Thursday, 10 December 2009

LUNCH REVIEW: Illegal Jack's South West Grill


ILLEGAL JACK'S SOUTH WEST GRILL
Fast, fresh, convenient

A south west grill is a familiar concept to this American. Places like Chipotle and Moe's are among the favorites in the States serving up fast but fresh Tex Mex, with specific pride placed on a variety of salsas and the ability to walk away with a giant meal for a tiny price.

This is a brand new concept to Edinburgh, and to my knowledge, Scotland. 'Jack' and company realised a potential for a south west grill within a city that can be barren of places to actually sit in and have a large, impressive meal for under six or so quid; and so, Illegal Jack's is born.

It has completely taken over the old and uninspiring home of Pizza Hut on Lothian Road after a mind-boggling transformation requiring unfathomable amounts of love and patience for a result so tremendous. Gone are the manky walls and aroma of stale dough, replaced now with clean, white walls, gorgeous oak furniture throughout and far more inviting scents emanating from the completely re-fitted kitchen.

On my first of, inevitably, many visits, I go for the tacos (£5.25), a portion of three corn tortilla shells and the option to fill them with any variety chicken, beef or sauteed vegetables. I try one of each, and top each one with three different salsas, cheese and a side of, apparently, one hour fresh guacamole.

Although the shells could have been crispier, the contents made it more forgiving. Everything is marinated with chipotle peppers for 24 hours, rendering a smokiness, however, discernibly different flavour within each filling. The salsas are obviously fresh, with hotness ranging as mild, sweet (roasted) and super hot. For real fire lovers, there's plenty of Louisiana Hot Sauce on-hand too - a brand they believe is more excellent than the many they sampled during a search for the perfect complementary sauce.

Also on the menu are fajitas, chili bowls, salad bowls, nachos, quesadillas and, the next item on my agenda, burritos. I got a glimpse of the latter, and they are truly served in American-sized portions and come with instructions to 1. Put back the fork and knife. You won't need it; and 2. Grab the burrito with both hands.

It should be noted that there's no booze served at all, so come only with an appetite for lots of rather great examples of American South West flavour. (K. Smith)

ILLEGAL JACK'S
-113 Lothian Road
-Edinburgh
-EH3 9AN

OPENING HOURS
Mon-Thurs 12-8pm
Fri-Sat 12-9pm
Sun 12-8pm

Also in the January 2010 issue of Bite Magazine

Sunday, 4 October 2009

INTERVIEW: William Douglas and The Wheel



Another goodie to fly off the Edinburgh live rumour mill this year is four-piece rock 'n' rollers William Douglas and the Mill. With the catchy, melodic soul of The Beatles an obvious homage, as well as the rambunctious rock of the Rolling Stones, this is the kind of music that makes you want to slam back a few bottles of beer, hug your friends, and enemies too, and then sing all the way home. Drummer Ian 'Stoddy' Stoddart spoke to The List briefly about The Wheel and exactly where you can find them, as they are not to be missed.

When and how did William Douglas and the Wheel come to be?
We have been together about three years. William (vocals, guitar) met Chris Agnew (bass, vocals, guitar) at an open mic. I (drummer) got asked to fill in for the previous drummer and stayed at the party! Austen George (guitar, backing vocals) arrived recently to take the guitar job and after many a night at Dr Ruby's and the late spots at the Jazz Bar...the Wheel rolls!

What kind of music inspires you to make your own?
This week we've been mostly listening to Beatles remastered, Neil
Young, The Kinks and Stax!

Have you guys recorded any music of late?
We recorded I'll be Your General, a song that was kickin' around William's kitchen for a while, at Jewel and Esk's new studio with help from a friendly engineer called Frankie. We had 3 hours to get it done.

Do you have any regular gig slots anywhere?
Regular gig is at the Jazz Bar, Edinburgh on Saturdays from 6 until 8.30 pm. We are the
rock 'n' roll infiltrators!

Favourite Beatles album?
Fave Fab Four album is....Sergeant Pepper's Mystery Revolving White Rubber Road For Sale.

http://www.myspace.com/williamdouglasandthewheel

William Douglas and the Wheel play Saturdays at the Jazz Bar, Edinburgh, from 6 to 8.30pm.

Also published in The List

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

GIG REVIEW: Pastels/Tenniscoats


The Pastels/Tenniscoats

Scottish indie gods The Pastels make an anticipated return to stage after a hiatus that has for a few years been spent planning and recording with their Japanese counterparts, Tenniscoats.

Hard to believe that the mere idea of new collaborative album, Two Sunsets, the Pastels’ first in, gosh, over a decade, was conceivable with the two bands based on separate continents but witnessing the finished efforts of this baby live and it’s obvious why they just had to make it work. What a worthwhile and sensible marriage. This is just one of several visits to Scotland from Tokyo that have made this unique and breezy blend so possible, the result is so very soft, wispy, classic Pastels.

With orchestral-esque additions of flute, clarinet and trumpet, Takashi Ueno’s harmonica cries and the oriental distinctions shining through with Saya Ueno’s sweet vocals, this set is a sheer charmer. Highlights include an ethereal Jesus and Mary Chain cover, ‘About You’, the righteous, whispering melodies of ‘Mou Mou Rainbow’ and the utterly rich simplicity of ‘Two Sunsets’. It’s a night where nothing can go wrong, and the Pastels prove they’ve still got game without seeming they have anything to prove at all.

Also here on isthismusic.com

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Harvey Nichols Brasserie


REVIEW
HARVEY NICHOLS
Seafood and skylines

NOT A LOT HAS CHANGED SINCE MY LAST VISIT TO HARVEY NICOLS' FORTH FLOOR BRASSERIE: THE RIGHT MENU ITEMS STILL EXIST, THE ONLY TABLES WORTH SITTING AT ARE THE ONES BY THE WINDOW AND THE VIEW OVER ST ANDREW SQUARE AND THEN EXTENDING PAST THE CASTLE AND TO THE HILLS REMAINS AWESOME. IT GETS BETTER AS THE NIGHT PROGRESSES, THE BAFFLING SCOTTISH SKIES CHANGING SHAPES AND COLOURS BEFORE MY EYES.

My friend and I marvel at the strangeness of empty post-festival streets below before focusing on the menu. In the spirit of trying something new, I resist my favourite from last time - a chicken terrine - and decide on the chicken liver parfait (£6), quite the indulgence of mouth-puckering rich mouse that I affix on brioche with a complementary spiced apple and walnut chutney. My friend's palmiers with chicory salad (£7) is a delightful dish of puff pastries imaginatively served with Parma ham instead of a cup of tea. She loves it.

The main dish is indeed the main attraction. We share the lobster seafood platter (£55), although there are several versions from which to choose. It is beautiful to look at with oysters, clams and mussels surrounding the mound of salmon, then whole langoustines and chunky, generously de-shelled lobster tails atop. All is remarkably fresh from the salt of the oysters to the mild sweetness of the lobster. In a country so well-known for warm comfort food and a predominately sun-less climate, it is nice to be reminded that, though not frequented in traditional attire, we really are so close to the sea and its delicious creatures that are best served cold, with a pretty sunset.

For dessert, it's too tempting to let the peach and blueberry crumble pass us by and it does not disappoint with the warm fruit and shortbread crumbles polished away with a perfectly mild caramel ice cream. And so yes, all seems right, and what could really go wrong from where we sit? By the time we depart, the Jennings sign and the castle are alight to remind us that even with skies of pure darkness, the city's sky-line still a sight of wonder.

30-34 St. Andrew Sq
Edinburgh, EH2 2AD
0131 524 8350

Monday to Friday:
Morning: 10:00am - 12noon
Lunch: 12 noon - 3:00pm
Afternoon: 3:00pm - 5:30pm

Saturday:
Morning: 10:00am - 12 noon
Lunch: 12 noon - 3.30pm
Afternoon: 3.30pm - 5:30pm

Sunday brunch 11am to 5pm

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Bella Mbriana


REVIEW
BELLA MBRIANA
Neapolitan nourishment

FOR MANY OF US WESTERNERS, OUR IDEA OF ITALIAN CUISINE IS SLIGHTLY SKEWED AS WE ARE GENERALLY OFFERED ANY NUMBER OF VARIATIONS ON PASTA, CHEESE, BREAD AND TOMATO SAUCE. THAT'S ALL GOOD STUFF, DON'T GET ME WRONG, BUT ITALY IS A BIG PLACE AND THESE FAMOUS BASICS AREN'T NECESSARILY INDIGENOUS THROUGHOUT THE COUNTRY. FOR INSTANCE, NEAPOLITAN FAYRE IS BASED LARGELY AROUND MEAT, FISH AND VEGETABLES AND GENEROUS DRIZZLES OF EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL, A FACT WE'RE LEARNING NOW THANKS TO BELLA MBRIANA. LOCATED AT THE BOTTOM OF BROUGHTON STREET, THE NEW, CONTEMPORARY DECORATED RESTAURANT IS THE VISION OF CHEF ROSARIO SARTORE WHO IS HERE TO SCHOOL EDINBURGH DINERS ON WHAT WE MAY NOT KNOW ABOUT SOUTHERN ITALIAN CUISINE. HE'S SO ADAMANT, IN FACT, ABOUT AUTHENTICITY THAT IT'S A REQUIREMENT FOR EVERY CHEF THERE TO BE ITALIAN.

