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OOTB 283 – 10 January 2008

Rob Sproul-Cran, Nyk Stoddart, Ian Sclater, Aaron Lowen Berger, LindsaySugden, Jym Ponter, Ghostboy, Daniel Vzeu, Ross Neilson, Eddie and Chris(debut), Aaron Wright & Alan Ross, Hannah O’Reilly.

World’s End Pi$$-Up, 10/1/08.David O’Hara, Kevin O’Rourke, Kev’s mate Sam, Bill Philip, Freeloadin’ Frank, Scott Renton, Hannah O’Reilly and her husband Ben.

Another great session from some of the finest wits in the unamplified Edinburgh drinking scene, and topics such as Beethoven, poker and Presbyterianism had the pub ringing to the throng of heartily raised voices and occasionally strong opinions. Magnificent- it must have gone on for nearly forty minutes. Some people even took their coats off. Apologies from Rob Sproul-Cran, who was strangely ‘aff the drink’.

Immediately prior to this, some of the assembled went to the Canons’ Gait for an evening of musical interruption to their drinking. Sproul-Cran was there, hosting the sesh, and even showing the massed alkies how to kickoff any such gathering, with his well known lilt, You Should Be Mine. I Stupidly referred to Rob as ‘the King of Falsetto’ at The Blue Blazer last week- which, compared to myself, is a moniker attributable to 99% of the population.

Anyway,the 3 song sets got under way with Nyk Stoddart taking to the stage in his new Pete Doherty-esque trilby. Assuming this is as far as the impression goes, and that he’s not got a harem of supermodels listening to Chas N Dave in his flat, it was with an open mind that we listened to Radiohead parody TV Leg (‘picking at scabs on my arms?!), the sparse telling-off of a pi$$ed-off lover (Don’t Try), and his current crowd-pleaser, Scarecrow Man, where he compares himself to Elmore James,and ‘brings it on home to you’. As ever, intense, but Nyk demands, and gets, the full attention of the room.

Ian Sclater also keeps the crowd watchful- I notice Ian has a distinctive’stare’ when he sings, he looks right at each member of the audience (even if to him it’s all the red blur of the Amsterdam light that currently flavours the stage!), and exhibits a real ‘up and at ’em’ approach to performing. The songs tonight, Isabella (the well-kent tale of falling in love in/with a Spanish town), Talk To Somebody (free counseling for anyone that needs it), and Emerald City (‘somebody’s making a killing out of you’, about the green zone, and exploitation within the rebuilding in Iraq) are uncomplicated, punchy, memorable singalongs.

I’d not seen Aaron Lowenberger before, but had heard a lot of good things(eg tonight he was introduced as the ‘sh!t hot’ Aaron Lowen Berger). This New Jersey Dado Prso-lookalike doesn’t disappoint, giving us an excellent Bert Jansch-y instrumental. Just the one song tonight, but he’ll be doing the featured slot on January 31st, so a real chance to show the masses what he can do looms.

One person whose abilities we know all about is Lindsay Sugden. The Publicity Officer and T-Shirt Designer gave us three that she’s playing a lot just now: that one about ‘let me see an epiphany’, Beyond These Walls,and the song that I believe is called Time Stands Still. Ably supported by Karen ‘Indigo Rose’ Austin on glock and vocals, the combination of wispy lyrics on abstract matters, the parallel existence vocal (akin to Philadelphia band Espers), and wonderfully complex tunes and structures,are a winner as usual.

Nice to see Jym Ponter back on the OOTB stage, headphones seemingly surgically removed from round his neck. Sounds like Kurt Cobain, looks like he could have been in the Jefferson Airplane, and the songs themselves are a relentless rural rollercoaster, sort of like The Band play The Sex Pistols. If Jym Ponter told you the names of his songs, he wouldn’t be Jym Ponter, but I have to say I’ve always been a fan of the manic number with the self-contradictory refrain of ‘naw, naw, naw, naw,naw, naw, na-aw, yeah’, and spiky ruminations on a 3-fronged pork. The second number was a bit more poppy, and (sorry to keep coming out with these sh*t dichotomous analogies) evoked Charles Manson impersonating Liam Gallagher. The third felt like The Mutiny On The Bounty set to music.Great stuff.

