Up for the Down Stroke!

May 16, 2017

Way back in late 1978, as far as I can estimate, I didn’t go see George Clinton and his Parliament / Funkadelic show at the Odeon in Clerk Street. I wasn’t a huge fan, but I knew people who were and I expect I’d have gone… but ticket sales in Edinburgh were so poor they cancelled the gig. One friend had bought, I think, 8 front row seats and was not happy. At All.

Anyway, nearly 40 years later, they’ve come back and played Glasgow on Wednesday 10th May. I didn’t know how much of a show to expect – certainly not the Mothership or all the pyramid stuff from the 70s! But there were loads of performers – up to 17 I think, although maybe one was really a roadie! His main task was to hold a mic up against a monitor speaker during a couple of songs!

Apart from him there was Clinton himself, with a shaved head under his black leather hat – no rainbow dreads anymore –  3 electric guitars, bass, drums, keyboards, sax & trumpet. And half a dozen singers/rappers, including 4 women. Together they made a great noise! I’m not a major fan, although I’ve got half a dozen albums under various names,  and haven’t listened to them much recently, but several of the classics were there, together with more modern hip hop and rap elements. One Nation, Up for the Down Stroke, Maggot Brain, Flashlight… And Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk made an appearance!


Thin as a rake with wide-brimmed white hat, overcoat and trousers, all looking  like they’re feathered! Much posing and some minor acrobatics followed!

They played a good long show, around 2 hours 20 minutes of driving funk (with some mellow stuff, too, including a ‘Brides of Funknstein’-like section that allowed a lot of the others to take a short break, but I had to leave before I knew for sure they had finished, although I’m sure they were still on stage thanking the audience as I went down the stairs, but they weren’t going to play any more…

The support act weren’t bad either, although obviously not in the same league. A local duo called Shaka Loves You with a table of laptops & decks together with a set of bongos to add a sinuous afro-latin feel to the beats.

Good night, but when I got back to Edinburgh I discovered that no mater how quiet the roads are at nearly 1 in the morning, cyclists still prefer to ride on the pavement!




Not My First Concert…

May 12, 2017

One March Wednesday a while ago I went to see Procol Harum. They were playing the Usher Hall in Edinburgh and I was pretty impressed although their lighting rig was fairly rudimentary and it wasn’t really a very big sound system. But it was my very first proper rock concert and I enjoyed it a lot.
That was back in 1973 and my ticket was 75p!

Jump to last Saturday, just over 44 years since I first saw them, and we went to see Procol Harum play at the Queen’s Hall. A much smaller venue, with it’s own lights and sound, perfectly suited to the venue. The only constant member has been pianist Gary Brooker, main song writer and lyricist – the other current members have been playing as PH for decades, but mainly joined in the 1980s & 90s. They have a new album out, their first for 14 years, iirc, so most of that was played during the two sets, along with several of the classic songs from the 60s & early 70s.


Grand Hotel, A Salty Dog Conquistador (the live cut had been a minor hit the previous summer when I saw them in 1973) Homburg… and finally, as an encore A Whiter Shade of Pale, which they had chosen not to play 44 years ago. So I finally heard their most popular (by a huge margin) song live!
Great performance, with some rather blues-y and jazzy overtones at times, and a great blast of hard rock from time to time! I think some of the audience were surprised to hear that they were very much a rock band! Excellent stuff and I’m very glad I finally got to see them again on this 50th Anniversary tour.


Setlist 1973
Setlist 2017



Random Film Post

April 21, 2017

So we went to see Ghost in the Shell last week Didn’t have any great problem following it – the overall plot was fairly simple, any confusion was in presentation. Caring very little about film stars, not caring it was Scarlet Johansson was easy!
But the world it was set in was great! Possibly the best big-screen cyberpunk setting I’ve seen so far.

Of the trailers shown, I was surprised to see the Valerian one as I had seen 2018 as when it would open. But apparently that was an error as it’s now scheduled for this summer. I’ll definitely be going to see it but I fear it’ll do comparatively poorly however good it looks…
It’s based on a popular fast-paced bande desinee from the 70s by J. C. Mezieres & P. Christin.


