Friday April 13th


Rain, sleet, snow, wind, thunder and sunshine may be typical of different seasons but in Scotland over the last week they have been regular features of an average day or even ,on occasion, an hour. With the weather so changeable it is hard to predict what this particularly ominously dated day will throw up-lightning accompanied by Beelzebub orchestrated thunderclaps maybe- though perhaps expecting the unexpected is probably the most reliable option. In Edinburgh, at least, the weather seems to have awoken the city out of some self induced coma-like state into some semblance of a city with a burgeoning social scene with several interesting nights out over the next few weeks.

Not included amongst these was the Absolute Bowie experience which was on at the Caves last night. I encountered several friends who were en route to this gig and it was clear the audience was likely to consist  more of space oddities than prettiest stars.  In answer to the question is there life on Mars? I can only respond that if there is it wouldn’t throw up anything stranger than the crowd who attend these ‘tribute’ acts. Mind you with the real thing unlikely to be making any live appearances in the near future-if ever again- then I suppose acts like this will become more the norm as they seem to be big business and include such unlikely acts as The Doors, The Smiths and The Beatles or indeed anyone who has had coursed their DNA through the rock and roll database. It would be better however instead of constantly indulging in the past and turning it into some novelty act some decent new and relevant music would emerge.

With the prices of going to see bands in large venues so exorbitantly high these days perhaps it is unfair to totally dismiss and mock these events as they are reasonably priced bits of fun entertainment- I attended an Abba affair with my mother and was gutted to admit I actually succumbed and enjoyed it. Whereas the corporate nature which surrounds seeing the real artists is generally a serious business which will eat its way into a sizeable part of your income with tickets only part of the whole franchised experience. These large gigs also grant none of the intimacy and sense of being part of something –other than a contributor to a pension fund- that these smaller gigs afford you and with a shortage of decent mid-sized music venues in the city they are a way of utilising these smaller venues during leaner times.

I attended a bravura performance by the Waterboys at the Festival Theatre on Sunday and was bowled over not only by their sonically electrifying performance but by the realisation that this venue with amazing acoustics and positioning is not used more often for this sort of gig. It would make an interesting alternative to their usual line up of week long stints of the Steamie and Calendar Girls et al. It seems that Edinburgh loses out to Glasgow in the live band stakes and although this is a theatre as opposed to a live venue I am sure some sort of compromise could be made as it would be good for the city and, more importantly, its residents.

A tribute gig of a different kind is taking place in Bannermans in the Cowgate this Sunday in memory of local legend and scenester Fritz Van Helsing. An interesting line up including Opium Kitchen, Sam Barber and the Outcasts, the Ettes and many more it promises to be a truly worthwhile outing with lots of attendees having played their own contributory and not to be underestimated role in creating Edinburgh’s subculture over the last few decades. It is also free therefore retaining the original punk ethos which bore this radical offspring and their two finger salute to the corporate identity which generally prevails.

In TV land this week Ricky Gervais made a further, quite literally, lame attempt to make us laugh in his new ‘comedy’ about a  disabled care worker ‘Derek’. I have never quite understood the so-called genius of Gervais and found the Office a bore- having never worked in this environment it perhaps went over my head- and think his most successful work thus far has been the sharply observed Extras. My fondness for the latter could be attributed to Ashley Jensen- who outclassed Gervais in every scene- and the impressive roll call of celebrity guests who were willing to send themselves up in a refreshingly self deprecating-though usually career boosting- manner. The new series however felt unrealised and although in possession of a few funny moments- in particular the burgeoning romance between a care nurse and the handsome visitor to one of their patients- it was generally lazy and more than a little safe for such a controversial subject. A quick look at what the Twitterati were saying last night reveals that his fanbase are still willing to proclaim him a genius whatever he turns out. Perhaps eventually even they will realise the connection between him streaking across our screens bollock naked, in a clumsy attempt to raise a laugh, and the familiar tale of the Emperors New Clothes are not really that far removed from each other.

Elsewhere Laid In Chelsea continues to bore and Caggie’s departure will hopefully be an end to her and Spencer’s non-relationship bore. After two series of their non eventful love affair I can only conclude they were perfectly suited as at least together they were not spoiling another couple. Her departure also threatens to expose Spencer-who surely has the worst hair on TV- as the sleazebag he really is. The Apprentice has also to ignite explosively and the feeling is all these reality/ dramality programmes have run their course and are now too self conscious and perhaps the public are sick of seeing people on the screen who are supposedly just like us. Except that they are not like us at all are they?. Positioning a camera in a room changes the dynamic totally and seems to have the effect of everyone in their vicinity into a total arsehole. Then again perhaps they are not that different after all.

This weekend I am going to try out a club called betamax at studio 24 tonight as well as attending the memorial gig at Bannermans on Sunday. Next week sees the launch for Irvine Welsh’s new book Skagboys- a prequel to the epoch defining Trainspotting- at the Caves next Friday the 20th April featuring readings from the man himself. A few tickets to the latter event are still available so get to it as it looks like being a night well worth catching.

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