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OOTB 279 – 29th November 2007

Events guy Rob Sproul-Cran scribed up last week’s action masterfully; gon
yersel, Rob!

OOTB 279
========
Sparrahawk, Tim Allen, Freeloadin Frank, Aaron Lowen Bemer, Lewis
Campbell, Starship, Ghostboy, Davy Watson, Tony, Ross Baird, Aaron Wright.

Sparrahawk
The right honourable Spamborskee, tonight driving proceedings, opens them
too with a set on behalf of his full band, Sparrahawk. Opens with
‘Seagulls’, which I’m more used to hearing unplugged at ear-shredding
close quarters. With the OOTB PA, Spam could afford to let his facial
muscles do the work – anyone with more animated eyebrows, please let me
know. The next is unaccompanied, and Spam makes the most of not being
guitar-bound to strut around the performance area. A masterclass in
compelling musicianship, you cannot look at anything else in the room when
he plays. A red light on the stage also adds menace to this, a celebration
of a misspent youth, rapped in poignance. “Get it up ya while yer young!”
–‘Carpe Diem’ has never been said so well. He finishes with a tale of a
‘Secret Squirrel’, which may or may not be a euphemism.

Tim Allen
‘You Fly, You Dream, You Cry’ introduces a beautiful tone in both guitar
and voice. Opens with muted syncopation but settles into American alt rock
of Counting Crows ilk, only without 17 instruments. More instruments could
be handy – Tim seems most at ease when not juggling guitar and vox at the
same time. A real lighters-aloft number. ‘She Tells You That She Loves
You’ is a biting Lou Reed-esque tale of betrayed love. I should have been
high to truly appreciate the chilled out angst, but with lines like “she
smiles and watches you bleed”, not sure I could have coped. Pretty sore
stuff – hope it’s not autobiographical. ‘Bullies of the World’ is a
cautionary tale, that laments the state we are already in. Tim’s voice
croaks satisfyingly, but the song could do with more drive, to hammer home
the point, rather than have us seek it out.

Freeloadin Frank
‘By The Rubble In Palestine’ bastardises ‘Rivers Of Babylon’ to great
effect. Tells the sorry tale of the West Bank. Frank’s far-from-dulcet
tones bring immediacy to a subject he clearly cares about a great deal. I
for one am just glad we can hear this stuff – if in the US, the
anti-semitism police would stop it in a second. This sh1t’s important –
thank you Frank. On a lighter note, ‘I Wanna Be A Guru’ extols the many
virtues of having one’s own ashram, most notably the “20st groupies”. Come
on – we’ve all thought about it. Right? Finishes with the best
should-have-been-in-the-soundtrack song of the night – all the versions of
the film would have been better for it. An ode to the purest love there
is: that between a girl and a 100ft gorilla. ‘Climbing up the Empire State
Building’ is catchy as hell – it’s always a good sign when the audience
sing along.

Aaron Lowen Bemer
Apologies if the name’s not right – it’s even sillier than mine. Aaron
does instrumentals, which means they have to pretty damn good to sustain
interest with no vox. Luckily, they are. Beautiful flourishes that
intrigue but don’t detract. The chords are complex and run up and down the
fretboard; a rock-steady beat maintains structure. Reminded me of Davy
Graham’s ‘Angie’ in the best way. ‘Waiting For You, Waiting For Me’. Opens
on a drone worthy of a double bass. His tone and volume control is great.
A comforting feeling of familiarity to it, but it still keeps me
interested.
His last shows off brave and flowing technique, combining full notes and
harmonics at will. It looks fairly easy. It’s not. Fast and fluid, it
builds as we go. If John Martyn played (perish the thought) Snow Patrol,
this would be the outcome. This guy will be pimped for accompaniments
before he knows it. I just hope he finds the time to do his own stuff too.

Lewis Campbell
“I’ve never done this before”, I think I heard him saying. I don’t believe
him – this guy is accomplished and, if not actually, gives the impression
of being totally at ease on stage. His first, about a break-up, builds on
a fine tenor voice to cut abruptly and effectively to spoken, then back.
It grabs you by the throat for attention. His second, about “some ugly
buildings”, portrays love found against a community lost, as urban
regeneration sweeps all before it. He has a fearless high voice, which can
only improve with more practice. ‘There May Be Trouble Ahead’ – I’m sure
he gets this a lot, but it’s not the opening line to a Morecambe and Wise
classic, rather a brooding tale. The spoken word he weaves into the set
again surfaces, but as always is delivered as well as his singing – it’s
not an afterthought. One of my standout favourites of the night. Cracking.

