Kevin Buckle: Three great bands are playing Syria Benefit Gig

The Syria Benefit Gig on 14 April will feature three of Avalanche's favourites
The Syria Benefit Gig on 14 April will feature three of Avalanche's favourites
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Next Saturday sees three Avalanche favourites heading up a night of great music to raise funds for humanitarian aid and rescue work in Syria, with all the proceeds being split between the Syria Project and the British Red Cross.

One band, eagleowl, and yes that lower case e is important, play what I have always called slowcore and were the first recommendation when customers were looking for a Scottish band similar to one of Avalanche’s big sellers, the American band Low. Appearances are fairly rare so they are always worth catching when they play.

Talking of American bands, while Belle and Sebastian and Mogwai head any lists of Avalanche’s best-selling Scottish albums, it is the US band Neutral Milk Hotel that actually have our most popular album of all time with their sophomore offering, In the Aeroplane Over The Sea.

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Originally released in 1998, it first really came to my attention in 2005 when it was reissued in the UK by Domino Records. Laurence Bell, one of the owners of Domino Records, has a great track record choosing American bands, not to mention Scottish bands, so when the album appeared it got my attention. Before I’d even heard the album I was won over by the artwork and of course on reflection there is a lesson there for today’s bands.

Influenced to some extent by the diaries of Anne Frank and delivered in a fairly individual lo-fi folk style by singer Jeff Mangum, it quickly became a cult album that other shops didn’t seem to pick up on and we had the market to ourselves, selling hundreds online as well of course, it being a top recommendation in the shop.

Jeff was meant to be a Syd Barrett character who had disappeared but we would from time to time get people in saying they had seen him buying his messages back home in Athens, Georgia. More of a recluse who still kept in touch with close friends, we did occasionally get one of those friends come in the shop with some details on what he was up to.

Eventually the album became the biggest of cult albums and the band reformed in 2013 to play some well-received gigs both at home and in the UK only to call it a day again in early 2015.

So what has all that to do with Saturday’s gig? Well I have always maintained that Neil Pennycook of Meursault is the Scottish Jeff Mangum and more importantly I still think that there will come a time when his albums are seen as lost classics in a worldwide context. In the same way I was right about Neutral Milk Hotel and indeed Dublin band Whipping Boy, Meursault will hopefully have their day without Neil needing to disappear first.

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Meanwhile, as well as catching Meursault next Saturday, look out for other exciting plans Neil has promised for the year ahead.

As if all this wasn’t enough, Gordon McIntyre of Ballboy will also be playing, no doubt happy it is not a school night. For most that simply means not needing to be up early the next day to get the kids to school but for Gordon it takes on a whole new meaning as when he is not being a pop star he is head teacher of a primary school in Edinburgh.

I’ve always wondered if Gordon ever passes on his pearls of wisdom to the kids in the form of his song lyrics, but one thing is for sure I doubt he will ever tell some naughty young boy mixing with the wrong crowd “You Can’t Spend Your Whole Life Hanging Around With Arseholes”. It’s a Ballboy song honestly!

With more bands on the bill, a raffle, a poster sale, DJs til late and unconfirmed rumours of cake what more could you ask for?

The event is at the Traverse Theatre Bar from 6pm to 1am on 14 April. Tickets are available from Brown Paper Tickets.