Monday, 19 September 2011

What's the difference?

Hmm.  Having wondered about the legality of Grooveshark, and found (thanks Norm!) that it's interpretation of legality is somewhat "interesting", I am now wondering something else.

In what way does this differ from allowing people to upload all sorts of music to Youtube?  Does that material get taken down, and if so, does it get replaced immediately?  Or, is it just that no-one wants to get into a legal wrangle with Google, with all their not-insubstantial resources at their disposal?  Hmm again.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Songs About Sex

So, there I was, cheerfully listening to a bit of Ian Dury on the wonder-how's-it-even-legal Grooveshark.  The song "Wake Up and Make Love With Me" hit me with it's sublime blend of funky rhythms twinned with a very British sense of humour.  I'd heard it before, but I'd forgotten how good it was. "Is this the best song ever about sex?" I wondered.

Most songs about sex, you basically don't want to know about.  An exception may be Marvin Gaye's "Sexual Healing", and possibly a few others that I can't think of right now.  I seem to recall reading somewhere that The Jesus & Mary Chain wrote songs about sex, but to me they all seem to be about drugs, or at a push, possibly drugs and motorbikes.

Have there been any songs written by the musical elite of Edinburgh that may fit the bill?  Not that I can recall right at this moment.

There's a challenge, along with "Write a happy song".  Write a song about sex that doesn't revolt all and sundry, and you'll be doing well.

Thursday, 1 September 2011


I'm afraid that the Edinburgh Festival appears to have largely passed me by.  Which is quite a feat, given that it's the largest arts festival in the world, and I live pretty centrally.  I didn't shun it on purpose in a curmudgeonly manner, I just didn't get round to doing much about it.  And now, it's gone.  Arg.

Still, one thing I went to see was somehow officially part of it, and that was the excellent gig for The National at the Corn Exchange, along with my sister, Mr Cakes, and L.  I'd enjoyed them very much at The Astoria in London about 3 years ago, but I was taken aback by how much they'd grown in confidence since then, and, if I may use that Spinal Tap-esque phrase "Stagecraft".  They just looked a whole lot more comfortable being there.

The National

The puzzle remains though.  A band with introspective, melancholic songs with no immediately obvious hook-laden choruses, and whose members are older and less good-looking than a lot of other bands.  Despite this, they filled the Corn Exchange, and seem to have only grown in popularity.  My straw-poll of gazing around the audience seemed to show an extremely varied bunch, so it's not just your thin and pale indy kids either.

One wonders what the secret is.  Persistence counts for a lot, and possibly, not "giving in" and making an obviously commercial record.  I think people respect that, to a certain extent.  I think they're great, long may they continue.

Monday, 15 August 2011

Pirates at The Listening Room

Compering at the Blue Blazer last night, I heard one of the best song intros I've heard in a while:
I asked my friend what he thought of my new song.  He said, "You mean the one about the Pirates and the ship of gold?  I thought it was great, yeah".  I said, "Ah, cheers.  It's actually about the perils of working in the banking sector, but thanks anyway".

A somewhat rumbustious Blazer was countered with loud singing by all concerned.  Hurrah!

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

En Paris

Pop In, Paris, France
I went with Fuzzystar to Paris to play a gig last week.  Yep, I said Paris.  Cool, n'est-ce pas?

Actually, getting there and back on grot-bandits Ryan Air wasn't quite so cool, but never mind.  The gig was fun, and Florence, who ran the Pop In (mercifully utterly unlike the watering hole of that name that once existed in Portobello) was very welcoming.  She was even apologetic that she couldn't pay us anything.  Imagine!  At most venues in Britain, that's taken as read, and no-one even mentions it.

She did however, mention that the beer was free for us . . . sometime later, word had travelled around all the band . . . the upshot was that we estimated that we drank somewhere north of 300 Euros' worth of the rather nice "Pop" brand lager that they were selling.  So, in a way, we did get paid, and rather more than for the equivalent British gig.  Despite being thus improbably oiled (or possibly because), I thought the band played rather well.

That just left the onerous task of hanging out in Montmartre, eating fancy cakes, and patronising various swish cafes to fill in the remaining days.  Somehow, we managed it.

What Florence was saying about the music scene in Paris was all too familiar though.  Not enough decent venues, neighbours complaining at the slightest thing, and basically a real struggle to keep the Pop-In venue going.

So, to help Florence, if you're in Paris, why don't you . . .  no, I won't.  Too obvious.

Monday, 18 July 2011

At The Festival

 One doesn't want to be too cynical.  It's fun, yes, and you can see stuff that would not normally come within an infinity of bargepoles' of Edinburgh  Hopefully you can afford some of it.  The Festival (aka The Fringe), that is.

So, all good so far.  Where I differ from some shiny-eyed optimists, is whether there is anything to be gained from doing much in the performing of one's music in Edinburgh during the hullaballoo of the Festival.

My experiences have thus far suggested "no, not especially".  True, it's possible you may get a slightly larger audience in some places.  But, often that audience just wants to hear "traditional" music (i.e. something not too challenging in the Folk idiom).  And, sometimes, very few people may come to your night at all. 