Sartore's interpretation of the region is a hit with the fior de zucchine (£6.95): battered courgette flowers with oven-baked cherry tomatoes and a dip of pureed butternut squash plus ricotta cheese infused with creamed anchovies - both dips of which I would happily pair with almost anything but fried courgettes are indeed a delicious choice. My friend is astonished to have essentially ordered a large ball of cheese! Served inside a small bowl of cherry tomato juices, olive oil, garlic and oregano, the provola dei poveri (5.95)is soft like fresh mozzarella but with a lovely, mild smokey flavour. As the menu suggests, it's a 'wonderful way to eat this cheese!'

For mains, I go for the melanzane a scarpone (£10.95): an oven-baked aubergine shoe filled with an onion, cherry tomato and basil sauce and accompanied with marinated chopped lamb and salted cheese. It's simple but lovely, and much lighter than the typical heavy dish of pasta that can at times push your appetite over the edge! My friend's petto d' anatra (£12.95) is a heavenly dish of duck breast cooked with olive oil, mixed grapes, Gran Marnier and caramelised leeks, the sweeter components balancing smartly with the savory duck.

Bella Mbriana is very imaginative, and just as welcoming too, and it is apparent that they are as passionate about the land from which they came as they are about its food.


BELLA MBRIANA

7-11 East London Street
Edinburgh
EH7 4BN

0131 558 9581
www.bella-mbriana.com

TREATMENT REVIEW: Microdermabrasion


TREATMENT REVIEW
MULBERRY HOUSE
Microdermabrasion

SKIN PROBLEMS LIKE ACNE, FINE LINES AND SUN DAMAGE HAVE CAUSED MANY SUPPOSED SOLUTIONS TO EVOLVE OVER TIME. MANY INSTILL HOPE, ONLY TO BE DISSOLVED WHEN NOTHING BUT YOUR MONEY SEEMS TO DISAPPEAR, BUT SOMETIMES A SMALL MIRACLE COMES ALONG TO RENEW YOUR FAITH AS WELL AS YOUR EPIDERMIS. TECHNOLOGY CAN BE A WONDERFUL THING, AND IN THIS CASE IT IS ALSO FINANCIALLY FEASIBLE, ESPECIALLY CONSIDERING THE REWARDS OF MICRODERMABRASION.

Although there was no promise of the normal luxurious indulgence of facials, I still feel very relaxed inside the complementary health centre at Mulberry House, as if I'm in store for something great. My treatment specialist, Sally, is calming and informative as she explains the process of this high-tech procedure.

What is about to happen? In just a few minutes, my dead skin is totally lifted away with a small vacuum that uses medicated crystals to gently break away the useless, outermost layer of skin while also exfoliating and revealing the new, living skin, its smooth and soft surface now receptive to nutrients. Sally uses a soft speed on the first sweep of my face and neck, then increasing the suction in the finishing stages of the procedure. It takes a total of 30 minutes, accounting also for the skin's preparation and therapeutic final moisturising treatments, and is far simpler than bizarre daily cleansing regimes and completely noninvasive. There's nothing painful to it at all and the recovery time, even for my sensitive skin, is zilch.

It is said that on just one treatment, a very noticeable disappearance of blackheads is present and after eight treatments, active acne is virtually gone. Sally explains that people enjoy the one-off refresher as much as a proper multiple procedure, the latter of which can apparently have remarkable, long-lasting results. She is not only helpful in recommending microdermabrasion as a solution to fine lines, sun damage, age spots and oily skin, but also offers sensible advice on daily cleansing and the right kind of moisturiser for my skin.

Overall, a genuinely great experience that left me beautifully refreshed, better-informed about my own skin and confident that it isn't too late to easily mend a few insecurities.

For price packages and to read more about services offered, sneak over to www.mulberryhouse.co.uk.

Mulberry House
39 Manor Place
Edinburgh
EH3 7EB
0131 225 2012

OPENING HOURS
Mon-Fri 9am-7pm
Sat 9am-5pm

Wednesday, 26 August 2009

FESTIVAL COMEDY REVIEW: Alex Maple's Press Release * *


Underbelly
26-30 August 18.25

Self-deprecating can be funny and Alex Maple's jokes about how his jokes are sh*t can actually be very funny. I'm sure the last two words of that sentence will be manipulated into a great press release since this is what the show is all about.

Maple, apparently a former PR guru, brings a few absurdities of the industry to light while being interrupted ever so often by his fabricated ex-girlfriend/techie who offers slightly awkward and uncomplimentary commentary on his set that stumbles throughout. Fully aware of the difficult and scarce audience, Maple is great at making light of his shortcomings and compensating with chocolate, but still the audience waits to laugh at the comedy and not the catastrophe.

It's unmistakable that the man is clever and can deliver puns that will make you giggle but his humour may be best delivered and received among friends, which is not the group he unfortunately collects tonight.

Being part of his intimate circle must be a laugh but for a hearty one, this ain't the ticket. He's adorable though, so ladies, if you sit on the front row he just may look deep into your eyes while trying to pull off a joke about his size 12 foot up someone's vagina. Your choice.

Also published here on Edinburgh Festivals Magazine's website edfestmag.com
or give this guy the benefit of the doubt, a second chance, a beer, your phone number, what have you, HERE!

Sunday, 23 August 2009

BOOK FESTIVAL REVIEW: David Sedaris * * * *


David Sedaris * * * *
International Book Festival
22 Aug 15.30

Sedaris is so unsuspecting. Dressed in khaki trousers (not corduroy or denim) and a smart shirt, Sedaris, a man short in stature, appears to be normal, or rather, boring. Not at all the type of gentleman that would, moments later, smilingly divulge the horrors of defecated American dressing rooms, or light-heatedly tell a story about the highly-homosexual purchase of a four pound box of condoms and strawberries from Costco. The condoms, of course, are gifts to the teenagers who attend his readings. So, yes: not so boring.

Sedaris sails straight into an email reading, an email from Rhonda. Rhonda's email is typical of Sedaris' style, sarcasm and humour: a tasty avocado that pleasantly peels away to its delicious end, or in this case, a hilariously evil punchline. Rhonda seems totally in-the-right for firing off an email in response to receiving pizza vouchers for a wedding gift, an email that's more of a 'f**k you' note than a 'why, thank you' note. Oh, the sweet revenge that carefully composed sentences can bear. A hoot.

He chooses this story, you see, because Sedaris is pleased with himself for finally getting an email address, and the Internet, a year ago; now a new world of humour opens itself up to him as he's particularly dumbfounded that people can, and do, comment on everything, down to the veins in Madonna's arms.

The next and final reading is Laugh, Kookaburra, published last week in the New Yorker. This story is not as evil but funny still, although he confesses to me afterwards that he wishes he'd chosen a few smaller pieces instead. Laugh, Kookaburra is indeed a longish memoir, however a funny and well-crafted recall of a trip to Australia and an introduction to a fascinating kookaburra, entwined with a childhood memory that involves that bizarre family of his who are so endearing now to any fan of his many other memoirs. I assure him, and you, it's a treat.

In the question and answer session to follow, Sedaris' natural wit is unleashed while discussing the rigorous fact-checking involved in personal essays (is there really asparagus on that menu in Daylesford, Australia?) and his preferred editing process which is to edit himself during live readings before submitting a piece to a publisher. He does not recommend the restaurant at Edinburgh's Harvey Nichols (which one is unknown) as he apparently left the place "famished," but then leaves us with his sentiments on Scotland. "Just when you think it can't get any more beautiful, you turn your head slightly,and it does."

We can only hope this means he'll be back to remind us that Sedaris is about as boring as a kookaburra.

Also in Edinburgh Festivals Magazine on edfestmag.com.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Alfie's Place


Newbie but a goodie

THE FOODIE HUB OF LEITH'S SHORE HAS A NEW KID TO COMPETE WITH. THE NEWBIE IS LOCATED IN THE OLD SPOT OF A PLACE SO UNLIKE ALFIE'S PLACE THAT I DO NOT EVEN REMEMBER ITS NAME. ALFIE'S PLACE WANTS TO BE YOUR PLACE; IT'S RELAXING, FRESH, FRIENDLY AND SCENIC. WITH PRETTY, WHITE ORNATE CEILINGS ABOVE, THE WATER JUST ACROSS THE ROAD, BEAUTIFUL BLACK AND WHITE PHOTOGRAPHY ALL AROUND AND TUNES BY SIMON AND GARFUNKEL, THE BEACH BOYS AND FATS DOMINO TO SOUNDTRACK THE EXPERIENCE - IT'S A GREAT PLACE TO STAY AWHILE.

I start with the mackerel kebab (£4.95); the fish is charcoaled and spiced to perfection, speared with a skewer and served with slices of fresh cukes, diced tomatoes, coriander and raita. My friend's aubergine and courgette gougères with garlic yoghurt are like savory little pastry sandwiches: Creations as delicious as they are cute (£5.25).