Starship
‘Scarecrow Man’ I always thought this was called ‘Skeletor Man’, and I
must say I’m mildly disappointed to find it’s not [me too- has Stoddart
changed his song’s names as well as his own????]. Nyk Stoddart doesn’t do
subtle (you should see the colour of his myspace), at least not in
delivery. I’m sure there are a few lyrics intricacies that I’m yet to
grasp, but for now I’m washed along by this hard blues with a twist…
Speaking of which, ‘Bad Blues’ rails against the “same old crap on TV
again” in a music-fuelled mania. As he careers around the stage and more,
Nyk proves once again that, regardless of whether you like his stuff, it’s
all about performing songs, not just playing them.

Ghost Boy
‘Where You Going With That Gun?’ is slow indie that talks of “too many
people killing, too many dying” and the sobering tale of a friend losing
their way in spectacular fashion. He confirms what I suspected, saying at
the end “but it’s true!”, and in doing so seems to miss the point that if
the song doesn’t speak for itself, a footnote won’t help. The authenticity
of the message is lost in delivery. A new one now, which sounds like a
slow ‘Girl From Mars’. I for one wouldn’t mind Ash axe-girl Charlotte
Hatherley adding some harmonies and sex-appeal as he sings “I’ve fallen
down again”. In his third, there are catchy licks, but a meatier sound and
a steady beat would elevate this one. I have never warmed to Ghost Boy’s
onstage persona, but then neither have I had the courtesy to get to know
him before writing this.

Yogi
‘Krakatoa’- utterly undaunted by hecklers, even if they are of the
pleasant OOTB kind. This angry song mixes palm muting with the brick wall
of a relationship to great effect. Drives along like a polar bear on a
Harley.

Tony
An unassuming presence who introduces himself with nice finger-picking on
‘Feel No Need’. It’s good enough to sustain interest on its own, and then
the vocals come in. A great voice, talking of a jealous man. Creepy but
soothing. A new one, think he said first time that night, is a mobile
phone advert classic. A stupidly catchy falsetto lick, sung in a high
throated voice like I’ve never heard. Happy strumming and accomplished
changes of tempo and timbre make a beautiful package. To be honest though,
he can relax – Orange et al will only use the first 20 seconds and still
pay him silly money for it.‘On the Run’ is a Clapton-esque minor blues. It
could do with high vox harmony, but lifts instantly with the harmonica. By
the end it is knee-slapping vitriol. Most satisfying. Altogether, bit of a
gem. I would buy his album. Simple.

Davy Watson
Segues neatly from drunken heckler to rambling blues man. Ably joined by
Aaron Lowen Bemer, this one’s minor with lots of augmented chords (they’re
the ones that sound like a raised eyebrow). Drudgery in lyrical content is
carried by exuberance and on-stage interaction. “I’m a shambles” says
Davy, not as lyric, more just as a comment on his own state. ‘Catch The
Foxes’ sees Spam join Davy for a top notch rendition, when it gets going.
There’s a lot of momentum in runaway trains. Lastly, Davy and Spam impro
over a slide riff from Davy, while Spam takes about two seconds to decide
on lyrics and launches into them. Davy’s moothie adds to Spam’s tornado,
and the whole thing is carried along entirely on the confidence of the two
performers. Who needs to write songs beforehand?

Ross Baird
mmm… Nice vest. Sorry, was distracted by Ross’s fetching threads. Hailing
> from that musical hotbed of (I believe) Iona, Ross produces a very tidy
package of vox and guitar. He has the control expected of a guitar tutor,
which he is, but a presence that is far from a given. When Darren
Thorn-logan-blackberry joins on harmony vox, things get sublime. Davy
Watson is making funny noises of excitement in the corner, and while I
can’t quite match his Barbarella impression, I do have goosebumps. Song of
the night – no doubt. I can’t remember the name, I was too busy listening.
‘Ode to Colum’s Jig’ lies down and drone on bass strings then lets the
melody shine through with some very fine guitar playing indeed. A
headliner before very long at all, I think. I hope.

Aaron Wright
Second Aaron of the night, though it doesn’t seem to bother him, he plays
‘Teardrops’. It features high tenor singing “I’ll never heed the signs”.
Alan on harmonica (must have jammed on stage with at least 500 Edinburgh
musicians – about as ubiquitous as a plectrum) adds to a nice arrangement.
‘Trampoline’ I haven’t heard this in a while, but as Aaron is no doubt
aware, this is his ‘Creep’. In the future, he won’t be aloud to leave the
stadium without encoring with this. He sings of having “nowhere to fall.”
Crowd-surfing will probably take care of that worry. It is a great melody
– I’m still singing it.

Compere: ACL Spamborskee
Review: Rob Sproul-Cran
Sound: O’Hara???

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