When you think about it, the population in Edinburgh roughly doubles during the Festival; it apparently rises to around 1 million bozos.  However, the entertainment on offer goes up by a factor more like a zillion.  And competing with the promotional power of say, the Chinese State Circus, or the latest cool comedian is always going to be hard

Which isn't to say, don't do it.  I've had some good times over the years doing some music, playing at The Ross Bandstand will always be a cherished memory, for example.  But, that's the exception, not the rule.  If you do decide to put on/perform music, just be aware that there's a lot of competition, and to do it for fun rather than expecting to be whisked up in a swirl of media attention and glory.

Saturday, 9 July 2011


So, there I was Bozoing around in London last weekend.  I had a slightly "larger" (if I may use that term without sounding like a Radio 1 dance DJ twat) night than I think either George or I expected on Thursday, but was certainly fun.  That left me somewhat tired for the Flaming Lips gig at Alexandra Palace on the Friday, where they played their album The Soft Bulletin in it's entirety.

The Lips undoubtedly played well, their stage show was good, with visuals, balloons, people dressed up as characters from The Wizard of Oz on stage, a man-sized hamster ball, and what-not.  Somehow though, I felt slightly disconnected from the whole thing.  I started wondering if I really do like seeing bands in very large venues.  There's either a massive crush down the front, or you can stand at the back and be constantly brushed by people going to and from the loo.  A draught can usually be felt, and there's always some arses talking constantly throughout the whole thing. And the sound is often not especially good.

I came to the conclusion that I don't think I want to go to many more large-scale gigs, no matter who it is.  I just don't think that live music is meant to be conveyed to masses of people who are so far away that they can barely see who's on the stage.  Give me a packed, sweaty, smaller room.  Which, to be fair, is what I think most bands prefer too, but the sheer logistics of touring mean that you need to get the numbers through the door if you want to make any money at all.

This Sunday, at The Listening Room, it is Ms Fi as the featured act, and I will be doing some percussion for her.  Looking forward to it!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Insanely good

I've been wondering, for the last week or so, if people who are really good - and I mean really good, at their instrument, are actually in some way insane.  Wouldn't normal people baulk at the thought of all those hours of practice every goddamn day?  Wouldn't they, you know, get bored??  Isn't being obsessed with something to that degree a bit odd?  

The only slight hole in this theory is that it doesn't appear to be borne out by reality, but I'm working on that.

And, if you're wondering if I'm using this to justify not practising, then I say "Be quiet oaf!  You know not of which you speak".

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Still going

My recent bout of despondency has shifted, due to playing two more gigs with The Storm in two days, at the Leith Festival and at OOTB.  Nothing like a bit o' live action to cheer one.  The Leith Festival one in particular I enjoyed, it being with Matt Norris and The Moon, and Caro Bridges and The River, bands I like very much.  I was idly thinking that a "Geographical forces and objects-themed" (or something) tour with those guys would be fun.

I think The Storm's sounding more together these days, starting to blend as a unit.  When playing percussion, one inevitably notices timing more, and possibly, when one is playing a melodic instrument or singing, timing can sometimes take a back seat to melody.  Which can be fine, as long as everyone else understands, and does the same thing.  If not . . . then the results are there for all to hear.  Subtle differences in people's appreciations of timing need to become aligned.  It's called "getting tight".   Which isn't a reference to mythical Scots parsimony (which I have never found to be true, incidentally).

So, the gig carousel cavorts and wheels, and turns it's gaudy splendour to the slightly stranger one on Saturday, where we appear to be supporting a wind band.  Usually at these affairs, lilac-rinsed septuagenarians form the mainstay of the audience, so I will be curious as to the reaction.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

When it goes well

Had a cracking gig with The Storm down at Fondoo on Saturday night there.  It's held in the Eastgate Theatre in Peebles, and it's a well run night, run by a very pleasant man called Ken.

The sound system and sound person are good, the audience are appreciative and attentive, and Ken ensures that only good quality acts play on the bill.  On Saturday, it was Paul Gilbody, us, Augustalia, and Hoochie Fig.  There was a dressing room, and a rider.  Heady stuff.

On top of all that, Ken very kindly purchased Peter and I a beer afterwards.  I left with a warm glow, which wasn't entirely due to my enthusiastic consumption of the rider and Ken's gifted Peroni.

Maybe we should leave Edinburgh more often.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Different hats

I don't know about you, but I'm starting to tire somewhat of certain parts of the media trumpeting that "it's never been a better time to be a musician".  The basis for this argument is that the means of production and distribution of music has now become reasonably affordable. This then, has liberated musicians from the evil shackles of the music biz, and our hero/heroine rides off into the sunset, reaping adulation and rewards as they go.

As has been noted by other commentators and myself previously, it doesn't really work like that, mainly due to the lack of a large enough PR machine on the side of the muso. 