My friend then has the baked hake for a main, served ingeniously with roasted celeriac, roasted potatoes and garlic butter (£13.95). She compliments the simple but great mix of flavours and how perfectly each item, particularly the fish, is prepared. My ribeye isn't as rare as I'd wanted but tender nonetheless and complemented exceptionally well with chunks upon chunks of fresh lobster atop, a beautiful, classic béarnaise on the side, plus homemade chips: a succulent surf and turf treat that excites, especially at this price (£18.95).

Desserts all sound up our street so we are offered a sampler and so I shall list them with our favourites first: Eton Mess (a mess of meringue, marinated fruit, cream and ice cream, £4.95), Bailey's panna cotta (£5.25), baked lemon tarte (£5.25) and chocolate and hazelnut terrine with orange anglaise (£5.25). I could probably rearrange that list at any given moment though, and would order any of them again and again.

Everything is made in house, down to the bread, mayo and ketchup, ketchup so good that they plan to bottle and sell it! And the chef is all too happy to deliver the dish himself or speak to all of the tables about their experience. Go there, meet these lovely people and eat their stellar food. Enjoy!

ALFIE’S
-63 The Shore
-Leith
-EH6 6RA
-0131 554 2194

OPENING HOURS
-Mon-Sat 12-2.30 lunch
-Mon-Sat 5.30-10pm dinner
-closed Sundays


Also in Bite Magazine, September 2009

FESTIVAL THEATRE REVIEW: Poets' Corner * * * *

Just the Tonic @ The Caves
8-23 August (ex. 18) 13.40


An (oddly) handsome Oscar Wilde and a girl-crazy, self-quoting Lord Byron sip wine and behave like busy-bodied mortals inside Poets' Corner of Westminster Abbey, discussing other dead colleagues and their possible appearance at the anticipated annual party held at the Abbey.

Past parties apparently have resulted in Keats' embarrassing champagne incident, Shakespeare is repeatedly declared a twat and Wordsworth, too, is shunned. Tonight, Blake arrives frustrated at his choice in apparel, Chaucer pops out for a fag and Dickens laments over his post-mortal influence in the literary world. A surprise guest, Jane Gathering, arrives confused and her reasons for being there (is she dead or alive? is she an important writer?) are explored, as is the notion of being remembered via an inscription in Poets' Corner or else being completely forgotten. A creepy professor reminds that creative writing courses are bollocks, for neither creativity nor writing can be taught or learned, and Jane struggles to accept this for herself.

Although the dark underlying issue of death is always at hand, James Huntrods' Poets' Corner is nonetheless full of wit and charm and is an endearing, convincing and engaging production, especially for anyone whose passions lie in writing or literature. Particularly worth it if you fancy yourself a dead war poet or a Brontë in attendance, this is a humorous and intelligent way to spend a swiftly passing hour.

Also published here in edfestmag.com

Monday, 17 August 2009

FESTIVAL MUSIC REVIEW: Bach for Breakfast * * * *


Bach for Breakfast is quite the preferable way to do mornings. The room is overflowing with classical music enthusiasts who are here to relax and be gently entertained over a cup of coffee.

Beginning with a Bach piece called Gamba Sonata, cellist Ashok Klouda and pianist Simon Lane prove to be tremendous, serious young musicians. Lane's quirky, animated but focused style is so different that I can't take my eye off him, while Klouda is also profoundly skilled, moving and passionate. They also perform Wieniawski's Scherzo Tarantella in G Op. 16 another that is meant for the violin but is replaced with the cello, an entirely unnoticeable fact that Klouda pulls off wonderfully.

Other Bach pieces, 'Aus liebe will mein Heiland sterban' (St Matthew Passion), and then the appropriate 'Ei! wie schmekt ker Coffee Susse' (Coffee Cantata), are performed by soprano Madeleine Pierard and pianist Simon Lepper. Pierard is kind enough to explain the stories behind the songs, which illustrate Bach's sense of humour. For example, in the Coffee Cantata, a girl pleads with her father, who insists that coffee is evil, that she cannot live without it: Mm! how sweet the coffee tastes, more delicious than a thousand kisses, mellower than muscatel wine. Coffee, coffee I must have, and if someone wishes to give me a treat, ah, then pour me out some coffee! Although obviously not sung in English, it's vivid in Pierard's impeccable performance as to what exactly is taking place in each moment of this beautiful, if also very humorous, operatic piece.

Finally, Handel's 'Ah, Crudel' (Rinaldo) and 'Tormani a vagheggiar' (Alcina) are Pierard and Lepper's closing songs that has the audience soaking it all in, eyes closed and satisfying smiles abound. It is a performance that gracefully sends us off to the breakfast room, which has a stunning view of the castle, for pastries, coffee and tea, and to ponder the exceptional talent just witnessed, as well as how good life can be with music like this in the world.

Also published here in edfestmag.com

FESTIVAL REVIEW: SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS BALLET * * * *


Oh the magic that ensues when a sunrise can don ballet shoes and dance away the darkness.

Snow White and her enviable and near-fatal beauty are back, bringing with her the colourful visions that are the silly seven dwarfs plus the evil Queen, and Snow White's propensity to trust a stranger with questionable fruit. In this version of the classic fairytale, the fear of the dark forests is replaced, for the sake of the little ones, with beautiful moonbeams who sweetly keep Snow White safe in her wanders before Sunrise herself leads the way to Prince Charming.

It's a fab production for the whole family, with breathtaking backdrops projected behind the cheerful faces and graceful tip toes of the Burklyn Ballet Theatre. The gracious gasps and claps from the wee audience members is all the evidence needed to illustrate the mesmerising treat to be found in this rendition of an undeniably enchanting tale.

Also published here on edfestmag.com

FESTIVAL REVIEW: BUDDY: THE BUDDY HOLLY STORY * * *


Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story! * * *
Sweet ECA, Venue 186
9-13 Aug 16.40
14-15 Aug 12.30

Buddy's pretty solid but as for Sweet ECA, that'll be the day. The show, adapted from the West End musical, begins with a hitch or three as the opening scene featuring the KDAV Sunday Party, where Buddy and the Crickets are said to have been first aired, has to stop and start over due to sudden venue blackouts: a technicality that the gang gracefully ignore for as long as they can before we're left to sit in darkness, however enjoying the sounds of Johnny Cash and Jimmy Swan.

When it finally kicks off, it becomes obvious that the audience has a vital part in the show as we're flashed the 'silence' signs when appropriate, then cheers go wild when Buddy takes the stage, surrounded by girls in gorgeous, authentic 50s floral frocks. In an hour and a half of summing up the celebrated and short life of a legend, the story highlights Buddy's insistence on recording That'll be the Day (as opposed to the preferred country tunes of those days), the revelation and joyful simplicity of Everyday, the death-fearing but successful Apollo appearance, meeting his future wife (for whom he wrote True Love Ways) and the tour with Richie Valens and JP 'The Big Bopper' Richardson that would also be the demise of all three men.

It's a rich show with a stage full of talented actors and musicians, both vocally and instrumentally, where a good two dozen songs at least, are performed. As a southern American, I am impressed by the put-on southern accents and would only advise against phrases like 'Cheers, Buddy' as this is not at all an Americanism. Buddy's very lovable but could have had much more volume on his mic so we could better hear and discern his take on the late great's hiccup-style vocals.

The shining star is the stand up bass man, who endlessly entertains with a gazillion impressive manoeuvres including standing on top of, sliding beneath and exalting overhead the life-sized instrument: very rock and roll. Far less amusing is Richie Valen's performance. As a 50s enthusiast, I am pretty sure that Valens was not a male stripper yet this kid's portrayal implies as much. I am in constant fear of having my eye poked out by his extremely well-outlined penis, which is grossly thrust in my face repeatedly. I hate to think of the trauma bestowed upon the sweet grannies in front of me.

Sans the rudeness and technical difficulties, it's a colourful performance by the Viva Touring Company and a fun way to remember a remarkable man.

Also published here in edfestmag.com

FESTIVAL COMEDY REVIEW: Tim:Against All Odds


So there's this Tim guy, right? So Tim is all kinds of frustrated at his uninteresting name and its unheroic associations as there seems to be no Tim in history, save for a grizzly bear enthusiast, who has ever done much of anything useful. If only he had a name like his friend, Maxwell Thor (Thor!), who is always effortlessly saving the day, as well as the lives of a Volvo full of babies underwater. Despite Maxwell's enviable locks, his ability to exude sex when adorning a skirt, and his name (by God, his name!), he is an incredible friend to poor Tim and agrees to journey with him, a mandolin and guitar in tow, to help him fight his way (and a beast called Da Da Da Da) to being comfortable with being Tim.

Sounds bizarre? You don't even know the half of it. They're ridiculous. In an hour that passes obliviously, these two manage to create an intimate room full of fun, stupidity and silliness that has everyone willing to not only adorn a Tim sticker but eagerly queuing up to do so. This show is an unexpected treat, the sweetest surprise I've experienced during the festival thus far. I was sorry to leave so soon and can't wait to see what this ruthless pair will come up with next. Too funny; just beware if your name is Tim.

