Music Is Audible

This is perhaps a duller post than I’d like to put up but I’ll see if I can find a cheery picture to put in the middle as a distraction. I’ll explain the post’s title nearer the end. Anyway, I just attended a meeting organised by Edinburgh Council to discuss live music in Edinburgh with the title Live Music Matters. For those of you on twitter #livemusicmatters. Around 100 people attended and all of the available tickets were all snapped up within 2 days. –For a Monday afternoon meeting this was a great turn out. It was in an upstairs meeting room and there was free coffee. It lasted for 2 and a half hours but the time flew in and it still seems there is a lot more to discuss.

I really went as an observer as there were plenty of venue owners/managers, musicians and promoters there to put forward their case. I was able to pitch in a wee bit though.
I think the Young Fathers’ interview in the Guardian following their Mercury Music Prize win has struck a nerve with Edinburgh City Council. Synopsis: “Edinburgh Council are really fucking bad”. And in hip hop bad doesn’t mean good anymore. Well, the main Council representative certainly coyly alluded to it. Young Fathers do make some helpful suggestions in another interview with the Evening News.

The focus of the meeting was to be how the Council can help to improve the pop/rock music scene as there have previously been discussions with classical music representatives and I suppose there were 2 main groups present. The mid-sized venues like The Queen’s Hall and large promoters like Regular Music; and the grass roots comprising smaller venues such as Sneaky Pete’s and Henry’s Cellar Bar, labels, managers, bloggers and bands too. It was the latter that made up the bulk of those who attended. Young Fathers are in Berlin working on a new album.

After some short initial speeches we were split into 4 groups of 20-25 and then split into sub-groups of 5 or so. We’d then discuss what problems there were, what was being done well and then were asked to suggest improvements. We then fed back to our larger group before all 4 large groups feeding back summaries to all present. There were Council representatives in all of the larger groups.

I wasn’t taking notes at the time but this is what I picked up, in no particular order:

A major concern of the venues was with noise complaints leading to the threat of closure. Specifically the hypocrisy that during the Edinburgh Festival pop-up venues are able to create plenty of noise late into the night for an entire month without fuss whereas one complainant in February can cause a venue to be monitored and threatened with closure. Some have already spent a fortune on soundproofing but still get complaints. It was asked if the Council could provide grants to help with this or work more closely to ensure the correct things are done. Oh and there was a mention that Edinburgh is the only city in Europe that operates a “zero audibility clause”. I don’t know if it’s true about other cities, but the clause certainly exists.

The Queen’s Hall recently had one complaint about its external signage that led to them having to remove it all. -Some of which had been present for the last 15 years. Much of it had been present over the past 5 years. That this had actually been enforced by Edinburgh Council shows why this meeting has been so important. The Council also provides some funding to subsidise The Queen’s Hall so it seems odd that they’d choose to work against them. There needs to be some leeway in the law or some common sense applied.

Restrictions needn't be so stifling.

Restrictions needn’t be so stifling.

There was some disagreement as to whether we have too few small venues and rehearsal spaces. I was in the camp saying that there are probably enough small venues and that they are not used to their maximum potential. Some will argue against that. The owners of small venues that are currently doing a great job probably wouldn’t welcome too much extra competition. There was consensus that we should be supporting the ones we already have.I suppose there is not a directory of useful music related places and so unless you have decent contacts everyone has to work out simple things for themselves.*

There was discussion of the difficulty getting people out to gigs. That there are tens of thousands of students in the city but getting them out to local bands is incredibly difficult unless it’s for The VengaBoys and cheap beer.

Another point was that some large promoters don’t put gigs on big gigs in Edinburgh anymore. Not even during the festival. For example, the Murrayfield/Meadowbank Stadium gigs that Tennent’s Lager’s “ T on the Fringe” sponsorship helped to happen. The lack of big money sponsorship was noted but no suggestion came as to how this could be attracted in the future. Changing attitude to alcohol etc.

We discussed the value of live music to the city economy; That if we could get some figures together to actually value it, it would highlight the importance of supporting the live music sector. We also touched on how to get information about live music to tourists without coming to any conclusion. A point was made that a city with a reputation for it’s music will become a draw for tourists.

The creation of a hub of live music focusing on one area of the city was touted without a definite answer given. However there was appetite for the Cowgate with the hope that it could be tidied up a bit too.

The council have been looking to create an arts space off King’s Stables Road. It’s not clear how that would help with live music though. Possible cheap rehearsal space maybe.

A lack of larger venues. No-one was asking for an out of town arena to be built though. People of Edinburgh do want to see big bands. There aren’t enough spaces that can accommodate them. (eg With the Picture House closed there are instantly 52 fewer Saturday gigs in Edinburgh for 1000 people at a time. And, they would have gigs all week too.) An interesting finding was that it’s standard for bands to tour the biggest venues 1st then mop up the remaining fans in smaller places with a second sweep.

Something that wasn’t mentioned was that big touring bands will often get local bands in as support. The pay is rubbish (The Picture House would pay about £100) but the exposure is very handy.

Olaf Wide gave a good wee speech. I’d almost suggest that his organisation, Wide Days/Born To Be Wide be made Edinburgh’s official music focal point but wouldn’t want to load him with extra work. He’s been doing it for 10 years already and Olaf won an award from Creative Edinburgh last week. The “Anchor Award”. I suppose that is what is needed. Some stability, a solid base.

Olaf gets the Creative Edinburgh Anchor Award

Olaf gets the Creative Edinburgh Anchor Award

How do Edinburgh’s record shops fit in with all of this. Erm, I forgot to make a case. I wasn’t there with an agenda. Maybe next time. But the music scene is a little disjointed in that there are several scenes that don’t talk to one another (indie/rock/hiphop etc ) and within that several venues, promoters, bands and so on. I suppose as a shop that sells indie, rock, local releases, jazz and classical to a varied customer base across all ages and backgrounds, I have a decent overview of certain things without being expert in live music as such. But it’s the music industry and we’re all connected. I have to say that this initial meeting was really useful if only as a focal point for getting a disparate bunch of passionate musos together that can add different perspectives to the debate.

