I headed up to Kelvingrove Park in Glasgow to photograph Sleep In the Park 2018, and the emotional return of Frightened Rabbit - their first live appearance since Scott passed away back in May.
Sleep In The Park? What's that?
Sleep In The Park is a charity event held across Scotland to raise funds for the homeless, organised by the wonderful people at Social Bite. This was the second year of the event, which was running concurrently across four Scottish cities - Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and Glasgow. The premise for the events was pretty simple - as a fundraiser at the sleepout, you have to raise a certain amount in sponsorship for sleeping rough. In return, you are rewarded with a live show from various 'buskers', before everyone settles down to bed in 'bivvy bags' in the park. It's a fantastic way to raise awareness, show solidarity, and raise funds - a whopping £3.2m was raised this year across the four cities.
As well as being for a great cause, the Glasgow show stood to be a particularly emotional night as it was to be Frightened Rabbit's first live show since Scott Hutchison passed away earlier this year, performing alongside a number of guest vocalists. As a huge Frightened Rabbit fan, I had to be there.
I've only ever visited Glasgow once before, and that was only a fleeting visit back when I was starting out as a music photographer. I joined a friends band on their UK tour, which started at The Captains Rest - unbeknownst to me at the time, the same place Frightened Rabbit recorded their live album Quietly Now! the previous year. It's easy to look back in hindsight, but I wish I'd known then how much I was going to fall in love with Scottish music, and the bands emerging out of Glasgow's thriving DIY scene.
The show was to take place on the bandstand at Kelvingrove Park. The modest ampitheatre-style venue was renovated back in 2014 as part of the Commonwealth Games and, as far as bandstands go, was pretty damn impressive. I took my place in the pit as all the rough-sleepers gradually took their seats.
Stina Tweeddale - one half of Scottish rock duo Honeyblood - kicked off the proceedings with a handful of solo numbers which seemed to get the crowd warmed up. I'd never seen previously seen Honeyblood, although I had met them last year to shoot a quick portrait for Dork Magazine at Live at Leeds. After a brief changeover and some hilarious poetry from Hollie McNish, Stina was followed by much-loved singer-songwriter Kathryn Joseph.
The Twilight Sad
Next was the turn of arguably one of the finest bands to emerge from the Glasgow's scene - the excellent The Twilight Sad. I'd caught these guys supporting Biffy Clyro back in 2010 in Sheffield, and not had the opportunity again since. James and Andy played a rousing acoustic set, which landed particularly well with the local faithful
Frightened Rabbit (and friends)
Another intermission followed, as the stage was set for the nights big occasion. I'd never been so excited and so nervous about a gig before. Vic Galloway read a touching introduction before Grant, Andy and Billy took to the stage to be greeted by the most triumphant of cheers from the onlooking crowd. I left my camera by my side and joined in the cheering from the photopit, as I felt my eyes welling up. There was no way I was getting through this with dry eyes!
In the weeks running up to the show, I'd been speculating as to who exactly would be joining the guys for the set. So many acts had dedicated Frabbit covers to Scott over the summer - Manchester Orchestra, The Charlatans, The Twilight Sad, Frank Turner, Idlewild, Death Cab For Cutie, Julien Baker to name a few - that it was hard to call who was actually going to be shouldering the responsibility of vocals.
The first guest of the night was Three Blind Wolves frontman and long-time friend of the band, Ross Clark, who sang "Old, Old Fashioned" (a track he'd previously performed with Frightened Rabbit on the aforementioned Quietly Now! live album) and "Good Arms Vs. Bad Arms"
The second guest vocalist came totally out of the blue - Biffy Clyro frontman Simon Neil joined the band for an epic recital of "Modern Leper" (as a huge Biffy fan, and with this being my favourite Frightened Rabbit song, I was in absolute pieces) before blasting through a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing In The Dark". "Well, that was fucking surreal" Grant laughed, as Simon hugged the band and left the stage. He wasn't wrong!
Kathryn Joseph then returned to the stage to provide vocals for "Get Out", before urging the crowd to join her in singing "Head Rolls Off" the song that's become synonymous in raising awareness since Scott's death, with the chorus of '..make tiny changes to Earth' becoming a motto amongst Frightened Rabbit fans
The final guests game as no surprise, and got the greatest reaction of them all. James and Andy from The Twilight Sad - close friends and former label-mates of the band - joined for the last two Frightened Rabbit tracks of the evening, and two tracks that they'd previously performed live with the band before. First was "Be Less Rude" from debut Sing The Greys, before finishing with the anthemic "Keep Yourself Warm" - a track that James provided vocals for on the Quietly Now! album, and The Twilight Sad have played at pretty much every show since Scott died. This was the one track that always got a huge reaction from the Frabbit faithful, and this evening was no exception, with everyone singing their heart out to every single word
Everyone on stage hugged, waved to the euphoric crowd, and made their way off stage. It was such an amazing show to witness and document, and felt like a true moment of solidarity between the band, the fans and their friends. It was a very fitting end to what's been a very tough year.
KT Tunstall and Amy MacDonald
The night was far from over, however, as there were still three more acts to take the stage. The evergreen KT Tunstall and Amy MacDonald were both performing across all four of the events, arriving by helicopter (I think) and blasted through short sets before heading off to close the show at Edinburgh
The (not so) Secret Special Guest
The final act of the night before the crowd headed off to brave a cold night under the stars came as no real surprise, given Simon Neil had been on the stage an hour earlier. Simon returned to the stage with Ben and James (and Richard and Mike, of course) as Biffy Clyro performed an intimate acoustic set to bring the evening to a spectacular close:
This was a really special night, and I was so pleased to have been part of it. There was a real feeling of solidarity, pride and achievement amongst the crowd. The efforts made by the 12,000 people across Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen raised a staggering amount of money for a great cause, which will hopefully continue to grow over the years to come.
Conscious I've rambled on far more than usual, but before drawing this to a close I just want to give a special mention to three people in particular who I had the fortune of meeting that evening. Firstly, Euan - a great photographer from Glasgow who've I've spoken to online a few times, and finally had the pleasure of meeting. A top bloke and great photographer, we were both feeling particularly emotional after the gig, and took some comfort from being 'in the same boat'. Great to finally meet you, mate.
Also tae Rab and David - two great blokes I met whilst queueing to get in. Had a great chat with these guys about Scottish music, Frightened Rabbit, The Twilight Sad, Mastersystem, and - of course - Adullboy. As an Englishman in Glasgow I had felt a little out of place, but those guys made me feel plenty welcome. Cheers for the hand warmers! Stuck them in my p*ss-wet through boots to warm my feet up. Worked a treat! :)
Thank you Glasgow, and Scotland, for your amazing music.