Celtic connections has been another great way to start the year and ward off the bleak, damp January weather. A coarse, frank but ever articulate Aidan Moffat warmed up for R M Hubbert at the packed out Mitchell Theatre, a venue which is obviously dated but ageing very well due to some decent joinery. Despite spotting some youngsters and starting with a warning of hard language, the parents of the 11 year old in front of us had to do some fairly constant ear-covering as Aidan Moffat crescendo'd his Glasgow tales with a very filthy tongue indeed. R M Hubbert? Not my cup of tea but a man obviously loved by many and a very talented guitarist indeed. His harsh language was at massive odds with the delicate quartet who joined with him as well Emma Pollock (Ex-Delgados) who was the cream of the gig with a voice from another world. I was sorry though to miss the Moffat / Hubbert duet which came at the end. Such is the pain of a broken collarbone in a confined space!
The festival took us next to the Tron theatre, a great venue to see Alastair Roberts who was opened by an unknown Georgia Ruth - a tiny Welsh harpist with a slight frame, delicate voice and wonderful tales evoking the welsh country side. She and her band were outstanding. As for the main event? Again - not my cup of tea. Hats off for attempting / forging a career on complex tunes but for me it was strained. Unfortunately, and I bear this in mind, a cold had gotten the better of his voice which was as strained as the unrhythmic music, both stumbling over each other. It wasn't the best introduction but his version of Flower of Northumberland kept us cheery (Me an ma fleur) and the Tron is a great wee venue for live music.
The heavy Scottish Laments of Roberts along with almost no spark or group dynamic was blown out the water the next night by the Legendary Bobby Womack. KABOOM! When I was growing up he was already having a second career with his missus. I've since seen him in his third career with Gorillaz in Amsterdam. Having survived drug addiction, cancer and now working through Alzheimers, he certainly has not lost his voice, style or smoothness. A man may need help getting out on stage but he's wearing red leather from head to toe for crying out loud! He's on stage for a good while and rouses the all seated audience up to dance and "shake for money maker". Can he get a witness? Fuck yeah! It was a bit emotional when he headed off - the man was tired and needed shepherding but he'd had fun and we'd fully enjoyed the ride.
Lau were a few days later and at the city halls - a wonderful, mid sized venue compared to the cavernous but superb acoustics of the royal concert hall we'd been previously. I'd seen Aidan O'Rourke before with his own band but was excited to witness the innocent sounding voice of Kris Drever and digital (and analogue) sound antics of Martin Green on Accordian (and other stuff). It was a nicely paced concert to finish off our festival with the typically downtrodden laments mixed in with some electronic sounds, a string quartet and some faster paced ceilidh music. Bravo Lau, Bobby, Emma and Georgia!
Posted by stupot at 02:19 PM Sunday 2 Feb
We'd never been over to Eigg and despite being quite at home on the Mallaig line I had no idea what awaited us on Eigg - how open or cliffy it was in reality. What mystical beasts lived there. There was a few obvious AWAY GAME friends on the train and at Arisaig more gathered from cars to stow inside the wee Sheerwater vessel that Captain Ronnie would use to take us to our new (temporary) society. Moods were good, expectant, happy to meet all these new interesting people. We nibbled sunflower seeds on the boat and the sun baked us as we drew closer to the island. The nationalities were becoming obvious - it was predominately a Celtic mix of Scots, Welsh and French - the latter being the suave ones with the good skin, cool shades and tartan blankets.
The Housemartins were my first fascination as far as bands go. I don't think I was overly aware of their socialist / communist opinions when I started listening to them but the lyrics gradually grew on me for their poitical message as much as the music had with the catchy tunes. Record and cassette sleeves were gleaned for information and the NME was fine-tooth-combed for any further reading on their exploits. I followed Beats international (marginally), the Beautiful South and Fat boy slim a bit as well as keeping up with news of ex-members' activity: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Whitaker
It is Paul Heaton though, the voice and writer of the Housemartins, where my appreciation lies the most and so it was with immense excitement that I learnt he was doing a tour by bike around local pubs. It was about 15 years ago when I last saw him with the Beautiful south - at the Barrowlands - and I was tipped off by a man I have not seen win as many years. Ali, an old school friend with whom I shared many interests as a teenager, let me know 'Heato' was playing his local in Pitlochry and so we hatched a plan to meet up, catch up and go see the man.