There were more issues discussed than eventual solutions but as a sounding board it was very welcome and the initial pledges from the council were encouraging. These aren’t the official minutes by the way, so I hope I’ve picked everything up ok to avoid any confusion.

1. The council pledge to take the issues raised seriously and to help where they can. She’ll be titling the project “Music Is Audible” (a tongue in cheek suggestion by, presumably, a venue owner with noise complaints).
2. Specifically, they hope to create a “one stop shop” to help advise venues, promoters and musicians. This already exist apparently but is more for larger acts/promoters/venues.
3. Look into creating formal arbitration between venues and noise complainants. A longer term plan to look at new residents in an area next to a venue having less rights over noise complaints. (I think this hits a grey area in Human Rights Law).
4. The recent Picture House closure was noted and the Council will look into how to protect venues from being sold and converted to different businesses as happened to The (fabulous) Venue a few years ago and The Picture House last year. This could involve the creation of a “Live Venue Trust”.
5. The council will liase with their counterparts in other cities in order to better emulate good practise for creating a music city. They are already in contact and Austin, Texas (who have the annual and massive South by South-West [SXSW] music festival) and they have agreed to help.
6. A plan to meet again in 4 months.
7. Other. I’m sure I’ve missed something.

It was nice to see the Council acknowledge that Edinburgh’s music scene hasn’t yet been held up as something to be proud of and that it needs formal support. That the scene exists at all, despite the lack of formal support so far is a good sign. Although this is very early in the process, I’m quietly optimistic.

In the meantime get out to a gig or two. Some artists are on reasonably big labels (eg Sub Pop) and come a long way to play here (eg from Vermont in the USA) often in smaller venues that consistently punch above their weight. The least we can do is make the effort, right? May I suggest King Tuff tonight at Sneaky Pete’s?


Um, I believe you can pick up the new King Tuff album from all good record shops.

* PS I almost forgot… Edinburgh musicians, Bart from eagleowl and Rob St John (eagleowl/Meursault/Water of Life) have compiled a handy guide for those wishing to put on gigs in Edinburgh/in general. It’s written by numerous people and is full of handy hints for those starting out. It’s called Don’t Make a Scene. I suppose it’s also the kind of thing that the Council could help support as I feel a series could be in the pipeline if this one is a success. You can read more about it here: http://www.dontmakeascene.co.uk/ Also available from good record shops (hopefully fairly soon).

3rd Floor Joy Division Blues

I went to Manchester for 24 hours the other week and checked into the Manchester Arena Central Travelodge for the night. I was given Room 13 on the 3rd floor. The Joy Division Floor. The room was really nice and the bed and sheets totally fine with an en suite and so on. Joy Division are, of course, a famous band from Manchester so naming a hotel floor near a large venue after them makes sense in tribute [Gary Barlow has floor 4]. As a record shop kind of person with more than a passing interest in the group I felt a tad uneasy.

Joy Division

OK, why the unease? I maybe read too much into it at the time but frontman Ian Curtis came up with the name ‘Joy Division’ after reading that it was the name given to brothels in some Nazi concentration camps (women were forced to work there). Joy Division. Others think the name came from the gallows humour of those who had to fling the corpses into pits; calling themselves (the) Joy Division.

I actually played Joy Division’s Closer album in the shop during a bright Summer’s day last year and had to turn it off mid-way through side 2. They have some great upbeat songs… But not on Closer. The sun retreated over the tenements leaving darkness on the inside.

Ian Curtis of Joy Division hung himself, while/after listening to Iggy Pop’s The Idiot: An album recorded in Berlin before the wall came down. It’s industrial sounding, drudging in places and was recorded in glorious black and white. It’s one of his best but there’s a time and a place for this kind of thing. Not so good when you’re away on your own. I thought about the Black and White artwork on the Joy Division records (And the Grey of Still). I thought it was ironic in a way as they weren’t binary at all -You always hear 4 things listening to Joy Division. Guitar/synth, Bass, Voice and Drums. Each part distinct. You get the odd keyboard and other bits and bobs but there aren’t many bands like that; that have a different riff for each instrument. The Stone Roses [Floor 2] managed something similar 10 years later but it’s an uncommon feat and I wondered if that was a key to success.

I wondered what the surviving band members thought of this mundane tribute with no sense of style. A black and white sign would at least be a wee nod and a wink. I then imagined what might happen if they started piping Joy Division into the hotel bedrooms. A hotel manager trying to save money on the morning breakfasts.*

Finally I realised that I was in the wrong bloody hotel! The Manchester Central Travelodge is not the same as the Manchester Central Arena Travelodge. So I left and everything was fine.

In a 1987 interview with Option, Stephen Morris (JD Drummer) commented on how he would describe Curtis to those who asked what he was like: “An ordinary bloke just like you or me, liked a bit of a laugh, a bit of a joke.”

* There have been a few studies into hotel suicide. click here

www.samaritans.org

Young Fathers Have Arrived

You might have just heard that Young Fathers have won this year’s Mercury Music Prize for their album Dead. The band’s history requires a little explanation as they’ve been making music for the past ten years but rather than me type away, you can click this link for a short history of the band and a pre-Mercury interview conducted in a cafe on Leith Walk. Or to sum them up, as they say themselves on their website:

‘This is known: Young Fathers are three young men from Edinburgh and Liberia and Nigeria, all at the same time. Their journey has taken them through various incarnations and styles but they are still only in their mid-twenties. And… and this is important: they’ve chosen to kill the past – their own past, even – to make their own future.’