The other difficulty is that just because you can record at home in your bedroom, doesn't mean you've done that very well.  To do that, you'll need to invest some time researching recording techniques, reading up on microphones and their placement, recording software, buying mics, mixers, and sundry other bits of equipment.  So, along with musician, add the hats of recording engineer, producer, and studio manager, acoustic engineer, whatever.

 Then, once you have your digital files, you might want people to actually hear them.  So, maybe make a CD?  Add the hats of graphic designer/photographer.  Or just download them?  Wouldn't it be a nice if we had a website?  Add the hat of web designer, and optionally, if you want people to actually find the website, the hat of SEO Bozo.  (Search Engine Optimisation).

Ooh, and what about all that fancy "social media" stuff?  Let's do that too!  Add another hat.

So, all of that stuff can be rewarding at times, and often downright frustrating at others.  But the point is that the modern musician, if they want people to hear their music, must engage with all of this in some way.  And, it all takes time and energy.

And, ultimately, that means less time for doing music. 

Sunday, 29 May 2011

A north Wynd doth blow

I really want to go to see North Wynd at the Blazer tonight, but I fear that may be prevented by a stinking cold that has reared it's ugly head. Which would be a shame, as in my estimation Johnny Pugh is one of the better musicians in Edinburgh.  The fellow has a knack for creating something special when he performs live.

I saw finally saw Norm's Invisible Helpers at the Pleasance on Friday there, although sadly without Big Jim on keys, or the Warr guitar.  It was still a good set though, I particularly enjoyed the reworkings of "Till I Found You", and the turning of "Nicole" into a late-70's Chic-style disco floor-filler.  There were belly-dancers earlier in the evening too, which was surprisingly impressive and enjoyable. 

What I liked about that evening was the variety of fare on offer.  Some like to have their musical evenings themed;  I say bollocks to that.  The more variety, the better.

Monday, 23 May 2011

What's the point-ism

I have been assailed once again, by the dark dogs of What's-the-Point-ism.  I think it happens pretty regularly to any Edinburgh-based musician.  Despite some people saying some very nice things about one's music, it usually adds up to only a handful of people, and one yearns for a chance to reach a wider audience.  And, in that attempt, most people will simply ignore you.

A dark dog of What's the Point-ism
Which, as Matthew from Song By Toad would say, you shouldn't take personally.  Which is good advice, but not so easy to do when it's your stuff that's being ignored.

One is reminded of a story told me by Kat Flint, related by the musicians in the Cara Dillon band (whom she toured with).  They apparently said that if they were in a strange town/city and were bored, they would go to music nights and pretend they were A & R men from some big record label, just as a jolly jape.  They said Edinburgh was the only place where no-one ever believed them.

Pfft.  Going to band practice, hopefully that will shift this mood.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Do you copy?

Bozos In Sp-a-a-a-c-e!
Music, that is. Some people act as if all music is now free.  Some make a stand, and pay for all their music.  Most people I suspect, fall somewhat awkwardly in-between.

I say awkwardly, as I think most people probably wouldn't copy the CD of a relatively unknown local artist.  Like say, Sam Barber, or Lipsync For A Lullaby.  They know that buying that CD means a lot to that band.  And, it's a way of showing that they like the music enough to give it a try at home, in addition to going to the band's gigs.  In addition, that is, to getting drunk to that particular  soundtrack, and chatting with acquaintances, which isn't too onerous.  Plus, the band may actually appreciate the money, to offset, if even in a small way, the costs of making the shiny platter.

So far, so good.  I also suspect most people wouldn't be too worried if a friend lobbed them a copy of something horrifically successful in the past, but which they hadn't got around to listening to yet.  For me, that would be something like say, Crosby, Stills and Nash.  I'm basically never going to buy it, but I'm mildly curious about them, having heard a few of their songs.  And, as far as I understand it, they don't exactly need the revenue from CD sales/downloads in order to live.  Plus, don't the record company and manufacturers/distributors get most of that anyway? (NB I have no idea, but it's a commonly held belief).

The difficulty lies in that grey area in the middle.  At what point does an artist become successful enough to not worry about the impact a copy here or there makes?  Can we even judge that?  The surviving Beatles, one would have assumed, must be coining it in from their back catalogue.  But then you realise that they were fleeced back in the day, and their songwriting rights sold on, to now lie with the estate of a Mr M Jackson.

There's also the situation when, a few years ago, two different friends each gave me an unasked for copy of an album they thought I may like.  Those two albums have resulted, over the subsequent years, in my purchasing of quite a few of those bands' albums, not to mention T-shirts and gig tickets.  One could argue that it generated sales and profit, by that most cost-effective and cheapest method, word of mouth.

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Edinburgh Unplugged

So, there I was, bozoing away at Edinburgh Unplugged last night, despite the fact that I really couldn't remember who was on the bill.  Why the hell was I going then?  As I knew I could trust Calum Carlyle to not put on shit, that's why.  Same way that I can trust Jimbers at Secret CD's.  

