The Glasgow Stereo was where I first encountered Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors, a brief set opening for Ginger Wildheart immediately leaving no doubt that this was a band to watch. Part of their appeal is the unabashed likability of Ryan and his band but the real reason that RH&TT make such an impression, is their canny knack for writing power-pop Americana that sticks in the mind and makes you feel good. That tour was a watershed moment for the band, hence it's no great surprise that a few months later they are now headlining shows at venues they recently opened in. This time another Wildheart was in evidence, bassist Danny McCormack's The Main Grains getting the party started on the Young, Dumb and full of Rum tour. Sea Of Tranquility's Steven Reid may only fit into one of those categories (I'll let you figure out which, but I'm sober and not so young…) but he was more than happy to be in attendance.
Having long battled his demons it really is a joy to have Danny McCormack back on the scene, the bassist and singer not only reunited with The Wildhearts but also fronting The Main Grains. Having lost a leg due to complications after an aneurysm not long ago, he may be doing that from a chair that looks suspiciously like it was nicked from my Mum's kitchen, but he's an engaging focal point full of acerbic humour and some excellent, if straight up vocals. The last time I saw his band opening for the aforementioned hearts of the wild, The Main Grains still felt like a new act finding their way, the fun and energy of their debut EP, Don't Believe Everything You Think, coming across, but without the punch and class the studio versions of their songs suggested. Tonight was a completely different story, tracks like "She's A Catch" landing like a punk n' roll version of The Beach Boys. Something aided by some cracking vocals from the whole band, guitarists Ben Marsden and JJ Watts both taking to the mic on occasion, while drummer Ginna Rhodes expertly handled a romping take on The Undertones "Teenage Kicks". With the clutch of newer songs revealed in their set sounding even stronger than anything that's come before, it looks like The Main Grains are on the up and up – and the decision to close with a storming cover of The Wildhearts "Anthem" was simply inspired!
They may or may not be young dumb and full of rum, but Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors are certainly crammed with good times, cool vibes and great songs. Need proof? Then the immediate slap of "Smarter" set the scene, before "Records And Needles" alluded to the classics acts of yore that The Traitors take their cues from. The sing along of "Medicine" was greeted like an old friend, just as "Karaoke With No Crowd" engaged the audience in a way a song with that name has no right to. In between, drummer Mickey Richards twirled his sticks and cracked jokes about Harry Potter (please don't do that Mickey….) while the bassist with the widest grin and the 80s throw-back hair flick, Rob Lane, tossed his bass picks in the air and caught them….on the odd occasion!
Recent times however have seen Scottish gig crowds suffer from a strange new affliction. Clearly 'into' it and hugely vociferous both in the sing-alongs and in their appreciation of the music, once the cheering subsides, total silence descends. It's a little unnerving, but with his usual touch of class Ryan thanked the Stereo crowd for being hugely enthusiastic and attentive, describing it as the 'perfect combination'. But it isn't an issue that merely occurred at tonight's show, it's a phenomenon that's slowly becoming more and more uncomfortable at a lot of gigs of this size, and larger.
With a new EP released to coincide with this tour, "I'm So Glad" proved that the great songs are going to just keep on coming from this band, all in attendance already fully acquainted with the new number thanks to it being part of The Traitors Club digital fan releases from 2017. From there Ryan spoke of his affinity for Scotland ('shhhh! don't tell England, he has to go back there!!') suggesting that "Scottish Mud" will be up next but instead the Traitors whisked us off to "The Gulf Of Mexico". New guitarist Dave Winkler (Henry's nephew, no less, 'Ayyyyyyyyyyyy') got his chance to shine here and throughout but when the six-stringer threw in a lick stolen from the Star Wars theme mid-song, Ryan, laughing, has to stop proceedings and make him play the lick again. On his own. Before the band, also featuring the keyboards and wonderful backing vocals of Carol Hodge, romped for the line with top notch renditions of "Four Letter Verb", "Freak Flag" and Ryan's b'side to the "Fuck You Brain" mental health awareness single with Ginger Wildheart, "Ode To The Idiots".
With the Stereo being a strangely reconfigured basement encores can be somewhat of a farce, bands having to clamber through the audience to reach the dressing room, before venturing back again. So wisely all five musicians on stage decided to stay put and amid a torrent of shouts for more, plough on into the final two songs, "Oh My God" and a jaw dropping cover of Tom Petty's "I Won't Back Down". I've already gone on record as saying that Ryan Hamilton & The Traitors were the breakout act of 2017 and that 2018 promises to see their star simply rise even further. Nights like tonight can only help that prediction come true.
Photos courtesy of Dave Martin