Doogie Paul may not be the most familiar name in music, but amongst those who know him, both directly and indirectly, he is spoken of with a great deal of admiration. He was widely known as bassist and backing vocalist in James Yorkston’s group The Athletes, but his influence – as proven by the many acts who agreed to play without charge and by the many people who paid to sit in the audience – was far-reaching.
In November of last year, at the age of forty, Doogie passed away after a battle with cancer. By way of a memorial, his close friend Yorkston arranged this gig, gathering together Scottish musicians Sheena Wellington, Alisdair Roberts, Kathryn Williams, King Creosote and Mogwai, all of whom had a great personal affection for the musician. Hosted by Ian Rankin, this was an evening in which they could express their sentiments the way they best knew how: through their unique music.
The night held a specific resonance for me, having recently lost a best friend, but if I had been able to tear my eyes from the stage I was sure I would have seen others as glossy-eyed as myself. In the acts, too, there was naturally an undercurrent of melancholy detectable beneath the levity, touching in its understated nature. In Yorkston, particularly, one could see how much this meant to him: ‘And I promise you I will remember you / As a man full of life and not this broken way,’ he croons in a song written for the occasion.
Something of the evening’s poignancy could not but be disrupted by the audience’s restlessness until Mogwai came on the stage. The band was unsurprisingly the biggest draw in terms of ticket sales and their set was phenomenal. It is an entirely immersive experience, a hammering of articulated noise under which one feels as though – to steal a popular music website’s tag – one is drowned in sound. I left in a stupor that didn’t lift for the entire walk home. But this was a cohesively orchestrated group of artists and their set was all the more awe-inspiring if one submitted to a state of exhausted surrender engendered by the other, more intimate acts that had come before.
Exhausting, but if ever such a group of individuals come together again – hopefully this time for more celebratory reasons – I wouldn’t recommend missing it.