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OOTB 500, Saturday 8 December 2012

OOTB 500

11 years, 5 regular venues, 4 CDs, and countless performers after that enjoyable, if sparsely-attended, opening night in November 2001, Out of the Bedroom is still very much alive and well.

It’s hard to quantify the effect OOTB (to use the acronym) has had on the Edinburgh music scene. OOTB has been chucked out of more pubs than Amy Winehouse, no million-selling rock stars have emerged (we missed out on KT Tunstall!), and, in the company of many of the best local music nights, OOTB has been almost completely overlooked by the mainstream Edinburgh media.

Yet the packed house and warm appreciation from the audience tonight underlined a collective feeling that OOTB provides something special and unique. The nights are, and have consistently been, well-organised and artists are welcomed and appreciated – whether old or young, familiar or unfamiliar, expert or novice.

Compere par excellence Scott Renton opened the night in his own inimitable style. It was a great pleasure for me to hear Scott performing for the first time in ages too. ‘Waverley Nights’, based on Kiss’s ‘Crazy Nights’, was endearing, 100% Scottish and very distinctive. The lyric, written when OOTB left its original home of The Waverley Bar, was updated for OOTB 500 and was an amusing, brutally honest tale giving his reasons for coming to OOTB. I’m sure both Gene Simmons and Iain ‘Smiler’ Walker would be proud.

I, James Igoe, played next and think I was the only person this evening to cover a song by another OOTB artist. Norman Lamont’s ‘Nicole’ was dedicated to the Nicoles loved and lusted over. There was not much sympathy for my sad tale of Paris but that’s something I’ll just have to live with. J The lurgy I had all week affected my preparation but I think it went okay – Norman was appreciative.

Edinburgh open mic legend and champion of all things counterculture Freeloading Frank was next up. His version of the sensitive Beatles song ‘I Will’ was morphed into a heartfelt paean of self-love, inspired by his own reflection. Frank updated (“remixed”) an old song ‘Rupert Murdoch’ changing the target of his ire towards the heinous double act of Tories David Cameron and George Osborne. I felt the crowd were on his side.

Master guitarist Graeme Mearns went completely left field and played a supper club jazz version of The Ramones’s punk classic ‘Blitzkreig Bop’. Coincidentally I was listening to The Ramones version in the car coming to the gig. I thought it was a great, highly original re-imagining of the song, though I think the late Johnny Ramone might have been spinning in his grave.

Next up – a new act! Not only had Trouble in Paradise never played OOTB, the trio had never played together live before. They rehearse via Skype which is quite unusual even in this age of ubiquitous internet access. For lead singer Alice this was her first ever gig though you would never have guessed from her onstage ease and confidence. ‘Modern Woman’ had some very nice harmonies supplied by the two gents on guitars. The chorus of “are you a modern woman? / do you pleasure yourself?” got a few minds racing among the rapt audience I’m sure. Their acoustic cover of Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want To Have Fun’ was very endearing with Alice singing with a near cut glass BBC accent, very different from Ms Lauper’s Queens twang. They cheekily sneaked in a third song about old fashioned love in a digital age, which was very well received by the audience. The old fella (a Kilderkin regular?) at the end of the bar shouted that she had a nice voice, and he was right.

Julien Pierrefeu has brought musical intensity and lyrical depth to many an OOTB evening and this fine performance continued his sequence of top notch performances. Accompanied by Tom Watton on guitar, Julien’s bi-lingual (French/English) song was a romantic tale which reminded me a bit of mid-‘60s French-inflected pop music and I could imagine an accordion. This was very pleasant.

Tommy Mackay lets his creative juices flow in the Scottish comedy circuit after some years as an OOTB stalwart. In his alter ego tonight as The Sensational Alex Salmond Gastric Band, Tommy played what I thought was my song of the evening – ‘Wee Country’. It was an original, heartfelt, patriotic and serious song about modern day Scotland, with part of the lyric challenging one of the scourges of Scotland – sectarianism. I think this should be a contender for the national anthem, or at least part of the soundtrack for the 2014 election. I’d vote for that.

One of the longest serving OOTB committee members Calum Carlyle played a Radiohead song which Calum introduced as “track 4 off the 3rd album” (‘Exit Music?’). Calum sung this in a Jeff Buckley-esque manner, no mean feat, and played it immaculately on the guitar. Calum’s second cover was George Harrison’s ‘Long Long Long’, perhaps one of the lesser-known tracks off The Beatles’ ‘White Album’. I felt Calum really made the song his own and gave it a new life, seamlessly fitting in with his previous cover, in a new Carlyle sound? Flawless guitar playing and a strong set from Calum.

Next was the break when there was some bidding for the 500th raffle ticket, which reached the dizzy heights of £1.70 rather than the standard £1! As well as chatting to some old and gold individuals I was also casting my eye over the rather fine 500th anniversary guitar-shaped chocolate cake courtesy of Tina Avery.

An OOTB original Colin Donati started part two with his own song ‘Various Moons’, using the powered-up house guitar nicknamed ‘golden retriever’.  Colin’s slick jazzy guitar playing was a bit of class and it’s great to see Colin playing regularly after a while when he was pursuing other creative outlets. His pre-gig Kilderkin pizza set him up nicely, I’ll make a note for future reference.

