Monday, 31 March 2014

Hidden Door Festival

Pictish Trail, Kid Canaveral, Tuff Love and Randolph's Leap

For 9 days and nights 28th March to 5th April, the previously derelict vaults in East Market Street, Edinburgh, were transformed into:

Market Street Vaults in full flow
  • Two 200 capacity live music venues with state of the art sound and light, plus a third ‘secret’ live music venue for more intimate music events, with over 40 bands and musicians performing over the 9 days
  • A series of 18 vaults filled with immersive art installations including light-reactive robots, mazes and labyrinths, stunning video projections, as well as more conventional paintings and sculpture
  • A performance Theatre Space with over 40 contributors
  • A cinema space screening 9 nights of film and animation programmes
  • Not to mention two bars selling locally produced beers and other fruity drinks, and a café space selling food and hot drinks
Hidden Door seized the opportunity to occupy these iconic vaults before they were stripped bare again, and ultimately handed over to property developers Artisan Real Estate and turned into part of the controversial Caltongate project.
Our visit to this one-off extravaganza was Monday night, March 31st 2014.

On the bill were Pictish Trail, Kid Canaveral, Tuff Love and Randolph's Leap.
Arrived late (due to a flat tyre on the long drive back from London) and the order of play had changed a little. Because Scott McMaster, the Kid Canaveral drummer had a "family issue" and could not be there, Kate Lazda and David MacGregor did separate acoustic sets. Rose, the bass player manned the merchandise stand. Due to the late arrival, only caught the last three tunes from Kate's performance. Great guitar as always, and her wistful voice adds a certain sadness to the tracks - it was a beautiful performance. David kicked off with Low Winter Sun, a tough track with very high chorus notes to begin the set. By the end of this song, his voice was right up there and he went from strength to strength through the rest of the set. He even got the crowd split into two harmonic groups and accompanying him on You Only Went Out to Get Drunk Last Night. A really good solo performance from both, and an indication of how good they are and how impressive the song-writing is when stripped back like that.

David MacGregor
Johnny Lynch (Mr Pictish Trail) filled in the gaps with some esoteric DJ sets and some interesting compère work :-)

Next on were Tuff Love. A three piece: Suse Bear on bass, Julie Eisenstein on guitar and Michael O’Hara on drums from Glasgow. They have had rave reviews from many quarters and this is the second time I've seen them live. Sweet Discontent was the stand out track from their set, and although the whole set was hugely enjoyable, they still suffer from a slightly muddy sound mix, particularly on the guitar and vocals. Their recorded stuff is really great (have a listen), but the sound quality of the lyrics and guitar playing didn't transfer to this live set too well. Still, as I said, very enjoyable/danceable set.
Tuff Love
During the next break, took the chance to stroll around some of the other "vaults" and saw some art and video displays. Sorry that time was tight - would have liked to see more. Venison "stag" burger, local ales and some fine Havana rum were also sampled and enjoyed....then back to the "big Vault" for Randolph's Leap.

Randolph's Leap climbed onto the stage (no artists' entrance in this venue, just rummage through the crowd and use a bass monitor with an old guitar case on top to clamber up.
The band is made up of the following folk – Adam Ross (guitar/vocals), Iain Taylor (drums), Vicki Cole (bass), Andrew MacLellan (electric guitar/cello), Heather Thikey (violin), Ali Hendry (trumpet), Fraser Gibson (trombone) and Pete MacDonald (keyboards) though Pete wasn't at this gig.
They sound-checked with News (“has everybody heard the news I’m going insane”) a frantic, funny, sing-along 1' 20" track. The sound was excellent - brass, violin, guitars, drums and voices - the whole ensemble. Adam steps back to the microphone and announces that he's "off to the toilet", leaps off the stage and lopes off through the crowd.
Back a few minutes later, and no hanging around, they launch straight in to Goodbye (from the Fast As A Man mini album) and the crowd are already dancing.
Randoph's Leap

The rest of the set went like this...

