When last I left you it was Sunday night at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and the beau and I were enjoying a last hours of privacy before four days of frenzied music making began.
Such gaiety we had, tiny darlings, exploring the sights like a normal couple instead of two people who practice wrestling finishing moves on each other and sometimes forget how to kiss.
But as the weekend drew to a close, a faint rumbling could be heard across the fair city. Crows cried from the rooftops, dogs howled, mandolins began to play by themselves.
The band was coming…
From here on in, my Edinburgh tale morphs into a band diary mingled with further tales of my own escapades. Hopefully it will inspire you to take up music while drinking gin and pointing at cats.
Green Diesel (in which Ben plays bass) had been booked to appear at the Fringe by Lost Horizons Folk Club, a London-based folk night putting on a variety of acts at various venues throughout the festival (They are a small venture but are manned by thoroughly lovely people, please do go and support their shows.)
Here they are:
|From L to R – Greg, Ben, Ellen, Colin, Matt and Jon|
Booked to play 12 shows over four days, the weary travellers rolled into the flat around 8am Monday morning – Ellen (violin and lead vocals) had taken the sleeper train, while Greg (vocals, guitar, mandolin, and dulcimer), his brother Colin (drums, vocals), Matt (lead guitar, vocals) and John ‘JB’* (accordion, mandolin) arrived creased and crumpled following a nine hour coach trip.
Tea and aspirin dispensed, Ben updated his cohorts on a couple of issues he’d encountered in the previous two days.
Flashback to Sunday…cue wavy lines…Exterior, day, Black Medicine Coffee Shop. A striking blonde woman with haunting eyes shelters from the drizzle in the café doorway, her porcelain skin glowing in the grey fug. A man called Ben exits the shop and is a man. He looks troubled and the striking woman speaks to him expositionally.
Me: What is wrong, my love? How is this venue? The band is due to play quite a few gigs here, is it not?
Ben: Yeeaahh, the thing is.it hasn’t actually been built yet.
Me: What’s that now?
Ben: The basement band area….is not….it’s not there.
Me: Oh. Fuck.
Ben: I should call some people….
Wavy lines back to the future…
Yep, one of the venues was a bust and six of their advertised shows would not be happening. A crisis? Actually, a bit of a blessing in disguise. Lost Horizons quickly got on the case and sorted some of extra excellent slots at other locations. And even though the band would have been pleased to play as many gigs as planned, the cock-up did grant them a bit more free time to relax and enjoy the festival.
“So,” said the band in summary, “that’s the only problem so far?”
“Well,” Ben said….
Flashback to Saturday…cue even wavier lines….Interior, night, The Tron Kirk. Ben and the striking woman sit listening to live music. Green Diesel are scheduled to play in the same venue many times in the coming week.
Ben: (Peering at the sounds desk) The sound desk has four channels.
Me: (Pause) WOOHOO! I don’t know what that means.
Ben: In addition to our own amps, we need four microphones, three guitars, one violin, an accordion, and a mandolin to go through the PA. At least.
Me: (Counting)…(counting)….oh my God, you need 21 channels!!!
Ben: Ten channels.
Me: Oh my God, you need ten channels!!!
Ben: We can manage…. But we’ll need a spare guitar amp
Cue wavy lines back to the present…
So it was that Ben, having finished his story, promptly ran out of the building and sped across Edinburgh to borrow a spare guitar amp off a friend of a friend of a friend.
With him gone, there was an important task to complete before the first midday gig – the sampling the building’s pool and sauna.
As previously reported, I had managed to book a very reasonable holiday apartment with a gorgeous communal pool for the troops, meaning we could start each long day with a peaceful swim and a sauna – a little luxury for a very hard working band.
I was banned from taking pictures at the pool but I looked exactly like this:
Although we did start getting territorial about the pool; we came down one morning to find three people in the pool not observing lane discipline, so Colin ripped out one of their hearts. He was right to do it.
On to the shows…
The first gig kicked off 12.30 at The Cow Shed, Cowgate, to a small but happy audience. The venue is exactly as it sounds – a large cowshed resplendent with bales of hay, sawdust and a well-stocked bar (just like any decent farm). It was a great space to chill out in, surrounded by many free venues and opposite Underbelly.
Now, I want to get this out of the way right away. Playing nine shows over four days may seem like a piece of cake if you’ve got nothing but a guitar and a pocketful of dreams to lug around. For a six piece electric folk rock band, it’s a weeeeeee bit more complicated.