Also published here on edfestmag.com

Tuesday, 11 August 2009

DANCE: The Carolina Shag



Fancy a shagathon?

ON A MUGGY CAROLINA NIGHT, MY FRIEND TRIES TO COAX A GENTLEMAN STRANGER TO JOIN HER FOR A SHAG ON THE BEACH. FLATTERED, THE MAN EXPLAINS THAT HE'D LOVE TO, IF ONLY HE KNEW HOW. THE EPITOME OF SOUTHERN HOSPITALITY, MY DEAR FRIEND REPLIES, "DARLIN', I'LL TEACH YOU HOW TO SHAG."

Where I come from, the Shag Shack on Folly Beach is not a whore house, and shaggin' by the sea ain't a crime. The Shag is the South Carolina state dance, much to the amusement of its British tourists.

A six-count descendent of first the Little Apple and then the Carolina Jitterbug, the Shag is a broad name for a range of swing dances originating from the big band era of the 1930s. According to a Shag historian (you heard me), the term was coined on Carolina Beach, North Carolina as it was widely practiced along the coasts between Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Wellington, North Carolina. The phenomenon that evolved as the Carolina Shag is, for the most part, associated with the 1960s, the era's easy-going r & b (think Chairmen of the Board), and, oh yes, the beach. Preferably at night.

The shag is just so sunny, lazy and, as you can imagine, flirtatious. While you must keep your hips and upper body relatively stationary, the shag comes alive in the fancy footwork, kicks, turns and twists. When both partners get the hang of it, the result is an extremely fluid and fun work of art - put a warm, salty southern breeze into that equation and it's easy to see why shagathons and beachfront shag competitions have such a big following even today.

To get a good feel for the dance, you can Youtube it, or there's actually a feel-good, 1963-based film called Shag that was shot on the Carolina coasts (with Phoebe Cates and Bridget Fonda). There's even a couple/dance team here in Edinburgh who can teach you how to shag (har har!). I caught the Fly Right Dance Company recently at the festival and they demonstrated the Collegiate Shag, a form from New Orleans, that is best practiced, I can only presume, to a bit of Fats Domino! So find a partner you fancy and start shaggin', ya hear?

Fly Right Dance Company
Unit 2C, Station Yard
Hospital Road
Haddington
East Lothian
EH41 3PP
01620 829988


Also published in the dance pages of Bite Life Magazine, September 2009



Sunday, 9 August 2009

FESTIVAL REVIEW: Camille O'Sullivan: The Dark Angel * * * * *


Camille O'Sullivan: The Dark Angel * * * * *
Assembly Hall
Saturday 8 August 2009
20.00
Aug 6-31 (ex Tuesdays)


Everyone can see her knickers, and absolutely no one is complaining.

French-Irish siren Camille O' Sullivan is still as uninhibited as always, combining raunch, laughs and fishnets with that throaty, exceptional voice, and a stellar song catalogue to boot.

Sequin dresses hang overhead and drape across mic stands and speakers as a corset-clad Camille works an audience in love, flirting and flaunting and falling into the laps of her adorers. Raucous as she is delicate, the seductress stumbles and stomps about clinging hilariously to a bottle of wine before fragiley letting her hair down, pin-by-pin, and baring her soul with tear-flushed eyes to Dillie Keane's Look Mommy, No Hands.

Camille proves she can absolutely hold her own on Tom Waits' Misery is the River, Nick Cave's The Ship Song, David Bowie's Rock 'n' Roll suicide, and certainly with Kirsty MacColl's In These Shoes, where she insists, while donning shiny red shoes to match her knickers, 'let's do it here.' I think half the room would have, as all are transfixed by all of that wit, legs and lipstick. Saucy, unmissable stuff.

Also published on www.edfestmag.com

FESTIVAL KIDS' SHOW REVIEW: Mildly Terrible Revenge of the Slightly Evil Brainwashing Puppets * * * *


Mildly Terrible Revenge of the Slightly Evil Brainwashing Puppets * * * *
A children's show
Laughing Horse @ The Newsroom
Saturday 8 August
11.15 am
Aug 8-16,22-23,29-30 11:15 (1hr)


Note to wary mothers: it's not as scary as it sounds.

These puppets are simply annoyed that someone's hand is up their backside, someone who cares not that maybe they don't want to be forced to kiss each other and speak in ridiculous voices. These puppets have had enough.

Sebastian is a pompous Frenchman puppet who obsessively coaxes his pony friend and foe (sex unknown) into taking control of the girl controlling them, and eventually, the human race. There's also a devilish monkey, controlled by a really awkward but really likeable script-reading dude in the corner, who also wants to rule the world as per the button on the wall which could make the sun turn black. Really, it's not as scary as it sounds.

Sebastian keeps it light by talking about his giant bum, which he claims is currently not covered by pants. Silly dances, animal sound competitions and crowd-assisted sing-a-longs (with really fun lyrics like 'Pirates' pants are brill-i-ant') make every little one wide-eyed, beaming, and seriously adorable. Us big kids love it too.

Lesson to be learned: Not all puppets are wusses. Consider their pride the next time you want them to make out and tell stupid jokes; that ain't cute. But this free festival show? So cute.

Also published on www.edfestmag.com

Saturday, 8 August 2009

FESTIVAL MUSIC REVIEW: Antonio Forcione * * *


Introduced as a "genetic experiment gone horribly well” and “a man with hands like a tarantula” (huh?), Forcione confesses that he usually plays selfishly but this time translates the soundtrack of his childhood into his funky, signature tap and slap guitar stylings.

Classic covers like the Beatles' Yesterday and Come Together, Stevie Wonder's Superstitious and I Wish, and Marvin Gaye's I Heard it Through the Grapevine (Motown 50th anniversary tribute) intertwine with Forcione originals in an imaginative, masterfully executed set that sufficiently satisfies casual music lovers and guitar enthusiasts alike. The crowd even gets an unnoticeably unpracticed rendition of Billie Jean in tribute to its late great creator, all proving that it's an hour totally worth that fiver.

Assembly Hall, 7-29 August (ex. 17) 18.00

Also published here on edfestmag.com

FESTIVAL COMEDY REVIEW: Jason Byrne: The Byrne Supremacy * * * *


The potty-mouthed Irishman still manages to make the audience smile and swoon despite accusing a 15-year old boy in the audience (seated with his mum no less) of a masturbation-incepted hand injury and insisting that farting into a cup, which is directly placed in another's face, is ultimately the best way to gross out his sister.

Byrne hits on hilarities of his childhood spent with a lazy eye, or as one audience member so eloquently asserts, his 'cock eye', while being sure not to skip on special adult moments involving poo pains and sex strains, and the belief that ejaculation should certainly come with gun-like sound affects. In the end it's revealed that his shoe-ends are left untied to illustrate his belief in the tap-tap syndrome (ie. irritating the living f**k out of women), and just when the laughter eventually dies down to a chuckle, a song is heard overhead that sums it all up and makes the gutter-minded audience smile as we depart.

Assembly Hall, 6-31 August (ex. 17,24) 20.15
Venue 150@EICC 21,22,28,29 August 22.30

Also published here on edfestmag.com

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

SONG OF THE DAY: I'm Your Man by Leonard Cohen



No, not the Wham! version (wait, maybe I'm the only one who would think that?!). My former boss, Mo, brought this video to my attention. Only now in the facebook age, years after I worked in his tasty and much-missed steak house, have I realised that he and I have a lot of similar tastes in music (Antony and the Johnsons too, for example) and that he devotes his attentions to things online apart from porn. It should be also noted that the great Mo once also managed punk outfit Bad Brains.

Tell us all about it, lovely Leonard.

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

SONG OF THE DAY: Ragged Wood by Fleet Foxes


I was lucky enough to hear this song for the first time during a solitary visit to the Lake District, positively one of the very, very best album absorption experiences I have ever had. I couldn't possibly think of a better backdrop to this brilliant album than breathing in crisp mountain air, hiking between the rugged hills, waterfalls and mountain streams. And now this is the scene I immediately associate with these songs. It makes me remember exactly how I felt that day, why I'd left town, how nice the sun felt, how nice the rain smelled, the surrealism of finally seeing Wordsworth's garden, grave and homes after dreaming about it for so, so long and how badly I needed this music at that very moment. I'd felt unable to connect to anything for a while. Ragged Wood stands out to me because of how it's able to be like two songs within one, which is the best case scenario with tunes like this - they're so good that you just do not want them to end.

Listen to Ragged Wood on Spotify.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

INTERVIEW: Les Bof!


Les Bof! formed just three years ago as Edinburgh-based French sixties garage rockers composed of Marseilles-born Laurent Mombel as frontman backed by a team of Scottish musicians. Not one English word is to be sung or spoken when they're onstage as they recreate an atmosphere authentic to the days of Jacques Dutronc, a niche era so sought after that retro festivals have had them globetrotting every year since their debut. With a festival performance around the corner at The GO-GO inside the Gilded Balloon, The List caught up with Laurent between gigs to discuss their unique approach to rock 'n' roll.

