proms in the park

After a hectic day celebrating 2 year old birthdays and engagments, we packed a picnic (not wicker unfortunately) full of bread cheese and Pimms and sauntered down to Glasgow Green for a taste of the BBC’s Proms in the Park.

The picnic was the highlight of the evening as we were subjected to a terrible collection of music; folk tunes performed by tenors, sea shanties by a choral ensemble and an ancient Scottish instrument that sounded much like a foghorn. It wasn’t the selection of music that bothered me so much as the attempt to perform it in a classical manner – either perform decent classical music or use performers suited to the music selected!

connect: sunday

MIA stage invasion, originally uploaded by martindude.

We woke late on Sunday and fired up a sumptuous barbeque that drew a crowd of half starved Motherwell boys, intent on regaling us with their knowledge of Neighbours and convincing us unsuccessfully to watch Idlewild that evening!

Escaping them proved difficult, however we made it in to catch Winona a synth pop band put together by composer Craig Armstong (who also happens to be our friend Emma’s boss) Their chilled out tunes – if a little european for my taste (and missing the fireworks of the Cobra Killers who had bailed earlier that day) – were a good way to ease into a Sunday afternoon, especially as the sun made its first appearance of the festival.

I was trying to keep a less hectic schedule than Saturday to avoid traipsing through the mud, so hung around the main stage for a quirky set from Regina Spektor. Chhay & Claire headed over to the second stage to catch Tilly & The Wall where I aparently missed out on some fun music, and yet more beautiful lead singer action.
Regina was followed by a fantastic nutty MIA performance (to a backdrop almost as hyper-chaotic as her web page) that gave the festival a little taste of anarchy, and a challenge to its bourgeoise boutique nature after she sanctioned a stage invasion (above – she is the one in purple legging on the right). There were at least 100 people up on stage, and things looked to be getting just a little out of hand when the organisers literally pulled the plug! Personally I think it added a bit of life to the event alsthough I wish MIA had waited until a bit longer through her set to invite everyone up to let us here more of her material.

Claire & Chhay headed back out to see the Polyphonic Spree with thirty members up on stage – although now dressed in black rather than their previous multicoloured robes, while I waited to get good position for the highlight of the day – Icelands’s favourite princess: Bjork. She had quite a theatrical set up, and her early songs were fantastic with a brass band, choir and crazy electronic instrument highlighted on screens around the stage. Chhay & Claire’s wanderinsg had exhausted them however, and by the time they made it back to our spot Chhay’s mud tolerance levels were at a record low, so we scampered off to beat the rush and drove back to Glasgow to face work on Monday morning!

The final wash up was more positive than negative but I think a few tweaks to the set-up and a more strategic approach to camping by ourselves would be required if we are to return next year.

connect: saturday

DSCF1963, originally uploaded by normalfreak.

Rising late on Saturday we supped on an inspired spread under our canopy, safe from the insipid weather that drifted across the grounds.

We finally made it in to the festival in time for the Hold Steady’s lesson in how to sound like a noughties version of early Bruce Springsteen. Heading over to the second stage in the first in a series of yo-yo’s Mike & I were entranced by the very gorgeous Natasha Khan of Bat for Lashes (& the music wasn’t too bad either), with a string bias, accompanied by an ecclectic range of instruments – including a big wooden stick (above) and a strange horizontal harp like thing, they produced some beautiful tunes. We hid for a while from the worsening weather in the Speakeasy Cafe, listening to local folk acts ply their trade for a free ticket to the festival no doubt. Recharged with caffine we braved the weather for a fantastic powerful set from Rilo Kiley, with yet more cute front woman action.

Returining to the second stage in anticipation of catching the reincarnated psych folkstress Vashti Bunyan we were instead treated to the quasi religious harmonies of the Parsonage Choir. By now the weather had worsened, and spirits were low so we cut and ran back to the campsite to dry off & perk up. A visit by a neighbouring group of locacious 17 year olds kept us entertained for at least five minutes and trapped for about another fourty-five but we eventually escaped back into the fray for the final set of the night. Eschewing the main stage and Primal Scream we instead settled in at the front of Echo & the Bunnyman for a rainswept but evocative set, full of songs that I knew but didn’t know they played.

