Some Of The Best Bands I Saw While Touring With Arab Strap 1996-2006

Aidan Moffat is one-half of seminal indie-rock band Arab Strap. In a guest blog for TicketWeb, he picks some of his favouite bands he’s seen whilst on tour between 1996 and 2006. Enjoy!


We were touring the US supporting Bright Eyes in the early 2000s, and I’d been reading about Devendra Banhart on the bus. When we got to Tucson, I found out he was playing in the gig room of the Hotel Congress, where we were staying. Our venue was across the street, so we managed to slip over and see him play. There was hardly anyone except Arab Strap there, and Devendra was sitting cross-legged on a table, just him and a guitar. It was the first time I’d heard him, and I really loved it – it was gentle, lovely and slightly sinister at once, and I bought two copies of his album.


Malcolm and I played a festival in Antwerp around 2003 as an acoustic two-piece in this lovely big red theatre. The gig was great, but while we played a huge blizzard managed to cut off all travel and our flights home were cancelled. The festival took us back and put us up, but they also asked that we play again on the second night because the band that were scheduled had been trapped in an airport somewhere. Anyway, the good news was that Low were playing on that second night in the same gorgeous theatre we were, so I sat down in a plush velvet seat while a blizzard raged outside and watched Low play their always beautiful set. That was probably the best I’ve seen them, although their last record was one of their finest yet.


Vampillia are a band from Osaka and supported us there on our last Japanese tour in 2006. The set was terrifying and excellent. They’d play very quiet traditional-sounding Japanese music which would then explode into the deathest of metal, all the while dressed in scary masks and performing some kind of play that we couldn’t understand. I think they might still be going in some form, they’ve got a Bandcamp page now and everything.


We were offered a festival date in Istanbul when a band had dropped out at the last minute because of a recent terrorist attack on the British Embassy, but we were feeling bold and accepted. There was only one stage with four acts, and it was the oddest line-up ever: the billing order was John Cale, Arab Strap, Chumbawamba, then Dizzee Rascal. This was when Dizzee’s first album was out, and Fix Up Look Sharp was all over the place. Brilliant night, although I’m sad to say John Cale didn’t come down to the hotel bar for the karaoke.


I’m not much of a Dylan fan; I’m very much a part-time supporter. But we’d been listening to his late-70s album, Street Legal, on a recent US tour, and something about that record really clicked with me, so when I had an opportunity to go and see him at a big European festival (I can’t remember which one, sorry) I thought I’d try it. I’m not sure if it was the performance or the audience or the booze that made the gig as exciting as it was, but the atmosphere was amazing.


We first met Jason Molina in his Songs: Ohia guise in the late 90s on a US tour. I was feeling pretty low; it was our first time travelling so far away and I was really homesick. But when Jason – and Geof Comings on drums – joined the tour, my spirits picked up, which I suppose is quite odd when you consider the plaintive, heartbroken sound that Jason made. I loved it, though, and we asked them to tour with us in the UK the next year. We’d cross paths loads of times again over the years, and I always kept up with his records. Jason had such a beautiful voice, and it’s a real shame we won’t hear it again.

Arab Strap play the following shows this October

13 – Electric Brixton, London [SOLD-OUT]
14 – O2 Ritz Manchester [TICKETS]
15 – Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow [SOLD-OUT]
16 – Barrowland Ballroom, Glasgow [TICKETS]

On the 30th Sept, Arab Strap will be releasing a double album of ‘secret hits and rarities’ to celebrate their 20th anniversary. Pre-order your copy now HERE


Share post