It's quite a niche you have there. How did the idea of a French sixties pop band transpire?
First of all, pop is too much of a general term. I like to call our music sixties French garage or sixties French garage rock since what we play is less mainstream than the classic sixties French pop or yé-yé, like it was known in France. Well, to answer your question the great honour of starting Les BOF! goes to our guitar player Angus McPake. As a big fan of sixties French music and talented musicians, he told me one day that he had this project of a French sixties band and got me enrolled with two other guys in this great adventure. This opened me to a great new world since I had never been a singer nor a musician before. The fact to keep our shows all in French is also one of his great ideas and probably the reason that the band is so special in the UK and other countries.

How far do your retro gig travels take you?
Aaah this is perfect transition! We have been lucky enough to be noticed by a German label CopaseDisques who realised our first EP and will also issue our first album soon. Alex, the man behind this label, got us some gigs in Germany over the last two years - in Berlin mainly, but also in Dresden - but the real European launch happened following a gig in April 2008 in London where a few international promoters offered us gigs for their sixties and garage rock festivals. We played in Italy for the famous Festival Beat (Parma) in July 2008 then Paris and Le Havre in October. This year we played in Helsingør and Copenhagen (Denmark) then we were on stage in Rotterdam (Holland) for the great Primitve Festival Vol. 6 last month and we are expected in Oslo for the Guterball weekender at the end of September. And this is just to name a few. There is more to come next year. In fact, Les BOF! international recognition in this specific musical style has been exponential: everywhere we play we get offered more and more gigs thanks to the web, promoters and the word of mouth.

What does Les Bof! mean?
Bof! is a French expression that literally means 'don't care'. For example, if you play some music to a French person and ask: 'What do you think of it?' He/she may shrug his/her shoulders (in a way that only French people know how to do it) and say 'Bof!'. This means the music isn't that great or not very interesting. 'Les' (pronounce 'lay') is the article 'The', if you can remember your school French lessons. So the closest translation for the band's name could be something like the 'the who don't care'. This is the first French word that came to the mind of our guitar player which is great because we didn't have to spend hours thinking about a name for the band. The simplest stuff are very often the best and it worked for us. It is easy to remember, and funny in French to turn an expression into a noun, and on top of this we don't take ourselves too seriously so that's perfect.

What other like-minded bands do you recommend?
Interestingly enough there are other bands like us abroad with a French singer and local musicians. A good one to catch is Les Responsables. They are from Porto Alegre, Brazil. The singer, Erwan, is from French Brittany and the musicians are all Brazilian. They play the same kind of music with a lot of covers from the great Jacques Dutronc (they got their name from one of his songs). There is also Les Tragiques from Mexico. The girl who sings, Eloise, is from Paris I think and the rest of the musicians seem to be all Mexican. But the band you guys should try is Les Terribles from Paris. They have a great sixties sound and cover a lot classic French sixties garage and yé-yé tracks. Rudi, the female singer, has a good presence onstage. We had the pleasure to meet them in June in Rotterdam at the Primitive festival. That was really good fun. So basically we are not unique on the international sixties scene but definitely unique in UK.

Favourite song that you cover?
As far as I am concerned my favourite cover is 'Chante' from Ronnie Bird, a French garage/yé-yé singer from the sixties whose real name is Ronald Méhu. This song is a cover from the famous 'I Can Only Give You Everything' from Them that has been covered by so many artists, especially a lot of garage bands from the US. This is basically the first track we ever covered and I just love the way we modified it with a longer intro with me playing harmonica, some interesting breaks to make the song even more powerful than the original one, and a use of great fuzz guitar and tambourine. This track really demonstrates all the power of Les BOF! Almost everything we can do on stage is in this song. We used it for a while as an intro to our show because after playing it, it keeps people wanting more and more.

What is in store this festival season?
As far as August is concerned, we will be playing at the Henry's Cellar Bar on the 8th, a common place for Les BOF! since the Suite 69 club took off there. We will be playing with The Brutes, a raw garage rock band from Glasgow and El Toro from Liverpool . In case you don't know, The GO-GO club will move to the Gilded Balloon during Edinburgh Festival, Teviot Student Union, Teviot Place, and we will by playing there for Tall Paul in the basement club. That's all for the gigs next month, and we need to finish recording our first album.

www.myspace.com/lesbof

Les Bof! will play August 8 at Henry's Cellar Bar, Edinburgh and August 13 at The GO-GO inside The Guilded Balloon, Edinburgh

Also published here in The List

INTERVIEW: Woodpigeon


Canadian troupe Woodpigeon have made a name for themselves abroad but it all started right here in Scotland. The band's founder, who elaborately calls himself Mark Andrew of the Hamiltons, resided in Edinburgh years ago and experienced things so memorable and profound that they had to be expressed lyrically. It is very fitting then that, as Woodpigeon becomes more globally adored, they should return to their muse as one of the highlights of T on the Fringe. Mark spoke to The List this week before jetting off to London for a UK tour to talk about their music and its Scottish sentimentalities.

Tell us about how Woodpigeon came together?
Woodpigeon started as Woodpigeon/Antelope=Squirrel in Edinburgh about five years ago. I played with a member of the Edinburgh band Eagleowl, and we made some silly instrumentals with a bass player from Australia. Nothing ever came of it in that capacity, but since returning to Canada, things have taken on a somewhat more serious nature. I just wanted to tell some stories, and doing so via music and lyric is what seems to work best for me.

Meaning behind the band name?
I’ve always thought that Woodpigeon looked like a rollercoaster when written in cursive. It’s the most beautiful word in the English language, if you ask me. A woodpigeon’s also a flying rat, which is another good name for a rock band.

Tell us about your last album.
Treasury Library Canada is a collection of songs written after my return to Canada, that mostly came about while we were recording our first record Songbook, which itself is more of a diary of my experiences of living in Edinburgh and Brighton. For a while I didn’t think it would ever actually come out, but the more that people heard it, the more that people wanted it. When we did up a self-pressed run of 1,000 (with handmade covers that took ages to put together), they sold out within the month. I took that as good enough sign that it should probably come out properly.

What are you most excited about this summer?
I’m particularly excited to return to Edinburgh as I’ll have a few days off to visit with old friends, and in particular to meet the new baby of two of my closest Scottish pals. We’re going to take a day up to Anstruther together, a personal favourite locale of mine.

Am I right in seeing that one of your songs was the backdrop to a fashion show in Paris?
Olivier Theyskiens, the designer for the Nina Ricci label in Paris, used one of our songs to soundtrack the label’s spring/summer fashion show in Paris last year. When we played in Paris this past February, we were given a tour of the haute couture house and met Olivier while he was doing a dress fitting on a model in his studio. Olivier’s since left Nina Ricci, but I hope we get to work together again. I’ve developed quite a lovely friendship with his lovely assistant Agnes, so we do hear regularly as to what they’re up to (and the same is true of Olivier hearing about us!).

What else does 2009 hold for Woodpigeon?
Once this summer tour is over, I’m actually heading back to school to work on a film studies degree. Our next album is called Die Stadt Muzikanten, and it’s coming out in January 2010. I think that all that we’ll really have going on Woodpigeon-wise this fall is our first show in New York City at CMJ, and then maybe something in Montreal as well.

What kind of artists do you like to listen to together?
There’s actually few artists that we all agree on together, but we’ve managed to find common ground with Calexico, The Velvet Underground, and just about anything classic Motown. I remember one particularly heated argument when I put on a live recording by The Fiery Furnaces. That didn’t go over well at all.

http://www.myspace.com/woodpigeon

Woodpigeon play August 7 with Woodenbox with a Fistful of Fivers plus Rags and Feathers at Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh.

Also published here in The List

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Britannia Spice


ALL ABOARD!

WALKING INTO BRITTANIA SPICE IS LIKE ENTERING THE DINING ROOM OF A FANCY SHIP, A GREAT ATMOSPHERE TO OFFER AS IT'S SECONDS FROM THE SEA. AFTER MY FRIEND AND I ARE KINDLY GREETED AT THE DOOR, WE ARE SHOWN TO OUR TABLE AS WE SOAK IN THE NICE, NAUTICAL FEEL TO THE RESTAURANT.


As we ponder over the menu, we realise that they offer a wide range of Asian dishes from Bangladesh, Northern India, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Nepal. It's not easy to narrow down here so it's handy that there's the mango chutney, mint onions and curry pickles to snack on, all delicious and freshly prepared.

I decide to go to Thailand for a starter with the Tom Yum soup (£5.75). It's on fire with lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, mushrooms, imported herbs and red chillies for the brave. My friend has the king prawn butterfly (£5.75) - a rather large prawn deep fried with herbs and spices until crispy. Its accompanying sauce is a testament to what real sweet chilli sauce should taste like!

For a main course, I go for a Britannia Spice selected dish: shahi chicken (£10.95). It comes through on its promise to be mild as I needed a breather after the fabulous but fiery soup! The chicken has been cooked with cashew nuts, rose water and cream, the rose water adding a beautiful flavour while the cream aids the smooth texture. My friend is the one travelling to Thailand this time with her main of Thai sesame chicken (10.95), cooked in spices, capsicums, carrots, sesame oil and soy sauce, garnished with sesame seeds and coriander leaves. She, who has lived in Thailand, raves of its authentic flavour. The garlic naan bread is top notch, and our sweet server, Shamim, tells us the dish actually originates from Pakistan, a little known fact!

