Bad Books / Loch Awe / The Spook School – The Wee Red Bar and Emma Pollock – Shining Light – Edinburgh 23rd June 2012

OK let’s do this chronologically. Unlike last year’s Frantic Friday the only risk involved last night was how much of how little of the New Fabian Society we would miss in transit between the two venues. And possibly how wet we might get if the heavens opened. But the chance to see Emma Pollock perform solo again was too good to pass up.

So the evening started in Shining Light on Morrison Street. It’s a nice space with a small stage, spoiled only by a couple of pillars on either side of the stage. Despite the ‘Full’ signs on the door, the room wasn’t much more than half full at the scheduled start time and was probably part of the reason that the show didn’t start til shortly after 7, more than 15 minutes later than the advertised sharp start.

Whilst seemingly far more relaxed and chatty in front of an audience than she once was, Emma still seemed a bit nervous about appearing in front of an audience on her own again. The fact that half of her set was new material (including ‘Intermission’ which was aired with the Electric String Orchestra at the SAY Awards on Tuesday) probably didn’t help.

Yet her 10 songs were utterly captivating, despite a couple of places where she managed to lose her place in the songs to her embarrassment. “I hope you’re laughing with me and not at me.” she joked at one point. Definitely with.

The new songs ranged from a couple that definitely sounded like potential full band material (particularly ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’) to the aforementioned potentially epic ‘Intermission’ which sounded quite fragile in the solo setting.

But the older stuff sounded great too, with ‘Confessions’ a particular stand-out. It was great to see Emma back performing her own stuff.

Emma played:

1. Nine Lives  2. Acid Test  3. What the Words Have Planned  4. Dark Skies  5. Confessions  6. Intermission  7. Don’t Make Me Wait  8. “Making It Up”  9. Child of Mine  10. Paper & Glue

The delayed start pretty much meant that we had no chance of catching any of the New Fabian Society (short of a heart attack inducing run up the hill) and so it proved. By the time we’d reached the Wee Red Bar TNFS had just finished.

With barely a chance to buy drinks the Spook School were straight on. Now, in the past, I’ve had a hard enough time distinguishing them from the Young Spooks but having, I thought, finally got the two sorted out in my head, I was more than  a little surprised to be wrong footed once more.  This lot didn’t sound much  like the jangly guitars of the recordings I’d heard. Surely there’s not another ‘Spook’ band in Edinburgh?

Nope, it’s the same band but far more energetic and, frankly punky, than the recordings. They blazed through an enjoyable half an hour of songs even with their drummer melting away in his ill advised jump suit. There was a brief dip in tempo (if not quality) mid set when the ukulele was brought out but otherwise it was pretty much full on. I’d like to see them again.

Interviewing duties meant that I missed the start of Loch Awe but, like Spook School before them, they surprised me by being far more rock than I expected. I’d suggest that there’s a bit of the sort of epic folk that Meursault specialise in going on here. But boy can they cut loose when they want to, their final tune building to a crescendo involving some serious guitar freak-outery.

And finally to the closing act. The Bad Books seem to have built a good reputation live on the back of word of mouth alone and their set last night can only have enhanced their burgeoning reputation.

They seem to have the knack of writing tunes that are both accessible but also durable and the latest addition to their repertoire ‘Seedlings’, on first listen, seems to fit neatly into that box.

Highlights? Michael’s monstrous guitar when it kicked in on opener ‘Summer of Lunches’, whilst at the other end ‘Victory Lap’ seemed particularly epic . ‘Year of the Cat’ meanwhile has already grown from new song last time out to an integral part of the set conclusion.

Every good thing you’ve heard about this band is true – catch ’em if you can.

The Bad Books played:

1. Summer of Lunches  2. BOP  3. Seedlings  4. A Rough Wooing  5. Year of the Cat  6. Victory Lap

Photos from the 2 shows here.

The Bad Books have at least one date in the next few weeks whilst Emma is plannng a tour with RM Hubbert in the autumn.

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