That’s not a bad outlook at all.

You should also be aware that they won the Scottish Album of the Year Award earlier this year for their last album, Tape 2. Tape 2 wasn’t my choice but I don’t think anyone who voted really could disagree and there weren’t any serious grumblings afterwards. But awards are funny things and you can’t please everyone. Saying that, I think Dead deserved to win the Mercury Music Prize. But why?

…Because IT IS INTENSE.

This song and video is genuinely terrifying:

We played some of Dead on the VoxBox Vinyl Show this year (The Show is returning soon). It’s a daaaark album in places. Holy sheezus. It’s a wide eyed, claustrophobic, aggressive and moody record. But what do you really expect with a record called DEAD? The music they make has been called hip-hop but I don’t know if it is. It feels more like metal or hardcore with Gil Scott-Heron poetry thrown in. I do know they don’t like to be pigeon holed and they might some day kick me in the nuts for saying this but if you wanted me to come up with a genre, for this Hallowe’en week, I’d call it Dark Soul.

The great thing is that a load of people will listen to this album on the back of the win and maybe hold it up as art for a while. A dark sermon.

I sense that the Young Fathers don’t feel much affinity for places, but I’d hope the Mercury Music Prize win will ignite some outside interest in the compact Edinburgh music scene, in particular and most obviously, that The Young Fathers’ good friend LAWHolt gets signed up by an ambitious and forward thinking label and the chance to put an album out soon.

And although VoxBox stock the Young Fathers releases, I had nothing at all to do with their recent success and have never met them, I’m nevertheless very proud of their achievement.
Young Fathers are from Edinburgh. But in reality they are an international band that make music that hits you like a dark basement crack on the head that reminds you that you must pay attention: Something special has arrived.

VoxBox says Yes

The big day fast approaches and I have to admit, this has been very exciting, exhausting at times and ultimately, hopefully worthwhile. But of course, this Cassette Store Day divides opinion.

Cassette Store Day is the 27th September and there are many gigs from 5pm at The Last Word Saloon at 44 St Stephen Street just across the road.

The bloody referendum…

I’d like to add the record shop point of view to the debate (I don’t have anything to say on the bigger politics that has not been said already). The debate has been fierce but overall in good humour and I’ve been posting the odd item in favour of a Yes vote on Facebook and Twitter as that is my personal preference. I posted a link to a Guardian article by George Monbiot on Twitter which led to a chap telling me he was going to boycott the shop. I have since been a little uneasy about saying anything publicly as I certainly don’t wish to lose any customers. For example I put up a Green Yes poster on Saturday and I don’t think we had any Orangemen in despite the reported influx. Keeping politics and business separate seems a sensible idea.

Usually, but in a once in a lifetime debate…

In this case, does a wee Edinburgh record shop have a role to play in the big debate?
Oh yes, if large businesses, millionaires and celebrities on all sides are allowed to wade in then I suppose here is the place for my tuppence worth. I don’t honestly think independence will change the VoxBox shop much at all in the short term. That’s it. Over the longer term, a VAT reduction for arts/music sales would be nice and perhaps even achievable. Would independence offer greater protection to small shops from Amazon? Maybe aye, maybe no. The White Paper did suggest support for medium and small businesses… All a bit vague. Corporation tax going down would help a bit too but I don’t mind paying my share. A record collecting MP might come to the shop one day… and I’ll get a record museum… and I’d be really happy then; seems a bit far fetched.

Under devolution, the current SNP policy of the Small Business Bonus has helped keep many small shops open up and down Scotland and indeed without it, I’d have to have a very long think about keeping the shop open. I might decide to sell it to Wetherspoons. The Small Business Bonus is a really handy piece of legislation that devolution has delivered and shows the SNP in a fairly good light. Without it, the recent financial disaster would have been a complete Scottish town centre and St Stephen’s Street small business disaster. But of course, the referendum is not a vote for the SNP at all and I’m not a fan of baby-kissing party politics.

In the future? Well, no side has made any claims about the benefits of independence to record shops let alone to the broader music industry of bands, labels, venues and festivals or even the remaining HMVs in Scotland. I do think Independence would be good for the arts. It’s telling that so many creative people prefer to vote Yes. The vast majority I’d think. There has even been a petition for Yes signed by over 1400 Scottish artists.

Scotland’s largest record label, Chemikal Underground is pro Yes. Mogwai’s Stuart Braithwaite is particularly eloquent and Edinburgh’s only full time record label Song, by Toad wrote a massive piece supporting Yes the other day.
Mogwai have played a pro Yes show on this Sunday past at the Usher Hall; “A Night For Scotland” with Franz Ferdinand, Frightened Rabbit Eddie Reader and the fabulous Stanley Odd among others.

The number of Yes bands seemed to outnumber the no bands by a great deal so yesterday I started a Yes shelf, a maybe shelf and no shelf all depending on what was in stock. I ran out of room very quickly for the Yes side. Edwyn Collins and Kid Canaveral and Adam Stafford should be there too.

Yes

Fence founder, King Creosote is a notable No which is very slightly ironic as his new album from Scotland With Love looks like a beautiful piece of Nationalist propaganda. It has sold really well as a beautiful album should. Fellow Ex-Fence records Fifer James Yorkstone says Yes.

No shelf

By far the majority of music people I know have been enthusiastic for Yes, I have to say that there are a load of not-saying bands too. From the Yes/No/Dunno shelf it’s clear that more musicians are for independence than against by a huge margin. When letting in musicians from the rest of the UK for the No side you get flooded with the likes of Paul McCartney, David Bowie, Mick Jagger, Cilla Black, Cliff Richard, Bob Geldof and Gordon Sting which feels like a really inappropriate Band Aid appeal. Only Bono and George Michael are missed.

