YOU know a city’s changing when its moves and rhythms suddenly surprise you.

So I’m standing at the start of Finnieston in Glasgow, on the split between Argyle Street and St Vincent Street, with a dangerously bulging Tesco bag of messages. Mild drizzle, looming headache, imminent trudge to upper-level station: Tuesday early evening at its most spectacular.

In front of me, three black cabs swish to the pavement, almost choreographed. From the doors – perfume and cologne first – emerge some leading citizens of Glasvegas.

They go from hipster to potential hip-replacement, yet all of them are togged out and ready to spend. Their brollies flick and blossom, and off they sway towards the bright lights of nether Finnieston.

I’m heading in the other direction. And I don’t have a hat on.

But what I have witnessed is an example of what happens to a place when it’s in the early stages of “gentrification”. It’s an essentially negative term. The dictionary definition is “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas, often displacing poorer residents”.

Much to explore in that definition. Is this happening to Finnieston? Recently described by the Sunday Times as the “hippest area in Britain”, the signs are ominous. On a more clement day, I recently walked the half-mile strip that deposits you eventually at the Kelvingrove Gallery.

Nowadays, the proliferation of gastropubs, restaurants and coffeeshops is almost preposterous. There are obvious economic drivers for all this conspicuous consumption. It’s not just the massive draw of audiences to the Hydro, looking for pre- or post-gig refreshment – but also thousands from the BBC and STV media centres, all swarming over the Clyde bridges.

However, there’s a phrase which the artist Grayson Perry used in one of his Reith Lectures – that “artists are the shock troops of gentrification” – which is ringing in my head. What Perry meant is that when artists and bohemians move into rundown areas looking for spaces and homes, a rise in property values eventually follows.

If that is happening in Finnieston, strictly speaking I might have been part of that. Yet the story beneath the crude headline is always more interesting.

Between the late 2000s and the early 2010s, my brother and I recorded a few Hue And Cry albums in Finnieston – actually in the kitchen of his rented flat there (digital tech makes any place a studio these days).

As I wandered up from Charing Cross station month after month, it became obvious that there was more going on in this stretch of Argyle Street – certainly more than mere retail for tenement dwellers.

The first indicator was a shop called Piece – modern Scots for sandwich, of course, but not quite “Fags and Mags” either. With Kurt Elling and the Neville Brothers in my headphones, the indie kids behind the counter whipped up a New York pastrami special on rye (magnificent, it must be said) for me and Greg’s lunch. It kept the fantasy going all the way to the recording booth.

A wander across the road one day, espying a green hand-painted sign, fetched me up in a record shop called Volcanic Tongue: all the most extreme and avant-garde musicians I’d ever known about in one tiny room. Founded by the music writer David Keenan, it’s now sadly closed, but its location (the Hidden Lane) flourishes as a creative hub.

When me and my brother’s labours were complete, he’d occasionally take me down to The 78 – a jazz bar which ostentatiously only played 78rpm records. But it also holds the annual JazzMas big-band evening, gathering together the city’s awesome talent for a semi-drunken, fully-virtuosic bash. On those nights, you wouldn’t know in what Western cosmopolis you stood. (You were, in fact, on Kelvinhaugh Street).

And yet, as my brother often attests, for all those bohemian eddies of time and space (and I could mention scores more), a mixed community hung together in Finnieston. Asian shopkeepers were sentinels of local news (and warning systems for trouble). Neighbours chapped on elderly neighbours’ doors, wondering where they’d been the last few days. In the chemists below, purchasers of baby wetwipes rubbed along with those bearing methadone scripts.

We’ve all moved out of Finnieston now – its energies were a bit alarming when Greg’s wee one came along. He’s moved to a calmer place (and we have a dedicated studio further west).

But on reflection, even before all the big driving forces set themselves in place, the so-called “creative classes” were making a beeline for this area.

And the truth was, these tiny explosions of quirky taste and sensibility made me unreasonably happy. The romance of a city – even one you know so well as Glasgow – is that it’s a warren of possibilities: there’s enough people, with enough intensity and curiosity, to comprise an audience for anything. And there’s enough chancers and dreamers, scampering around the foustier parts, to go and get them.

Can this go horribly wrong?

Of course. I spend a bit of time in London’s Shoreditch area these days, ancestral home of the bearded hipster. It’s so obvious that all its ostentatious muralling, public art and niche retail bathes in the afterglow of the city’s massive circulations of wealth.

This is where many areas of New York and Brooklyn ended up – the “loft living” pioneered by artists and small creative businesses, ending up as some of the world’s most expensive residencies.

This was often a conscious urban strategy. One such strategist was Richard Florida, the author of The Rise of the Creative Class. He has a new book out – The New Urban Crisis – which is to some extent a mea culpa on his earlier work.

Florida’s mantra was that cities thrived if they attracted “creatives” – and they did so by encouraging “technology, talent and tolerance” (the last T implying liberal attitudes to sexuality, ethnicity and avant-garde activities).

However, in the last few days, Florida’s been fielding flak on his turn-around. He’s confessed that he didn’t realise what the consequences of his model would be: that creative classes would steadily displace historically poorer classes from their own neighbourhoods.

In the new book, Florida’s current prescriptions for truly “creative” city living wouldn’t look out of place on an SNP or Corbyn manifesto. Better public infrastructure to help people live densely in cities; stronger intervention to ensure service jobs bring in higher wages; ambitious targets for much cheaper forms of residence.

This is traditional social-democratic stuff – and it’s pretty far from saying to mayors and municipalities, “make yourself a honeypot for whim-laden capital and talent of all kinds”.

I guess my own dream is for “creatives” in towns and cities in Scotland to arise from a much wider social base than can be seen in London, New York or wherever. No tuition fees for students is certainly a start (and the return of grants could also help further).

But take the trendy policy idea of the day – Universal Basic Income. Most plans for UBI rest on the following justifications: they’ll be paid for by higher taxes on holders of extreme wealth; and they’re intended to cushion the disruptions of job-replacing technology.

But rarely is the argument made for UBI that it might provide a higher floor to support social and cultural flourishing. UBI could enable many more to live more bohemian, amateur and purpose-driven lives.

Lives that are currently available to those with an accumulation of middle-class assets, whether financial, cultural or educational.

Shouldn’t it be our aspiration that more people pursue unalienated, self-fulfilling existences? It would be a real shame if we started to pile all the frustrations about our rotten work-life balance – or our poor distributions of wealth – on the frail shoulders of the demonised “hipster” or “creative”.

When I think of Finnieston, from my own memories, I think of a rich stew of striving humanity, poetically threaded between a mighty river and a mighty parkland. A street that has artistically inspired me.

Cities are places of experiment. So let’s experiment with policies and infrastructures that could support people’s pursuit of their taste and sensibility – not just as a crazy Tuesday night out, but something woven into their communal and civic lives.

Life before death, I say.

Richard Florida’s The New Urban Crisis is out now, published by OneWorld (£20)