Anyhoo, I thoroughly enjoyed myself.  Man Gone Missing turned out to be Simon Kempston playing solo in a somewhat more bluesy vein than I'd been accustomed to of late.  I thought that his voice was sounding rather good.  Maturing like a fine wine, and all that.  The guitar sounded nice, but I couldn't help thinking that I expected it to be louder, it being a metallic resonator and all.  Some typically fine guitar playing though, which I enjoyed very much.  Some fine chat too - opening remark, "I'm Simon, I'm from Dundee, and I play the delta blues - The Tay delta, that is".

Colin Milne is a true original, an older gentleman who makes and plays his own guitars (a classical, in this case).  Not only that, he plays some rather beautiful, creative and heartfelt songs, all dashed with a sense of humour and pathos.  "Eye Candy" was a hilarious and unexpected opening song, and showed the man's sheer nerve.  Although you'd never describe Colin as a strong singer, there were a couple of occasions which damn near brought a tear to my eye, a sentiment which was echoed by the girl sitting next to me.

The Forget-Me-Nots
 The Forget-Me-Nots sounded like they'd be a crap indie band who were a friend of The Pastels back in the day, but instead they turned out to be an all-girl acapella barbershop quartet.  Now, I don't know if I'd ever choose to listen to that at home, but on the night it proved damned entertaining, the girls really acting out the songs with great movement and expressions, and with very strong voices and interesting arrangements too.  It had the potential to be awful; instead it was GREAT.  I believe they're playing in the Festival.  You heard it hear first, folks.

That left the last band with a tricky act to follow.  Happily, Conscious Route rose to the challenge, playing a storming hip hop set, complete with some great female backing vocals from Hannah Werdmuller, and another vocalist.  Some great audience participation going on, the MC encouraging us to clap and wave hands, etc.  I liked the lyrics too.  I left feeling energised and with a smile on my face.  In fact, I got a CD for free, which is damned nice of them, I shall have to fish it out of my jacket and give it a spin.

So, all of the above conspired to keep the Bozo out past his usual time of retiring.  No matter.  He went to work tired and slightly drunk, and was none the worse for it.

Sunday, 8 May 2011

A bit of a sesh

So, yours truly, El Bozotron, was playing at Secret CD's on Wednesday there, with The Storm, along with three other bands, all of whom were of the usual high quality.  Paul Gladwell has interesting lyrics, and an extremely good cellist in Sebastian, who added an extra dimension to the usual vox/guitar combo.  I think normally he has a whole band, but it was just the two of them on Wed.  The Beggar Girls are an extremely skilled bunch, whose blend of Balkan/English/French folk is a classy act.  One cannot fail to be charmed by them and their music, unless you were in an extremely grumpy mood to start off with.  In which case, you shouldn't have gone out that evening.  On a separate note, it's nice to see some older women playing music, something which is surprisingly rare.
The Beggar Girls

Adam Holmes was a name I hadn't heard before, but his star appears to be in the ascendant, and one can see why.  Personable and comfortable on stage, melodic without being overly challenging, and with a top notch band, one can understand why he was a nominee at the Radio 2 National Folk Awards.  Possibly an Edinburgh version of Paulo Nuttini

For some weird reason, even though the Storm played well, all the band felt a tad flat afterwards, but no-one could quite explain why.  Once could point to the lack of a good monitor sound on-stage, but that's par for the course at pretty much any gig, and by all accounts it sounded good out front.  It's possibly a case of post-launch comedown, the next few gigs probably won't be able to match that for audience interest/reaction.

Secret CD's has to be one of the best regular music nights in town, for an extremely reasonable £3. Hat's off to ol' Hairy Legs (James Igoe to you) for bothering his arse and actually doing it.

I also went to a folk session at The Canon's Gait last night, ably overseen by Frank Burkitt.  I'd also gone last Saturday too, as a way of practising more percussion ahead of Wednesday's gig.  I came to the conclusion that I like folk-tinged things, but I'm not especially keen on straight folk music.  I feel the same way about country music, and, to a lesser extent, about jazz music.  Blues music is the exception to this, I don't mind listening to pretty much any Blues, like Howlin' Wolf.  Shake it like a willow tree!

Sunday, 1 May 2011

At the Wee Red

 . . . Bar, that is.  The one in the Art college.  I was there on Tuesday night, to see Fuzzystar, The Oates Field and Golden Grrrls.  Mainly to see Fuzzystar, if the truth be told, but I was interested in the others.  I'd seen Alan Oates solo a few times, and always enjoyed his stuff, without being completely bowled over by it.  Anyone who can play a keyboard with a beater between their toes whilst singing and playing the guitar deserves some respect, I feel.

Before Fuzzystar opened the proceedings though, I couldn't help reflecting that many shows around the town succeed despite the qualities of the venue in question, not because of them.

