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OOTB 300 – 8 May 2008

For now, enjoy the venerable Calum Haddow’s review. We would list the
performers, but it was…well, everyone.
Enjoy.

OOTB 08/05/2008

OOTB 300. My word. I feel old. I was actually looking at the pictures from
the 200th night on the interporn just the other night – I played there
myself, it seems like a month ago, 2 months tops. And yet there it is,
another 100 Thursdays under our belts. I feel like a proud father.

Spartans! March! Onwards! A colossal weight of sound; The crushing power
of 300 open mic-ers descending on the invading Persian Empire. Scott
Renton lays down ancient Spartan law. I actually got the feeling that
night that if I was struck down that very second, I would die a happy man.
I walked in and my first impression was “OMG chuffing cake for everyone”.
I stood in the middle of the Canon’s Gait, pint in one hand and cake in
the other with my friends playing me wonderful music. A man really doesn’t
need much more in this life.

Chris Brown was up first. A full 5 years (and 1 child) since the first
time he’d played at OOTB, he gave us “Chameleon” tonight. The guitar
scuttles along beside a river. The chorus throws itself up and down the
fretboard as the vocals rise higher and higher. “Don’t lose the sense of
all you are”.

Darren Thornberry, tonight dressed as some kind of Spartan playgroup
leader, soothed us with the instrumental “Chips and Curry”. Bright,
glittering fingerpicking has a quiet conversation with itself. Light
touches of vibrato make the notes sing. He has “sticky fingers”. I blame
the cake. Awesome though it is. To quote Mr Renton, “a combination of
children’s toys and women’s clothes”.

Sharon King was out first débutante. Her guitar had a wonderful wooden,
surfy sound. And she had a fancy doodad in her hat. Syncopated and
mournful, but the occasional E maj chucked in catches you unaware and
unsettles the minor key. Soft vocals swell up with poise and urgency. It
would be lovely to see a little more of her, hopefully she can come back
another night and we could get a full 3 songs from her.

Eddie followed. For tonight I shall call him Supermassive Eddie, due to
his impressive stature. I actually bumped into Supermassive Eddie at a gig
organised by the Mighty Ben Young (more on him later), and I promised I
would give him a glittering write up. And with good reason. He rules.
Arpeggios are built upon until they grow into a fine weave. Fear and
uncertainty circle each other. The strumming grows and swells, feeling
like water pressing up against a dam with the constant threat of bursting
out.

Nyk has branched (no pun intended) out, recruiting the help of Broken
Tooth on Pinecone Kazoo. I’ll say that one more time, Pinecone Kazoo.
Another odd sentence now; Mutant Zombies win by a remarkable landslide
victory. There are times I am genuinely scared of this man. This…
enigma… this… maelstrom of a man. I’m not sure, but I think this is
what drugs sound like. Utterly remarkable.

Ross Neilson is going to prematurely ejaculate. Everywhere. His words, not
mine. “There’s something in the darkness and I don’t know what it means”.
A constant search for the intangible. He blasts out his chorus in a
wonderful gravelly growl that feels like it could scrape the inside of
your head clean.

Broken Tooth took to the stage, minus bits of forest, to play “Hold Fast”.
I was enraptured by his left thumb nail. So long. So immaculately kept.
Speaking as a man who has little more than shreds of nail attached to the
end of his fingers, I was surprised and jealous by its length. Bold and
assured singing. The guitar had a pulse behind it, probably my favourite
Broken Tooth/EWB song! “Raise your voice defiant / I swear we’ll drown
this storm”. A sudden tempo jump also raises energy levels.

Susanna McDonald did “Graffiti”. And later someone sang to us in French.
Get in. Begins as a swaying meander, then starts to gather occasional
skipping steps that then grow to a shoulders-back swagger down the road.
Which then goes around kicking down doors.

Stuart Clark and Lisa Paton teamed up, sounding positively upbeat (given
the subject matter). “Cuts to the Bone”. You start to wonder if you’re
better off alone rather than spending all your time chasing the girl
you’re besotted with, following her home and collecting hairs from her
brush until you can make a full wig, wear it and touch yourself, quietly
weeping all the while. Actually a stunning pop song complimented well by
spot on harmonies.

Hannah O’Reilly was joined by Susanna (her official “doodooer”) and Stuart
(boxer). Editor’s note – I was going to call this song a “HoR classic”,
but on reflection that isn’t the most complimentary abbreviation in the
world. That said though, it is a classic; melodic, with depth and
considered structure and execution. Great to have an OOTB legend at the
300th night.

Sam challenged my tiny mind. His song “Sophia” was not about a lady. Oh
no. Sophia was the goddess of wisdom, my towering intellect tells me. Or
possibly Inspector Google. A real energy runs behind it, great little
chord runs down to the root. Warm and inviting, it draws you in and
doesn’t let go.

Mick and Jeff were next up. Mick turned 70 last week – my Dad’s 70 and
he’s awesome so I expect great things. The blues, my boy, the blues. The
harmonies slide in and you feel like you should be smoking a big-assed
cigar. Makes you feel like a man. A man with callouses on his hands and a
hat you wear at a jaunty angle.

