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Gig Review: The Clockworks @ Rough Trade

“We said: sell out the Róisín Dubh (bar and club in Galway, Ireland), and then we’d move to London”- James McGregor (The Clockworks)

Credit: Alex Channing

By Rosie Smith, Third-Year Anthropology

“Music with nothing to say plays on the radio” may be a pertinent lyric in The Clockworks’ 'Endgame', but it certainly does not reflect the music they played at Bristol’s Rough Trade.

I had the chance to speak to the band before their gig at Rough Trade, and so, in their van, parked just a few metres from the venue, we discussed everything from their current tour to the state of the post-punk scene today.

The band’s drummer Damian Greaney told me, in no uncertain terms, that they believe it’s the best time to be in a post-punk band since the mid-nineties, and the band credited champions of alternative music like the BBC’s Steve Lamacq for the resurgence of the genre’s popularity. Indeed, bands like Idles and Fontaines DC have seemingly reignited interest in the genre - perhaps, one day, the Clockworks will be seen as big players in the scene, too.

The Clockworks have already experienced something of a breakthrough - lead singer James McGregor mentioned that in the past they’d made a pact with themselves:

“We said: sell out the Róisín Dubh (bar and club in Galway, Ireland), and then we’d move to London”

- James McGregor (The Clockworks)

It seems they have managed to do just that. Now based in England’s capital, it seems clear that this is just the first step on their journey. I’m fairly confident that they’ll be selling out much bigger venues in the coming years. After all, not only was the Bristol gig at Rough Trade sold out, but so were the band’s gigs in London and Southampton; I have to say, after attending the Rough Trade gig, it’s easy to see why there’s such a high demand for tickets.

After the interview, we parted ways (and subsequently bumped into each other again at the Spoons on Corn Street half an hour before the gig was to start). I arrived at the venue as eager fans were beginning to pile in, and I was struck by the diversity of the crowd - there were people of all ages, all dressed differently. At that point it seemed clear - this band doesn’t embody some fleeting trend. They aren’t popular because a song of theirs went viral on TikTok - no, they’re popular for the same reason legacy bands of the ‘60s and ‘70s were, because their music is good, plain and simple.

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All four band members (these being James McGregor on vocals, Damian Greaney on drums, Sean Connelly on lead guitar, and Tom Freeman on bass) - seemed to be on top form at Rough Trade. Despite the intensity of their music and the fact that I’m fairly certain the venue was hotter than Death Valley, they played extremely well. If they missed any notes, neither I nor any of the members of the audience would have noticed given how brilliant and energetic of a show they put on.

The highlight of the set, for me, was the performance of their most recent single, 'Advertise Me', which was released in September of this year, and was co-produced by Michael Rendell (Jesus and the Mary Chain, Shed Seven). Simply hearing the track in your room is great in its own right, but seeing it live animated its meaning for me; it just seemed to have even more of an impact that way. Though, I will say the irony of capturing a song about consumerism being performed live through the lens of an iPhone was not lost on me.

The Clockworks @ Rough Trade Bristol / Alex Channing

During our chat in their van, the band told me that the crowd reactions on their most recent tour have been overwhelmingly positive. Damian said how exciting it is for them to be able to see people singing their songs back to them - I felt second-hand happiness for them all after seeing everyone singing at this gig. The crowd was overjoyed to be there, and nearly everyone in front of the gig knew the majority of their songs. That doesn’t often happen at smaller gigs, and I think that’s a testament to The Clockworks’ talent; it’s almost as if they’re already a big band, but the general public hasn’t caught on yet.

If you have a chance to see them on their next tour, I’d definitely recommend it.

Check out The Clockworks’ tunes here:

(Photography by Alex Channing)

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