Review: Brown Bear & the Bandits, Electric Circus

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As up-and-coming bands go, Brown Bear & The Bandits boast an impressive CV.


Having scooped Best Acoustic Act at the recent Scottish Alternative Music Awards, the Largs trio opened for Pete Doherty last September and were tipped as one of BBC Radio Scotland’s Top 35 Acts To Watch For 2012.

It’s a bit of a shame, then, that virtually no-one turned up to see them perform at the Electric Circus last night.

Had the gig been cancelled? Switched to another venue? How could a group heralded as a “must-see” act fail to cajole such little interest?

“It’s the [horrible] weather,” the barman complained. “Nobody wants to come out.”

True, the Capital had been battered by wind and rain all day. However, if people refused to come out and support live music every time the elements took a turn for the worse, then there would be hardly any gigs on at all. Anyway . . .

Led by the large teddy-bear figure of acoustic guitarist Matt Hickman, the tempestuous trio are clearly a well-rehearsed outfit who place a firm emphasis on foot- stomping beats and barn-dance-like revelry. They may have been playing to a virtual barn, but it was clear the majority of their tunes – a cross between New Model Army, The Pogues, and, bizarrely, Ray Charles – is designed for bustling, beer-chucking, air-punching crowds who enjoy a good knees up.

Accompanied by the long-haired figure of Stuart McArthur on bass, and the powerful, no-messin’ delivery of Kay McLaren’s drums; as a unit BB&TB are locked as tight as a pitbull’s jaws.

An impromptu version of Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight was a bit unexpected – under the grand scheme of things The Specials’ Ghost Town would have been a more apt choice – but overall, the “show” was more of a 45-minute rehearsal than anything else.

Why only approximately 25 people turned up to a 300-capacity venue isn’t entirely certain. Some would say the weather played a part. However, across the road at Belushi’s, a band – whose own music wasn’t a hundred miles away from BB&TB’s – were cooking up a storm to a busy crowd. Makes you wonder.