Take the Wee Red:  There's usually absolutely nothing outside to suggest there's a gig on that night, or that it is even a venue of any description.   Often there's daylight coming in (Daylight?!! With Rock n roll??!! Yuck!) from the doorway (if it's open), and a bit of outside noise coming in from the corridor.  If the door is shut, then every time someone comes in they have to walk in front of most of the audience to look for a seat (and letting in more daylight, arrg), and it's somewhat distracting from the band.  There's no stage, the performers are on the same floor as the audience.  The sound can often be pretty terrible.  The bar doesn't sell any nice beer, and the toilets stink.  The miserable wretch known as the music-lover tolerates all this, Ladies and Gentlemen, in order to occasionally catch a fleeting glimpse of beauty through the medium of music.
Fuzzystar as a four-piece (no Malcom in this photo)

Happily though, on Tuesday, the sound wasn't terrible, it was actually quite good.  And, the beer wasn't horribly overpriced (like it was at London's Brixton Academy, where two drinks cost £11.25.  But anyway).  And I should stress that I'm not blaming the promoters The Gentle Invasion for any of the above.  They have honoured their end of the bargain by selecting quality acts and publicising the event.  And they're nice people too.

So, given all the above, I was pleasantly surprised when Fuzzystar, who were playing as a duo, played an entrancing set.  Malcolm Benzie was being Mr Multi-instrumentalist, swapping an electric guitar for a ukelele, then for a violin, plus doing backing vocals.  You could hear Andy Thomson's fine lyrics clearly, and the whole thing was melodic, varied and interesting.

Then on to the "power trio" The Oates Field.  I didn't really know what to expect, but it became apparent that if Alan's solo stuff is his Dr Jekyll, then this band is his Mr Hyde.  The guy let rip into one of the most rocking sets I've seen in a long time, dancing on guitar effects, and bellowed and screamed into the mike as if his life depended upon it.  Truly exhilarating and great.  At one point he switched to singing through a vocoder, but instead of using it generate an icy cool, a la Air or Kraftwerk, he repeatedly screamed "Come on!", which made it sound like a demented robot, which was brilliant. 

The 3-piece Golden Grrrls initially disappointed me by not being all girls (one's a boy), and not particularly golden.  In fact, one had dark hair and one had light brown.  Putting that to one side, one could admire their chutzpah for dispensing with a bass, and for their spiky, jaunty lead lines played on a Telecaster.  Reminded me at times a fair bit of the late Edinburgh band The Shop Assistants, in the general unabashed nature of their Indie sound.  As I said to Andy, one could imagine it going down well in a student union.

Monday, 25 April 2011

The Ghost of Electricity howls in the back room of the Blazer

It being a nice sunny day here in Edinburgh yesterday, I decided to fix the busted spoke on my road bike, and go for a spin to Peebles and back.  On the way home through the Moorfoot hills, my mind wandered on to the topic of bicycles in music.  I started considering how many references to cars there are in popular music, but how few to the bicycle.  I can't think of too many at all. 

 There's Queen's Bicycle Race I guess, which I'm not even sure I like.  There's The Smith's haunting Back To The Old House, ("When you cycled by/Here began all my dreams"), and there's Mungo Jerry's Pushbike Song.  And . . . er . . . er, I can't think of any more.  And none of them actually celebrate or venerate the bicycle like a lot of car-based songs do.  Maybe that is a songwriting challenge, to write a song that does just that.

I saw the Electric Ghosts last night at the jolly old Blazer, and enjoyed them as much as ever.  Disarmingly simple-sounding country-tinged songs, but with a good sense of melody and effective, hook-laden lyrics.  I shall have to try and catch the full-on band at some point, on the basis of the acoustic shows I've seen, it should be enjoyable.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

But does it work with just a guitar?

I was rather looking forward to hearing the astronomically-and-quantum-physically-themed Sam Barber And The Outcasts play at the Wee Red Bar tonight.  Sadly though, I got a text last night from their guitarist, the estimable Ms Fi, to say that it had been canned, for somewhat obscure reasons.

A shame, as Sam's arrangements are good, and for me, the songs tend to suit the whole band setting, even though some of them can also work as solo acoustic numbers.

For some purists, that is a definition of a good song;  can it work as a song with just one acoustic guitar?  For me, that theory is a stinking, heaving mass of sweaty pig's knackers.

For a start, it totally ignores any tonal qualities of a song.  Would "Satisfaction" by The Rolling Stones sound good played on a beat up old acoustic?  i.e. without that rasping, echoing guitar?  The "one acoustic" theory also ignores any arrangement ideas. Wouldn't Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire" be a tad tame without that horn section?  To attempt to replicate Bowie's "Space Oddity" on an acoustic would be somewhat empty, without the band, not to mention the iconic stylophone noises.

Anyway, I think Sam's got a good handle on all of that, so it was a shame not to experience it.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

An album launch

So, I was playing with the band at Lindsay and the Storm's album launch on Sunday there, at the Voodoo Rooms.  It was rather crowded and busy, at one point it got so hot and sweaty that it made me feel all funny, and I had to leave the room to get some air.  Strangely though, once I was on stage, I felt fine, even though sweat was dropping off the end of my nose.  Mercifully, they turned on the air con about halfway through the set, so we didn't melt.