So I was thinking that if the VoxBox shop as a business interested in only in itself had to vote, what would it do… and decided that it would vote the way of the majority of the bands we work with.

With that in mind, the politics…

The idea that a Scottish parliament would have voted to go to war with Iraq strikes me as absurd although the leaders of the No campaign, Alistair Darling, Douglas Alexander and Jim Murphy did all vote on our behalf for the Iraq war to happen despite the largest protest march in UK history asking them to not. Referendum and music aside, these are either warmongers or idiots.

Would the rest of the UK have went to war without Scotland? Maybe… Probably even. Who could know? You can bet it would have been less likely.

I do think the world will be a little bit safer with a weakened rUK military. I certainly want as little to do as possible with an economy based on arms sales and selling torture equipment to dictators. If that makes me poorer, I deserve to be poorer. It seems fairly simple ethics in my child-like brain and it transcends the business of selling records. But it would be wrong to say that music hasn’t influenced my thinking.

Not the Corries’ Flower of Scotland, not Frankie Miller’s Caledonia or even Deacon Blue’s Dignity.

Dylan was spot on with Masters of War in 1963 when he pilloried arms manufacturers.
Lennon was right to Imagine a dream where War is over if you want it.
Bob Marley told folk to Get Up Stand Up.
John Lydon said Rise.
There are so so so many.
Prior to them, the great Pete Seeger singing the most important verse in a song for a much greater struggle. “We are not afraid.”

Are these naïve and childish songs? No I don’t think so. I took these songs seriously when I was a lithe young chap and I do more so now. So I have great hope and that we’ll come out of this a better country. Independence offers less war and protection from economic decline.
Meanwhile what I hope Independence will bring is a nearness, literally and culturally, to the politicians that actually have the power to help change your life and those less well off for the better.

So it’s a yes. And a declaration that I am not afraid of independence. At all.
For positivity, click here:

Praise Where Praise is Due

This is good news. Old news now but worth a mention. The St Stephen’s Church at the end of our street has been bought and will stay as a community orientated building. Indeed, I would think it is likely to be used more often now.

Over the past few years I’ve walked past the tower of St Stephen’s church on the way down Frederick Street to the shop. It’s a formidable sight, an architectural colossus. Those are big hand cut stones. It’s nice and cuboid too, unlike the disgraceful Broughton St Mary’s at Bellevue. Edinburghers, you know what I’m talking about…

Broughton St. Mary's Parish Church

Broughton St. Mary’s Parish Church

As with so many religious buildings, St Stephen’s church is tremendous. Imposing from the outside and incredibly grand inside with plenty nooks and crannies for Batman to hide in. It is of Gotham proportions. So there is plenty space to be used. A factoid that crops up is that it has the longest pendulum in Europe… Well I suppose if I had a big pendulum, I’d drop it into the VoxBox advertising as well.

Phallic towers, gigantic swinging pendulums and no doubt massive organs (there is one). It seems the Georgians liked a Carry On.

So anyway, back to the best potential venue in Stockbridge.

For the previous 2 years Northern Stage Theatre Company and St Vincent’s Bar had taken the church over in August. This year it was empty again in August due to the sale going through. Due to the uncertainty, the theatre company found another venue. The Festival doesn’t really come to Stockbridge which is kind of nice is some ways but frustrating if you have a nice selection of independent businesses that tourists would be interested in. It’s certainly bizarre that some small areas are mobbed and some nice streets just round the corner are neither up nor down. St Stephen’s Church has certainly been missed when it has not been used.

It’s sad to see a Church going.* But on the other hand there was probably a whole pew for every Edinburgh resident for 2 centuries. There was an interesting exhibition by Nathan Coley a wee while ago based on the fact that Edinburgh had 286 places of (Christian) worship listed in 2004’s Yellow Pages.
Nathan Coley

I actually started buying lottery tickets when I first saw that it was for sale with the idea of splurging the winnings on the church and opening a record museum. – A museum of music with a wee venue attached. Some cruel or- maybe complimentary -so and so said I already had a record museum -the fiend! It’s hard to buy a grade A listed church though. Even sticking in better toilets means a visit from Historic Scotland and a change of use is incredibly difficult. You can only get planning permission to open a community centre, gallery, museum, youth club or erm… a church, so in rare praise to Edinburgh’s planners, it could only really be bought by a nice person or cult leader.

Leslie Benzies, one of the chaps responsible for the Grand Theft Auto cult lives locally and has bought the chvrch. So crack dens, prostitution, ultra violence, gold teeth and flash cars beckon! Too good to be true. No, silly! It’s been announced as a philanthropic venture so we won’t be getting the dirty cash high rollers coming down the street but instead, pensioners, dancers, karateists (is that a word?) and chess clubs. Or who knows, maybe something very different. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store. He’s a bit of a private guy so a committee will run the place with the community in mind.

I’m not expecting a record museum but with the huge space available, there is real potential here. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s coming.

So many thanks to Mr Benzies, it’s such a nice and Rock and Roll thing to do.

Amen.

St Stephen's Church (Pic from Wikipedia)

St Stephen’s Church (Pic from Wikipedia)

*

FoxBox Records

FoxBox Records

FoxBox Records

Sometimes I think that there are too many record labels (more on this later). Anyway… and without dwelling on the irony; I’m stoked to be able to help with Edinburgh’s newest one.

It feels like a crazy idea but this is certainly happening and we’ll have to see where it leads. But for now, it’s all hands on hats.

FoxBox Records has sprung out of a nice late night conversation or two and at very short notice will be taking part in Cassette Store Day this year. It’s a separate business to the VoxBox shop, happy to roam free in the evenings, but until the website is up and running, it can have a home on these blog pages.

The first release will be an official release for Cassette Store Day, called FoxBox Presents Post__Nothing Sessions: A various wonderful artists compilation tape.