Now, I should apologies in advance because I misheard the name of the next
act – it sounded like they were introduced as “Gears and McQuade”, who
sound like cop drama series featuring a mechanic and a maverick private
eye. [Hughes and McQuade – ed] Delicate and fragile, even with the two
guitars. Strumming and fingerpicking act as counterpoint. The quiet
landscape isn’t disrupted by the surging vocals towards the end, imagine
someone shouting in a glen.

The Weather Underground was our next act, with “I Think I”. Has bounce!
Summer is finally starting to burst outside and at last it feels it in
here too. Sweet young girls dance around us and beckon you towards things
you barely understand.

Tommy McKay, the towering pillar of a man that he is, was up next. Picking
a fight with John Prescott – is there any member of parliament that he
hasn’t offended? Nicola Sturgeon is practically his nemesis. “Fish means
nothing to meeeee… oh Vienetta!”.

Johnny Pugh had to suffer the slings and arrows of our compère, (loo,
phew, vindaloo etc etc) poor little lamb. Took it all with remarkable
good humour though, considering that it was a rhyming battle of epic
proportions. I’m sure that OOTB will be practically 8 Mile by the time we
reach the 400th night. Unusual chords at the vertigo end of the fretboard
add a sneaky extra dimension to the music. “We’re strangers, you and me”.
As the water crashes back and forwards, two people dance around each
other and end up falling against and away from each other.

The Mighty Ben Young then treated us to “My Baby Don’t Like My Music”.
Well, I was sitting beside her and she didn’t seem to mind… The song
slinks along like a caterpillar pimp. More blues than a tube of Smarties
(they’re back! Check the advert!) Guitaring that would put most octopi to
shame, let alone men.

Colin was a performer I’d not seen before, but after tonight’s performance
I want to see a lot more of. He was playing a ______. God knows what he
was playing. Mandolin? Lute? Penny sodding whistle? He claims it is a
“home-made glute”. His music sounds like a folk song chucked through a
spicy mangle. Actually quite filthy in its own beautiful way. Possibly the
most swearing in anyone’s set all night (including mine). F##king
marvellous.

Daniel Vzue is not a paedophile. His songs feel like you’re being stroked
with a velvet glove, but then you get an occasional flirty slap on the
cheek with it. The kind of progressions that you would never think of, but
sound immediately familiar and memorable. Accomplished.

Freeloadin’ Frank gives us a song-writing masterclass. If Bob Dylan had a
sleepover with all his mates and they all had jelly and ice-cream and
played Twister then they’d probably stick this on their stereo. 3 chords
and the truth. The punks would be proud.

Frances Hayes played us a song which was written when he was 18. Optimism
flies out of the guitar’s sound-hole. Throwing caution to the wind and
taking flight. “Without you there’d be no meaning”. The kind of song that
you hear a full band (jeez, nearly a full orchestra) behind it in your
head. “Take my hand and let’s go higher”.

Nick Smith tells us all about the “Magic Ladies”. Snappy and cracky, the
words half snarled, half coaxed along their way, the song fleshes out into
the chorus before launching a tangent, then retreating back to the verse.
The song ends up as a full frontal assault – a musical battering ram.

Gordon sang “My Medicine”. The quick strumming falls to a false lull as
the song blooms back into the sunny energy. We need girls to survive.
Girls rule.

Angel Conversations played a new song. A very new song. A song so new the
paint was barely dry. Good work. The song swoops up and down and
eventually erupts up through the warm earth. “I can’t make you love me or
persuade you to stay if your heart’s not in it”.

Lindsay Sugden was up next with “On the Wire”. To quote the flyer on the
table, “beautiful rare things and randomness”. Chords that would seem
unsettling on their own feel oddly at home when women together with their
neighbours. Almost forceful in places. As glorious as ever.

Stuart McLellan has a soothing baritone that you could imagine slipping
off into the blackness with. “Love in a mist that surrounded us”. The
magic of the first kiss, the intoxicating smell of it all, the energy and
thickness that hangs in the air.

Big Jim took over for a bit:
Next up, Calum “Pleasant Metal” Haddow gingerly (groan – Ed) made his way
to the stage, announcing he’d been coming to OOTB since “before he was
legal” (we’re pretty sure he means “for drinking”). Sad that he only had
one song to play, but he treated us “First Aid”. His first aid skills may
be shaky at the best of times, but this tribute to b@stard chords went
down a storm. Zord!

Back to me:
Lisa Paton came back up to the stage with Stuart for more box action (!).
“Here come the water”, she sings as change charges across the landscape.
She manages to sing with a power and intensity rarely matched by OOTB
performers.

Last up, Julian. “Everyone Kisses a Stranger”. Joined by a menagerie of
djembes, boxes and shaky eggs. He sings in Frenglish. Hot. French accents
will always = sex. Sounds smokey and subdued. He sported the 3rd trilby
of the night. Good work.

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