Sara Bills and the Hasbeens The Market Bar, Saturday 27th January

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Que sera sera at the Market Bar: ‘Not quite’ Sara Bills and the Has Beens


What this night started up and ended up being were very different things.  Apart from the fact that I went to the Market Bar for some live music and a good time, and it delivered.  How this happened though, that’s a different story – a difference meaning that this review is more a testament to the venue and its inhabitants than anything else. 


The potential for a wee dose of live music beckoned, and I perused some of the options for the night.  Not all of them, but scoped it out a bit and had heard that “Sara Bills and the Has Beens” were always worth a crack, and thought I would finally see them after seeing their name pinned up enough over the last wee while.  These aren’t hard and fast stats re research done and advertising/ flyers in doors, etc. assessed, as you might have gleaned already, however a vague ‘let’s finally see these guys’ feel swayed the decision in their favour for this particular Saturday night.


Upon entering I was lucky enough to have some smarter and more connected friends there to both meet and guide me though some obvious if dumb start-up questions.  For e.g., the name “Has Beens” surely is a plural?  Yet there were 2 people up there, one most likely Sara Bills, and the guy sitting on the box drum a very likely candidate to be defined as “Not” Sara Bills.  Yet while he would turn out to be the gel that held together the night which was to come, he was still not in himself enough people to be granted the plural of ‘Has Beens.’

Sara Bills
“Sarah Bills and the Has Beens” (*Plural usage controversial on the night)
“Not” Sara Bills

I was in need of further knowledge, and potentially a grammar nazi.  Fortunately, I had one to hand! 

I turned to good friend and resident grammar nazi – name withheld due to the whole anonymity thing here, and the fact they know a % of Inverness that is comfortably in double-digits.  They mentioned that there is indeed usually 1-2 more of them on stage.  Said friend was also true to form in being keen that the ‘s’ in “Has Beens” in principle only be used to designate the notion of the plural.  One of but many things to like about them.

First question down, I turned my attention to those who remained able to be on-stage.  I hadn’t quite heard a female voice that reminded me so much of Tom Waits in a fair while – I’ve seen Camille O’Sullivan a couple of times, maybe her.  She does do Tom Waits covers admirably.  To digress for three sentences more, this isn’t a Waits song that she’s covering here (Jacques Brel), but one she covers well.  One that’s been covered by the likes of Edith Piaf, Ute Lemper, David Bowie, the Dresden Dolls and John Denver, to scratch just the surface.  Any song that can be covered by this array of people in a variety of languages has to have something going for it. 

However, as I say, I digress…


I thought the voice was either a unique angle for them, or a bad, bad cold.  The wincing way she was obviously hurting through any part of any song that required her to project louder, I started leaning to the ‘has severe cold/ in much pain/ being a trooper’ theory.  I turned to handily placed knowledge reservoir Fremsley to ask whether I was onto something, to be answered in the affirmative.

Unfortunately after a only a few more songs where the stress on the voice was becoming demonstrably harder and harder on the singer.  For the sake of here, let’s just assume it was Sara Bills, hey?  Again like above not with scientific certainty, but rather playing the odds on this one.


So at this stage of the night we have a crowd of revellers who seem more than keen to live up to that moniker.  We have music booked until 12.30 but it’s probably shy of 11.30.  We have a situation to be managed.

Solution = connections. 

In its own ‘Market Bar’ style, the solution lay inherent in the talent known to be wandering around in the audience.  All of which are given a photograph here.  They weren’t introduced upon coming up to fill in as they could, so this is by way of homage and thanks and recognition to them here. 

We as audience received an array of covers coming in a great many styles.  Ones I could state confidently and to highlight the diversity offered up were songs by Dropkick Murphys, The Beatles, Pink Floyd, Del Amitri, RadioHead, Polar Bears in Purgatory (thanks to Fremsley for picking up on that one!) out of many more songs and genres.  There were ones to sing along to, to dance along to, to grin and nod along to.  To switch back the neck to huddle together to confirm suspicions of songs and bands to.


All of which is a long-winded way to wind you towards a conclusion about the night. 

It was set up for Sara Bills and the Has Beens, and they pulled out all the stops, but in the end the weight of germs dragged their admirable efforts down.  From what I heard though I still want to see them again.


Beyond that, the night became a testament to the nature of the venue.  There were enough known people around with skill and goodwill who were happy to step up to the plate and help out.  The mood became supportive.  Festive.  The hippy-leaning part of me might even throw out the word ‘communal.’ 
By allowing itself to be something it wasn’t meant to be, it folded back to something it was meant to be – a good night out in a great wee fucking pub.  Musicians helping out other musicians, with the crowd being the beneficiaries of trusting another night to the Market Bar.  If you wanted polish, you would have wandered, but then again you probably wouldn’t by rights be in the Market anyway.  If you wanted heart, however, it was the night and the place for it.


Sara Bills and the Has Beens will be playing again, and hopefully there’s a chance for me to see them – for you too, and for the thing to be reviewed here by The Nettle.  Hopefully they’ll all be there and fighting fit, and that review will give you a chance to assess them and what they do. 

My intent for the night was to do just that, but in the end, the random circumstance and chaos of the night was harnessed into that described above.  The crowd rolled with it and was rewarded with a good night in a good venue.  Can’t be upset with that.