It has been a week of events and I thank Celtic connections for brightening up January in an otherwise dark part of the world. At the Roots Manuva gig last week I came across an acquaintance who had a spare ticket for Bonnie Prince BIlly at the Fruitmarket which would prove to be a much better gig - mainly judged on the energy levels of the main performer. Unfortunately Rodney gave the impression he was having a bad day - or rather, had had a good night, the night before. Domino man Wil Oldham (AKA Bonnie Prince Billy) had the venue in his hands on Sunday night with an incredible vocal performance with fantastic sound quality perhaps aided by the acoustic qualities of the largely bearded crowd.
On the Saturday between I had the enviable task of visiting Glasgow Rangers Football Club, world renowned for its friendly welcome: especially to Celtic, Aberdeen and Hibernian (the latter being the favoured team of my nephew who I escorted). Despite the drudge of Scottish Football, its' terraces are brimming with creative patter. As well as horrific tribalism and hatred. Due to Rangers' current disagreement with Her Majesty's Revenue and Custom Officers, the away fans were coming up with gems such as "Harry Redknapp does your taxes", "Revenue, Revenue... Inland Revenu-e" to the tune of 'let's get physical' and, financial mess aside, the inspired "you live in a shite hole, we live in the capital" (I started questioning my loyalty to my newly adopted team at this point). Rangers new signing Mervan Celik came on to much hilarity at the Govan West stand but the home fans had the last laugh with a 4 -0 final result. We left, glad for the prospect of a walk to warm us up, and me disguised in red, white and blue. Which was totally coincidental.
Posted by stupot at 04:50 PM Tuesday 31 Jan
I managed to delete the photo's from my phone and the drawing never got finished (I was enjoying myself with friends, give me a break) so there is no image to accompany this post. The gig, though, was one of the best: 24 hours after the Mercury music prize had been given to Polly Harvey for her Let England Shake album (which I enjoyed in part but got thrown off the studio dock), wee Kenny was back in Scotland for a good old ho down at the Grand ole Opry.
We had a pint next door as the queue retreated - only to find another one inside, formed by committee members, to ensure a civilised experience at the bar. It was slow and odd but we managed to get out of it as the support act were finishing behind us. We viewed the great plains of Arizona, painted all around us as the main attraction came out (John Hopkins and King Creosote). It started slowly but beautifully with some great tunes from Diamond Mine before lapsing into some older pieces (accompanied by more fence collective) - occasionally sung in harmony with a loud, unstable and relentless drunk in the audience - not a lot of fun but the King was disparaging if polite which had a calming effect. This was added to by a communal shooshing which calmed things down. A seagull and seal impression were thrown in for good measure. Finishing with Sinead O'Connor's nothing compares to you was a stroke of genius which Laura was fast to guess. The next long queue - to get signed records - was well worth it. All hail the king.
Posted by stupot at 09:43 PM Tuesday 20 Sep
What a week of gigs it was. Little Dragon's appearance at King Tuts, inexplicably, was not sold out (describing my affection for their music). Live, her voice was as deep and as high and clear and sweet as you would hope for. It was good to also witness the band who didn't perform when we saw her duo with Damon Albarn in Amsterdam. Her clunky moves were even pretty endearing (this is sounding more and more like a man smitten - I'll stop soon). I managed to throw in a "whitbraw" - a complimentary phrase in Swedish, taught to me in Spain by a man from Carluke - after song two. "Ah someone speaks Swedish" She said. I ventured on, with the confidence that beer gives you, to compliment in Japanese after the next song - "Subarashii". I was going to progress through languages as the concert continued but it seemed futile and immature - I decided to just lap up the music and cheer like everyone else.