Having quite enjoyed the live action Ghost in the Shell, we went to see the much more enjoyable anime Sword Art Online: Ordinal Scale a couple of days ago. Completely bonkers take on near future virtual reality and augmented reality gaming. It was an early screening as it hasn’t officially opened here yet, so we ended up in the front row of a fairly packed cinema -so it was really loud and in your face!
Imagine a Tokyo which you can overlay in real time (or have overlaid for you by a giant gaming company) with not only fake scenery and buildings, etc. but giant realistic-looking Pokemon Go style characters which don’t just sit there but that you can pretend to fight! Epic stuff!
Especially once you introduce a sympathetic evil mastermind with relatable (but morally wrong) goals, subplots about the ‘reality’ of actions taken in a VR background, and more…
The one downside was that there was a lot of dialogue in it and following the numerous subtitles meant that I missed some of the less obvious action and minor visual touches.  Also, two hours was possibly just a little long; maybe some of the action sequences could have been trimmed just a little.


Fringe D to the End!

September 2, 2016

Time to keep this up to date just seems to evaporate this year…

Since the previous post, it’s all come to an abrupt end as the Bank Holiday Weekend finishes; the tents and marquees are dismantled, the temporary bars closed up, and all the venues revert to whatever they do the rest of the year!
But before that happened we saw some more shows!

A fairly physical version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame called Le Bossu on at Bedlam called  (the Great Bells were excellent!). Totally different from Stack, which used the same room and which we saw near the beginning of the Fringe.
Cats and Dogs Give the Best Advice was silly, zany fun at the Royal Society building as the Narrator of a chldren’s TV show underwent a midlife crisis and made her innocent cast perform against character and eventually rebel…
Holmes & Watson: The Farewell Tour on at the Space on the Mile (i.e. the Radisson Hotel) was a fairly manic spoof of the famous detective and his sidekick, each complaining about the production of the play as it went on, and berating missing stagehands, etc! Quirkily fun.

Terry Pratchett‘s Mort at Augustine, where we saw Eric last year – Mort suffered in comparison by needing far too many little scenes to get the ‘best bits’ in for the fans so it never really seemed to get going before it cut back to a completely different set of characters for a scene, then back again, repeatedly. Quite fun despite this though.

We went to see the other two Jules Verne plays on consecutive Sunday afternoons and they were both as good as 20,000 Leagues. Journey to the Centre of the Earth was fun, with more comic touches than I thought were in the book! The raft scenes were particularly neatly envisaged.
And The Lighthouse at the End of the World was somewhat unknown (I saw the not very accurate film adaptation once years ago) but seemed very authentic with maybe more nautical lingo than some of the audience appreciated. It all made sense, though, as the tale of a lighthouse, shipwrecks and pirates played out… Not sure the shop got much of a return from it’s sponsorship of the Company, but the plays were good fun so I’m glad I helped them along a bit!
In among all this, we managed to squeeze in a trip to the Cameo cinema to see The Wave, a Norwegian disaster film about a mountainside collapsing into a fjord and the resulting wave racing towards the little town at the head of the fjord! And apparently the mountain depicted really does have loads of sensors, etc. deployed as it actually is expected to collapse sometime! No great surprises, but well done. With a great sunset outside afterwards!

Not much art this year; my viewing of any of it was restricted to the final Sunday, when we saw some of the Art Festival Trail, at the Burns Monument (and our friend Carmen’s new illustrated signpost nearby) and a sound installation in the old Royal High School in the main debating chamber (fully kitted out years ago for the Scottish Grand Committee to use and widely assumed to be the seat of any new Scottish Parliament until it was decided to build a completely new custom Parliament nearby at Holyrood). The whole complex of buildings has languished almost unused since, and going to hear some Eastern tinged songs commemorating British Empire soldiers from India serving on the Western Front in WW1, with responses from their wives, was both interesting and moving.
After that, it was back home for a bit of a rest and then out again to the 3rd and final big concert at the Playhouse. This time it was Mogwai, playing a live soundtrack for a new anti-nuclear polemic by Mark Cousins. The music was generally fine, if all a bit similar, but the film was really a bit of a mess with all sorts of imagery and clips mashed up with little sense of cohesion. Mogwai may well be worth seeing live, but this wasn’t that gig! And although there was very little music connected with any of the clips Cousins used, they still managed to play on top of it, instead of giving it the space to be heard.