Anyhoo, it was a great night, rather stonking sets from James Whyte who was in full cry, and sounding brilliant, and also a sublime set from Caro Bridges and the River, who were also fearsomely good.  I'd never heard jazz banjo, or a piece of paper used as a percussion instrument previously either.  I wonder if that's why I was sweating so much, as I knew we had to follow them.  Hmm.  Anyway, everyone seemed to have a good time, and all the cake got eaten, so it was fun.

Edinburgh-based French film-maker Julien Pearly was filming it too, so at some point there may be footage of the night.

So, the CD has been "launched", and the vessel is, as we speak, bobbing around on the uncertain seas of the independent music ocean, subjected to passing currents and drifts.  Who knows where it will end up?

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

The trouble with reviews (part 1 of 56)

I had a good night down at the jolly ol' Blazer of Blueness on Sunday, seeing Obi-Norm-Kenobi playing a splendid rare solo acoustic set.  Good to hear some new material there too.  I re-worked a superb Jill Hepburn song called "Moon On My Mind", to a more bluesy bent, which seemed to go down quite well.  The more I listen to Jill's album "Snowflake", the better the songs seem to me, a subtlety in the lyrics suddenly reveals itself, or a melody gets lodged in the brain.

Which brings to me to an idea.  When reviews of albums/singles are done, I'd imagine that in the main, they are done after one or two listens, due to time constraints on the poor overworked journo doing it.  Perhaps for a major release, a selected few favoured acolytes may receive copies early, and they may listen to it a bit more.

But, usually I don't listen to music like that.  I quite often listen to something two, maybe three times, then for some reason don't play it again for a while.  Then, I'll listen again, and if I don't really like it, that'll likely be the end of it.  If I do like it though, I'll probably carry on listening to it for months.  Recent examples (as well as the Jill Hepburn platter mentioned above) might be the I Am Kloot opus "Sky At Night", The National's "High Violet", and Edinburgh-based troubadour Calum Carlyle's "Another Side of Calum Carlyle".  Perhaps my subconscious is processing the musical information.

It's probably not practicable, but what would be interesting is if somehow the reviewer could do another review say, six months down the line.  Does the record still hold any interest for them, what songs started to grate, what has emerged as a classic, etc.  The only problem with that is that it would take up time/space from new music, which wouldn't be good.

Usually, it's music than I'm not terribly sure I even like on first listen, that I end up loving.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Primal Scream

So, there I was in London at the weekend, down to see Andy BHT, and to hear his band Fuzzystar play at The Wilmington prior to his relocation back to Auld Reekie.  It was another very good night at the Wilmington, and I thought that the 'star had certainly tightened up, to rather dramatic and compelling effect.  The melodies, lyrics and what-not was always good, but now there was also precision and power.  Impressive.  I had their songs in my head for days after.

I also, somewhat randomly found myself at Primal Scream's gig of their influential "Screamadelica" album at Brixton Academy.  I'd been offered a spare ticket the night before, so I thought "What the hey, I like that album", and went.  I was glad I did, as it was certainly a fun night, although I thought at times that the sound churned around the Academy like old socks in a washing machine.  Bobby G has matured into a surprisingly effective frontman, roaming around the stage and exhorting us to sing along like a man possessed.  Mani on bass acted like a man absolutely petrified, gulping huge amounts of air and staring around him like he was seeing demons.  If it was an act, it was brilliantly played.

 As I was down the front, I was damn near within touching distance, slightly perturbing to see someone famous that close up, if truth be told.  One suddenly realises that they are an actual, live, human being.  I'm sure our eyes locked a few times.  Disconcerting.

But, what I was thinking was, is it a good thing for so many people to be so keen on an album you did 20 or so years ago?  In some ways of course it is, as it shows that album has withstood the cruel brillo pad of time, which erodes so much once shiny music.  Not many can lay claim to that.  But, I'd imagine that most artists would rather that people got most excited about their latest work, whatever that is.

Who knows though?  He probably enjoyed himself anyway, so good luck to him and the rest of the Primals.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

The Listening Room

Who DIDN'T notice the guitar in this logo?
I was hosting at The Listening Room on Sunday just gone, the main act being Confushian.  I was somewhat concerned beforehand that the place might be stuffed with noisy bozos watching some sort of sport on the screens, but thankfully the place was very quiet when I got there.

Which, you might think, would be a bad thing.  Not if you're running an unamplified acoustic night, it isn't.  And then, the list quickly filled up with lots of good musicians, and the room also had some interested non-musicians too.

It would have to be said that the quality on display in the open mic section of the evening (8-9 pm) would have been enough to have made any main act tremble in their boots.  Matt Norris, Caro Bridges, Roger Emmerson, Lindsay Sugden, Julien Pearly, Sir Tom Watton, Gavin . . .  all on top form and sounding great.

So, it was just as well for all of us that Confushian are made of sterner stuff than the loose blancmange which passes for our resolve.  They put in a truly stunning performance, I was particularly impressed by Fraser's new skill of playing the saxophone.  If someone had said he'd been playing it for 20 years, I'd have believed them.  John "Fingers" Farrell's guitar playing was as flawless as ever, no mean feat for someone whose main instrument is bass (for the awesome Townhouse).

