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music travel

A Love Letter to King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut

Back in 2011, stressed during my GCSE’s but taking the first grasps at young adult life, I was sat in one of the media studies classrooms at lunch. Me and my friend Ryan were looking at upcoming concerts in Manchester. I’d wanted to start attending gigs regularly now I’d turned 16, being situated in Chester placed me in the perfect position to travel to both Liverpool and Manchester to see my favourite bands.

That day I was searching for emo-gamechangers Madina Lake, their album ‘Attics to Eden’ had been released a couple of years prior and the lead single ‘Never Take Us Alive’ had made the rounds on my iPod Nano since its release. I remember downloading the song illegally using some sort of YouTube to MP3 website like every other teenager at the time, in a forgotten world without Spotify and Apple Music.

The band that started it all, Madina Lake (unugunu, Wikimedia Commons)

Searching for the band on Google, we were met with their upcoming performance in Glasgow, at an amazingly named venue by the name of ‘King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut’. At the time I gave it a raised eyebrow, intrigued by its name, before ending our search due to the impending school bell. Little did I know however, that this was the beginning of a lifetime obsession with a venue in a country I had never even visited.

Since then, I have always noticed the venue on the touring schedules of the bands I loved, every time the name sparked my interest. Why did this North African Pharaoh have a venue in Scotland? What the hell was a ‘Wah Wah’? But most importantly – when could I go?

For those of you unaware, King Tut’s is a small cult venue situated on St. Vincent’s street, a short walk from the centre of Glasgow. Founded in 1990, the 300-capacity venue takes its name from a Lower East Side New York club and experimental theatre space from the 80’s. That iconic club hosted the likes of the Blue Man Group, whereas the one this side of the Atlantic boasts The Strokes, Biffy Clyro and Beck.

The original King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut in the Lower East Side of NYC (Lupo Rodriguez, Pinterest)

The venue has been voted as BBC Radio 1’s ‘Best Small UK Venue’ and NME named it “quite possibly the best small venue in the world”. It was even the location for Liam Gallagher’s ‘Come Back to Me’. My love for the idea of going to King Tut’s faded after a decade of life, until one weekend last December when I briefly mentioned my former infatuation to my girlfriend in jest. I didn’t think anything of it, but she did – the next thing I knew she’d booked me tickets to go on my birthday.

It was to see a band called IDER, a ‘post-genre’ indie band consisting of Lily Somerville and Megan Markwick. I’d never heard of them, but I didn’t care – that’s how you discover new music anyway. I was beyond excited. It’s still up there with one of the most genuine and thoughtful gifts I’ve ever received.

I was finally going to King Tut’s!

The walls of the blokes toilets in King Tut’s. The first and last time I’ve taken a photo in a bathroom. (February, 2020)

Before I waffle on, Glasgow as a city itself is phenomenal. The people are ace, I got rinsed in a comedy club after being selected as the ‘most Scottish looking person in the room’, only to hit the host with my brand of Cestrian English. He said to me, “Ginger and English? I don’t think you’re liked much up here or down there”. Bruised ego aside, the city is great – don’t let its reputation stop you from going. The ‘Dear Green Place’ is more than it’s cracked up to be if you give it a chance.

The venue itself is everything I wanted it to be and more. From the enormous logo outside, to the toilets plastered with signed setlists from gigs long ago. They have their own ‘King Tut’s Lager’ on tap, which was decently potent (especially after 4 of them). I was Captain Ahab, the venue Moby Dick – I’d fall into the water and let it take me wherever it wanted me to go. Luckily, it didn’t take 3 days to chase the venue down.

King Tut’s revels in its history. It bursts with an array of artwork, posters and instruments that preceded its famous steps; each one archiving the artists who performed there that year into its very foundations. A million memories condensed into a single footstep, only to capture a million more in the next.

The famous steps at King Tut’s (February, 2020)

The atmosphere buzzed for IDER. After getting acquainted with the aforementioned lager and being ‘that guy’ who took a photo of the stairs (I hate myself too) we spilled into the venue. Split between the bar, stage, and a raised mezzanine we we’re engulfed in the shadows of your typical venue – the features of Charlotte’s face only visible by the oozing red stage lighting as we waited patiently for the band in its eager glow.

IDER were ace.

If you’ve ever attended venues like Parr Street Studio 2 in Liverpool, or The Ritz in Manchester – you’ll know there are certain venues that were built for music. This is one of them. The London duo’s voices bounced from the walls as they performed. They were that good that their current Wikipedia image is from the gig that we were at (see photo).

The name IDER comes from the character that “manifests itself when [they] harmonise“, although intended as a joke they named themselves after – this genuinely rang true. They intertwined melodies and swapped instruments with ease, it felt like a fever dream.  It was one of the best performances I had seen for a long time, in arguably one of the best gig venues I’d ever attended. As a bonus, the night concluded with the best drunk Five Guys burger on our way back to the hotel.

Give them a listen if you’ve got a spare 3 minutes and 45 seconds.

So, whether you’ve got plans to visit Glasgow already or if you’re travelling for King Tut’s itself, it is 100% worth the visit. This might be the decade of bias talking, but I think it might be my favourite venue in the country. Although I’ve got NME and Radio 1 on my side so I can’t be too far from the truth.

Sike

And I definitely didn’t buy a commemorative mug.

In the words of Liam Gallagher – “Why don’t you come back to me?”

I’m sure someday I will.

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