Yellowman's audience were much older - the dance-hall legend from Jamaica who has survived throat cancer has a face that tells that tale. In his mid fifties he jumps around the stage like someone half his age. Near-death experiences must shape you into a much more lively person I've no doubt. The crowd loved his infectious voice, charisma and moves - and especially the call throughout the evening - "Hello Scattish - How are you?". It must have been said 30 times and only increased in popularity as the evening wore on. There was an hour between support act and the main thing - a good amount of time to catch up with some familiar faces. Yellowman played for almost two hours, by the end shaking hands with most of the audience who were approaching the stage opened eyed and smiling like he was a deity. And he was pretty divine, it has to be said.
Posted by stupot at 07:13 AM Wednesday 18 May
Saturday saw the start of summer with a lie on the beach at North Berwick, the FA cup final in a pub and back to Leith for tea after an ale outside in the setting sun. I stood outside at one point and from a small gathering in some of the new flats, the tranquil 'Sunshine on Leith' by the proclaimers could be heard. I do not hide my admiration for the Proclaimers which is possibly the East Lothian side of me making itself known. Throw the R away has always been my favourite Proclaimers song - and these two different versions, 20 years apart show what fame and riders can do to you. There's the ziggy-stardust version and the who-ate-all-the-pies version. Funny that now the general consensus would not be that in the recent version they look flabby, but that in the earlier version they look malnurished.
Posted by stupot at 12:54 PM Wednesday 19 May
Posted by stupot at 02:24 PM Tuesday 11 May
There are somethings in life, I now realise, that aren't going away. I always used to think, for example, that my infatuation with the Housemartins (the first band I independently got into and fourth best band in Hull) would wane if not entirely dry up, just as was the fate of the band. The memories go back to not only playing the cassette on my walkman on the way to York on our school trip in primary seven, but indeed to when I first heard the band on radio, driving back from a barbeque with my dad's work circa 1985.
I've now realised that as much as I have time for the current bands in my life like Midlake, Fleet foxes and even a bit of Kanye West (I like to pronounce his name Kayne and have people correct me) I still find myself getting excited about finding a Housemartins vinyl in a charity shop: in the past week I have found Caravan of Love 12" in Help the Aged in Peebles followed by London 0 Hull 4 LP in Oxfam, Stockbridge. Quite a week for me as my affair with the band who taught me to button my shirt to the top and wear white socks regardless of trouser length, continues.
Posted by stupot at 12:31 PM Sunday 21 Mar
It was on the news last night - reports confirmed Britain is officially 'chanking'.
Edinburgh, and Britain in general, is experiencing a cold snap which the Daily Telegraph said would "freeze the nipples off Satan". Even headlines are affected - "Water bills frozen" said the Mail yesterday. Of course the media circus is loving it, whipping up fury and pointing fingers at this week's scape goats - council workers. Reports are full of words like treacherous, battling, nightmare, arctic. And that's just the BBC. It's a media madness - News programs have actually got something to talk about that people understand, have a view on and doesn't get boring (like Israel / Iran / Afghanistan). Since communication became instant we have developed into needing immediate solutions for all life's questions - we seem to have lost the ability to understand patience and common sense. Why won't the snow just leave us alone?
Posted by stupot at 08:53 PM Tuesday 15 Dec
Four years ago in south Osaka, and whilst searching for something else, I stumbled upon the tunes of Ballboy. They were to do with nothing in my life at the time but came to be integral in the music I'd listen to whilst heading into the mountains over to Wakayama on the bike. I knew nothing about the band, and despite the powers of Mr and Mrs Google, decided to leave it that way. A luxury these days, to not let the internet influence you one way or the other. I could tell they were Scottish but didn't know if they were new or old, if they still produced records, toured, what.
My Kinky Afro T-shirt came through the post the other week - much to my delight. Great memories of the Sub club in the nineties. Cheers Matt!
Posted by stupot at 05:57 PM Saturday 14 Nov
The buses in Edinburgh are pretty good. There's a decent amount of them and you know when the next one is coming. 60 years ago there used to be a problem with men in bowler hats and pipes playing 78's on old gramophones - the space they took up, not to mention the poor sound quality and racket. 30 years ago the 'Boom-Box' and 'Walkman' became equally annoying disturbances on a quiet journey and, with the advent of ear-plug headphones, I thought the syndrome of leaky music was over.