For dessert, the kulfi (£3.25) seems the most tempting as that texture and taste is always so bewildering so we share a mango and pistachio, and they're a satisfying finish to an impressive night. The server to customer ratio is very high here so everyone gets ample attention.

I will be back, perhaps travelling to Sri Lanka next time I board the ship of Britannia Spice.

Britannia Spice
150 Commercial Street
Ocean Drive
Edinburgh EH6 6LB
Tel: 0131 555 2255
Fax: 0131 555 0800
info@britanniaspice.co.uk

OPENING HOURS
Mon-Sat: 12-2pm; 5-11.45pm
Sun: 5-11.45pm

Also published in Bite Magazine, August 2009

FASHION PROFILE: Chic and Unique, Stockbridge


ANYTHING THAT'S PRETTY

Vintage costume jewellery and beaded bags hang against pretty pink walls while breezy 1940s tunes play overhead. One swift look around can feel like a journey back to glamour eras gone by with statement pieces aplenty that would look fitting adorning the necks of the likes of Audrey Hepburn. Antique beauties by Haskell, Robert, Cartier, Chanel, Christian Dior light up the room. Handmade Venetian carnival masks beg for a ball. Rentable classic 1950s tiaras sparkle. Among the many hidden gems in Edinburgh, there is Chic and Unique.

Moira Teale began the vintage costume jewellery boutique after being made redundant from a massive insurance company. Tired of being head of the complaints department for 16 years anyway (shocking!), Moira decided to ditch the office life for good and find solace in a business in which she could happily devote her heart and soul. She developed a passion for collectible vintage jewellery after growing up with a father who showered her mother with secondhand art deco pieces that Moira never forgot. Her love for such pieces progressively grew and she began her shop using her own personal collection. Five years later, the shop is fully stocked with pieces sourced worldwide and she admits that some are still hard to let go.

It's easy to understand why one would get so invested in a work of art that has survived for so many decades. As Moira explained to me, each piece has a history and is a testament to the lives of their creators as well as the previous owners. Every item has a story. A gorgeous beaded canary yellow handbag catches my eye and she tells me she bought it because it reminded her of an almost identical white one her sister carried long ago. A girl brought in a silver cuff that originally belonged to her aunt who was popular with the boys in the 1920s and this cuff was a gift from one of her lovers. A stunning necklace studded with green jewels is believed to have once belonged to iconic American actress Ann Miller, who passed just five years ago.

With her dream space full of so much richness and character, Moira's endeavour to offer the "best of the best" and "something different than what you get in town" is remarkable.

Chic and Unique also houses extraordinary accessories like brooches, clips, hair accessories, clutches, perfume bottles, bijoux items, hat pins, cufflinks, compacts and bracelets. "Anything that's pretty," she says.

Chic and Unique
8 Deanhaugh Street
Stockbridge
Edinburgh
EH4 1LY
0131 332 9889
www.vintagecostumejewellery.co.uk

Also published in Bite Life Magazine, August 2009

FESTIVAL FIVE: Fashion essentials


IT ONLY COMES AROUND ONCE A YEAR SO ONE MUST BE PREPARED FOR BEING SEEN ON THE FESTIVAL SCENE! HERE'S A FEW ESSENTIAL SUGGESTIONS TO GET YOU GOING.

FESTIVE FROCK: May as well and go all out, ladies. August is our excuse each year to be carefree, and what better way to do that than to wander between old and new town venues adorning something fun, frilly, summery, flowery, lacey, vivacious, vibrant, whatever! Cookie on Cockburn Street has more than a fair share of beauties to help you feel extra fab.

COMFY SHOES: It is highly recommended to be a pedestrian come festival time - it saves you much needed pounds you could use for show tickets, you don't get stuck in a conjestion nightmare the tram works are bound to bring this year, you get to soak in all of the sights, sounds, smells and spirit of the festival and, of course, you burn a few calories. But venue hopping takes its toll on our weary feet after a while so be sure to invest in something supportive yet stylish. Goodstead on Rose Street is just the place for hip urban streetwear, and the likes of Van Morrison have even been rumoured to stop in, so legendary celeb-spotting could be a bonus!

A BROLLY: If we are to learn anything at all from last year's rain-soaked festivities, pack the brolly just in case. It can weigh you down, it can even be easily lost but it can also save you from drenching your pretty festival frock and undoing your fab festival hairdo! Try a cute and compact one. H&M has plenty of polka-dotted designs to keep it fun.

A SENSIBLE BAG: Don't kid yourselves with a chic and petite clutch. Flyers will be thrust upon you, as will show programs, and you will inevitably encounter random stalls selling a lot of what you want. You WILL want to carry this issue of Bite around with you and probably various other guides so best to bag it up in something roomy and really adorable! Do what's ethical and check out the unique bags on offer at the many area charity shops.

A GREAT SCARF: Not only does a scarf really add a lot of class and character to just about any attire, it is also just so practical. With a REALLY great scarf, you can tie it around your hair in a 50s-style do during a drizzle or use it as a picnic blanket in the Meadows during a sunny break between shows. Cheap and sweet ones can always be found at festival-handy spots like the vintage haven Rusty Zip on Teviot Place.

Also published in Bite Life Magazine, August 2009

FESTIVAL PAMPERING: Bite Life recommendations




IF ALL OF THE FESTIVAL FUN LEAVES YOU FEELING DRAINED AND IN NEED OF SOME SERIOUS ATTENTION, INDULGE YOURSELF IN SOME OF THE BEST PAMPERING THE CITY HAS TO OFFER. BITE LIFE HAS HAD THE TOILING TASK OF SAMPLING ALL OF THE FOLLOWING PLACES AND WE ARE HERE TO TELL YOU THAT THEY PUT THE 'TREAT' IN 'TREATMENT'!

FAB BEAUTY: This place does what it says on the tin and that is to make you feel fab. From the miraculous removal of cellulite with jet therapy to make-up (using only MAC) and nail services, Fab Beauty Salon is on a mission to make you even more beautiful than you obviously already are. Ask Siobhan about pampering parties too at 2 Pitt Street, off Newhaven Road. Tel: 0131 538 3070.

SHIVAGO THAI CLINIC: Conveniently located in the heart of the old town, it is all the more tempting to take a load off and let therapist Kei Ngu work some magic on your tired bones. With a passionately knowledgeable staff, Shivago has a series of traditional Thai therapies on-hand including a Thai yoga massage, herbal compress, cupping and, what you really want, a Thai foot massage. You'll be relaxed in no time, especially after a complimentary cup of the bespoke herbal tea. Find them at 25 Blackfriars Street, Edinburgh. Tel: 07878 256 174.

NEVO: This complementary health studio is downstairs from Renroc Cafe and is not only a hot stone massage must but they can also help you get detoxed if you're really overdoing it in the beer gardens this year! Stop in for a manicure or Indian head massage or just hang out with a coffee in Renroc while perusing through the treatment brochures. Both are at 91 Montgomery Street, Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 556 0432.

HOT HEAD: Located quite close to the major festival tents, Hot Head offers not only really cool haircuts but treatments downstairs like sports massage, beauty consultancy and acupuncture. You'll feel pampered before you're even treated as everyone is greeted with a nice cup of tea that you're encouraged to enjoy on one of the comfy seats provided in the cozy, friendly space. Great music too! They're at 17 West Nicolson Street. Tel: 0131 662 1009.

THE SHIATSU PLACE: For some holistic therapy that is as good as but not as intrusive as acupuncture, head down Morningside Road to The Shiatsu Place. Under the care of well-trained professionals, a shiatsu massage is sure to sort you out and place you firmly on the road to relaxation. Find them at 40 Comiston Road, Edinburgh. Tel: 0131 446 0666.

Also in Bite Life Magazine, August 2009

ALBUM REVIEW: BROKEN RECORDS * * *


Broken Records, the Edinburgh-based ensemble who have been commonly dubbed as the Scottish Arcade Fire, made their followers proud when they signed on to the 4AD label and shortly after released a highly anticipated album full of songs so familiar to the hometown listeners that we (yes, myself included) already knew most word-for-word purely from frequent attendance at BR’s engrossing live gigs.

So it is probably not entirely their fault that on a first listen to the record, a certain level of disappointment is present due mainly to the lack of that all-encompassing connection one gets inside an intimate venue. I would love to be able to review this record as a BR virgin, to discover this band and the chills they induce, for the very first time; but instead I just keep listening for a reconnection and find at least one solution - turn up the volume.

‘A Good Reason’ and ‘Until the Earth Begins to Part’ relievingly recapture the bond, and that colossal sound. ‘A Promise’, a violin and piano-led ballad, grows with urgency halfway through in an eventual explosion until the song leaves you as quickly as it has awoken you. And opening track, ‘Nearly Home’, remains a highlight of the BR repertoire, with Rory’s violin-led harmony and Jamie’s imploring lyrics, the same sort of lyrics that on ‘Thoughts On A Picture (In a Paper, January 2009)’ ask “were your eyes red from your tears shed, now tell me do you feel let down?” Let down? Answer: no, not afterall.