We attempted to join the sweaty throng in Club Noir – the burlesque tent after Echo but it was packed and there was a crap swing band playing: we decided that the weather had got the better of us so we headed home.

connect: friday

connect line up

With Chhay’s big 3-0 approaching we suited up for our final assault on all things rock festivally (at least the last one we’ll camp at – according to the Guardian once you turn 30 you are too old!) The destination – Inverary with the inaugural Connect Festival set in the picturesque grounds of the local castle. Billed as a ‘boutique’ festival and with a line up seemingly tailored to anyone who grew up in the 90’s, expectations were high, and most of Glasgow (at least the bit’s we know) seemed to be going.

With Chhay & my holiday allocations maxed out we could only head up after work on Friday – thankfully (big thumbs up guys!) Claire & our friend Mike had the day off and not only scored us a prime campsite but also erected our tent so we could swan in later and catch most of the bands we wanted to see. So although we missed CSS and Jarvis Cocker as we trekked in from the car park (strike one to high expectations) we managed to arrive in time for a strong set from the Jesus & Mary Chain, that brought all the old Glasgow rockers out of the campsite.

Another trek across to the second stage (15 min! – strike two) and we were able to bob to a couple of the Go Team!’s tunes (much better than when we caught them at last year’s Big Day Out in Melbourne) before turning and racing back for the start of the headliner for the evening the Beastie Boys!

Production values were high, the crowd was fired up – a transparent amp and mixing desk adding a touch of cheesy chic. They played a great set list included many of the classics classics but with some of their newer funk instrumental tunes thrown in. It was a great way to kick off the festival, and we kicked on afterwards with some great guest DJ set from Mogwai at the Rizla.

edinburgh festivals: take 2


We saddled up for another day of fringe action over the weekend -heading over with our friend Mike and catching acts on their 25th or so rendition – things were either flying or they were well & truly sick of being there.

We had an early start to catch a fantastic Korean physical theatre company’s interpretation of Woyzeck. The only props consited of fantastic simple wooden chairs which the cast used to great effect to create all manner of scenes and atmosphere – charting a working man’s decent into madness. The whole piece had a very architectural feel – not only with the use of furniture to create everything from a bed to a jail but also a cast dressed entirely in black. While it may have been more about the physicality than the meaning of the play it was still very impressive – especially at the end when the cast produced a series of still vingnettes of the entire show with only about 5 seconds changeover between each.
As the weather was kinder than on our last visit we were able to wander the city a bit more and visit a few elements of the visual art festival – including scoring some bloody marys for breakfast at the opening of Francesca Woodman & Richard Serra‘s show at the very posh Ingleby Gallery.
After a leisurely afternoon we packed in a tight program over the course of the evening. We started with an atrocious play, Killer Joe a traler trash americana drama with hammy acting and gratuitous nudity. Having endured our first truly bad performance of the Fringe we ducked in to a tiny basement to hear the Trachtenburg Family Slideshow Players (above) – an eccentric New York family band (…well dad can play & the daughter bashes the drums Meg White style) who collect slide sets from the 50’s through to the 80’s and base their songs on the images they find. With great banter between songs they were highly entertaining although their set was cut a little short.

Feeling rejuventated by the performance we scampered to the other end of Edinburgh for a late showing of Johnson & Boswell – Late but Live, based on the contrasting historical accounts of a journey to Scotland it was quite witty although the two performers weren’t able to sustain the pace towards the end.

By now it was midnight and as we lined up for a dose of low brow stand-up at Late and Live, and jammed into a packed and sweaty arena, with the smell of 25 days of 12 audiences a day lingering powerully I think perhaps we realised we had attempted one show too many. There were a couple of decent comedians but the MC was fairly awful, reinforcing my general antipathy towards standup. It highlighted how many of the poets at Luke Wright’s Poetry Party were far better comedians that much of the stand-ups performing at the Fringe.