The Bug Club @ Tolbooth, Stirling, 3 Nov
A hive of activity in Stirling as three sets of B-boys and girls, headed by The Bug Club, rock the Tolbooth
An apocryphal story tells of a vinyl fanatic being consoled after a break in. “At least they didn’t get the Bs,” says a helpful friend. It can sometimes feel like the entire rock canon, from The Beatles, Beach Boys and Byrds, through to cult favourites like Belle & Sebastian and The Beta Band, making the second letter of the alphabet the number one option for musos.
So, it’s a quirk of fate that three up-and-coming 'B' bands are gathered together tonight in Stirling. First up are Glaswegian three-piece Bin Juice, who were ones to watch at last year’s Great Western festival. The intervening year has been kind to them, and they have a relaxed confidence to their Cramps-meets-early-Lemonheads punk sound.
Young Fathers may be the toast of Edinburgh at the moment, but in Young Dad and the rest of their frantic, propulsive set, Bikini Body have the attitude and tunes to come hot on their heels. Mr Tinnitus, with its crash of cowbell, may leave some with ringing ears, but also with smiles on their faces.
Tonight's headliners, Welsh trio The Bug Club are a constant treat to watch. This is their penultimate date in the UK before they embark on their debut trip to the US, and they clearly want to go out with a bang. Sam Wilmett and Tilly Harris form a sometimes unlikely pair of pop stars, bringing to mind the house band from Fraggle Rock, but there's no doubting the quality of the tunes – from old favourites like The Fixer and My Baby Loves Rock & Roll Music, to newer BBC 6Music hits like Marriage and Short and Round.
It’s during the final part of a rousing version of Intelectuals, with its anthemic chorus of 'pick me like a flower in the rain', that the crowd really seem to come to life. Indeed, the Tolbooth seems to be a perfect backdrop for a band like The Bug Club, with a high stage and perfect sight lines to allow everyone to see the obvious chemistry between the band; Harris bouncing around like a wind-up toy, Wilmett carving out Modern Lovers solos by the dozen, and drummer Dan Matthew a force of nature at the back of the stage. It’s testament to the energy which they bring to the performance that Harris spends a fair amount of time ad-libbing while Wilmett retunes, a pastime she seems to take to with relish.
Indeed, perhaps the only nagging doubt is whether the band are simply too prolific. Having just released a double album, Rare Birds: Hour of Song, it feels like some fans may need a bit of time to catch up on the band’s incredible work-rate; 2023 also saw an entirely different album from their shadowy alter egos, Mr Anyway’s Holey Spirits.
As bewildering as their schedule may appear, there is no getting away from the quality of songs like Suck It and Checkmate. On this damp Friday night in Stirling, the Bs are making sweet, sweet music.