Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Edinburgh Fringe - Day Two

Day Two In which I get lost, miss a gig and damage my feet, probably for ever.

You see its alright getting in touch with my feminine side, speaking in glowing terms of Carl Wilde, going to watch "Poof Loose" yesterday, painting flowers even, its one thing doing all that, but quite another to lose my male inherent sense of direction and ability to map read.

It all started so well, had a quick smooch around the Ocean Terminal shopping centre which is opposite my hotel but summised within minutes that it had nothing whatsoever to do with me, I needed not a shopping trip but more of the same from yesterday, so on the bus I hopped and into central Edinburgh I hurried, £1 a trip, still can't get over it, and the buses are all new and clean and the drivers are all smartly attired and say "please" and "thank you" and stop at bus stops when requested and all the good stuff that bus drivers should do - something I've noticed while here is that everyone is quite polite, when they get off the bus they all thank the driver, the bus is full of signs requesting that everyone respects everyone else, offer seats when old people get one, make space for women with pushchairs - and guess what - it works, ask people to be outwardly polite and if enough people do it, it spreads like a nice disease.

Hopped off the bus on Princes Street again right outside The Fringe box office and half price ticket booth, I had one show already purchased and the whole day to fill in but in a jiffy had three more shows booked and had spotted a free comedy show in a pub just off Princes Street at noon, had a bit of a wander around the old town and then with the aid of a free map from a free copy of The Scotsman I plotted my route down from the castle to the part of the business district at the end of Princes Street where the pub was.

Those with a knowledge of Edinburgh will know that the castle is at the same end of Princes Street as what I loosely term "the business district", in fact its all contained within a quarter mile square, it was an easy 15 minute stroll, most of it downhill.

And then my map reading went all to hell.

I walked for an hour, from 1130 to 1230, up and down streets with no sense of direction, three times when I stopped to check the map I was actually walking in the wrong direction completly and once I walked right off the edge of the map, in the wrong direction - I hadn't a clue what I was doing and at no time was I ever more than two or three streets away from the bar I was looking for, I'd check the map, say to myself "ah yes, its just around the corner" and then walk off in the opposite direction.

I missed the free show at noon, obviously, I was nearly in Glasgow by then and it was only by concentrating really, really hard that I managed to get back to Princes Street again, it was a lucky break as by then I hadn't a clue which city I was walking in - just like a woman.

This has happened before.

A couple of years ago I and three friends spent a night in Barcelona and we did exactly the same thing.
"Wait a minute" I hear you all call, "How can that be so, Barcelona is built on the American Grid system, its impossible to get lost" Yes I reply, but we managed it, four of us, we walked for two hours that night and we know it was two hours because a bar refused to serve us at midnight when we were on our way back to the hotel - it was 2.10am when we walked into the hotel lobby and in all that time we had never been more than two blocks away, we even thought of calling a taxi in the end and its a good job that we decided not to as we were only 50 yards away from the hotel entrance when we changed our minds.

So I got lost today and tramping the streets for an hour has wrecked my feet, I sit here in my room now with two throbbing feet and the skin missing off both heels and a small patch under both big toes, tomorrow I shall seek a venue where I can stay all day with a bus stop right outside it.

But what did you see today you all cry...

Woody Sez started the afternoon after the free show was lost to the streets. The story of Woody Guthrie, his life and times and travels told in a narrated and sung through style.

It was superb, I love the music of Woody's son Arlo but Woody Guthrie was very much a traditional American folk singer and you will certainly have heard of at least two of his songs during your lifetime even if you don't know it yet. It was a story where tragedy was always around the corner, from the Great Depression to the dirt poor farm in Oklahoma where Woody was raised and where one day a huge dust storm hit the town and wiped out a whole years crop causing the family and hundreds of others to travel to California seeking work - its the story as told in the film ********* and one of the songs in the show is dedicated to Tom Joad, the Henry Fonda character.

The main tragedy in the Guthre household was the undiagnosed Huntingdons disease that his mother suffered from and the depressions within her that the disease caused, she burned down one of the family houses and then in another year one of Woodys sisters was killed when she caught fire in the house, no-one thought that the mother may have been responsible for the fire raising but when his father also caught fire one day then his mother was confined to a lunatic asylum for the rest of her life - it does sound like a comedy script when you write it down though.

Eventually Huntingdons caught up with Woody Guthrie in the 1970's and he died a folk music legend with his son Arlo to continue the tunes - I read in a newspaper article just last week that Arlo has refused to be tested for Huntingdons although his children have and been declared clear.

This was a bloody good show, well sung by very talented Texan musicians and very touching in parts, I loved it and a very good start to the day.

Tom Tom Club were next, in the Udderbelly venue, a huge 30 foot high inverted purple cow the size of a circus tent pitched on the university campus.

Tom Tom Club consisted of four young australian gymnasts stripped to the waist and performing some quite impressive feats of tumbling, accompanied by a DJ who indulged in the sort of thing that DJ's do now, ie "scratching" and "rapping" (whatever happened to Jimmy Savile), a drummer who drummed just about anything and everything and another young lad who did exactly what the DJ did but with only the aid of his voice and a microphone - it was a high energy action show which required lots of applause and whooping from the audience, I don't whoop being of the frame of mind that I am there to be entertained and not provide the entertainment, but still, it was noisy and fun.

Guy Pratt, My Bass and other Animals was up next, back at the Underbelly railway arch venue from yesterday. Guy Pratt is a bass guitarist who has played with Pink Floyd, Madonna, Michael Jackson, Robert Palmer, Crosby Stills & Nash and a host of other well known names and his talk show involves stories from his experiences working with the big stars over the past 25 years. It was very funny, very intimate in a small venue with about 50 people present and had the feeling that you were sat in a pub with him while he told his story for an hour - my cousin is in the music business and can also talk for hours on lots of similar incidents so it was a very pleasant way to spend an hour.

Stewart Lee back at the upside down purple cow was the last show for today before I limped back for the bus, and to be frank he was a disappointment.

To be fair he is not a gag-cracking stand-up comedian, most of his comedy is of the "clever" genre rather than slapstick, observational or simple jokes - he tells long convoluted stories often repeating the same line over and over again and revisiting the same line again several times during the set, its a sort of "in" joke with his audience, a sort of "this is what I do" and if you're in on the "in" joke you'll laugh, otherwise it gets a bit tiresome.

I didn't laugh out loud once during the 70 minute set but I smiled all the way through, it wasn't a bad way to spend 70 minutes and it wasn't £12 wasted but I expected something different and didn't get it - everyone else in the room did though so maybe its me, maybe our humour flavours are different.

A damp day, it rained on and off all day, but enjoyable and I'm still loving this festival even if my feet aren't - tomorrow the re-arranged Eva Cassidy gig beckons in the evening and I'll try not to get lost again.

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Ms Jones said...
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