Commonwealth Connections: Billy Liar Returns to Central PA

Billy Liar

Following his outstanding show last November at The Thought Lot, our wonderful local live-music venue here in Shippensburg, PA, Edinburgh based singer-songwriter Billy Liar returned to our neighborhood for a repeat performance just last week.  Touring the Eastern US to promote his recently released “Some Legacy” album, this folk-punk troubadour was eager to share his latest music.  Armed once more with just his acoustic guitar (although tales about encounters with knives and guns were shared during this night), Billy would perform seven new album tracks, mixing in a montage of cover tunes that he clearly loves to play.

“It’s great to be back in Shippensburg,” Billy stated in appreciation of his audience.  “I put a record out on June 21st, and it came out on a label based in Chicago called Red Scare.”  Opening with “The Righteous & the Rats,” which he released as the lead single from the album, this not only has a wonderful melody, but pays homage to the traditional protest-songs often associated with the punk genre.  Going at an all-out pace one moment with “I Still Struggle,” or slowing things down with “Independent People,” Billy easily captivated the room all evening.  I recall “Independent People” being performed last year, and welcomed the opportunity to absorb Billy’s bleak political lyrics once more, delivered powerfully and passionately, and accentuated perfectly by some softer, ringing guitar strums.

Sharing tales of his first US tour back in 2013, Billy engaged the room with stories of having to get from state to state for gigs, with no transportation at his disposal, and pleas for rides during his shows.  “I was getting on stage and about three quarters into my set, I’d say ‘does anybody have a free day tomorrow, and a car, because I have a little bit of gas money, and a promise of beer and another punk show?’” he commenced, prior to a performance of “Neither Are You.”  “And that was literally how I did it, and I made a lot of friends that way, but it was stressful.”

Taking a momentary pause from his new album material, Billy constructed a superb melody of popular covers from the punk-rock genre.  Launching into his rendition of The Replacements’ hit, “Bastards of Young,” he would add tunes from The Magnetic Fields, Joe Strummer, and Nothington.  Returning to “Bastards of Young” to round out this medley, the reprise made for a nice touch to direct the music back to his own material; at least after reminiscing on that first US tour once more.  “I was in Gainesville, FL, and I was getting to Orlando, FL, which isn’t that far, but it is when you don’t have a vehicle,” he shared.  “I was playing this place called Uncle Lou’s Entertainment Hall, and I thought it [sounded] fancy. I got a lift there and it took a long time to find Uncle Lou’s, until we hit this sketchy looking block.  There was just a building with a dark door, and I opened it, and this was the sketchiest bar I’ve ever been in.  Top 2 for sketchy bars, for sure.”

With time for just two final songs, Billy performed both “Noose” and “Pills” with no interruptions, ending the show with his frenetic pace, and bidding his audience a good night.  Delivering twelve songs over the course of an hour, Billy easily earned an open invitation to return once more should he be passing through on his next US tour.  Another successful night at The Thought Lot with Billy Liar, who kindly made time to chat after the show and personalize a copy of “Some Legacy” for this vinyl collector.  It was great to see you again, Billy, and best wishes for your remaining tour dates and musical journey.

Set List:

  1. The Righteous & The Rats
  2. Change
  3. Independent People
  4. I Still Struggle
  5. Neither Are You
  6. The View from Here
  7. Bastards of Young (The Replacements Cover)
  8. I Don’t want to get over You (The Magnetic Fields cover)
  9. Coma Girl (Joe Strummer cover)
  10. The Escapist (Nothington cover)
  11. Bastards of Young – Reprise
  12. Noose
  13. Pills
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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