Paisley live music: Tommy McGrory on how Paisley music is reacting to COVID-19

by Tommy McGrory

When I started writing this column years ago, it was difficult to write half a page as there was not much going on. Recently, it’s different thanks to new venues opening up and pubs putting on more live music every week.

The Open Mic Scene is vibrant, Callum’s Cavern and Rocknrollas have opened up, and my weekly problem is how to fit everything that is going on into 650 words!

And just when all was looking great then Covid-19 turns up.

It has devastated families, businesses and has turned our way of life upside down. But the music is still there. Maybe not in venues or even in the street but we are still active and the talent is now in our houses and from there we have to find creative ways to do get the music to everyone. Music is a healer and brings people together. It can still be that although it will be an online or because we haven’t gone away.

Touring bands, local bands and acts that we were all looking forward to playing in Paisley may be on hold for the foreseeable future, but musicians around the town are banding together to make sure that the show must – and will – go on.

From live streaming performances to collaborative recording projects to writing circles musicians are using technology and their creative networks to develop support systems and stay connected with music lovers as self-quarantining becomes the norm amidst the escalating coronavirus pandemic.

Over the weekend I watched Ric Herrington, Owen Paul, 10 year old Sam Baird and a host of singer songwriters play live in their house. Global superstars have announced they would be live streaming upcoming performances that were cancelled due to venue closures.

Many of my friends who are working musicians tend not to have the time to spend on writing songs as they are too busy playing and rehearsing for weekend gigs. They are turning a negative into a positive by using their time cooped up in their house to look over old material and creating new ideas. So maybe in a few months, there will be an avalanche of new tunes and maybe a ground breaking new music scene.

The big artists won’t be affected by all this. The weekly gigging musicians, who are freelancers have lost virtually everything.

The wedding bands, cover bands, tribute bands, dep musicians, teachers and open mic hosts have lost work due to show and event cancellations. The technicians and event organisers who are an important part of the music industry are all freelancers too and will find things tough, as most do not have the protection that other workers have.

The nightmare of COVID-19 will end one day, and I hope it is soon and another wave of this virus doesn’t turn up. On that day, we will all want to celebrate our Paisley Music Scene as a collective and push the boat out having made it through this episode of fear and uncertainty and loss.

I look forwards as I know you do too; get out and listen to live music together and celebrate all the things we didn’t celebrate when we were trapped at home with only Netflix to keep us company. I look forward to feeling whole again, connected to one another. No longer having a feeling of fear and anxiety. Feeling ourselves again.

Until then, artists and technicians who survive by playing music and entertaining us are going to need help.

In these dark days, spare some change for artists and venues that have a Just Giving or a Crowdfunding page if you can. Come out for your local performing artist or bands when can meet again in public without fear of spreading illness. We should all be there to support them and once again; experience the joy of music and us all together once more doing what we do. Today, music needs you.

Of course there are many other things we need to support like our families, the NHS and all the key workers. My thoughts are with you and them in this troubled time.


The many years I have spent writing this column has been enjoyable. The only difficulty I ever experience is trying to fit what is happening in our very busy music scene writes Tommy McGrory.

The Bungalow has went from a full programme on Monday 23 March, to only one afternoon session a possibility. Rocknrollas had to cancel their band on Saturday 21 March, although the Reflex 80s Night is still on (sold out).

Most of the bar venues have experienced cancellations, but are going ahead regardless trying to keep things as normal as they can.

All has been going well until the announcement made by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnston, “to not attend theatres, pubs and restaurants.”

It came as a bolt from the blue, and was seen to confuse matters as it wasn’t a closure. Because of the government’s lack of preparedness and refusal to actually enforce closures of pubs/clubs/music venues, as it stands we will not receive business interruption insurance.

As a direct result of that, this could be it for many small venues. Many will not be able to survive a closure lasting weeks or months. It would be a travesty for our much envied music scene to disappear for any reason let alone this.

Alan McEwan of The Bungalow launched a Crowdfunder page and said: “In short: without the communities support to help us over the next few months The Bungalow will NOT survive, and the future of the history and legacy of Paisley’s famous music venue will be gone. We are not looking for donations. All we are asking is that people simply buy ticket vouchers. Please check out our Crowdfunding page.”

He explained more about what The Bungalow is. “Although The Bungalow is like so many other small, independent venues that face a potential shutdown, we are a Community Interest Company. A Community Interest Company is a business with primary social objectives whose surpluses are principally reinvested for that purpose in the business or in the community. We are ‘Asset Locked’ which means all our equipment etc., stays in community ownership that is why we are asking the community to help”

Jen Sloan of The Cave sent me this message which is probably the situation for most venues:

“We have had a couple of bands cancelling which is understandable. We are going to stay open until we are told otherwise. We have put in place all government advice and guidelines to keep our customers safe and we ask people to do the same. If we all work together in this it will help to stop the spread of this virus.

We will be keeping our customers updated and post every day on social media the actions we need to take. We also want to say to our customers who are already in isolation, that if they need anything at all, they can contact myself, Jen, directly on Facebook or contact our Facebook page and we will do our very best to get items of shopping to them, or if feeling alone we can chat on the phone.”

So, the cut down version of live action this week looks like this:

The Old Swan have Proposal in on Friday 20 March at 8pm. Godiva will be playing on Saturday 21 March in the ‘Shoppers Slot’ at 4pm. The Casual Swans are back at their usual time of 4pm on Monday, 23 March. The Cave have Los Perros on Friday night from 8pm and on Saturday 21 March, also at 8pm, Keelhauld will be rockin’ out on stage till late. The Anchor has Drty Luv in on Sunday 22 March at 4.00pm.

The Bungalow may have a Saturday Jazz Session on Saturday afternoon, 21 March, from 2pm with local singer Leana Zaccarini. Check with The Bungalow Facebook page for updates. The last time she played The Bungalow she wowed the audience with her superb voice and her huge personality, which fills the room as much as her singing.

Open Mic The Gantry is on Tuesday 24 March at 8.30pm, Burger and Keg Wednesday 25 March 8.30pm; The Old Swan starts at 7.00pm.

“Keep Music Live” -Tommy McGrory.

Venues address guide
The Bungalow, 15 Shuttle Street, Paisley PA1 1YD
The Abbey Bar, 8 Lawn Street, Paisley PA1 1HA
The Anchor Bar, 23 Gauze Street, Paisley PA1 1ES
The Patter Bar, 66 Old Sneddon Street, Paisley PA3 2AP
CCs – Callum’s Cavern, 66 Old Sneddon Street, Paisley PA3 2AP
The Gantry, 12 New Street, Paisley PA1 1XY
Burger and Keg Open Night,15B Gilmour Street, Paisley PA1 1DD
Manhattan’s, 51 Causeyside Street, Paisley PA1 1YN
The Tea Gardens, 69 Causeyside Street, Paisley PA1 1YT
RocknRolla’s, 5 Wellmeadow Street, Paisley PA1 2EF