Glasto Lite.


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Having  been unable to get tickets for Glastonbury for a few years now I am about to experience the Catalonian equivalent with a cheeky wee trip to Barcelona for Primavera Sound.

Top of my list of, and possible, just about, ‘to see’ are…

  • Solange
  • Bon Iver
  • Kate Tempest
  • Aphex Twin
  • King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard
  • Sinkane
  • Magnetic Fields (Playing the ED Fest in August)
  • Arab Strap
  • the xx
  • Sleaford Mods
  • Jamie XX
  • Songhoy Blues
  • Van Morrison
  • Metronomy
  • Teenage Fanclub
  • Grace Jones
  • Arcade Fire
  • Wild Beasts
  • Japandroids

Of these my number one pick is King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard.  Check out Gamma Knife, their best song.  They have many best songs.

Super Furry Animals at The Usher Hall Edinburgh: Review


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Usually with bands I prefer their early work before they ‘sell out’.  So this retrospective set of 1996’s Fuzzy Logic and 1997’s Radiator should have got me going.

But, see, I likes their later stuff. 2000’s Myng, 2001’s Rings Around the World and 2003’s Phantom Power.

There was nothing particularly wrong about this rendering of their two debut albums.  Not from the band anyway.

But the sound.  Oh my sweet Lord.

Helen Keller wearing an aqualung could have put on a better performance than this.

Go to your next gig wearing a parka with your hood up, wrap your head in a duvet and then get a dog to piss on it and you’d be getting close to experiencing what went on the Usher Hall last night.

Rubbish. And, consequently, boring.

Another great example of why Edinburgh is crying out for a good mid sized venue (it was only half sold out) because the Usher Hall is putrid for rock and roll.

1 star.

 

The End of an era at Ripping Records. Simply the best.


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Every great music city has a Mecca.

In London it was Rough Trade, in New York it’s Bleeker Street Records.

In Edinburgh it was Ripping Records.

But on Saturday 26th November that Mecca closes for the final time.  John Richardson is retiring.

I was particularly privileged to have an ‘insiders’ relationship with Ripping, because my mate, then sister’s boyfriend and not long after, Brother in Law, was the second Lieutenant, Nik Sutherland.

It was a privilege indeed because it gave me access to quite a few guest list tickets.  Had I have been greedy enough I suppose I could have been out in Edinburgh’s music scene every night of the week but that would have been wrong.  You can only ask for so many favours. (Don’t get my wrong I bought plenty too.)

Every time I popped in, Nik or John would bung me a promo disc saying “you might like this” and back in the record rep days w hen there were thousands of T shirts on the go, I’d often be the recipient of Nik’s cast offs.

I have a few to this day.

It all started for me as a student in the late 1970’s.  In those days John took care of proceedings downstairs and Nik ran the record exchange upstairs.  It was, in a way, the predecessor to e-Bay.  Hundreds of (mainly) punk singles put on display by their owners at their stated “buy now” price for which Ripping took a commission.  I was an avid collector of Stranglers singles and purchased most of them at Ripping and then, when I was at my poorest, ironically when I’d started my first real job, I sold them there at a significant premium.

It was good business.

Ripping was cool, if a little scary.  John and Nik (and Davey) took no shit from anyone (including me) and there were plenty of wee bampots that used to hang around there, so there was always the chance of something kicking off, but it was cool as fuck and I was anything but cool, so it gave me a bit of swagger and second hand street cred, to be associated by marriage.

As my kids grew up they were able to pretty much guarantee themselves T in the Park Tickets and that was great too.

But mostly what I loved about Ripping was that it was just a cultural hang out where you could talk music for hours with John and Nik.  I was always made welcome and could chat round and about the busy comings and goings of the place.

It was, of course, part of its own micro-economy of The Bridges where local traders helped each other out.

One story I loved was when the girl from the shoe shop told Nik and John that she’s had a customer in that morning.  Let’s just say she wasn’t the most sophisticated Fifer in Fife.

She’d come in looking for long lace up boots that had a certain role.

“Huv yae goat any ae thae shaggin’ bits?” was her query.

Of course it was tough.  Always tough.  The other Record Shop in Cockburn Street was cheaper.  HMV muscled in on the ticket scene.  TicketScotland threatened to become a monopoly.  Ripping never had the buying clout to compete and it seemed to me from about 1990 they hardly sold any music.

