I have a confession to make. I had never heard of Inchyra Arts Club. However, when I mentioned to one of my music lecturers at college that I was doing live music reviews, he said I had to check out a show there as it is one of the best venues in Scotland. Inchyra Arts Club, situated just outside Perth near St. Madoes, opened 3 years ago and has fast been gaining a reputation for booking some of the best acts on the music circuit, including big names such as K.T. Tunstall and poet Dr. John Cooper Clarke.
My friend and I left nice and early as I thought it might be difficult to find. However, the route was well signposted and we arrived with plenty of time to spare. Getting out of the car we were greeted with an artisan wood fired pizza van. I reckon it would have been a serious dereliction of my journalistic duty, tantamount to gross misconduct, not to try some and report my findings. My wood-fired barbecue pizza was delicious and certainly the best I’ve tasted in a long time. My friend, never one to shy away from bold statements, went one further, saying it was the best pizza he’d ever tasted!
Inside the décor strikes the right balance between glamorous and homely and I was pleased to find Stewart Hutton, who was the barman at The Twa Tam’s when I was a teenager, running the bar. As the band take to the stage and strike up, the most obvious comparison and lazy point of reference that comes to mind is Mumford & Sons. Mainly because both bands have a banjo player and a penchant for slightly old-timey clothes. Police Dog Hogan, however, are a far wittier proposition both lyrically and in person. Songs such as a Man Needs a Shed and No Wonder She Drinks (frontman James Studholme claims this is about a certain first division goalkeepers put-upon partner) are funny in a way that does not fade with repeated listens. The band also have a nice line in onstage banter, announcing early on that their songs are about “Crime, punishment, death and murder, but there’s also some downbeat material too.” However, when it comes to their musicianship they are deadly serious.
The set starts with a short but impressive drum solo from Michael Giriand and there's real breadth and variety to his playing. Key’s and accordion player Shahen Galichian at time channels his inner Garth Hudson but also knows when to keep it simple. Emily Norris’s trumpet and Eddie Bishops violin often harmonise beautifully and Eddie is one hell of a showman and despite looking like laid-back artist Bob Ross, Don Bowen is a cracking bassist. The two Tim’s, Tim Jepson on mandolin and Tim Dowling on Banjo play out of their skin and everyone sings amazing harmonies.
Police Dog Hogan’s new album Wild by The Side of the Road (available in all good shops and some terrible ones too) is well represented tonight. Our Lady of the Snow, a murder Ballad that would have Nick Cave seething with jealousy, finds Studholme in fine baritione voice and All you Know about Love has some of best harmonies of the night alongside some lovely reverb soaked violin from Eddie.
As the Dog bring the show to a close, having brought the initially reticent crowd (they played them like Eddies fiddle) to both boiling point and their feet, they do one final song, their greatest hit and my new favourite song Shitty White Wine. The ending is interrupted by a bit of prop comedy from Tim Dowling who brought out a juicebox full of white wine from the Co-op and took a sip before resuming the song. As we drive home I was still singing the chorus:
Shitty White Wine
Tastes like Turpentine
A Kangaroo on the Bottle
Is Never a Good Sign
It’s Just Another Bottle
of Shitty White Wine
Truer words never spoken.