Page last updated at 16:34 GMT, Friday, 19 February 2010

Birthday Bash: Long live Glasgow's king of rock

King Tut's Wah Wah Hut

By Laura Pettigrew
Lanarkshire reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Voted the UK's best music venue three years in a row by Radio 1 listeners, King Tut's Wah Wah Hut celebrates 20 years at the forefront of the Scottish music scene this month.

But what makes such an unassuming, fairly average, and often cramped and sweaty basement pub in Glasgow's St Vincent Street such a firm favourite with a generation of fans, artists and the music press alike?

King Tut's was opened in February 1990 by DF Concerts founder Stuart Clumpass who borrowed the name from a New York club and aimed to provide a place where up and coming and established bands alike could showcase their talent seven nights a week.

There are too many great moments from King Tut's 20 year history to mention
Dave McGeachan
Promoter, King Tut's

"Playing King Tut's is like a rite of passage for many bands," said Radio 1 presenter Vic Galloway, who has been a regular punter and occasional performer at the venue over the past 20 years.

"I've watched household names such as Snow Patrol and Biffy Clyro play crucial gigs on their way to stardom.

"I've also seen thousands of not-so-lucky bands play on its hallowed stage, some of whom could have been just as successful in a different world. Them's the breaks I suppose!"

The venue was most famously a rite of passage for a little-known Manchester outfit who turned up uninvited and bagged a last-minute spot on the bill on an evening in May 1993.

Evan Dando at King Tut's
Evan Dando from the Lemonheads played at King Tuts in 2001

They were Oasis and that gig in front of a crowd of less than 100 resulted in a record deal and gave King Tut's an important place in rock and roll history.

But the famous Mancunian siblings sit among a long list of musicians who cut their rock teeth at Tut's.

Others include Blur, Travis, the Charlatans, and Idlewild, while Radiohead and The Killers first played in a support slot before returning to headline, and it hosted the first Scottish shows for Crowded House and The Strokes.

"There are too many great moments from King Tut's 20 year history to mention," said the venue's promoter, Dave McGeachan.

"My personal favourite was when the late, great Joe Strummer played in 1999.

"It was one of those magical nights. I could never have imagined standing at the side of the stage in Tut's, watching my hero play all the legendary and iconic Clash songs that I grew up with."

New talent

The Manic Street Preachers dedicated a song to King Tut's during their headline set at T in the Park in 1999 for being "the first venue to treat us properly and give us hot food on tour".

Returning for a special birthday bash gig on Thursday night, the band's bass player Nicky Wire said: "I just remember having an amazing burger and chips.

"We didn't have much money at that point and everyone at the venue made us feel so welcome.

"It was a magical night and one of the first times we really felt like a proper band."

The anniversary celebrations have also included a sell-out show by local lad Paolo Nutini, who was more than happy to return to his old stomping ground.

King Tut's stage
The "hallowed stage" at King Tut's has been a launch pad for many artists

But putting the big names aside, much of the venue's success is due to its unwavering dedication to grass roots talent.

"It's a great feeling being exposed to a fairly large amount of people who haven't heard your music before, and playing to win the headline act's crowd over, " said Darren McCaughey from rap-rock Lanarkshire five-piece The LaFontaines.

The band were lucky enough to play their first ever gig in a support slot at King Tut's in 2008, and since then have returned on four other occasions, most recently joining in the birthday celebrations as support for Twin Atlantic.

"Tut's has such a status surrounding it that back when we started, telling people that our first gig was in there really made them pay attention to us as a band," said bassist Anna Smith.

She added: "It's a great venue. It's intimate, but there is an atmosphere about it that many other places lack. People always seem to get really into it."

La Fontaines at King Tut's
The La Fontaines played their first ever gig at King Tut's

And these days King Tut's is more than just a place to perform for up and coming bands like The LaFontaines.

"As the venue is run and owned by DF concerts, who book T in the Park and are Scotland's biggest live promoters, it can be good to get on their radar by appearing there, " said Vic Galloway.

"Nowadays King Tut's also has it owns tent at T in the Park, its own lager, a record label and a music-networking site called Your Sound.

"All in all it is a happening place on many levels."

So with so much going for it King Tut's seems likely to continue to play a key role in Scotland's thriving music scene, and according to Dave McGeachan, that is no small part due to the dedicated team behind the venue.

He said: "All the people connected with Tut's - be it the gig rep, bar manager, bar staff, or sound engineer - all love music and have a real passion for what they do, and I think that comes across."

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