So, one of those special nights, when the magic dust has been sprinled liberally around.  Not one for hyperbole, Roger murmered "What a wonderful evening" as he departed.  I couldn't agree more.

Thursday, 17 March 2011

When the cat's away . . .

Both my flat-mates having gone out for the evening, I seized the opportunity to inexpertly bellow some songs in my room, and attempt to play the harmonica.  I should probably be able to practice like that when they're in, but I can't.  And the trouble is, they aren't both out at the same time very often.

I think it must be something to do with singing being more personal than playing an instrument.  I know of plenty of other musicians who feel the same, and wait until the coast is clear before letting rip.  And sometimes you do need to practice singing loud, like when you're due to host the Listening Room at the Blue Blazer on Sunday for the excellent Confushian.  As I am.  I'm really looking forward to it, actually.

Photoshop has stopped this now
Topic Change.  The name "Justin Bieber" has been another word for opprobrium and distaste for many.  In fact, I first became aware of him when my son expressed his extreme dislike for him.  I'm not still sure that I've ever heard his music, although I do somehow know, without wishing to, that he likes Cheryl Cole and has had his hair cut.

I was thinking, it's not so very different from when Donny Osmond was around.  Same target demographic, same artless child/man mercilessly exploited by all and sundry, who will probably end up in rehab someday (although I hope not).  All that's really changed these days is that the Internet allows people to vent their feelings for or against these figures.

I thought the Internet was going to change music and make it somehow more democratic? (cue hollow laughter turning into maniacal . . . - that's enough now - Ed)

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Secret CD's, gigs

So, another fortnight, another batch of gigs.  First up was the Secret CD's night.  When it was held in the Phoenix Bar on Broughton Street, it often had so many people attending, that they couldn't all physically get in.  Not too surprising, given the small capacity of that place, and the fact there were usually four bands on the bill.  I suggested to ol' Hairy Legs (aka James Igoe) on a few occasions that he move to a larger venue, given there was clearly a demand for his well-run night.

Thankfully, that has now happened, and the Speakeasy in the Voodoo Rooms is an excellent choice.  First on the bill was Hannah Werdmuller, someone I had never heard before.  I would say she was competent without being startling, ploughing a furrow that (to me) others had ploughed before.  The audience seemed to like it though.

Next was the Dull Fud's, who impressed me with their peformance, their energy, and their presence onstage.  Nothing remotely dull there.  It was very enjoyable, but George and I wondered if the live experience could make the transition to CD.  Again though, the crowd were thoroughly entertained.

Iona Marshall was next, I think promoting a new CD.  I've heard Iona over the years, and it's never been quite my bag, something about the music doesn't engage or interest me.  I seemed to be in the minority in the room on that though, so I held my tongue.

Lipsync For A Lullaby closed the evening, and their music does interest me.  The band started life with a conventional line-up (bass, guitar drums kinda thing), but have now moved to a string quartet kind of arrangement, with Atzi singing and playing cello.  It's certainly original, and at times, very dramatic.  It's more in the way of following the classical tradition than the "stick strings on an existing pop song" approach.  As a result, there aren't many discernible choruses, or tunes you can hum, but it's pretty compelling nevertheless.

On Tue night, The Storm played at OOTB, the first time I'd even been to their new venue of the Montague Bar.  As it's horse shoe-shaped, it doesn't immediately suggest itself as a natural place for live music, as about half the bar can't see the stage, although they can still hear the music.  Somehow though, that didn't seem to matter.  We played OK, although as I reflected later, often in a noisy bar, the finer nuances of a performance can be lost, and you end up just battering the percussion like a demented ape.  Ol' Hairy Legs was the featured artist, and very enjoyable it was too, good to hear the man play his own material for once.

And then, on Wednesday, it was Calum Carlyle hosting another music night, but this time his "Edinburgh Unplugged" at the Royal Oak.  Good to hear Townhouse and Graeme Mearns acoustically, and also the two acts I'd not heard before, The Wild Myrtles and Eilidh Steel and Mark Neal.  And, for £2, it's rather good value.  Plus, the beer isn' too expensive ;)

Whew, now I'm knackered, and just want to stay in for a night or two.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Norm-ing, Storm-ing, Performing

I've recently unleashed the Lindsay and the Storm website onto an unsuspecting world.  What the great unwashed may make of it is hard to say; I found a useful quote whilst studying Human-Computer interactions at University, which went something like:

It's almost impossible to predict how a first-time user will behave.

It's very true.  Recently, I went to use Google Analytics, after not bothering my arse with it for a couple of years, so naturally the site had changed in that time.  I spent quite a long while looking at the screen and clicking on stuff, wondering how to access the blasted things.  Finally I realised there was a large blue button marked "Access Analytics", which seems so obvious now, but the first time round, for some reason, I didn't notice it.

So, if anyone wishes to say what their first (or subsequent, for that matter), impression of the above site are, then be my guest, and thanks! 

