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James Igoe – History of OOTB

Jim Igoe – History of OOTB

Edinburgh 1992; acoustic music meant folk music played in folk pubs, talented musicians were writing songs in their bedrooms hoping somehow to meet like-minded musicians to work with and local bands competed against each other in the ever-increasing number of pay-to-play venues.

USA 1992; Tom “TG” McEwan took a trip to Nashville, Tennessee: “All over the city were open stages dedicated purely to songwriters.  On my return to Edinburgh, I vowed to do the same”.  There is a saying: ‘from small acorns do great oak trees grow’.

Tom teamed up with Niall McDevitt via the Edinburgh Evening News and in March 93 started Workers in Song in the Gallery Bar (now The Wash) on the Mound.  The idea was simple, songwriters would sign-up on the night to do 15-minute sets and the only rule was “no cover versions”.  Niall left for Eastern Europe in July but Tom kept it going through the summer until the venue grew cool on the idea “some of the songwriters could get a little outrageous (volume, nudity, swearing – the usual stuff)” and Tom turned up one night to find the plug had been pulled. The Tron Tavern and Ceilidh House offered the Tuesday night slot and in early October 1993, Edinburgh Songwriters’ Showcase was born.

In 1994 a joint CD “Gallery” featuring nine of the artists was released on the Deadbeat label.  Tom got a job that kept him out of the country all too frequently and Woodstock Taylor took up the baton in late ’95, running it for almost two years. In this time a six-band CD “it’s a life sentence…” (featuring a fledgling ballboy) was released. Craze took it on until he started Koala Music, releasing albums from five of the regular songwriters. Polly Phillips took up the helm in 1998 and a CD was released in the summer of 1999.  “Writer’s Block” is a fairly definitive collection featuring 21 Tron regulars of that era.  The music night remained in the Tron until the end of 1999 when the new management decided an open mic night didn’t blend with the pub chain’s corporate image.

(Norman Lamont has also written about the ESS – This Next Song … )

A new home at the Cas Rock was found and housed the Edinburgh Songwriters Showcase for six months until that bar too was re-branded… as a salsa theme bar. The Waverley Bar hosted the night until its demise in October, apart from August when a brief truce with The Tron was called for the duration of the Edinburgh Festival.  In December 2000 a special night was organised at Edinburgh College of Art’s Wee Red Bar with five handpicked bands launching what was hoped to be a regular Tuesday night slot.  The night was a great success but the Wee Red Bar priced itself out of the running. So Edinburgh Songwriter’s Showcase died… That’s the bad news.

But, right now the Edinburgh open mic/acoustic scene is very healthy and run by people who are passionate about live music and, of course, they’re great places in which to meet interesting people and see and hear things you would never see or hear elsewhere.  And just maybe you’ll be at a concert at Murrayfield Stadium one day saying “I saw him/her when they were really good. There was this open mic night…”

James Igoe, March 2002

Point of information: I set up the WORKERS IN SONG night single-handedly all those years ago.
About a year into it, Tom began supplying the use of his PA system.
He had nothing to do with the founding of the event.
I’m glad to hear this has evolved into Edinburgh Songwriters’ Showcase.
You can’t beat a good idea.
Niall McDevitt

Posted by: Niall McDevitt | 20 Jun 2007 13:11:17

Apologies for omitting you from the story Niall. I remember your
introduction to my second appearance at The Gallery Bar when I turned
up with my leather jacket, electric guitar and distortion pedal. You
mentioned I’d lost my open mic virginity the week before and you were
right! 🙂

Posted by: James Igoe | 13 Nov 2008 22:07:03

One Comment

  1. Ping from admin:

    So, it’s February 2009 and we’re moving Out of the Bedroom back to The Tron, doubtlessly opening a new page in the continuing story of Edinburgh’s originals only open mic night.

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