It was tickets that became its game and slowly but surely an idiosyncratic website emerged that was an Aladdin’s Cave of musical treasure.  I’m sure John will join me in thanking the venues that resolutely refused to cut Ripping out of the musical ecosystem of Edinburgh and allowed them to continue to make a living and be THE place in Scotland to buy your tickets.

The buses to Glasgow (predominatly to Barrowlands in my experience, but most likely that hell hole that was the SECC too) were the stuff of legend.  One night Nik would be on his way to a death metal gig, the next a boy band and sometimes to bands he actually wanted to see.

Thanks John and Nik and Davy.

It was fucking brilliant.

Fore!

One More time with feeling; Review of Nick Cave documentary


Don’t get me wrong I was willing, urging this film to be magnificent.  But will as I did, it isn’t.

In fact it’s like the ultimate home movie utilising the finest cinematographers money can buy (Benoit Debie and Alwin H Kuchler – I suspect one was on 2D duty, one on 3D – I saw it in 2D).

The back story is important here.  The documentary was commissioned to film the making of Cave’s brilliant new album, Skeleton Tree, (I know it’s brilliant because it was played in full on its release 11 hours ago on the BBC 6 Music Mary Anne Hobbs Show).  What nobody predicted was that it would become a film about grief because, as I understand the timing, no sooner had filming started than Cave’s 15 year old son, Arthur, died in a climbing accident.  The chronology of this is not clear in the film’s narrative.

When I read of Arthur’s death I was devastated for Nick Cave (I truly love the man) and so I expected the film to be an emotional roller coaster.

It isn’t.

Instead what we get is a strung out self indulgence piece.  And I don’t mean Nick Cave’s self indulgence, I mean Andrew Dominik’s. (Director of Cave-soundtracked, and awesome, movie The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.)

It is sumptuously photographed and of course the music is stellar but the glue that binds it, the storyline, is fragmented, dull and seemingly endless.  OK, I accept Cave is a private man and he doesn’t want to spill his grief out on camera, his wife too, but when he describes breaking down in the arms of a virtual stranger on the High Street in Brighton we get a glimpse of what he is going through.

But that’s it.

My companion fell asleep several times.  Thanks partly to the heat in The Filmhouse, Edinburgh where we saw this.  Extremely uncomfortable.  Did they not know they had a sell out audience?

I don’t like being negative about a film of this nature but if Dominik had an Executive Producer with a firmer hand we might have seen a more pared down and rewarding experience.

If you want to see Nick Cave at his very best on film watch the far superior 20,000 Days on Earth, directed by Jane Pollard and Iain Forsyth.  It’s magnificent.

 

Simply the best gigs I’ve ever been privileged to attend


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My pal Pete, and I, were discussing our all time favourite gigs after we gushed about Anohni on Wednesday night at the Edinburgh Festival.

He’s a massive James and Rolling Stones fan and said it even beat James.  I was more cautious.  Whilst I gave it a full five star rating and said it was in my all time top ten it’s had me thinking all week.

So with much consideration here are my all time top 20 favourite gigs.  Each in different ways was a five star performance.

In no particular order, because that’s too hard.

The Clash.  Edinburgh Playhouse. (Combat Rock tour)

Sufjan Stevens. Edinburgh Playhouse. (Carrie and Low tour Edinburgh International Festival – simply the best sound I have ever heard)

Anonhi. Edinburgh Playhouse. (Edinburgh Festival, this week)

Siouxsie and The Banshees. Edinburgh Playhouse. (around the time of Israel)

Kraftwerk. Edinburgh PLayhouse (front Row.  Computer Love Tour)

Kraftwerk.  King Tuts Stage (T in the Park – 3D tour)

Bill Nelson. The Nite Club (Upstairs from Edinburgh Playhouse)

Faust.  The Citrus Club (original one in Edinburgh Grassmarket (set fire to the stage with Petrol)

Simple Minds (supported by Positive Noise).  Tiffany’s, Glasgow.

Simple Minds.  Barrowlands Ballroom, Glasgow.( 5 x 4 Tour)

Chic. West Holts Dance Stage (Glastonbury)

Massive Attack. The Other Stage (Glastonbury)

Nic Cave and the Bad Seeds. The Pyramid Stage (Glastonbury)

John Grant. The Park Stage (Glastonbury)

Savages.  Williams Green Stage (Glastonbury)

Melody Gardot.  Voodoo Rooms

Emma Pollock. Voodoo Rooms

Laurie Anderson.  Queens Hall (possibly the O Superman tour, certainly around that time)

King Creosote performing From Scotland with Love at  The Hub Edinburgh (Edinburgh Festival)

Frank Sinatra.  Ibrox Park (Glasgow 1999 headline spot).  I’ll never forget him say that “I never thought I’d hear every single member of an Ibrox crowd cheer a Catholic”

One major point to note.  Only one single stadium gig.  The last one.

