If music be the food of love…?

It’s been a tad sunny in Edinburgh, and warm too! Summer concerts at Murrayfield are back, Harry Styles was playing the other evening, feather boas everywhere! I hadn’t been paying attention, so first thought was, oh my god, so many hen parties in one day?! The bands playing on Waverley Bridge had a fine day of it providing pre-show entertainment.

Naturally, The Kennedy’s Project were there taking turns with other buskers, they always pull a good crowd anyway, but the sunshine and Styles fans really busied things up! I had things to do, so couldn’t hang around but as I went past I thought the band were louder than usual, did they feel the crowd’s enthusiasm and cranked up the volume? It is a fairly noisy area with all the traffic and people, a few steps further on and you’d hardly be aware of any live music – unless it’s bagpipes.

There’s plenty of areas in the city centre where buskers set up and play, and since the dark days of lockdowns there have been plenty of buskers around to add a little sparkle to the day. Why, I might not have become aware of the awesomeness of Ol’Times if I hadn’t happened upon them busking. They packed out Whistlebinkies and no doubt other venues across the UK, by busking locally to promote themselves and help finance the tour.

Are you going somewhere with this, Brucie? I can hear you wondering – yes I am. See I recently became aware that the council have launched a consultation regarding busking and to help “determine if we need additional powers to manage amplification of sound in public places”, ummm. CEC (City of Edinburgh Council) are consulting the people? Not possibly with their minds already made up? – I say this, as I’ve completed their questionnaire and really felt it was trying to lead me to being down on busking (from Facebook I know I’m not the only one with this impression). My worry is that the council will go seriously OTT on this, they’re not known for being level-headed and rational.

There are already signs up in some areas to remind buskers of local guidelines of no amplification after 9pm, fair enough, though a busker without any amplification would be unlikely to be heard over the noise in the Grassmarket on Friday and Saturday nights! Buskers are asked to keep to a “considerate volume” and regularly move pitches, I reckon most do. Sure there are some bad eggs, there always will be in all things, and they’ll continue on their merry way no matter what regulations come in, they won’t give a damn. In Scotland the police already have powers to move on performers if necessary, so what additional powers are CEC wanting?

I find it quite sad that some humans seem to have lost the ability to just talk calmly, listen to each other calmly, pause to give thought out responses, accept that other points of view can be valid even if disagreeable; and whatever happened to magnanimity and grace in defeat? I get that some businesses may find it difficult to tell a busker just outside their door to turn it down, but maybe they’re just not thinking and are unaware how annoying they’re being? Maybe they are d**kheads, but maybe they’ll apologise, even be embarrassed by their lack of awareness (of course, embarrassment can also lead to an altercation if they try to defend the undefendable).

I think the problem will be with what the council consider as overamplification and their reactions. Sure there is just too loud, then there’s too loud in one place that couldn’t be heard in another. Times and places, people! Blanket rulings would be overly harsh, while overcomplicated rules will deter shy, new buskers (who should be nurtured and encouraged as possible greats of the future) and the bolshy ones won’t care. And what about bagpipers? Where will they fit in with their noise levels?

This issue has had me remembering back to the mid-nineties and one of my favourite Fringe bands Bean. They came over from Australia for three Fringes, mainly busking on the Mound, but they also managed to get a few very late night gigs in the original Gilded Balloon on the Cowgate. This was the Mound before the Half Price Hut took up residence, so a lot busier and packed with folk.

Bean only had an amp for the acoustic guitar, (the trombone and drum didn’t need anything), but no mics for voices – can you imagine that these days?! They were really quite fine without, but then the ever nearby panpipers added amps!! Really, no! Those panpipes were in-bloody-cessant at the time (I swear some tourists must have left Edinburgh thinking that panpipes were a Scottish thing!) No-one else got a look-in when they piped up, yes, problems with overamplification are not anything new!!

I’m guessing final song of the set, Moondance ­čží
Bean and gone

I’ll leave you with a great comment I saw on Facebook on the subject of how the council will deal with buskers, “You’ll no doubt find a way to charge them by the decibel, and then the louder the better!!!”

Toodle pip!

Gimme some Ol’Times rock’n’roll

They came, they rocked, they conquered, and now they’re about to storm down across England, Newcastle first. Ol’ Times gave Binkies another night never to be forgotten, talk about the passion, baby! Going on for three hours, until half past midnight – I had no prior knowledge of the extended time slot, so it came as a most excellent surprise!

The place was buzzing in anticipation, busy with folk trying to grab a good space to seeing the band, when in walked three beanpoles, skinny but wide-shouldered, they hovered about at the back looking around. They seemed harmless enough, but just a look between myself and the chap I was chatting to, we both already knew where they’d decide to stand, and indeed, just six foot from the stage!! Yes, I’ve ranted about this before, but jeez, come on! They stood like a mini mountain range with peaks around 6’6″, the folks immediately behind had no chance of seeing anything. And breathe.