This release is a collaboration with Brian and Rachel who run Post__Nothing; A project spanning 4 years so far, they have been recording sessions for an Edinburgh based webzine called Post__Nothing and the Freshair radio show of the same name. These are mainly of Edinburgh or Scottish bands but there are a few touring bands that have been caught too.

The full track-listing has not been formalised yet but there are exciting names to be announced subject to the licensing being sorted.

VoxBox Andy was responsible for creating the logo and I’m terribly happy with it. Everyone likes a blue fox.

Following Cassette Store Day on the 27th September, FoxBox will tuck itself away until the new year to get properly organised. There will be some exciting releases on fox-blue vinyl.

It’s a small thing on a shoestring but as every fox and record collector knows… It’s best to keep some things to yourself.

There is a Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/FoxBoxRecords
And a Twitter page @foxboxrecords
Email: foxboxrecords@hotmail.com

PS The slogan is coming…

PPS More on Cassette Store Day to follow. But keep 27th September free.

VoxBox Recommends the Edinburgh Festival 2014 Part 2

More Festival shenanigans…
Someone pointed out there is a play about Kate Bush running til the 25th.

For much of the month, A Band Called Quinn at Summerhall.

There’s also a new record shop at Summerhall for the festival specialising in odd music. I’m going to sneak in on a spying mission.

Glen Matlock was in town with I was a Teenage Sex Pistol. I meant to put that in but it was a tad dear at £18 I think.

17th John Otway (17th-18th and 20th-22nd). Highly entertaining. Someone called him “rock’s greatest failure” (and a two hit wonder). Incredibly, this is FREE.

18th Born to be Wide Talkshow with Simon Napier-Bell. This is FREE and worth a look. Part of Jura unbound, Napier-Bell has a new book on the ins and oots of the music industry. Lots of beans to be spilled. Dan Wilson (Withered Hand) will be talking about his approach to songwriting and live music comes from The Jellyman’s Daughter.

19th Samantha Crain and The Jellyman’s Daughter at the Electric Circus

20th R.M. Hubbert and Emma Pollock at the Queen’s Hall Last Year’s Scottish Album of the Year Award winner RM Hubbie plays. New Album, Breaks and Bone was on the SAY shortlist this year. But they couldn’t let him win twice in a row…

20th Trembling Bells with Ian Humberstone play at Sneaky Pete’s. Come to think of it Sneaky’s have lots on during the festival. Look here.

21st Withered Hand at the Queen’s Hall. Edinburgh Indie royalty. New album New Gods has rave reviews and is a shop best seller.

21st Pale Imitation Festival – Rick Redbeard, Kitchen Cynics and Ella The Bird (Siobhan Wilson).

21st The VoxBox Vinyl Show 2 hour referendum special. Featuring Yes songs, No songs, some musical politics and record shop banter. 1800-2000 on Edinburgh Student Radio www.Freshair.org.uk.

22nd Gruff Rhys of the Super Furry Animals has a book out. Part memoir and part retracing the steps of a welsh explorer. Part of the book festival.

23rd Randolph’s Leap and Tuff Love. Two of Lost Map records newest signings. 8 piece Randolph’s Leap make me sing Lalalalalalalalala! Contagiously beautiful pop music. New Album Clumsy Knot available in the shop. Tuff Love have a fine EP available in the shop too.

23rd Pale Imitation Festival – LAW, Numbers Are Futile, Wozniak.

24th James Yorkston and Friends (KT Tunstall, Pictish Trail) as part of Jura Unbound. FREE! James has a new album out on the 18th.

24th PAWS (New album Youth Culture Forever out now) and Lady North at the Electric Circus. You MUST see PAWS live! Here’s your chance.

24th The last chance to see VoxBox Andy in Full Tilt, the 5 star Janis Joplin biopic.

25th Richard Thompson at The Queen’s Hall

25th Vic Galloway, BBC broadcaster, journalist and champion of the Scottish music scene, has written Songs in the Key of Fife, which documents the amazing story of the Fence Collective. In recent years the music industry has been defined by its much publicised decline, with creativity consumed by the mass market, but for the past two decades, in a little place across the water, a group of musicians have been building and battling against this. Join Vic and some special guests for a memorable night of music to celebrate the book’s publication.

26th (Phil Space) It starts to fizzle out a bit…

27th (Phil Space)

28th Pale Imitation Festival – eagleowl, Ian Humberstone, Smack Van. Eagleowl debut This Silent Year came out last year and is a shop fav. Ian Humberstone reminds me of Bill Callahan. Smack Van are new to me but with a name like that, don’t sound particularly laid back like the other 2.

29th (Polly Filler)

30th Pale Imitation Festival – PAWS, Et tu Brute, Halfrican. PAWS again!

31st Collapse.

After typing the above, I’ve been really pleased to see that many of the bands have performed in the shop or on our street (Record Store Days/Wide Days) since we opened 3 years ago. We’re forever in their debt as although customer service and cleanliness go a long way, a shop can only be as good as the music it sells. Please make a point in seeing them if you get the chance.

PAWS
Neil Pennycook/Meursault
eagleowl/Kid Canaveral with Ian Humberstone
Adam Stafford
Wounded Knee
The Jellyman’s Daughter
Withered Hand
Book Group
Broken Records
Pictish Trail
Tuff Love
LAW

Bands/artists that almost played or were busy or forgot who I still think are the bee’s knees are Randolph’s Leap, The Little Kicks, Rick Redbeard and Siobhan Wilson.

Worth a mention comedy-wise are Josie Long who is an honorary Lost Map member and has a show on 21, 22, and 24th.

And Jo Caulfield (12th-24th) who invented VoxBox’s famous naked Saturdays.

