a Hogmanay extravaganza with Pet Shop Boys, Django Django and CHVRCHES

Feature by Illya Kuryakin | 03 Dec 2013

The month of Christmas often offers slim pickings, gig-wise, what with everyone saving cash to participate in the annual consumer-fest, or conserving their units-per-day for an epic binge on Hogmanay. But lo! This year, we have a veritable advent calendar of stonking shows to share with you that don't involve a Grant Stott cameo – December's packed tighter than Santa's bulging sack. That's the seasonal puns over, we promise.

On 3 December, Glasgow's Classic Grand welcomes coiffured 50s throwbacks (at least in hairstyles and attire) Rocket From The Crypt – it's been a decade or more since their last album, but 1995's breakthrough Scream, Dracula, Scream! has lost none of its charm. Charged with a phenomenal horn section, chief bellower John 'Speedo' Reis returns to front a band of such muscular power and snarling cool that their reunion feels more like a welcome dose of invigorating retro rock and roll, rather than some cynical cash-in on past glory. Plus, they're offering a certain Gerry Rafferty cover to Scottish crowds on vinyl at the merch stand on the night, which they're giving you, dear Skinny rerader, an exclusive listen to first...

The same night over in Edinburgh, Canadian aboriginal DJ collective A Tribe Called Red take up residence in The Caves – having just released their new album Nation II Nation in the UK, they'll be on world-beating form, blending the sounds of native Canadian tribespeople with dubstep, electro, trap, moombahton and broken beat. Not just for cheesecloth shirt-wearing 'world music' fans, they convincingly combine bleeding-edge electronic music with more spiritual influences.

After re-assembling to curate a festival this year for All Tomorrow's Parties, seminal 80s band Loop are on tour – they hit the Liquid Room in Edinburgh on 4 Dec. Psychedelic drones and proto-shoegaze guitars layered with motorik rhythms are the order of the day – catch these returning legends live while you can.

Back in Glasgow, members of Take a Worm For a Walk Week and former Project: Venhell vocalist Hines bring their latest project RUNGS to ye olde 13th Note – trading in anarchic noise, frantic punk and sludgy grunge, they are hard at work on their full-length debut after unleashing their frankly disgusting EP I Don't Wanna Hug, I Just Wanna Cum! earlier this year. Support comes from Cutty's Gym and Young Philadelphia.

It's been an incredible year for Factory Floor – collaborating with celebrated artists at the Tate Modern and the Institute of Contemporary Arts, releasing their full-length debut on DFA Records, and cementing their reputation as one of the UK's most exciting experimental live bands, the trio have seemed pretty much unstoppable. Their largely improvised shows sometimes descend into out-and-out chaos, over-running as the band get locked into their techno-meets-industrial-meets-disco groove. Miss this one and you'll be kicking yourself into the new year (6 Dec, Stereo, Glasgow).

Industrial rock noise fetishists Deathkill 4000 welcome Dundonian party-starters Fat Goth to their monthly shindig on 7 Dec at Glasgow's Bar Bloc. The same night, the folks behind Kelburn Garden Party welcome one of the highlights of this year's festival, veteran rapper Dr. Syntax and his band The Mouse Outfit to Studio 24. With punchlines funnier than most comedians and a tight band featuring brass, woodwind, double bass and live drums, Syntax is one of the UK's best rappers. Support comes from local jazz-fuelled agit-prop hip-hop sensations Ill Papa Giraffe.

On 12 Dec, SWG3 plays host to Wooden Shjips – their recent space rock workout Back To Land saw Ripley Johnson's men meld the distinct western psychedelic bent of 2011's West more neatly with the rhythmic possibilities of 60s krautrock. Unsurprisingly, they do not sound like a band of this time. Hallucinatory and transcendental live, you'd better squeegee your third eye for this one. 

Not one but three brilliant gigs to choose between on 14 Dec. Firstly, The Twilight Sad return to The Liquid Room – before later taking to Glasgow's King Tut's on 20-21 Dec for a very special duo of gigs, playing the entirety of debut album Fourteen Autumns and Fifteen Winters – a rare chance to see them return to their roots. Over at Portobello Town Hall, Kid Canaveral present their fourth annual Christmas Baubles showcase. It's an all-day event, featuring the cream of Scotland's indie and folk scenes, from the honourable Edwyn Collins and The Pictish Trail, through to Siobhan Wilson and the resurgent De Rosa. Last but not least, underground hip-hop and electronic label Black Lantern Music are putting on a one-off hip-hop special at The Roxy in Glasgow, with battle-hardened rapper Gasp and Hector Bizerk's Louie, joined by Mackenzie, facing off against some of the label's mainstays.

On 15 Dec, dreamy singer-singwriter Kurt Vile and his band The Violators visit the Arches in Glasgow, playing tracks from his latest album, Wakin' On A Pretty Daze. On 16 and 17 Dec, Slow Fest returns to Bloc with a host of local talent, still to be fully confirmed at the time of going to press – previous years have seen The Twilight Sad and Blood Relatives in attendance, this year the first names out of the hat are the rather magnificent There Will Be Fireworks

Christmas wouldn't be the same without a comeback, and while there are plenty of pension-chasing acts of yore doing the rounds, we thought it only right and fitting to focus on the ones we loved when we were just nippers – that's right, people who remember the 90s, it's time to break out your undercut and Global Hypercolour t-shirt to catch The Wonder Stuff, Pop Will Eat Itself, and Jesus Jones at the Picture House in Edinburgh on 17 Dec. Presumably Ned's Atomic Dustbin were busy. 

A couple of gigs to see you through the final few days before you break out the crackers and egg nog. On Christmas Eve Eve (23 Dec), catch rising stars of the Scottish shoegaze sound Sonic Hearts Foundation perform a headline set at Glasgow's King Tut's. On 22 Dec the Christmas Songwriters' Club returns for the sixth year running, welcoming a who's who of local stars to perform in the cavernous Queen's Hall. That it has moved to such salubrious surroundings, from its initial home in Leith Dockers Club, is testament to the increasing dominance of Scottish folk-rock in recent years. Performing on the night will be Karine Polwart and Finlay Napier, Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit, Broken Records, Kid CanaveralSiobhan Wilson, We See Lights and Teen Canteen with Eugene Kelly, and Miaoux Miaoux adding a bit of electronic energy for good measure – see our Listings for the full lineup.

DO NOT MISS: Pet Shop Boys, Django Django, CHVRCHES & MORE @ Edinburgh'S HOGMANAY

Okay, so it's going to be cold. Yes, there are going to be hunners of tourists there, getting in your way and generally not understanding the concept behind why you get ten points for winching a polis when the bells ring, saying 'Happy New Year' and getting the hand-holding wrong while singing Auld Lang Syne. But for our money, this month's unmissable gig has got to be the main stage at Edinburgh's Hogmanay.

Not content to host electro-pop legends the Pet Shop Boys, whose critically acclaimed Electric saw the duo reach the heights of earlier classic albums such as Very, and even approach some of their career-best moments from 1986's Please, the organisers have booked some stellar support, in the form of electro-tinged art school psych rockers Django Django, and bona fide synth-pop sensations CHVRCHES. Brave the crowds and the sub-zero temperatures and get yourself along to this one – there will be fireworks both on and off stage. 

See Listings for times and prices