I had my eye on a good side spot which I sidled into once the band were onstage doing the soundcheck. I had a fresh pint of Stewart’s Harlequin (another good brew from them), I was ready. First song, Ol’ Times started with a bang, All The Way To The Top written just 28 days previous (I know this because Kai, the drummer, mentions it before he gets the crowd chanting). Straight into the classic Walking The Dog, sung by one of the guitarists Colm, how to keep the temperature rising!

It was during the first set that I noticed Gabriele’s voice reminding me of Marc Bolan, there was one song in particular where I really heard it. He is a brilliant frontman and whilst I’ve likened his singing to others, Gabriele has a unique voice with a mischievous edge that immediately entranced me from the first time I heard it.

The band were obviously enjoying themselves, having a blast, as much as the crowd were. We got sleazy rock, funky beats, rolling jams; all delivered with easy, laidback confidence and irresistible charm. Think Bad Company but take out all the so-seriousness and angstiness and add some of the nonchalance of early AC/DC aussie boogie woogie (the start of Give It To Me is so this).

The second set included a real blast from the past for me, Come On In My Kitchen, apparently they used to play it regularly but hadn’t for about a year until that afternoon when they were busking. As it was back in their consciousness, the band picked it up and made a tasty bluesy jam with it. I’ve since dug out The Joker by The Steve Miller Band from my record collection (side 2 track 3), well, I had to give it a spin! It’s the only other time I’ve heard it, used to love howling along with it (check it out, you’ll get why). Apparently it’s an old Robert Johnson song; that’s my one thing learnt today!

The jams got longer in the second set, Gabriele just put words to them on the spot, a true showman, and as is traditional there was a drum solo, two words that used to strike fear and boredom into many hearts, but, I dunno, have the new generations of drummers figured out something the previous didn’t? I enjoy them now, and Kai doing that thing (as the band call it), oh my, ’tis a fine thing to behold. The crowd vibed along with the grooves, I don’t think anyone wanted the music to end, if Whistlebinkies had a beating heart it would’ve been stolen by Ol’ Times last Friday night.

Tonight Ol’ Times are in Geordieland, that’ll definitely be one mighty fine time for all. One word of advice to anyone planning to see Ol’ Times as they head south, take a pen so you can get the guys to sign their CD (you’ll be wanting to buy one be the end of the gig!) as they probably won’t have remembered to have pens with them. These guys are definitely gonna be big so catch them now if you can!

I’ll leave you with shots from Friday night in Binkies, no, I didn’t manage to get a clear pic of the bassist, sorry!

from top left clockwise, Gabriele, Manuel, Colm and Kai

When in Rome….

Or an Irish bar in Glasgow late on a Thursday night, not somewhere anyone would expect to find this moose, drinking Magners cider too! Well, I’ve never been a fan of guinness and, being totally out of my element Irish cider seemed logical (no, you will never see me drinking the stuff anywhere else).

Yes, I adventured West to see Ol’ Times, better there than Penicuik, which it turns out is not happening (shame) instead they’re back in Binkies tonight (yay). Do I mind that I went all that way for a second look when they’ll be back in Edinburgh? Don’t be daft! Not remotely. Saw a great gig, discovered a new place and a new band.

The place, Malone’s is rather nice. Tucked down a little lane, blink and you’ll miss it, the bar’s at street level with the music venue above it. Doorstaff direct folk into the bar before the gig starts and give a shout when the door opens. Upstairs is a fair size, very long and a tad narrow, but it works. Malone’s has a good ambience to it with great barstaff up and downstairs, I felt comfy and welcome. It’s only a short walk from Buchanan Street Bus Station, very handy indeed.

The new band was The Best Bad Influence were first on-stage, boy were they fun! A three piece rockabilly band, double bass, drums and the guitarist sang. There were standard classics and their own stuff, all played with style and swing and a grin. I did spot that one of their originals started by borrowing from a great old ZZ Top tune She Loves My Automobile a real blast from the past (from Deg├╝ello an awesome album from before Eliminator). It would be great to see them over in Edinburgh in Stramash or Whistlebinkies, they’d go down really well in both.

And on to the main event, Ol’ Times were mighty fine, just a shame there were some technical problems, not that we, the audience noticed them but a brief chat afterwards revealed an unhappy bunny (hey, being fussy about quality is no bad thing), you’d never have known from his performance. If there was anything slightly down from their Binkies gig, I just assumed it from being in Glasgow rather than Edinburgh (just kidding!)

It was fun to be over West knowing the band would definitely put some Edinburgh mentions into their banter to bait the crowd. Whilst it was busy, it didn’t look to be as packed as Binkies, but the singing was louder I reckon (after a wee jibe!) The band wound up just after one but as Malone’s is open til much later plenty folk hung around, me included as the next bus wasn’t until two. No way was I leaving before the very end! Hey, I need to soak up every sweet morsel of sound to keep me going.

And on that note, I shall take myself on a wander to Waverley Bridge. Toodle pip!