Finally, It’s not part of the Fringe but there is a nice exhibition of Jim Lambie‘s work at The Fruitmarket Gallery on Market Street. Among other things, he puts (hopefully) dud record sleeves to good use and generally messes with your head using coloured stripes, ladders and mirrors.

Jim Lambie

VoxBox Recommends The Edinburgh Festival 2014 -Part 1

I love Edinburgh in August!
It always reminds me of how lucky we are to stay in this city. The fact that so many 1000s of people come here to put on shows. And that so many more come here as tourists from outside and within the UK to have a look. It’s a bamboozling thing though if you’ve never experienced it before. To say there is too much to see is a bit like saying [insert a clever analogy]. Anyway, I get excited like a something something… oh come on brain!

Every other person in town is a comedian. Some are totally, incredibly, bamboozlingly rubbish. With bad timing and punchlines that really don’t work (see later). But there are gems to be had. Roll up roll up!

So, after poring over some of the listings. Here are some musical treats that took my fancy. Some events are organised by people nepotistically close to the shop but I’ll let you know.

For a start, getting a major plug, Andy from the shop is in a show!

A Janis Joplin biopic called Full Tilt at the Assembly Checkpoint (Venue 322) 20.50 every day from 31st July to the 24th August apart from the Tuesdays the 12th and 19th. Don’t worry, he’s not playing Janis Joplin although with the right wig I think he could pull it off. (I’ve been assured that Mercedes Benz actually sounds good the way they do it). Andy normally plays keys in The Holy Ghosts, a band that specialise in Wild Country Blues Rock as performed by the Rolling Stones circa 1972. Anyway, Full Tilt has a 5 star review from the List.

VoxBox recommends (is in) Full Tilt!

VoxBox recommends (is in) Full Tilt!

So we should all definitely see that show, our at least pretend to have seen it if you come into VoxBox on Wednesdays and Thursdays.

The next nepotistic thing is The Song, By Toad Pale Imitation Festival as I’m friends with the label as shop/business and… Wait a minute… I don’t need to make excuses. Song, by Toad is actually Edinburgh’s only full time record label. Basically the VoxBox shop will help whenever it can. But without lying… Thankfully the Toad filter is set high.

This lineup is probably great. I have to admit, I don’t know 11 of the 28 bands announced but I know at least one on each bill and basically, all you need to know is that for a fiver each gig is worth a punt. 3 bands for a fiver! The headliners are all pretty fantastic too. Here is the poster:

Pale-Imitation-2014-digiflyer

 

But we’re not just about Edinburgh independent music. Our forte is MOJO/Uncut type bands after all. After investigating a bit, here’s what I found in the Fringe Guide and elsewhere for the first couple of weeks. Not definitive by any means.

1st The Chills play the Electric Circus. New Zealand legends!

2nd Broken Records at the Queen’s Hall They’re back! Promoting their fine new album, Weights and Pulleys. Support from shop favourites Kid Canaveral (album of the year shortlisted) and Book Group.

2nd Pale Imitation Festival -Adam Stafford, Le Thug, Duchess. Adam Stafford’s album, Imaginary Walls Collapse was my 1st choice for the recent Scottish Album of the Year Award.

3rd Born to be Wide 10 minute sets by selected Scottish bands: Cairn String Quartet, Jamie & Shoony, The Little Kicks (acoustic), Made of Glass, Megan D, Neil Pennycook (Meursault), Paul Gilbody, Rachel Newton. Short DJ sets of Scottish tunes in-between by movers and shakers in the Scottish music scene and VoxBox yours truly. FREE entry via Facebook.

5th Steve Heron, Benny Monteux and Made of Glass at the Electric Circus.

6th A good day to see VoxBox Andy in Full Tilt.

7th Pale Imitation Festival -The Leg, Now Wakes The Sea. The Leg are bonkers. Fun bonkers. There’s a silly old blog post about them called Outside Leg.

8th The Little Kicks at the Electric Circus. They made one of my top 5 of Scottish albums of the year; Aberdeen’s Little Kicks are pretty special guitar disco pop.

9th Pale Imitation Festival- The Yawns, Sharptooth, Alan Smithee

9th The Last Battle at the Electric Circus. Lovely, Edinburgh band with new album out.

10th Viv Albertine of The Slits is at the Book Festival promoting her memoir. Great band, great story, so should be good.

10th Aidan Moffat of Arab Strap has written a CHILDREN’s book! It’s bound to contain swearing. It’s called The Lavender Blue Dress. For kids. (and grown ups with their kids)

11th There’s Autumn Fallin’ From Friday the 1st until Saturday the 23rd. This is a New York love affair based on the album by folkster Jaymay (Pronounced Jamie). 50mins of musical theatre. The director asked the shop for a loan of Subterranean Homesick Blues, Astral Weeks and Blood on the Tracks as props. So that’s an idea of where it’s coming from. A great start. Well worth investigating.

12th Wounded Knee (12, 13, 14th). Drew Wright AKA Wounded Knee and Daniel Padden present a striking new song cycle celebrating the seasons, inspired by Edinburgh and the Pentland Hills. This special performance centred around Wounded Knee’s distinctive vocals, features original compositions and bold new arrangements of traditional material, performed by a group of adventurous players. Drawing on diverse influences including African guitar minimalism, cosmic jazz, and experimental and folk traditions, Wright and Padden create a sonic patchwork bound by prose and poetry: a Scottish Summer Symphony. Presented in collaboration with The Glad Cafe.

12th Martin Carthy -A must see show at St Brides. A truly legendary folk musician that famously influenced Paul Simon and Bob Dylan.

13th Meursault and Plastic Animals at the Queen’s Hall The last ever Meursault gig!

