Frolics in the Forest – The Fringe Files Part III

The final installment of my Edinburgh tales, and I have saved the best to last. Well I think it’s the best. If you don’t think so, screw you, it’s my blog and I don’t need you please please please don’t leave me.

When last we spoke, Green Diesel were still dashing across the city for early afternoon and late night gigs, and I was trying to fit in as many shows as possible while also fulfilling my duties as a band-aid. As my tales draw to a close, I bring some more Fringe highlights for you, stories from the band and a particular venue that needs to be written about.

But first, having had time to reflect, I thought I would share my tips on surviving the festival – from one Fringe virgin to others. Seasoned attendees, please feel free to add your own tips and advice in the comments!

  1. Plan ahead – as in get a spreadsheet or a calendar or something, and fill it with shows from the Fringe website. There is so much to see and do, it makes sense to have some staple shows to base your day around.
  2. You can’t plan ahead – do everything I just said, and then spend your first day surrounding by programmes and flyers with you head in your hands, sobbing “so many beautiful things, I cannot see them all!” You won’t know half of what is going on until you get there.
  3. With 1 & 2 in mind, instantly extend your visit by 2 days – the venues are many, the scale is massive, the advertising is limited so you don’t want to have based your stay only around what you’ve research beforehand.
  4. Set a day or two aside to get out and wander – walk the streets like a common whore and check out what’s happening.
  5. Bring suitable walking shoes. Edinburgh is cobbled and hilly and crowded, and cheap flip flops will result in serious leg pain a couple of weeks later (trust me, you will be sorry).
  6. Because of 4, for the love of God factor in naps. Seriously, you will not survive the Fringe without naps. Maybe you can if you’re 19 and full of drugs, but with so much going on and so much partying to do from morning to night you will need a little shut eye between shows.
  7. Budget – top shows cost £15 to £20, and beer hits London prices. But there are hundreds and hundreds of free shows. Pricey shows are no guarantee of quality so give up & coming artists who are performing for free your time (and your donations). Also, take advantage of early 2 for 1 deals in the week.
  8. Be nice to people – the performers flyering you are tired and they need your support, so don’t go all ‘London’ on them.
  9. Bring a portable phone charger – if you’re taking snaps, using apps or trying to stay in touch with someone, a battery charger is invaluable. I took this one. When fully charged, it has up to three charges for a standard phone, enough for you and your pals.
  10. Bring a waterproof. I don’t care how fabulous you want to look, it’s wet in Scotland. Also, ladies, bring a shawl or scarf for the evenings

Back to the merriment…

Days dashing between venues and lugging equipment around meant that lunch often needed to be quick, cheap and filling. Enter the worshipful Mosque Kitchen.

For those who are painfully out of the loop, the Mosque Kitchen is a another fast food restaurant, run by a mosque. That’s…that’s pretty much it. It serves excellent curry at a good price, is quick, filling and warm. We spent many a happy meal here.

On Tuesday, JB and I were in the mood for nudity – okay I’ve just re-read that I know that doesn’t sound good. What I mean was, we wanted to see naked ladies…..look we had booked 2 for 1 tickets to see Blues & Burlesque: Hotter Than Hell at the Bosco Tent in George Square.

But having stuck to beer for several days, I was determined that I would not – NOT – watch any form of cabaret without a cocktail first. I put a call out for suggestions on Twitter. I received this reply:

Secret Gin Garden? Oh that’s something I want to be a part of. JB, the beau and I skipped along to 56 North to sample some goodies at their a pop-up cocktail bar.

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe, 56 North, Secret Cocktail Garden
The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe, 56 North, Secret Cocktail Garden
The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe, 56 North, Secret Cocktail Garden

 A lovely little haven in the middle of the Fringe madness, we enjoyed many gins. It was just a shame the weather wasn’t better, but it didn’t spoil the nectar.

JB and I then passed a happy hour watching two very talented ladies sing, crack wise and strip, accompanied by a growling blues man on the piano. Very talented gals, them two. The show DID, however, prompt the very straight JB to say: “It can’t be a good sign that I was watching the burlesque girl strip and all I could think was ‘wow, that is a really nice dress’.”

Tuesday night ended with an 11pm show at The Tron Kirk attracting hordes of people from the Royal Mile who wanted to dance and spend lots of money on CDs (it must have been my drunken banter and amazing hair). Such a successful gig called for ales and dancing on tables to the late night blues band.

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe, Green Diesel, Green Diesel Folk

Wednesday was spent in a hangover haze. I should have stayed in bed like a normal person instead of going into town with the band for their early gig, but I suspected that after the gig, there would be lunch. And I like lunch. We consoled ourselves with curry from the Mosque, and tea and cake from Love Crumb. Their salted rye brownie is such stuff dreams are made on.

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe, Green Diesel, Love Crumb
Much needed tea

By around 3pm, it was evident that no one was going to be able to stay awake for any daytime shows – even Ben could not bring himself to watch a talk by Henry Blofeld – so we staggered back to the flat to languish on sofa, rising only to swim and fetch more tea.You see, we suspected that the impromptu gig the band had been booked for might turn into a bit of a session. We just didn’t know how big.

Flashback to Tuesday night…Green Diesel are booked to play an early evening gig at The Forest Café.