Next up was Gary ‘Ghostboy’ Riley, evincing his nihilistic ‘no working’ persona by telling us the only New Year’s Resolution he was making this year was not to make any resolutions,¬† and he gave us a few from his canon, starting with the very optimistic The One, which could maybe benefit from one or two more adventurous rhymes, but is definitely an upbeat, catchy number. Next up was What You Gonna Do- probably his best-known, and in my opinion, best song, and he finished with another powerful number for which Ken Loach could do the video- When We Were Young, a telling journey through childhood reveries.

Running late for his mates was Daniel Vzeu, but with the aid of a few carefully-worded texts, he was able to stick around for a double squash.Continuing to get away with his ode to a VERY young lady (featuring the oft-heard Sheriff Court line ‘I can’t believe she’s so young’), his first song is typical Vzeu, featuring jazzy runs on the guitar,tonsil-threateningly powerful vocal, and a pithy, swaggering lyric about this over-active love life. A different angle at the ’17’ concept from Janis Ian’s, you might say. The second number, which he was easily persuaded to stick around for, was a funkier number, largely about how enjoyable it is for he and his lady to ‘spend all day in bed with nothing on’…

I [Scott Renton] then won the raffle, for the first time. Given I’ve been to well over 100 OOTBs, this is somewhat surprising. I may frame the Maltesers, rather than eat them.

Noted for having the most impressive-looking guitar on the circuit, Ross Neilson does very polished, brooding songs, through an unexpected sort of London accent, which belies his Alloa roots brilliantly. His first number(Anytime My Faith Decides?) reminded me of Urban Hymns-era Verve (or The Verve as they’d renamed themselves under duress), before moving onto a staccato, downbeat piece, for which the refrain was, I think ‘wake up!’,and finally picking up with a more gung-ho piece (Barricade Your Soul?).Ross’s songs are very professional sounding, and nicely executed; I occasionally feel a lyric which spoke more directly to the listener might be nice, but you can’t doubt the quality.

An enjoyable debut followed, from Eddie and Chris, a sort of ‘Little &Large’ combo who dealt out excellent tunes (titles I have here are Forecast, and Heart Of My Existence), which had a very engaging presence about them, perhaps akin to Snow Patrol or Kings Of Convenience, in that their specialty appeared to be quite intense romanticism, backed up with thought-provoking lyrics (‘gently swinging on her chair… tries to please me, that only makes me feel uneasy’). Definite presence about them, and we’ll be looking forward to seeing and hearing more.

Boasting the Dickensian scarf and jacket combo (quoth David O’Hara:’please sir, can I have a squashee?’), graveyard-shift fan Aaron Wright took to the stage alongside t-shirt clad, harmonica-tooting accomplice Alan Ross. Following a witty opening (‘here are some songs that don’t normally go down very well), the lads fired into a highly melodic track about ‘it’s not the tongue, it’s the heart that lies’, before heading straight into lonesome, and not-at-all-crowded, wild west territory with the sort of cowboy number that you could easily imagine Kris Kristofferson singing, with a soaring moothie over the top. ‘I was a young man when I Left your home’, meanwhile, was typical Aaron, with the dynamics in all the Wright places.

Squashing in for a quick last one was songstress turned tradeswoman Hannah O’Reilly. We know what to expect from Hannah, and Adam and Eve was delivered with the usual heap of sass (‘Adam always seems like a pu$$y tome!’) and confidence. Nice, unexpected end to the night.

Compere: Rob Sproul-Cran Sound: David O’Hara Review: Scott Renton

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