13th  Vic Galloway and Friends (Adam Stafford, The Hazey Janes, Andrew Mitchell and Ella The Bird (Siobhan Wilson) and book readings) It’s late but it’s FREE

14th John Renbourn and Wizz Jones -Pentangle guitar wizard and fellow long time acoustic folk guitarist in a rare show. Both are legendary acoustic guitar genius (especially Renbourn). Ask any folkie or Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page. (also playing the 13th)

14th Pale Imitation Festival -Deathcats, Garden Of Elks, Passion Pusher

14th Kevin MacNeil & Willie Campbell
Long-time friends and artistic collaborators, Kevin MacNeil and Willie Campbell last year produced the album Visible From Space, and they’ll bring together their songs and stories for a special night of Jura Unbound. Kevin is an acclaimed novelist, poet and playwright born and raised in the Outer Hebrides. His works include The Stornoway Way and Love and Zen in the Outer Hebrides. Willie was lead singer and guitarist with Astrid. He still tours both as a solo artist and as a member of The Open Day Rotation.

14th (+15th and 16th) The Black Diamond Express -High energy 9 piece Edinburgh blues band. Highly recommended.

15th King Creosote plays the Queen’s Hall -New album, From Scotland With Love out now and in the shop. These will be snapped up fast. Get in quick! Sadly, on the 15th SLINT play Glasgow… Sadly I’ll be in Glasgow.

15th Julian Cope is at the Book Festival promoting his new book One Three One. It’s his first book of fiction. His autobiography, Head On/Repossessed is one of the best rock memoirs ever written.

16th Pale Imitation Festival – Garden of Elks, Jesus H. Foxx, Andrew R. Burns

That’s just a tiny amount and I’ll have missed out loads, but if the Fringe guide appears too daunting to look through, the above are all nice ways to spend an evening.

More to come…

It’s kind of nice. The VoxBox Vinyl Show returns too and the Fresh Air studio is at The Pleasance where there is a lot going on. It’s every Thursday from 2000-2200. You can listen online at FreshAir.org.uk. Dom and I will be putting together 3 two hour specials. The History of Decadence in Music/Musical Badasses. A Referendum Special. And a mysterious one we haven’t decided on ye(S)t.

Other Stuff:
If you’ve never seen it before, see La Clique. It’s probably the best show at The Fringe. Seriously good! But get tickets early -as it always sells out- and arrive and queue at least half an hour before for decent seats.

See something stupid. Seriously. Take a punt on something. Wander up the Royal Mile to get flyered. If you like the speil, give it a go. It’s once a year and the vibrancy is infectious…

Like gonorrhoea.

Have fun!

PS. Get in touch if you know of a show that would interest the shop/Edinburgh music fans. Edinburgh bands and venues with gigs in August haven’t been missed out on purpose. Get in touch, we’ll try to pass it on.
Twitter: @voxboxmusic

The List, The Skinny and The Scotsman have some of the best insider knowledge of Edinburgh and will keep you up to date with news and reviews.

Little Symphonies For The Oddward Kids

It should only take 2 minutes to read this.

I was dreadfully sad to find out that Tommy Ramone died. Sadder still that I had thought he was dead already. I’d lost track of The Ramones drummers. Elvis Ramone anyone?!
To me, the core of the Ramones has always been the quartet of Joey, Tommy, Dee Dee, Johnny, Podsy, Ralph, Ritchie, Fonzie, Dozy, Beaky, Noddy, Grumpy, Doc, Sid and Marky.

Sadly, with Tommy gone, the original Ramones have all had premature deaths and I find this especially sad; as they were a band with a real-cool-time whaddayougot young energy! Say wha? Whaddayoumean energy… These slacker long haired leather jacketed glue sniffers? Those funny shaped leaning sneering dicks with the indoor sunglasses who, by their own admission, want to be sedated? Hey you! Would you let your daughter marry a Stoned Ramone?

Punk was invented with the dead pan delivery of “Hey ho, Let’s go!” That and with the awkward, leaning a bit and the so what sneering a bit and by the looking a bit awkward while still screw you sneering a bit and sitting on some steps and stuff and by being aware that they are all the wrong heights to be even seen together, god it’s so unfair … and wearing sunglasses and long black hair and leaning with T-shirt, Jeans and leaning with leather jacket and all in glorious and expressive black and white.

Seriously though, there aren’t any pics of the Ramones looking comfortable or even nearly content when outside or inside unless they are sitting down or leaning on something. Even then, it’s a tense and odd affair. Every time I see a photo of a Ramones publicity shoot and look at their legs, I’m reminded that I need to buy a new comb and toothbrush. And just maybe a pair of skinny jeans and a leather jacket. Four awkward oddballs. Four oddward heroes.

Legs like broken toothbrush bristles.

Legs like broken toothbrush bristles.

All that is true until you put them on the fricking stage! Then they move! What legs! What energy! The songs are so young. Like the Beach Boys cars and girls ditties but amplified and moved into downtown New York. They are Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys and every 1960s New York girl group condensed into 2 minutes of T shirt shaped band guitar stance knee bending hair humping energy.

Phil Spector bumped into the teenage lyrics too and moved to produce the Ramones. It might have seemed a superficially odd pairing but it was absolute sense. It seemed right, the subject matter was kinda the same, right? Well, yeah, and no but, whatever, *shrugs*. Mr Spector wasn’t quite right for the Ramones. The tunes came out fine in the end I think, but there was a real delinquent rebel here and his name was Phil… The story goes that Spector pulled a (zipadeedodah) gun and made Joey Ramone play the opening chord to Rock and Roll High School 100s of times and kidnapped Dee Dee a bit in his house and also wouldn’t let Dee Dee play his pinball machine!? Wha? Crikey, what a weird and horrible place to be. But afterwards, they are then so darn NICE about it after putting up with the bad craziness. Couldn’t you just cuddle them?
This is such an innocent and nice and to be honest, a bit of a long (for them) strange interview about that:

Anyway this blog bit could go on and on. It is just meant as a wee wayhey send off to the Ramones. So goodbye and Wahey Ho to the Ramones! Equal parts America’s Slade and The Clash, with a bit of the Who, and a bit of Dangermouse, as well as Captain Caveman with a wee touch of The Archies and all via The Stooges, they were the perfect band and always, always, wholesome and perfect role models. If I had a kid and they aspired to be a Ramone, marry a Ramone or just wear jeans like a Ramone [except Bros], I’d be as chuffed as hell. Perfect, rough hi-energy energy drinks of skinny-jeaned music. It’s perfect little symphonies for the kids aged from 5 to 95. A mumbled shout of a rallying call to all of those who feel a bit oddward to shuffle to the front and lean in.

