A Fringe beyond zero

Alas, I didn’t get to see The Flop: A Band of Idiots last night and it was their last night, unless, like many things in this fluctuating Fringe, they decide to do more shows (pretty please?!) Nah, it’s unlikely, at least I have the third Private to see today, Christian Brighty: Playboy. Its like a minibusload of absurdists came up for a week and now they’re all packed ready to head back south just as soon as Christian has taken his bow and said his thank yous. Him and his stuff will be bundled into the bus and with ringmaster, Dan Lees at the wheel, they’ll be gone. Imagine if the outside of the minibus reflected the minds of those inside?!

I had been intending to head to Stramash after the show, wow, drinking and dancing in a no doubt busy room, a blast from the past. How would Stramash be now? Well, it was weird going to the bar, rather than six deep around it, there were two queues stretching across the room. To folk entering it wasn’t immediately obvious so they’d head straight to the open space at the bar, then they’d kinda look round at us, it would click that we were stood in a line, “Er, is this a queue for the bar?”,”Yup!” and they’d head the other way to find the back of it. God, it was interminably slow. Now Stramash has an upstairs balcony area that I’ve rarely been in, I was pretty certain there was a bar up there but not 100% certain, striking up a conversation with a chap alongside me in the other queue I ascertained yes, there was a bar upstairs but the queue was even worse up there, that’s why he was queuing where he was. Considering how quickly my drink (a pint of Holyrood Pale Ale, very nice) was bought and paid for, I don’t understand why it took around twenty minutes to get it! It looks like Stramash has gone cashless, everyone was paying by contactless or their phones, so no fumbling around for cash and change.

It was busy but the doormen were making sure everyone was using the CheckIn Scotland app on entry. I guess its become another habit for some, click in and mask up. I did notice a few folk keeping their masks on awhile once inside, like they couldn’t really believe it was okay to remove them. It is a bit confusing, different places have different rules, many folk I think keep masks on until they’re pretty its ok to remove them. Some Fringe venues are fine with unmasking during performances, well, if there’s a bar many will have brought a drink in. Some venues do make an announcement asking that folk stay masked (half then have to put their masks back on), yes, it’s confusing.

Assembly Roxy has attendants at the door to enquire the size of your bubble and then lead people to appropriate seating. Similar was done at Monkey Barrel Comedy Club; they also have a temperature scanner there (only one I’ve seen so far) and they administer a squish of hand sanitiser to everyone who enters. Many venues certainly started the Fringe with seating spread out in groups of twos and fours, I wonder if some have made the spaces between smaller now to accommodate more seats; certainly some venues now have the usual rows of seats. Some folk do look uncomfortable when strangers sit right next to them, but as the In Person shows are selling out a fair bit, it happens, are they thinking “would it look insulting if I put my mask back on?”?

So, back at Stramash, pint in hand I found a good spot to watch the band come on for the second spot, a band called The Kennedy’s Project. I almost spilled my drink – it was the band from Waverley Bridge! It was great to see them indoors in a proper venue and, my, they were good, really good. As usual both the rhythm and lead guitarists shared out the vocal duties, as their voices suit very different songs it works well across the songs they cover. The crowd (and me too) loved them, plenty were on their feet dancing. Highlights for me were Hound Dog, Bring it on Home To Me and, as awesome as the last time, Minnie the Moocher. My, that guitarist was hot, growling out the words, hotter than Idris Elba even!

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I ❤ Bab Pants

Yes, really, watching Babylon 5 again on the telly, still one of my favourite sci-fi shows. And that story arc! So looking forward to later in season 3 with Zathras and that mindf**k of a story arc of the fate of Babylon 4. I remember going round to a friend’s flat a few days after it first showed on tv, he was still in a dazed blown-away state from the sheer audacity of it. Who knew it would be picked up (pun intended) and shown on tv again?

Sad to say, a number of the top cast are no longer with us. The aforementioned Zathras, played (all of them) by Tim Choate died in 2004, aged only 49. Michael O’Hare, the original Babylon 5 Commander, Jeffrey Sinclair died in 2012. Security has lost Michael Garibaldi and Zack Allan, aka Jerry Doyle and Jeff Conway. Medical has lost Richard Biggs, who played Dr Steven Franklin, aged only 44. As the sane small voice of reason and conscience that was Vir Coto, Stephen Furst won many hearts again (I’d say Vir and Flounder weren’t that dissimilar, loveable, well-meaning, rabbits-in-headlights), sadly died last year. And, of course, Andreas Katsulus who blew me away as the magnificent G’Kar, died in 2006. Do they have Comic Cons in heaven?

Ah, G’Kar and Londo Mollari, the best double act in sci-fi, ever! It was like a Shakespearean epic between the pair, I’m really enjoying seeing those two again. Gotta admit, the Sheridan-Delenn romance really started to grate on me, watching it all on video some years ago I did fast forward at times! Bab Pants also had one of the best villains, Alfred Bester, played to the max by Walter Koenig, always a cheer when Bester turned up!

Ok, so I did watch Star Trek as a calf but it never really got me, never Trekified me. Babylon 5 wasn’t Star Trek, it was grubby, sarcastic, mean, humorous, personal agendas, and it had Ivanova!! Oh boy, she coulda taken on all the Trek women and come out on top! Finally a woman who wasn’t bland and dull, yes she showed her vulnerable side, but hey, don’t we all? And she had an accent, they all did, not the blandness of Trek voices. Oo, am I getting a bit ranty, perhaps?! Umm, at the time I did have some serious Trekky friends who could never quite agree that Bab Pants (or the also brilliant Farscape) could measure up to Star Trek – not even after that mindf**k Babylon 4 stunt!!

I do have a old SFX somewhere that has a Babylon 5 feature in it, there’s a picture of Ivanova that a dear friend of mine had signed by Claudia Christian for me. More on that later!