On the Bank Holiday Monday, as a final show, we went to zazU: Raisins to Stay Alive, a fast-moving farcical play on at Teviot about the end of the world – well, not this one, a different world, as it was due to flip over and thus kill all it’s human inhabitants, although the mermaids would be safe! Silly and quite manic, although the ending was a bit sad once the consequences sank in!
And after that, our final street food, finally getting some excellent Malayan Rendang from a stall that had always seemed to busy for us to bother queuing for…

And so it’s all finished for another year, although pretty soon we get to go and see Magma, the French prog band, which Madeleine has wanted to see for years! And probably Walter Trout a bit after that…






Festival C

August 22, 2016

Another week gone by already!
We’re having a fairly quiet Fringe & Festival so far but we have been seeing some stuff!
Some very good stuff!

On Tuesday it was back to the Playhouse again for the 2nd of two nights by Sigur Ros, an Icelandic trio in somewhat the same vein as Godspeed You! but they also sing!
They opened with 3 songs they performed as shadowy figures behind a light screen, reminiscent of the Residents fabled Mole Show performances back in the 80s, but towards the end of the 3rd song, they moved to their main equipment set up in front of the screen, which was used for light projections throughout the performance, and really set to!
As a novice, I had difficulty distinguishing between the songs, but the crowd loved it! And I did too.IMG_6864

Thanks, in Icelandic, I believe. Shown after the end of the gig. No encore, just back on stage for a bow and then off again. Standard for the group I assume, as the audience didn’t seem to be annoyed at all.

And then it was Thursday and a quick exit form the shop for a bravura one man performance of Albatross at Paradise in Agustines, about the background to the famous poem.
You know the one!

Only a few stage props but a great performance, as the ancient mariner  dissected the Rime and ranted about all things pertaining to the poem and it’s genesis.
On Friday I had my own personal mini-Fringe show as the cast of Randy Writes a Novel (i.e. a big purple puppet and it’s handler) came to Transreal Fiction to do a short promo piece for their show at the Underbelly. Great fun, as Randy toured the shop commenting on the books and merchandise, chatting to (and scaring off!) the customers and generally being as OTT as you’d expect! It was being filmed by WOW247(Edinburgh)




Festival B

August 20, 2016

After a really busy couple of days in the shop, it was Saturday evening at last!
But we had no Plan! What to do!?
So, after checking out the Book Festival, we ended up going to Sounds of Taiwan at Zoo Southside. Three musicians; one sitar, one cello and one erhu (Japanese 2-string violin). Excellent original music, much of it composed by the sitar player) although sometimes the inadvertent percussion provided by dancers in the hall above was a bit of a distraction! At the end, we were interviewed by  one of the Taiwan Season staff and chatted with the nusicians a bit. Also bought a couple of cds, although the trio didn’t have anything with all three of them playing, only previous releases by them individually.

On Sunday our morning was already spoken for, but after coffee at the 1505 coffeeshop, at half one we saw Alice Unhinged at the Pleasance. Loud, bizarre version using events and characters from both Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, with a large cast of 23 looking a bit like they were out of Zenescope’s Wonderland comics! Lots of attitude, corsets and very stripy stockings! Also a pair of very well designed, wheeled, towers which served all sorts of purposes on stage.


Great, almost psychedelic, fun. After that we had some quite substantial and tricky to handle street food and then it was over to Victoria Street and C Nova to see a production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Not Cricket Productions, the theatre company Transreal Fiction is sponsoring this Fringe! They’re also doing Voyage to the Centre of the Earth and The Lighthouse at the End of the World, both of which we hope to see on the following two Sundays.  Good, relatively faithful version, although the sex of a couple of characters had been changed.  The fairly blank setting in the room will probably be the same for all three plays…

A stop at the new (ex-opticians) Walls coffee shop on Forrest Road (probably a future favourite) and then a drink and a meal across at Filmhouse, which was relatively quiet compared to the main Fringe area, and then down to the Book Festival for the Ken MacLeod event. Interesting, as ever, as he read from, and talked about, his current Dissidence trilogy.
And then back home, via the Cask for a late night pint.