Ol’ Times at Malone’s out West

A feast for all senses

No more chocolate for a while, methinks. I hopped along to the Farmers Market just in time to grab the last white chocolate and raspberry easter egg from Co Co Co. huzzah! And it had some white chocolate passionfruit eggs with it, honestly probably the best easter egg I’ve ever had. I’ll wait til the memory fades before I eat more chocolate, I don’t want it tainted!

What a day it was – scrumptious eggs for breakfast, succulent roast lamb for lunch and ol’ time rock’n’roll for supper, feasting for all the senses. After a day of tastebuds overload, my ears were filled with such sweet sounds harking back to classic 70s rock, my eyes beheld showmanship delivered with easy swagger and charm. Oh yay, Ol’ Times packed out Whistlebinkies and whisked the room up into a rocking frenzy (all that plugging the gig on Waverley Bridge really paid off).

It’s good old style headbanging, hipswaying music; really, if your body remains motionless on hearing Ol’ Times, well, there’s no hope for you! I remember a conversation with my mother about headbanging, no, I have no idea how we got on to it, but it always appalled her, “You never did that, did you?” Er, how could I not? It was purely instinctive, still is (never did the air guitar thing, mind).

Ol’ Times are not just another Irish rock band, for one thing (or two) they’re not all Irish, there’s Argentine and Italian in the mix. Not that you’d know the singer, Gabriele is Italian (pic right), oh he’s something else for sure, a wiry larrikin sparking with charisma, a natural showman. The few times I’ve seen them, the drummer came across (to me anyway) as spokesman and leader of the band, personable, quietly authoritative, oh and there’s a bit of a Tom Hardy look to him.

The band are now over in Glasgow, playing Malones on Thursday 13th, then Penicuik (yeah, if you know it you’re probably as bemused as me), before heading South for ten gigs around England. It’s all there on their social media, you should check it out; there isn’t a gig near my hometown in Yorkshireland, shame that (and yet they’re playing Penicuik!?) Hopefully it won’t be too long before Ol’ Times return to Scotland but for the meantime I picked up their CD (one song Word After Word can be heard on Spotify). Sweet!

Other musical notes, I was back in Binkies last night for Dr Salad and The Scat Rats – a double dose of Mr Rough! The good Doctor was laying down some heavy, heated grooves for the fans in their very own heavy romance genre. The grooving was not for stopping, but as half the next band was already on the stage and the other half was happy enjoying the music, the Salad course somewhat overran. Plenty Salad-lovers stayed around for some rhythm and blues, so in the time left, the lads piled on banger after banger for the dance floor freaks. For a late Tuesday night it was very boisterous!

Toodle pip, mes amis!

Sounds and Visions

Easter weekend and the sun has been shining today!! The forecast is more of the same tomorrow and Sunday, anyone would think the rain gods aren’t paying attention. As the sun was out I popped along to Waverley Bridge in case there was anyone playing – there was, and they were rather good (There’s snippets of evidence on my Instagram).

I was meaning to check out Ol’ Times as they’re playing the 9.30 set at Whistlebinkies on Sunday evening, no need to check online now, that was them this afternoon. I may wander back that way tomorrow or Sunday as they do intend to play there some more, yay. Binkies is the first gig of a swift tour around the UK for Ol’ Times, if you like energetic bluesy Irish rock they’re worth a shot; and if you like them, they have a CD and a card reader for those who don’t carry cash any more.

The lead singer has a great voice, reminiscent of someone, took me a while but, and you’ll have to be old to get this one, a mix of the singer of April Wine early 80s and a young Geddy Lee with a twist of Irish. The band sounds like they could be from the late 70s, no bad thing in my book, some amazing music around then.

Oh yeah, on amazing music – the lads have put out another video! Half & Half is the latest visual treat from Logan’s Close shot in the Voodoo Rooms by their go-to film maker James Gilhooly. Rich sumptuous colouring with a slight haze and strange white clouds bobbing around, it reminded me of tv shows from Eastern Europe back when I was a nipper; and the light from the glitterball was such a great effect, sweet.

I’m not really sure what the song is about but hey, the words pour like honey from Scott’s mouth and mixed with the sparse guitar and bass work, awesome – seductive with a dash of melancholy. Half & Half will be on Heart-shaped Jacuzzi but it’s not out as a single, just a little treat for the fans!

In other news, the Jolly Judge is having a cider festival just now. Technically it’s on until Easter Monday but hey, any ciders still left will be need to be drunk up. My favourites so far are Windfall from Iford (6%) and Barn Owl from Perry’s Cider (5.5%). That’s from six that I’ve tried, there’s at least another six to try and I intend to.

Now if I’m going to be up in time to get to the Farmers Market before CoCo Co‘s Easter eggs all sell out, it’s time I hit the sack. I’ll leave you with a couple of pics of the most unusual portable twin decks I’ve ever seen….

The only thing a DJ needs is a suitcase….
….. and some 78s (talking about the ol’times!)