The Forest Café is a volunteer run venture in Lauriston Place, Tollcross, and is well renowned in Edinburgh and beyond with good reason. The Forest is a volunteer-run, collectively-owned free arts and events space and vegetarian café, providing a dedicated space for people to get involved in any creative activity imaginable. It hosts everything from music, theatre, and dance to yoga, massage, knit-ins and book tours.

It’s reputation preceeded me and is too long to recount here, but I urge you to read up on it HERE. I arrived at the Tuesday gig a little late but in my finest hippy skirt and drinking bra, I was instantly entranced.

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe, Green Diesel, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh

A small enthusiastic crowd welcomed the band, and danced along to the tunes. There was even a spot of waltzing.

 The set ended all too quickly, and the band packed down murmuring that they’d like to return later in the week. As they loaded up a giant taxi for the gear, one of The Forest’s founders – the deliciously named Ryan Van Winkle – dashed outside and asked if the band would come back the next night for a special event. With the Black Medicine gigs cancelled, Wednesday was pretty much empty so it was a goer.

Flashback to the future….

Needless to say I was thrilled at the prospect of returning to the Forest and getting some proper pictures. After a quick jaunt to a local pub, half of us went to the café to set up.

The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe, Green Diesel, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh
The Demon Gin, Edinburgh Fringe, Green Diesel, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh

It is an unassuming facade but inside is an explosion of loveliness. The walls are adorned with art, messages about events, inspiring thoughts, and peculiar murals. In true bohemian style, the furniture is gathered from what could be found, and people laze on sofas reading the shared books and strumming the ‘house guitars’.

The Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh
The Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh
The Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh
The Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe EdinburghThe Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh

The band had eaten at the café the previous night and could not stop raving about the food. I duly grabbed a window table and ordered a giant burrito in the evening sunshine. Dear GOD, I thought Illegal Jacks was good, but this! THIS! For a mere £6 I was presented with a burrito groaning with rice, beans, cheese, salsa and sour cream, with a beautiful salad on the side.

The Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh

To wash the goodness down, I started a new love affair with the bottled beers on offer from the Alchemy Brewery. Just look at this description:

The Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh

In addition to great food and beer, the people staffing the café were as lovely as you’d expect. A lot of love has clearly gone into this venue, and it radiates from the folk inside. They couldn’t have been more friendly to the band, plying them with a huge plate of nachos and a crate of beer.

 The Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh
The Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh

As the café began to fill up with revellers, Ryan hopped on a chair and announced the night’s proceedings. We learned that the night’s event was one of Ryan’s Cultural Lasers, bringing together many cultural acts in one happy bubbly pot of loveliness and booze. In his role as host, Ryan and his helpers began dishing out free knock-off champagne. Ben was also treated to a glass of Ryan’s personal hooch – a thick brown liquor called Buckfast. It is essentially hobo liquor you can clean combs with it. It’s just terrific.

The Demon Gin, Green Diesel, Edinburgh Fringe, The Forest Cafe Edinburgh
Getting blurry…

The basement room was soon packed with people as the music started. It kicked off with a quartet of rough and tumble American youngsters, travelling the world with their fast-paced gypsy Americana and looking for a bed for the night as they went. They had only decided on a name that day, and I’ve forgotten it. Shame on me.

Ryan gets the night started

Things mellowed for a while with a poet, a bearded ukulele player and a solid singer songwriter before Green Diesel took to the stage, and the night then descended into happy chaos. There was fevered sweaty folk dancing and cheers for every song, and some serious audience participation for the special secret move in the middle of The Southcliffe Jig.

After the music, revelers gathered upstairs in the café for more beers and chatter and various musicians drifted back downstairs for a jam. We caught up with the Scowling Owl girls while a suited man swore his undying love for the band to Ben, and I practiced spinning high fives with Ryan (it made sense at the time).

JB balancing beer

The party continued long into the night, though we sadly had to depart around 2am to meet some friends in a nearby pub for some whisky.

My post and pictures don’t do The Forest Café justice, and we were lucky to have been there on two wonderful evenings, surrounded by great people. An honest bohemian paradise, it was one of the nicest venues I have ever visited – a worthy addition to my Places to Quaff and Quarrel.

So this pretty much brought my Scottish journey to an end. The band played one last gig on Thursday lunchtime, though I went next door to see a fantastic comic singer Tamar Broadbent play a blinder of a show. Another free show that was utterly fantastic.

Beau and I then started the long journey home with the others waited for the late bus back down south. You should also know that all my hangovers from the week thoughtfully converged during our car journey home, which was fun.

And now for my final thought…

I may be contractually obliged to sleep with one member of Green Diesel (beau and I like to keep things legal), but there is more to why I admire the band than their damn fine bass player. It is easy to only be into live music for the ‘fun’ parts, or to let laziness and the inevitable lethargy of daily life distract you from performing. The reality is apparent – being in a band is fun but it’s hard work, as my earlier accounts of the trips should have demonstrated. Green Diesel aren’t daddy rich or investment flush – they all have full time & very demanding jobs. But they stick at it, day in day out, and carry themselves with grace and good humour. Whether you like their music or not, you can’t deny their professionalism and their heart as a band. I owe them a debt for letting me following them around Edinburgh.*


*No, Ben, I am not buying you a mandocello.

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