Festival A

August 13, 2016

Too much going on!
But I’ll make time for some Festival events, etc. anyway…

After the rather inpressive Official Festival opening light show, our first Fringe event was at Summerhall on Tuesday and felt more disorganised. It was for a Danish production about the expeditions of Scottish explorer Mungo Park and ‘technical problems’ of some sort kept the entire audience waiting in a queue on the stairs for an extra 25 minutes after the advertised start time. This might not have been so bad if the front of house staff hadn’t kept their heads down and tried to avoid explaining anything unless directly confronted. Not a good way to keep a queue mellow and on your side.
The production itself – Mungo Park: Travels in the Interior of Africa – was relatively accurate historically and made good use of the limited props – especially the crocodile! Some items were more complex and included some aerial work and a revolving platform occupying much of the stage. If problems with either of these were the cause of the delays, I wish we had been told as they were obviously things that had to work without fault. Another annoyance was the extremely bright rack of spots shone directly in the audience’s eyes at times to convey the heat of the burning sun… A little went a long way, possibly too far!
Much running about and shouting at times, as the small cast replicated his adventures and hardships in West Africa around the turn of the 18th/19th centuries. I’d have enjoyed it a lot more if I hadn’t been so irritated going in to it…

The following night was another Festival show – Godspeed You! Black Emperor at the Playhouse Theatre. I have one of their early cds (slow riot for new zero kanada), and Madeleine owns a much more recent one, which they played some music from.
They’re an 8-piece post-rock group and said not a word while on stage – no intros, no lyrics, just complex sonic structures, building and mutating for 15 or 20 minutes at a time before a brief pause and the start of the next piece.
Engrossing but not a particularly visual spectacle, despite the stage-wide screen with projections behind them IMG_6838a

At one point, one of the 2 drummers was offstage, and 4 of the others were kneeling on the stage doing stuff, and 2 others were sitting on chairs playing their guitars. Probably.
There were lots of f/x pedals and triggers, I’m sure!
Excellent show, and a group Madeleine had been very keen to see, so I’m glad she bought us tickets!

On Thursday evening we dived in to shows we knew little about and enjoyed them both.
The first was An Evening with C. S. Lewis at Greenside at Nicolson Square – i.e. the Methodist church halls – and was excellent. It was a one man show set in 1963 after his wife’s death, of ‘C. S.Lewis’ sitting in his armchair apparently talking to some visiting Americans… Lots of detail of his life, if a little light on mentions of his writing. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe gets a brief mention, as do The Screwtape Letters but nothing else. Tolkien and his books get at least as many mentions. The actor captured Lewis’s look pretty well, and apparently tours this show in the US regularly, so it was very slickly done.
After that, a quick coffee at the newly re-purposed old T. D. Walls opticians premises on Forrest Road (they’ve kept a lot of the fine old dark wood panelling but made it light and airy at the same time and I’m sure we’ll be back when there’s more time) and then it was off to bedlam 50 yards away and more heroic adventure! Not the real-life Mungo Park though – this was a show called Stack, about a present day celebrity explorer – Stackard Banks –  off to find a previously undiscovered Amazonian tribe! Almost a one man show, there was a native princess latterly and a brief appearance from his arch nemesis at the end, together with various pre-recorded audio parts from behind the audience. Songs, silliness, high adventure, complete egotistical stupidity! Great fun! I’m sure Sting would have approved! (Maybe).
The lead role reminded me a bit of Lord Flashheart from Blackadder, for some idea of his performance! Non-stop and riotous!


As for books, I’m currently re-reading my Norman Spinrad paperback of Songs From the Stars, from 1981. It’s set hundreds of years after ‘the Smash’ and Clear Blue Lou and Sunshine Sue are trying to reconcile the small-scale ‘green’ culture he’s part of and the presumed ‘evil’ scientists and sorcerers beyond the mountains who drip-feed hi-tech equipment to them for their own purposes…  Interesting; and I’m glad I’ve kept it all these years!
And also reading the new Michael Swanwick collection Not so Much, Said the Cat.  Top class, although I’m only on the 2nd story!