Cake-maker and current OOTB committee member Tina Avery began with ‘80s classic ‘Luka’ by Suzanne Vega. I remember the song practically single-handedly resurrecting the singer-songwriter genre in the 1980s. Tina gave a faithful cover version of the song, beautifully picked and sung. Out came the ukulele for Tina’s last song ‘River Man’. It’s not easy to play a picked uke and make it sound good but Tina had no problem, managing to play the instrument admirably. This floaty, dreamy song had the audience rapt with attention and quiet which was a blessed rarity this evening.

Perhaps the youngest performer this evening, Tomas was fresh from being out busking and was unaware of the significance of the evening. John Farrell helped him with some guitar strap problems. His two songs were social commentaries about living a young working class life in 21st century Edinburgh and received warm applause.

Tau Boo is one of the more unusual performers I’ve ever seen at OOTB. This is principally because he has perhaps the deepest voice in show business, giving the late Paul Robeson a run for his money. His song ‘Standing in the Steps of Giants’ uses natural vocal reverberation that has echoes of ‘Starsailor’-period Tim Buckley. It’s a haunting sound that stays with you long after the show.

The previously-covered Norman Lamont  played Paul Simon’s ‘You Can Call Me Al’. I think Norman managed to play the song with two chords, and still retained the interest. For such a densely lyrical song I was impressed that Norman didn’t need a lyric sheet (voice in head: “it’s called practice, James”. Okay, thank you voice-in-head). Norman’s next song was new and jazz-tinged, in keeping with the style of several songs this evening. Unfortunately ‘Big’ James Whyte who was due to accompany Norman was otherwise engaged tonight. On this evidence, I look forward to hearing the forthcoming album ‘Watching Paint Dry’.

The great Fiona Thom has been in great form musically all year, currently recording her album. She played a jazzy version of ‘Love, Peace and Harmony’, which featured John Farrell on guitar. Fiona stop the song halfway through as the altered timing didn’t fit the metre of Fiona’s lyrics. Fiona picked up the guitar and played the more familiar version and sounded much more comfortable. The new album should be very good indeed.

Scott announced that John’s friend, and friend of OOTB, Fraser Drummond was not feeling well and couldn’t make it this evening. Scott spoke for us all in passing our best wishes on to Fraser.

Another of the newer committee members, Jack Blimey played two originals, saying he considered covering one of Nyk Stoddart’s songs but the thought of that almost made his head explode! The somewhat brooding and dark ‘Tuesday’s Child’ was played on electric guitar. The style was minimalist, in a kind of Duane-Eddy-meets-The-XX style. Classic. ‘Demolition Street’ was about a place where he used to live and featured some neat, precise, almost metronomic, guitar playing and technically very good. I think Jack is a bit like a male version of Virginia Astley, who I’d put money on he’s never heard of.

A new band to me were Forgotten Works, with one chap wearing a guitar strap made out of jeans and the other chap was Jen and the Gents double bass player moonlighting! The style was John Martyn / Richard Thomson which is difficult to do well but these chaps achieved that level with ease. The first song (titled ‘Digging Holes’?) was gently hypnotic and pleasing. Last track was an instrumental ‘Horse Steeped in Jam’ which continued the good vibes. I was impressed that the double bass player was also able to play tambourine with his foot at the same time. Ones to watch out for.

A night with much vintage talent on show wouldn’t be complete without seminal Edinburgh open mic organiser Tom McEwan. Tom started the Edinburgh Songwriters Showcase 20 years ago next March, which might be another good cause for celebration! Tom played a spirited version of Springsteen’s ‘Born to Run’ which included a harmonica solo where Clarence Clemons saxophone once was. Upbeat and enjoyable stuff from Tom – Bruce would have been proud.

Robert King lit the sparklers in the form of numbers 5-0-0 on Tina’s cake and we all sang happy birthday to the entity of Out of the Bedroom. The cake tasted lovely Tina!

Darren Hendrie is a regular; the night clashes with his regular slot at the Jazz Bar but Darren dashes down, usually getting a squashee slot at the end of the evening. ‘Morningside’ showcased his skills – relaxed, timing perfect, vocal measured and controlled, a proper musician. One of the most improved musicians I’ve seen in recent years.

Stalwart OOTB committee member Nyk Stoddart dedicated his set to two people in the scene who are not very well at the moment in Malcolm MacLean and the aforementioned Fraser Drummond. Nyk went electric with a distorted electric guitar which has a compressed sound that gave it a new wave, Skids-like feel. Nyk played the crowd favourite ‘Mutant Slash Killer Zombies From Planet X’ which achieved the classic ‘na-na-na-na-na’ sing-a-long.

It was a pleasure to see Tom Watton again as I hadn’t seen his face around town awhile. Scott requested that Tom didn’t play any epics as we were tight for time so he played the 7-minute ‘Matty Groves’! It was requested by a few in the audience and Tom really went for it, with plenty of resonance in that guitar of his. On this form, Tom would have given Jeff Buckley and Percy Plant a run for his money, such was his unbridled vocal range.

The raffle – I drew my own ticket out (to cries of “fix”) and then Robert won the extra prize.

The dreadlocked Robert King was another debutante this evening and it was fitting to end the regular slots this evening with a newbie. The song, which I think was entitled ‘Rainbow Unfurled’, had plenty of positivity which I was trying to channel in my flu-like exhaustion. I think it worked. More positivity please sir, you’re welcome back to kick off the next 500!

We finished with Tommy Mackay’s ‘500 gigs’, based on a famous Proclaimers tune, as sung by the The OOTB Chorus (or cat’s chorus as some may have said about the drunken rabble)! Legendary! As Tommy said himself: “sheer poetry – shambolic to the end”.

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