Despite their continued efforts, Green Diesel are not (yet) lavishly paid rock stars with fleets of helpers and Volvos* at their beck and call. This means each gig requires a lot of additional work, and those ‘free hours’ between shows quickly melt to nothing when you’ve got equipment to lug, kit to prep, instruments to tune and free parking to find.
The process in Edinburgh was roughly as follows: collect and prep kit (all instruments, amps, leads, stands, and microphones) cram into car, drive to venue (most of the band have to walk), unload, park car (try to find free parking), set up (30 to 60mins), play gig, briefly bask in applause, set down & pack up, load vehicle, park vehicle securely, unload if needed, and walk back to where the beer is OR drive to next gig and repeat.
You’re looking at up to 3 hours work for a 45 minute gig, even with the occasional luxury of getting a taxi. Still think being in a band is all coke and hookers? Nope**
Once the band had set down from The Cow Shed gig, and after I walked out of shit comedy show (I felt bad for the comics, but it was getting painful), my stomach started to growl and only one place could quell the beast – Illegal Jack’s South West Grill.
I wanted to show you a picture of the burritos, but I ate it too quickly. So here are the leftovers…
This sizable fast food restaurant is famous for its reasonable priced and exceedingly excellent burritos bursting with fillings. Choose from pulled pork, beef, chicken, haggis or a veggie option, and load up with your choice of beans, sour cream, cheese, spicy or mild salsa and guacamole. This is not the place to do things by halves – always go large and you will be sated for many hours afterwards.
With a few hours, the band divided in search of entertainment or naps. JB and I missed one show we’d been planning to see, so ducked into the Captain’s Bar for a pint and sing song and then caught a free comedy show at The Free Sisters before the band’s next gig.
As I knew I was in for a lot of Diesel action over the next few days, I declined to attend Monday’s evening gigs and went off to see a show I’d been looking forward to all weekend: Miss Behave’s Game Show.
I arrived early as while the previous show involving some kind insane chef was still underway. I witnessed this:
Then said chef spotted me, and tried to give me a melon from his pants.
When I ran away he tore across the street to present it a man in a van. I have NO idea what was happening. Only at the Fringe.
A little while later, I returned to the now sparse shop front where the sparkling Miss Behave (a renowned compere, cabaret artiste and sword swallower) hosted a phone-based game show, ably assisted by her glamorous assistant in short shorts, Hilary.
|Miss Behave (borrowed from her website)|
The crowd was separated into two groups – iPhone and non-iPhones (I was in the poorly-populated Samsung catergory). Miss Behave than led us through a series of silly phone based games – who could dial her phone number fastest, fastest selfie, numerous word games, name that tune. Basically whoever shouted the loudest won. It was fevered furious fun, and she was an exceptional hostess.
|I won the fastest selfie round….it’s not a good look for me|
Hilary was also a huge hit with his long legs and impromptu striptease. In fact, we all voted him as the winner in the end and he took his prize of smashing an old phone up on the pavement. Sound bizarre? It was. Brilliantly bizarre.
|Playing smash the phone|
While I waited for the beau to finish band business, I wondered across the North Bridge to explore.
Old hats will roll their eyes at my naivety, but as a Fringe virgin, I was staggered by the sheer scale of the event. Pockets and plazas of performance are positioned across the city, with the main action centred in New Town and Old Town. I did my fair share of walking, and every day I found a new hub of activity. The little dots on my map did the enormity of the Fringe little justice.
It was pleasant just to walk around the beautiful St Andrew Square garden, sit in a deck chair and stare at the fairy lights in the shadow of the Spiegeltent for an hour. (Yeah, at this stage I was regretting not taking a tactical nap earlier in the day)
As the night drew to a close, I met the band back at the Tron Kirk for a drink and some burlesque (watching). Ben, Greg & I stayed out for a last whiskey while the others staggered home, coach-lagged.
We finally turned in close to 2am, merry with Scotch and with only the cries of the world’s most desperate kebab shop owner following us through the deserted streets.
His shop didn’t even have a name, you know. It was just ‘Kebabs, Burgers, Fish, Chips’. I think he also shouted through the window that he could make a lobster.
Anyway, join me soon for the next instalment of The Fringe Files, where things get real. I think.
*I call him JB. I don’t even know if he likes it.
** Well it was for that yodeling group I used hang around with. Seriously, every night it was titty bars, titty bars, titty bars.