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.