Some of the greatest were in the smallest venues; Pollock, Gardot, Bill Nelson, Faust.

Who did I never see that I wished I had?  Magazine, Buzzcocks, Sex Pistols, Steely Dan, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Talking Heads, David Bowie, Belle and Sebastian, Cocteau Twins, Can, Velvet Underground.

 

Hinterland by NVA review


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Tonight I was privileged to be in attendance at the opening event in Scotland’s Festival of Architecture.

Hinterland is a site-specific piece to end all site-specific pieces in that the site is essentially the star of the show.

It’s a 50 year old modernist Catholic seminary (St Peter’s) in the Kilmahew Estate in Cardross near Helenburgh – not the most accessible of venues and a 7 hour round trip to gain access to the totally sold out proceedings.

But it was worth every minute of the journey because this is a spectacular ruin despite its youth.

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It’s widely regarded as a modernist building of global significance and yet only had a life span of 13 years before being abandoned in the wake of the falling off of seminarian numbers and possibly the fact that it was an intolerable living place in the winter.

In the following 37 years the elements (and a succession of extremely talented graffiti artists) have both ravaged and enhanced its brutal concrete beauty.

What remains is an almost wholly concrete bunker with a rain filled chapel filling the centre of the space with all four sides open totally exposed to Scotland’s weather.

We were treated to NVA’s conceptual piece that was built around a massive thurible swinging majestically in the rain sodden chapel spewing out incense, whilst a trumpet player and The St Salvators Chapel Choir from the University of St Andrews emoted a beautiful, sacred music inspired, tonal piece by composer Rory Boyle. This was complemented by a spectacular, but nonetheless subtle, interior and exterior lighting show.

The combination of canvas, sound and light was a unique and deeply compelling performance that I’ll never see the likes of again.

NVA are famous for these pieces having previously lit the Old Man of Storr and for their spectacular Speed of Light show on Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh in a recent Edinburgh Festival, plus other locations.

Bravo. Five stars.

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Emma Pollock Live at Voodoo Rooms Edinburgh


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A quick look through the excellent Setlist.fm reveals that true to her word it’s been a while since Emma Pollock played Edinburgh (nine years to be precise) so no surprise that on the back of her astonishing new album it’s a sell out.

(In Search of Harperfield is surely the hot favourite to win this year’s Scottish Album of the Year and I’d tip it for a Mercury nomination to boot.)

What we experience will have to wait for a moment because, first, I want to put in a mildly nepotous hurrah for Hamish James Hawk who performs as support sans-band, but whips up a great noise nevertheless.  This young man has talent and if he maintains his man of many faces approach and outstanding, between songs, rhetoric he’ll have the audience in his hands for years to come.

To Pollock.

This is no ordinary gig.  Like Hawk, who’s acoustic guitar she borrows for a substitute RM Hubbard number (Monster in the Pack), she has a gift for storytelling.  Surely nobody in the 300 strong audience could fail to be moved by her description of how Intermission came about – how she drove back and forth from Glasgow to Dumfries visiting her parents both ill, in different hospitals, during a spell of beautiful Scottish weather.

They both prevailed.

Her self deprecation is triumphantly engaging as she ineptly changes instruments throughout the gig with guitar straps proving what would be, to others, gig killers but, to her, props on the road to her stand up career.

But it’s her songs and her remarkable voice, aided by extraordinarily good sound and a superb band, that makes this such a profoundly great musical evening.  Not a moment is wasted and her range is fully extended with highlights that include Red Orange Green, Alabaster, Clemency and my personal highlightt, Dark Skies, from the brilliant stage play Whatever Gets You Through The Night (it reminded me that I must go to the Galloway Forest Park sometime).

Emma Pollock is not a prolific performer so it was a real treat to see her perform in my home town.  It would appear that she must be big in Spain because she’s going gig crazy there in April.  And she may or may not be up to something special in the Festival.  I can only guess because she’d have had to kill herself if she told us.

She didn’t.

But a whiff of anticipation smothered the room.