Commonwealth Connections: Billy Liar Live, Local, and (just a little) Loud in PA

Billy Liar - Thought Lot

Okay, so here at Team GDW, Canadian artists are our primary focus, but long time readers know that there are always exceptions.  As the British half of the team, the freedom to include artists that originate from my homeland, or any Commonwealth nations, has permitted coverage of Kodaline (Ireland), The Mae Trio (Australia) and Bastille (UK) to grace our pages.  So when presented with the opportunity to see a visiting Scottish musician perform here in our small central PA community, I was naturally curious.

Hailing from Edinburgh, and described as “Scotland’s angriest young man,” Billy Liar brought his highly energetic show to The Thought Lot, the gem of a local music venue here in the heart of Shippensburg, PA, on a rainy November evening.  Armed with just his acoustic guitar, this folk-punk troubadour stood tall on center stage, raring to deliver thirteen highly charged original tunes in rapid progression.  With a passive-aggressive demeanor, and rants about dysfunctional families, politics and a loathing of all things ‘David Hasselhoff,’ Liar demonstrated many similarities to Frank Turner.  And just like his contemporary, Liar shares raw and unmuted sentiments within his compositions and explosive vocals; a modern day poet with attitude, delivered more ‘bar-room brawl’ than ‘recital hall.’

“I’m not from Scotland, Pennsylvania,” expressed Liar, making reference to the irony of performing in a town just a few miles away from Scotland, PA.  “Just to be clear, we are on our ‘Spooky Bullshit’ tour … we’ve been to Salem, the voodoo museum in New Orleans, I love spooky bullshit.”  Trekking across the US in time for Halloween, Liar’s timing for ‘spooky bullshit’ is impeccable.  With an extensive back catalog of EP’s over his well-travelled and established musical career, Liar opened the show with “Some Nights,” a new track from an upcoming full length album scheduled for a release in the New Year.  He would also share another new track, “Noose,” slated for inclusion on this release too.

Getting ready to settle into his politically charged track, “What We’ve Got,” Billy would address the audience.  “I voted for independence for Scotland, we did not get that vote,” he shared. “I was in the UK when we decided to leave the EU … things are politically a little difficult, and this song is about what it is like in the UK right now.”  Stalling after just a few rapid strums of the guitar, Liar would continue, “I played this song in Kalamazoo, and somebody in the crowd asked me if we have houses in Scotland, so this song is for him.”

With his rapid-fire vocal onslaught, witty banter, and keen observations, Billy Liar maintained his frenetic pace for a full hour, pounding away with “Change” and “Take Me Home,” and only easing off the gas just a couple of times to share slower numbers such as “Funeral Food.”  Tales of slugs in beer glasses may never be experienced by the Thought Lot faithful anytime soon, but Billy certainly painted a surreal picture of his life experiences.  Pausing to deliver a punch line about slugs mid track, and the ensuing brief moment needed to reflect and recompose endeared him to the room.  Billy Liar will appeal to fans of Ron Hawkins, Frank Turner and Rob Moir, and on this damp and dreary Friday night, offered the perfect shot of adrenaline for this often sleepy town.

Visit Billy Liar’s website.

Martin Noakes

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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