Continue reading "Modern Etiquette #164 - bleeding ears"
Posted by stupot at 04:59 PM Thursday 5 Nov
I was treated to two incredible gigs this week - The Unthanks from Northumberland and Julie Fowlis from the Hebrides. I was pretty sceptical about the Unthanks - I listened to a bit of their music and wasn't bold over. The gig was quite different - a sold out voodoo rooms saw beautifully sung songs with the complementary voices of the sisters. Quite a few sad tunes but also some fun ones - and always with good stories in between. The clog dancing was a bonus! They also seemed to be getting over the fact they were actually appearing on Jools Holland in 24 hours. The pregnant and Gaelic speaking Julie Fowlis was equally incredible - a great repetoire, on occasion with Phil 'are you pregnant too?' Cunningham. The seated Queens Hall with it's presbyterian interior and demographic didn't endear but the music washed that away - again with fantastic stories and light hearted banter between band members. It's the difference between most gigs I go to where you get a grunt or a 'cheers', if anything, between songs. More bands should consider a sprinkling of personality.
Posted by stupot at 11:41 AM Wednesday 28 Oct
Worth a download from here.
Posted by stupot at 01:17 PM Thursday 10 Sep
.....was incredible last week at the Playhouse. A slow start, it soon picked up and the all-seated crowd was up and dancing in the aisles. All in white and with well-coreographed-with-a-hint-of-improvisation in the dancing department it was a joy to watch. The band's set-up had a feel of stop making sense with monochrome clothes and the drum, percussion and keyboard risers to the rear. Backing singers were right on, even joining in with a bit of dance and the whole Brian Eno related theme made for a great set list from Talking heads classics to My life in the Bush of Ghosts to Everything that happens will happen today. Some shots from the gig here, the new album, the old wireless and his bicycle diaries.
Posted by stupot at 11:28 AM Monday 17 Aug
The Fringe is immense - with hundreds of comedy, theatre, dance and music venues all over Edinburgh and I think the Pleasance sums up the Fringe. Usually part of the University - it's a sheltered courtyard busy all day with people gathering to drink, meet and queue for one of the many venues here. Today was blistering hot and sweat dripped from my forehead as I drew. The official Edinburgh Festival starts at the end of this week but the fringe is what it's all about these days.
Posted by stupot at 06:20 PM Monday 10 Aug
This week I'm still listening to some oldie's - a real oldie from Simple Minds in 1979 from their debut album - Chelsea Girl. Another more recent oldie from Midlake which sounds like it could have been on CSN&Y's dejavu - Roscoe.
Posted by stupot at 04:04 PM Tuesday 28 Jul
Edinburgh Castle esplanade becomes an auditorium in Summer - like for about half the year. Until the festival and the Tattoo arrives Crosby, Stills and Nash, Duran Duran and the likes come to play open air to many, invariably wet, fans.
Posted by stupot at 08:23 AM Saturday 25 Jul
It's been a surprisingly lovely start to 2009 thanks to few plans and a couple of good rides on the pusher. The local Ceilidh on Hogmanay, in West Kilbride, was great fun with dancing, pipes and band. And some shortbread and champagne thrown in for good measure. Stumbling around the house at lunch time the next day paid dividends as I found all the missing pieces of my bike jigsaw (pedals, cleats and a new tube) and got out for a ride in beautiful weather up to Largs where the promenade was bustling with people strolling past the recently reopened Nardini's. Friday was a day of sofas and fine food at Mr Macdonalds in Glasgow - his wonderful hospitality was just what the doctor ordered. A few more sofa's were sat on in West Kilbride before arranging an early morning ride up to Loch Thom above Largs. Despite the arctic conditions (digits, ears and faces were numb and the water bottle froze) the views were astounding and the ride finished up with a proper coffee at Nardind's. Woo hoo.
Posted by stupot at 05:49 PM Saturday 3 Jan