Also published in isthismusic.com

EP REVIEW: Cancel the Astronauts * * * *


The Edinburgh boys of Cancel the Astronauts deliver five pop-perfect tracks in their energetic EP I Am The President of Your Fanclub (And Last Night I Followed You Home). Matthew Riley’s vocals are flirtatious if slightly worrying (see album title) and most often than not, the album conjures up both the The Strokes and Star Wars in fell swoop. ‘Country Song’ will have you twirling and stomping around in your Converse dance shoes and ‘Late in the City’s playful rock ‘n’ roll leaves you wanting to know the end of it lonely love story. Accessible, seriously fun Scottish indie pop that boogies.

Also published in www.isthismusic.com

Monday, 13 July 2009

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Designs by Rowan Joy


ROWAN JOY MCINTOSH CAME TO EDINBURGH OVER TEN YEARS AGO FROM THE SCOTTISH WEST COAST WITH NO KNOWLEDGE AT ALL OF HOW SHE WOULD NOW SO EMINENTLY AFFECT THE AREA'S INDIE DESIGN SCENE. SHE GRADUATED IN FASHION DESIGN FROM THE EDINBURGH ART COLLEGE AND HAS BEEN STITCHING HER SIGNATURE ALL OVER THE CITY EVER SINCE.

Rowan began fashioning her career five years ago at Godiva, a boutique in the Grassmarket that stocks independent designs, reworked and original vintage and unique accessories. Since then, she received the dreamy and rare opportunity to set up a creative space of her own in Godiva's basement where she is readily available to customise anything you fancy from upstairs so that it's made-to-measure. Here, in a haven that anyone in the creative arts would kill for, Rowan is given the "freedom to just play about." Her highly individualised creations are so unpretentiously chic and fabulously bizarre that she has earned herself not only a cozy studio stint but quite the following all over the UK. Rowan Joy can be found in London, Newcastle, North Berwick and Brighton. See the girly glamour for yourself at www.rowanjoy.co.uk.

Also published in the April/May 2008 issue of Bite Life Magazine

Friday, 3 July 2009

SONG OF THE DAY: You've Really Got a Hold on Me by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles



I've heard it covered by the Supremes, She and Him and by a band I saw last night, whose name I cannot remember, but Smokey does it best cuz it's his. Easy to listen to this one on repeat.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

SONG OF THE DAY: I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Cry Over You



Gonna tell my mama! Written by Thomas and Howard Biggs, this is such a catchy little critter and it captures that early E charisma that grabbed a hold everybody and has yet to let go. A beauty, believe it!

Friday, 26 June 2009

RIP FARRAH FAWCETT



Right, let's not forget this beautiful little Angel.

Long live the Fawcett hair, I will remember her every time I break out the curling iron.

Here she is, pretty as ever, in an advert for the Cougar, an awesome 70s vehicle we had when I was wee actually.! You will be missed, missy.

RIP MICHAEL JACKSON



It's so strange to think that Michael Jackson is gone, when afterall, for me, he has just always been there. Thriller was the third tape I ever bought (after Wham's Make it Big and Billy Joel's an Innocent Man!) It was cream-coloured, the actual tape was, and the plastic cover was worn and broken the last time I saw it. How odd to think that a six year old had such immortal taste in music! (I of course am not referring to Wham, although I did buy the record again relatively recently!)

I think that over the years, any real music lover has tried to separate the craft from the crazy when it comes to musicians like Mike (think James Brown, Isaac Hayes, Ike Turner)and it's times like this that it becomes obvious that the talents are the most unforgettable. Here's to the shit-hot Jackson 5 years, the cooool days of Billie Jean, and even the strange Lisa Marie saga I always associate with You Are Not Alone. May the MJ marathons commence, Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough!

Monday, 22 June 2009

SONG OF THE DAY: Nobody's Lonesome for Me by Hank Williams Sr


Ain't nothin' like a lonesome song from Hank Sr to leave ya yoddlin' and cryin' in your glass of Jack, or ya cowboy hat, one. Paste this here link in your Spotify search window and break out the sympathy strings on yer nearest violin. Long live the epitome of Lovesick Blues.

Linkage: http://open.spotify.com/track/0iwpb9AoEyB4Y4x8zh3IZH

LEITH FOODIE SPECIAL: Top five 'newcomers' that have shaped the neighborhood



ROCKSALT
Though it's been camouflaged by the tramworks since its opening, we still beat a path to the fresh and tasty stuff that awaits inside the airy space it occupies on Constitution Street. Sitting-in or taking away, help yourself to one of their fab soups or even hot-press one of the sandwiches made that morning if you're in a rush. Dip into the deli for homemade hummus to take home or sink into a sofa with a latte and just chill.

LA CANTINA
This is where the thirsty go for their margarita fix, reason enough without the innovative Mexican fayre also on offer at the cheerful space scenically located on Commerical Quay. They pride themselves on creative stretches on tradition as well as their wide range of sauces (lime and tequila, ranchero hot red, special barbecue, chipotle cream, bourbon Jack glaze, tomatillos and Cancun sauce) and chiles (chipotle, anchos, habanero, jalapeno and poblano). Get in on the special events here such as Bite Club or just stop in and kill a few Coronas con nachos. Muy bien.

SOFI'S AND BODA BAR
Sofi's, located just down from 'the shore', has a sweet baby blue exterior, comfy vibes, damn good music, board games and a gazillion other endearing quirks. Boda's just a wee bit up 'the walk' and is equally adorable because both bars share the same owner, Anna Christopherson, who just knows how to create a great place to hang out and spend your cash on quiet-ish pints. The pubs are also awesome at drawing in the community with nights for swishing, knitting, movies and even, wait for it, jogging! Love!

ROSELEAF
What they've created here is an eclectic space with mismatched chairs, tables, salt and pepper shakers,and it's also decorated with the same kind of mismatched China tea sets from which the masses come to drink their 'pot-tails'. The food is just as splendid as the cocktails, with the homemade Roseleaf burger being a favourite, especially with cheddar and onion chutney. Yum.

A ROOM IN LEITH AND TEUCHTARS
Room in Leith and Teuchtars are a good little team. Teuchters is the semi-boisterous and jolly wee pub with plenty of tables inside or outside so you can have a laugh before or after you saunter down a corridor and into the swanky Room in Leith restaurant. It's as scenic as it gets down here with almost an entirely windowed room to draw your gaze outside when it's not focused on the unbelievably good, creative cuisine made predominately from fresh Scottish produce that awaits within.

Also published in July 2009 issue of Bite Magazine

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Zanzero, Stockbridge, Edinburgh


REVIEW
ZANZERO
An Italian hero

Typical of Scotland, the weather outside switches from wet to sunny to just plain sordid during my after-work-on-a-Friday venture to Zanzero in Stockbridge. But inside it's consistently bright with fun, colourful surroundings, clean and kind, unlike whatever is going on with the conditions on the other side of the window!

To match the friendly bright green and white decor, the gentleman serving us makes my friend and I smile. He also brings us a starter big enough to share, the Assagini (£8.75), which comes complete with fresh buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, sun-dried tomatoes, roasted aubergine and Pachino tomatoes. It's a great, generous snack and we sink right into it.

Powerless against the prospect of some truly fresh and fabulous pizza, I'm a sucker for the Picante (£9.50) while my friend has the special of the day (£9.95). Hers is made of focaccia and covered with fried, tender squid, cherry tomatoes, chillies and parsley. Mine is plopped with balls of more buffalo mozzarella, insanely hot chilis and lots of downright delicious Aberdeen Angus beef chunks fresh from The Store in Stockbridge, just one of the many ways Zanzero fuses Scottish produce into their traditional Italian cuisine.

Speaking of tradition, it has to be done with the tiramisù. Served uncharacteristically in a dessert glass, we love digging into the light sponge and marscapone cream, espresso and Marsala with long, skinny spoons. We also share a dense and decadent brownie made with 70% Valrohna cocoa and served with Madagascan vanilla ice cream.

Zanzero is casual, fun all-around and a neighourhood favourite that utilises local ingredients whenever possible. We applaud them.

Also published in July 2009 issue of Bite Magazine

RESTAURANT REVIEW: Rivage, Easter Road, Edinburgh


REVIEW
RIVAGE
Cheap but top-notch

SLIGHTLY SOUTH OF LEITH, EASTER ROAD IS TAKING THE MEAL EXPERIENCE A FEW STEPS ABOVE THE PUBS AND TAKEAWAYS WITH THE ADDITION OF RIVAGE. OWNER AND CHEF RYAD MEEAJANE DOES INDIAN FOOD WITH SO MUCH INVENTION AND STYLE THAT IT'S HARD TO BELIEVE THE FOOD IS ALSO ENTIRELY ECONOMICAL. VERY GOOD NEWS THESE DAYS!

Arriving first is a plate of complimentary fried Anda bread with a spiced, pickled assortment of carrots with mustard seeds, a tomato mango chutney and sweet onions; it's a delicious surprise and the kind of special something that really makes a dining experience stand out.