Those songs are over in a fla

sh!

Justin

One of the drawbacks of Record Store Day is that shops have often tied up all of their money on RSD stock and most of their energy on ordering, organising the day and then the online selling of the leftovers. This is a shame if you’re a band releasing something in April or early May and I would like to make up for some of that now and highlight some of the non-RSD justin new releases that came in-just before RSD and over the past 6 weeks.

There’s an awful lot to hear here. In fact the shop is so full to bursting with lovely new and used records that I often daydream about having a larger shop… Ahh daydream! For lazy minded fools with nothing else to do!?*

We have an open shelf policy for music that is made by Edinburgh bands or put out on labels based here. In practice, this extends to bands and labels throughout Scotland too.

VoxBox is also stocking more new releases than ever and I try to keep up to date with what’s coming out as best I can when it fits with the feel of the shop. Generally, Classic Rock, Blues, Jazz, Electronica and Independent music. I’m about to get some new headers made up so certain titles can be neatly filed in the racks as “Alternative Rock”. Euwggh. A load of great music. Dull term. Not to worry, I’ll see if I can think of a better header.

Our most popular section is actually Justin. Not Bieber or Timberlake or JUSTIN the obscure cowboy, but the new stuff. the boxes of Pre-owned and brand spanking new records that have just arrived. There are loads of records in the Justin boxes. Please don’t groan… Read on!

If you have been in recently you’ll have seen lots of boxes of Justin records. So much so that we are not unlike this handsome and enigmatic chap, a carefully curated island of rock and roll that is quickly running out of space.

 

Running out of space.

Carefully curated but running out of space.

 

Just( have a look at what has come )in!

Brand new local and Scottish label/artist:

Virgin of the Birds, Winter Seeds (Song, by Toad)

Bastard Mountain, Farewell Bastard Mountain (Song by, Toad)

Yusuf Azak, Peace in the Underworld (Gerry Loves Records)

Holy Mountain, Ancient Astronauts (Chemikal Underground)

Tuff Love, Junk EP (Lost Map)

Randolph’s Leap, Clumsy Knot (Lost Map)

Cruising, You Made Me Do That (Soft Power)

Witching Waves, Concrete (Soft Power)

Chalk and Numbers, Compilation (Soft Power)

Call To Mind, The Winter Is White (Olive Grove Records)

King Post Kitsch, Sheep On a Beach (New Pleasure Recordings)

The Amazing Snakeheads, Amphetamine Ballads

Sketches For Albinos, Fireworks and the Dead City Radio (Mini50)

Bastardgeist, Infinite Lives (Mini 50)

Tisso Lake/Ian Humberstone The Hollow Wood and the Wondrous Cold 10″ LP (repress)

Dropkick, Homeward

The Industry, Dancing in the Fire CD EP.

Penguins Kill Polar Bears, Building Homes From Broken Bones

The Last Battle, Lay Your Burden Down CD

Zeitgeist, When The Sun Goes Away EP.

Star Wheel Press, Lost CD EP (unable to post link just now )

Seriously, this is (just) from the last 2 months! Give the links a click, there’s some great music (in) there.

 

Larger labels that got in touch personally:

Great Thunder, Groovy Kinda Love (Waxahatchee related/Wichita)

Cloud Nothings, Here and Nowhere Else (Wichita)

Merch, This Betrayal Will Be Our End (Sassafras)

 

Bigger label bands and artists:

Pixies, Indie Cindy

LIARS, Mess

SOHN

The Flaming Lips, Loads of stuff

Cate Le Bon, Mug Museum

Brian Jonestown Massacre, Revelations

The Afghan Whigs, The Beast

Black Keys, Turn Blue

The White Stripes reissues on Third Man

…and loads more.

We’re also stocked up with new back catalogue titles where the originals are hard to come by. However, as always, the main focus of the shop will always be vintage, rare and collectable vinyl but please let us know if there’s a new record that you are after. You can pre-order some new releases from us too if you fancy. Just drop us a line. voxbox@live.co.uk

And if that’s not enough to keep your ears busy…

Coming soon:

PAWS, Youth Culture Forever

Honeyblood, Self-titled debut

Broken Records -Weights and Pulleys

The Phantom Band (Chemikal Underground)

Jack White, Lazaretto

Remember Remember (Rock Action –Mogwai’s label)

Led Zeppelin I-III

SLINT Reissues

James Yorkston (August -just announced)

Now that I have this lot off my chest, I’ll try to update the Justin part of the blog every fortnight or so to let you know what’s new.

 

*Ah daydream… a song with nowt to do with Justin.
*

Disclaimer Justin case: Photo of Justin Hawkins. He doesn’t know VoxBox exists and certainly doesn’t endorse the shop or have a VoxBox tattoo (yet). Photo used as illustration of a carefully curated island of rock and roll that is quickly running out of space. I wasn’t able to find the copyright holder.

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VoxBox Music became the newest record shop in the world on May 21st 2011. We buy and sell vinyl and other formats of music. We are independent and sell mostly pre-owned records although we are slowly branching into new vinyl too.

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