I almost rang the Norm up the other day for a chat about music and what-not.  I didn't, but then I mentioned my good intention to him, at Tommy's stag do.  He looked rather startled by the notion.  "Do people ring each other for chats anymore?"  I wondered, feeling suddenly very, very old.

In other news, The Storm played with Miyagi at the Greenmantle pub on Nicolson Street on Friday.  It was good to play live again, but we were plagued by feedback problems, and discovered afterwards that all of Peter's violin playing had been completely inaudible.  Miyagi were good, at their best when slightly quirky and off-kilter, I thought.  I wasn't so keen myself on the more country-tinged numbers that seem to have crept in to their set.  Still, it all beats watching the telly of a Friday night.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Two fine CD's

Last year, I bought two CD's down at the Blazer of Blueness, for £2 and £3 each.  They're both very good, and have completely blown a hole in my theory that just guitar and voice can't hold your attention sufficiently over the length of an album.  So, that's that theory then.

The CD's are:

Another Side Of Calum Carlyle by Calum Carlyle


Words and Tunes
by Caro Bridges

Calum's CD is great, full of dark sentiments, as rich and bitter as a 70% cocoa bar of chocolate, but just as satisfying.  If you want bile, Calum's got a bucketload on this, but it sure does sound good.  The stand out track for me is "Where Do We Go From Here?", which conveys brilliantly a mood of edgy, nervous uncertainty at what (I presume) is the end of a relationship for the song's protagonist.  My only minor gripe is the cover photo is out of focus, and slightly dull.  A tad presumptuous of me, but maybe Calum would like this photo instead?

Caro's CD appears more pleasant on the surface, but peer beneath the reflections of this delightful pool, and something is stirring in the water . . .  Like on the deceptively lulling "Let You Down" (my favourite track), it rolls on along amiably enough until suddenly a vaguely discordant note is played, and then it appears all is not well in that particular world either.  There's a lightness of touch about some of the sunnier moments which make it the perfect compliment to the aforementioned platter.  Why not get them both?

I listened to them both a fair bit last year when I spent a weekend being ill, and mainly lying in bed.  A weekend, mark you, and annoyingly, I was OK for work on the Monday.

However, it did give me time to listen with my whole attention to these two fine CD's, something which I'm afraid I rarely do nowadays.  I suspect in common with most people, music tends to be put on while I do something else.  Maybe I only listened to music that 100% way when I was younger.  Or, maybe I've now got more stuff to do in my life, I dunno.

At any rate, it was an interesting and rewarding experience, as I lay there with a high temperature.  I'd heartily recommend you seek these out.   And, even occasionally consider listening whilst doing nothing else.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

The loneliness of the long-distance musician

The other day The Storm played at Celtic Connections, which was the third time I'd played on the Danny Kyle open stage (once with the dazzling Norman Lamont & The Innocents).   The DK open stage is a great thing, in my opinion, as it gives bands a chance to play with a decent PA and sound crew, to 230-odd people who are pretty much all listening to your music.  To a non-musician, that probably doesn't sound much, but to those of us who plough this lonely furrow, it means a lot.

So, it was fun, and we enjoyed most of the other acts who performed too, one of which I'm hoping to tempt to the Listening Room at some point.  So . . . surely I must have mentioned all this fun and enjoyment to my work colleagues, as I had to take a half day?

Well, no, I didn't.  I can't be arsed explaining anymore to people at work why I do it, how very little financial reward there is, etc.  For most people, it seems perplexing, or possibly a chance for some not-especially good "jokes" at your expense.  So, I didn't bother.  Then I wondered if I should have, so I enquired of the Doc if she'd mentioned it to the people at her work.

"Er . . . no", she said.  That confirmed my reticence.

This is not me

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Been listening to any good music recently?

This is a question one is sometimes asked.  Increasingly, I find my mind going blank when it is posed; I may mumble something about The National's latest disc, or I Am Kloot's understated album.  Then, I usually realise why.  "And, I've been listening to some really good music by local artists", I say, brightening with relief that I've remembered where all my music listening time has gone of late.

This news is usually greeted by a deep, uncomprehending silence.  People don't know what to say.  Some even look faintly embarrassed, as if I've admitted to something that should be kept private.  I've been wondering why this is.

Part of the reason is that they (unless they too are a struggling local musician) probably haven't heard of any local musicians, so they know that they won't be able to have a conversation.  (We'll put aside for one moment that they could easily say "Oh really?  That sounds  interesting, tell me more about them", or some such.  They don't).

I think that for many, any notion of a "local" band/ musician is a shorthand for a crap band/musician.  Why?  Because they haven't made it, of course!  If they were any good, they would surely be massive by now!  Pointless to argue that the music biz is evidently not, and never has been, a meritocracy.

I wonder if the term "local" can be off-putting?  "Locals" glare at you when you enter "their" bar.  "Local" newspapers are full of non-news and tedious council meetings.  And we know what "local shops" can bring to mind.

Perhaps "undiscovered" might be a better phrase?