My starter is the scallop varuval (£4.95), the murgh tikka tiranga (£3.95) for my friend. My scallops are lightly glazed and seared to a perfect medium then finished with a cool lime and coriander sauce. It's a must for scallop lovers. My friend's chicken tikka is tender and beautifully presented over a trio of sauces so good , it is difficult to not ask for more.

Green chicken curry from Goa ($7.95) is my main course, a dish that is healthily chunky, not greasy, with pureed coriander, mint and chillies. It's recommended to accompany this with one of the flavoured bowls of rice although we find that the gucchi pulao mushroom rice (£3.50) is stellar all on its own as well. My friend is overjoyed with the jhinga 65 (£9.95); tiger prawns are char-grilled with care just after they've 'matured' in creamed hung yogurt marinade, saffron, caraway seeds and coriander. Its accompanying sauces of roasted red pepper and mint yogurt cool the palate sensibly. Our favourite part? The hollow yellow pepper that sits upright on the plate with a candle inside. Again, it's a simple but memorable touch.

Portions are just so that it's perfectly fine to finish with mango coffee sorbet (£2.95) plus the gulab jamun (£3.50), the latter being soft cheese dumplings served warm with real vanila bean ice cream.

Service is attentive, the music is entertaining (Bollywood does Pretty Woman, anyone?) but the physical menu could do with an upgrade that reflects the incredible quality of the menu items it lists.

Rivage also does delivery after 6pm.

Rivage
126-130 Easter Road
Edinburgh
EH7 5RJ

0131 661 6888
rivagerestaurant@btconnect.com

OPENING HOURS
7 days 12-2pm (lunch); 5.30-11pm (dinner)

Also published in July 2009 issue of Bite Magazine

Friday, 19 June 2009

SONG OF THE DAY: Remember the Mountain Bed by Jeff Tweedy



Written by Woody Guthrie and performed by Wilco on Mermaid Avenue Vol II (Guthrie covers with Billy Bragg, commissioned by Guthrie's offspring) this song is so pretty it makes me burst into tears nearly every time I hear it. Have mercy, Guthrie was good, and Tweedy honours the man brilliantly. Here are the well-crafted words, more than worth a read even without the music:

Do you still sing of the mountain bed we made of limbs and leaves?
Do you still sigh there near the sky where the holly berry bleeds?
You laughed as I covered you over with leaves
Face, breast, hips, and thighs
You smiled when I said the leaves were just the color of your eyes

Rosin smells and turpentine smells from eucalyptus and pine
Bitter tastes of twigs we chewed where tangled wood vines twine
Trees held us in on all four sides so thick we could not see
I could not see any wrong in you, and you saw none in me

Your arm was brown against the ground, your cheeks part of the sky
Your fingers played with grassy moss, as limber you did lie
Your stomach moved beneath your shirt and your knees were in the air
Your feet played games with mountain roots as you lay thinking there

Below us the trees grew clumps of trees, raised families of trees, and they
As proud as we tossed their heads in the wind and flung good seeds away
The sun was hot and the sun was bright down in the valley below
Where people starved and hungry for life so empty come and go

There in the shade and hid from the sun we freed our minds and learned
Our greatest reason for being here, our bodies moved and burned
There on our mountain bed of leaves we learned life's reason why
The people laugh and love and dream, they fight, they hate to die

The smell of your hair I know is still there, if most of our leaves are blown
Our words still ring in the brush and the trees where singing seeds are sown
Your shape and form is dim but plain, there on our mountain bed
I see my life was brightest where you laughed and laid your head...

I learned the reason why man must work and how to dream big dreams
To conquer time and space and fight the rivers and the seas
I stand here filled with my emptiness now and look at city and land
And I know why farms and cities are built by hot, warm, nervous hands

I crossed many states just to stand here now, my face all hot with tears
I crossed city, and valley, desert, and stream, to bring my body here
My history and future blaze bright in me and all my joy and pain
Go through my head on our mountain bed where I smell your hair again.

All this day long I linger here and on in through the night
My greeds, desires, my cravings, hopes, my dreams inside me fight:
My loneliness healed, my emptiness filled, I walk above all pain
Back to the breast of my woman and child to scatter my seeds again

Thursday, 18 June 2009

SONG OF THE DAY: Don't Let Go by Roy Hamilton



Aw shucks, this is a sweet tune. It's got rockabilly, a little bit of jive and a whole lotta soul, and it should be heard! Oooh-weee!

INTERVIEW: The Bottleneckers


The Bottleneckers are well-known in Scotland's retro scene for their authentic, old-time rhythm & blues antics that inevitably stir up some seriously good times. An incarnation of sorts of the similarly-spirited The Five Aces and The Privates, these gents will certainly be in their element next week in Glasgow where they will share a bill supporting the first lady of rockabilly, Wanda Jackson. Duncan, Ross and Richard give The List the scoop.

So what's your story?
Our story is a typically incestuous little family of six musicians that make up The Five Aces, The Bottleneckers and The Privates. Most of us have played in rock 'n' roll and R&B bands for too many years now (The Cobra-matics, The Kaisers and The Boogaloo Investigators have a prominent hand in our back story). What is nice is that outwith the six of us, our extended musical family represents a group of people dedicated to playing, DJing and generally getting right into all the great music of the first two-thirds of the 20th century. Basically music that hasn't been hideously overexposed and commercialised (such as blues rock, mainstream soul music, drab singer/songwriters and interchangeable guitar bands etc). We do what we do because it is more vital and stimulating than anything we hear in the mainstream. There is more life in this so-called old music than anything being hyped and touted nowadays.

What kind of events do The Bottleneckers participate in that encompass the celebration of music of ole?
One nice R&B-based culmination of this was the first Glasgow Rhythm & Blues Festival (organised by the Shout Bama Lama guys in Blackfriars) in May this year. A weekend event that we thought was going to be a total disaster ended up being a rare success. In total over 1,500 people came to the gigs and the organisers made excellent choices in bringing bands that never usually tour Scotland and backing them up with great local bands and DJs from here and from further afield.

You can rock and roll, you can do delta blues, you can jazz swing - what else?
Richard: We can rhythm and blues, yep, plenty of that, and other stuff from the same era. As for the delta blues, that’s like a precursor to the other things we do. Washboard Sam, The Mississippi Sheiks and the like. Rockabilly, too. To us, it’s all just good tunes.

Duncan: That would definitely be the lynchpin of the Bottleneckers, or cornerstone rather. We play songs we like that get us excited. The genre aspects is one we ignore completely and have never had to think of until now! Basically we seem to end up playing music from the late 1920s to the mid 60s.

What's the difference between you and the Five Aces?
R – We’re younger than them, and we have fully working backs as we don’t have to lift Hammond organs all over the place. Our chronological home is a few years earlier than that of the Aces. Mark’s on double bass, and we have an extra guitar as well, which makes the sound travel slightly faster, with bits sticking out at the sides that you can see if your shoes are the right height.

D - The Bottleneckers is more of a 50s thing musically. The Aces was a logical continuation of the Boogaloo Investigators as we progressed backwards in time from the late 60s soul, funk and R & B sound to an early 60s rhythm & blues with the Aces. The Boogaloos and the Aces sounded like what we were, ie a bunch of Scottish guys trying to play American soul and R & B. The Bottleneckers is a further step forward in going backwards in music years.

That aside, The Five Aces were essentially a travelling/touring band hence we played in Europe as much as we played in the UK. The Bottleneckers are a home-based endeavour to a large extent, although not exclusively.

So, Wanda Jackson! Excited? How'd you land it?
We got the gig from our pal Holly who works for the booking agency that is putting the gig on. (Holly also runs the Eyes Wide Open night in Glasgow, a club night specialising in 60s garage and psych music). She has seen the Bottleneckers many times and The Privates (the Hammond organ trio that will comprise Wanda's backing band along with Bottlenecker Mark on double bass).
It is always fun to back up American musicians when they come over. Invariably they are surprised that we approach playing in a similar way to how they used to approach it (It isn't unusual for these guys to get session players who aren't necessarily R & B fanatics backing them in the UK). By all accounts she can still cut the mustard onstage vocally and still puts on a show so we are looking forward to a great night.

Where else can we find you?
We haunt Blackfriars in Glasgow’s Merchant City on a Tuesday evening, and there’s the odd bit of weekend action. We do stick mainly to Glasgow, but have been as far as Spain (for actual gigs, we weren’t just lost, although we probably got lost at some point). Our MySpace page is the best way to keep track of us.

Your heroes? Or should we just leave it at top five at the risk of being here all day?
Okay, six it is. Keeping it in Bottleneckers mode: Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Arthur Crudup, Little Walter, Johnny Guitar Watson and Jimmy McCracklin. Do we get six each?

Favourite record in your personal collection?
Muddy Waters - Rollin’ & Tumblin’.

Ever been to Memphis?
We haven't even been to America yet unfortunately, however, we have driven past Houston on the Clyde many times.

Best 50s fashion trend?
That would have to be the fashionable trend for rockin' rhythm & blues! Oh, and girls in pretty frocks.

www.myspace.com/thebottleneckers

The Bottleneckers play with Wanda Jackson at ABC2, Glasgow on June 23

Also published here in The List