Glasgow Musicians Salute Vital Under-Threat Venue The Priory
On Glasgow’s Sauchiehall Street lies what many people in the music scene perceive as the heart of the city’s punk scene, The Priory. Its unassuming entrance juts out just above ground-level, sporting minimalist advertising oblivious to most staggering their way south towards club giants Firewater and The Garage. Once inside, one can sink into a tattered couch and adopt a milky, vampirish pallor, thanks to sparsely lit candlesticks worked into baroque holders.
Since its inception in 2014, the bar has hosted some of Glasgow’s biggest up-and-coming punk and indie rock artists, whilst opening its arms to many small bands trying to make it in a music industry that is becoming increasingly over-saturated. Gerry Cinnamon hosted regular open-mic sessions back in the day; Glasgow legends Baby Strange hold regular Club Sabbath nights and now Liam Gallagher has stepped in to support the venue during its Covid-induced stagnation.
Good ol' LG has offered up a signed one-of-a-kind setlist taken directly from his acclaimed Down By The River Thames show, two TRNSMT festival weekend tickets and £200 of vouchers from Liam’s Pretty Green fashion range, amongst other prizes, for those who donate to the crowdfunder organised by The Priory. Every £5 donation equals one prize draw entry with the winner chosen at random.
In light of LG’s generosity, Clash spoke to Glasgow’s beloved punk locale about their cracking Priory bar memories.
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The Bleeders are Glasgow’s most outrageous live act, the loveable duo remaining Priory staples since 2018. Guitarist Jackson Harvey’s Priory memories shoot out from the drunken gauze feathering his steely Escobar tash. His highlights veer from stripping down to his y-fronts at The Bleeder’s Christmas gig in 2019, to being offered a go on the jukebox by Johnny Madden of Baby Strange at Dead Pony’s King Tut’s afterparty and playing 'Saturday Night' by Whigfield three times in a row. Which is a lot of Whigfield to endure, inebriated or not.
Thinking of a return to 'Mother' Priory renders him watery-eyed. Jackson shares: “Priory was one of the first gaffs we played after changing our name. Priory owner [John] Jokey was so kind to us and made us feel at home. Which was refreshing considering we got battered about for a decade off promoters as we were just wee guys. From the off he made us feel like BIG wee guys”.
“The Priory is one of few resorts where events just seem to manifest with fleet-footedness, and folk can take to the stage more-or-less, willy-nilly”, says Jackson. “This means that we all get an outing as long as we’re in it for a good time”. For The Bleeders, this means experimenting with tantalisingly rogue material, such as a ditty titled “This Song Contains Cookies to Personalise Ads and Content”. - “We were meant to play a gig with our blood brethrens Fiendz YT this year, but it got volleyed by the pandemic. Though with any luck, Priory can ‘humpty that dumpty’ back together again”, continues Jackson.
Fiendz YT are Priory’s chief rabble-rousers, the exalted punk quartet slamming their Docs into every setlist and DJ set commencing within the bars four walls. Deliriously comic tracks like 'Tesco Elvis' and 'Reptile Child' - whose single artwork features a reptilian Prince Andrew chomping the head off a child - have cemented their position within Priory elite. Drummer Josh McBride recounts topless men invading the stage during their sets and smoking with Justin and Eamon from The Chats, after their Garage gig back in 2019.
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The Priory is remembered as a space that takes gigging to the next level, even in the context of Glasgow’s already raucous scene. Bassist Craig Rowan recalls: “We are a whole city full of maniacs ready to jump off stages and clamber over each other. Now a gig in The Priory takes that to a whole new level; it’s about as sweaty and relentless as any gig could get with a ceiling that’s just about 6”5 feet tall. The venue’s capacity is pushed to its boundaries every weekend with a whole load of the country's best new talent frequenting it”.
It’s not every day a hundred people are crammed into a basement. Teenage newcomers and Radio 1 favourites Spyres remember their 'Fake ID' single launch for Club Sabbath in February 2020. The band recalls: “Our mums were being crushed at the front but absolutely loving it; behind them someone was crowd surfing with a vodka-coke still in hand, using the ceiling to keep their balance”.
Clearly, the sense of unity and comradeship Priory inspires is second to none. Many of the musicians who frequent Priory are granted jobs there at any given time. For [Andrew] Mcwhinnie, who plays guitar in Fiendz YT, it has been a job that acts like a second home. He says: “Oh the beloved Priory, it has given me work, shelter, beer, friends, beer and lots of gigs. When I asked Jokey for a job I’ve never looked back; getting electric shocks off the mic is something I miss the most, though nothing compares to the charisma of a Johnny Madden soundcheck”.
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Guitarist Eamon Ewins, whose band Gallus are currently waving the saltire for Scottish punk, cites his first memory of Priory as when he was handing a CV into the place: “I was foremost looking for a job, before I knew anything about the place or what it was. Surprisingly enough, a few years later I actually did end up working there, but that was once I was already fully immersed in the place. And once you’re in, you’re in it for good it seems. People have a fierce loyalty to this place, and that breeds loyalty to one another, which is what gives the scene its sense of community”.
Relationships have been formed within Priory’s hallowed walls, even ones outside Glasgow’s scene. Jokey fondly remembers Bobby Bentham of Strange Bones and Jess Allanic of Calva Louise becoming an item after playing sets there and still remain together to this day. DMA’s’ Johnny Took is even joint Godfather to Jokey’s son.
The Covid-19 pandemic was a tremendous blow to the bar, as many venues across the UK are similarly facing financial instability and worry about their prospective livelihoods. Dead Pony lead singer Anna Shields shares her favourite memory as one during Covid-19 restrictions, when they performed their Club Sabbath DJ set in August 2020. She remembers: “We had been locked down since March and this was our first glimpse of freedom in a long time. I remember feeling so anxious getting out of my taxi and walking into the bar as I hadn’t been around people in months. Ironically, as soon as I walked down those narrow stairs and into the tiny cellar that feeling of claustrophobia disappeared and I was surrounded by friends”.
The Priory is an establishment vital in helping nurture Glasgow’s budding musical talent, and currently its future hangs precariously in the balance. Contributing towards their crowdfunder might act as a lifeline for the venue; pumping Glasgow’s throbbing punk heart back into accelerated (and Buckfast-addled) circulation.
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To help save the Priory join their crowdfunding campaign HERE.
Words: Chloe Waterhouse
Photo Credit: Daniel Blake
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