Foolishness Of Youth
Black & Blue
Isle Of Love 
Real Anymore
Light Of The Moon
and they finished the set with I Can't Dance To This Music Anymore

There were some brilliant moments of Adam thought between songs, in particular the fact that the vinyl and CD version of the new album were available to purchase. "That's CD not seedy" he said "the seedy version doesn't come out until July" 
The sound throughout was really excellent and what a sound they made. If you have never seen them live - just do it!

Of course I had to buy the new album "Clumsy Knot" vinyl and CD (seedy version) combo.

..which came with 
By Singer/Songwriter Adam Ross

1. UNNATURAL The most westerly song on the album. I wrote it in the Ardnamurchan peninsula to a captive audience of pine martens. A song about self-criticism and anxiety.

2. FOOLISHNESS OF YOUTH I spent ages trying to find a keyboard tone that sounded like Intuition by John Lennon. I didn’t find it. Not even on my £9.99 Casiotone MT-52. The song is kind of about worrying about stupid stuff we did/said in the past. I’m sad that “youth” isn’t really an excuse I can use anymore.

3. NEWS I’m proud of the amount of craziness we managed to fit in to 1 minute and 20 seconds. Hearing Fraser’s trombone part in isolation is an avant-garde joy to behold. It was recorded at Pete MacDonald’s house, which in its past lives has apparently been a Polish embassy, a W.I. dancehall and home to Teenage Fanclub.

4. HERMIT In October 2012 the lyric “hermit the frog” appeared on a Fence Records 7”. In August 2013 Fence Records ended. We recorded this song in the wonderful Chem 19 studios.

5. GINA Gina is in fact a very reasonable employer and I apologise for casting unfavourable aspersions. Someone told me the drums sound like the theme tune to ‘Scrubs’. I used a public domain drum loop so it’s possibly the same one.

6. LIGHT OF THE MOON A good example of a recording which is really different to the live version. I enjoy that aspect of the band. This song gave us the album title (“I’d tie a clumsy knot around a tender thought”). The chorus is about someone being a big fish in a small pond. Not me though. I’ve never been a big fish. At best I’m akin to average sized plankton.

7. WEATHERMAN Somebody once asked me sincerely if this song was based on the film The Weather Man starring Nicolas Cage. Ironically, this is one of the few Randolph’s Leap songs not inspired by Nicolas Cage. An acoustic version appeared on a mini-album called As Fast As A Man and it’s become a favourite to play live.

8. BLACK & BLUE Many things can be both black and blue. For example: the sky, clothing (e.g. trousers), paint, exotic fruit. An attempt to write a song that was really simple but affecting. Musically, it’s inspired by Kath Bloom, Sandy Denny and Karen Dalton. Lyrically, there’s hardly anything to it but I think that works in its favour and it’s my favourite recording on the album.

9. ISLE OF LOVE My girlfriend, Michelle, the person whom I trust and admire more than anyone else, once told me that this song made her feel sick. Oh well. I think I’d been listening to a lot of Jonathan Richman when I wrote this one.

10. MICROCOSM On that same day, Michelle told me that this one sounded Japanese(?!). This song made it onto the album just in the nick of time. Another fun one to play live.

11. SAXOPHONE The oldest song on the album. It’s been around for a while but I knew that when we finally came to record it we’d have to find a good sax player. We found a very good one (Bill Fleming). LISTEN TO THAT FLIPPIN’ SOLO! Thanks Bill.

12. COLD The delightful electric guitar tone on this song is actually an acoustic guitar sent through an effects box. Hard to believe but 100% true. One of the few songs I’ve managed to write without obsessing over rhyming couplets.

13. I CAN’T DANCE TO THIS MUSIC ANYMORE Kid Canaveral recently asked if they could record a version of this song. So by the time you read these words I might be rich as heck. It first appeared on a home-recorded album called The Curse of the Haunted Headphones and is, as far as I'm aware, the only song to reference Crossmyloof train station.

Randolph’s Leap