Festivals · Music · Theatre

Edinburgh Festivals Days Twenty, Twenty-one, Twenty-two and Twenty-three.

Edinburgh Fringe - 70 years of defying the norm


Monday 21 August, day 20 of the Festivals…

Mairi Campbell Pulse


Mairi Campbell’s Pulse was a thoughtful and graceful exposition of her own musical journey from the conservatory to the folk tradition, directed by my friend Kath Burlinson.  Very good.

Not so good was the second show that evening…it may have been called “Bill and Ben the Flowerpot Men meet Spooky Bitch and the Rockers Uptown.”  At least, it should have been.  I’ll never get that hour back…

Day 21, Tuesday August 22 was a hundred percent day though.

Guy Pratt - photo by Steve Ullathorne


First of all I saw Guy Pratt’s Inglourious Bassterd at Frankenstein’s as part of the Free Fringe.  I had seen him years ago doing a show called My Bass and Other Animals and enjoyed it, so it was well worth going to see the updated version, where he tells anecdotes about his musical career as bass player with Pink Floyd and David Gilmour as well as the numerous superstar sessions he’s done.  Sadly I had to leave quickly at the end of the show so was unable to speak with him and thank him for the magnificent bass part on Sophie Ellis-Bextor’s “Murder on the Dancefloor.”

A little bit later we went to see Alan Johnson at the Book Festival.  His third volume of memoirs has just come out and he was able to speak mostly about the book – a couple of years ago, during a Labour Party leadership campaign, he was at the Book Festival to promote the second volume but was largely asked about the state of the party rather than his book.

When he was Minister for Health in, I think, 2009 he had mentioned in an interview in The Observer about music that he was fond of The Pearlfishers, so with the agreement of the composer, I took the opportunity to give him a copy of The Pearlfishers’ official bootleg.  I think he is the fifth person to have a copy of this – I hope he enjoys it.


Alan Johnson discusses The Pearlfishers with Stuart Ferguson at the Edinburgh Book Festival

Day 22, Wednesday August 23 – one show, Kieran Hurley’s Heads Up.  A successful shot in the dark.  Apparently this won a Fringe First in 2016 and I could see why.  In the lovely surroundings of the Anatomy Lecture Theatre at Summerhall, Hurley’s show is a powerful monologue about people’s reactions to nuclear apocalypse, delivered mostly from a desk where he triggers samples from a couple of pads in front of him.  Sobering and sadly appropriate to our troubled and volatile times.

Day 23, Thursday August 24.  Just one show, which was OK.  So enough said.

I also had a pleasant couple of hours at the Book Festival with my friend Alan Windram from littledoorbooks, where we discovered that he and his wife were coincidentally going to an event the next day, and we agreed to meet up.

Meanwhile, in Musselburgh, a revolution in publishing marketing was underway…


Musselburgh Get a Free Sandwich


Gigs · Music

Diving for Pearls

Colin Steel Quartet - diving for pearls

Diving for Pearls is the great new album by the Colin Steele Quartet.  Released on Friday 28th July on Marina  records (who commissioned the project,) it’s an album of jazz interpretations of the music of The Pearlfishers.

I got my copy a couple of weeks ago when the project was premiered at The Rose Theatre as part of the Edinburgh International Jazz Festival.  The band played all of the album (as one can see from the set-list above) in more extended versions.  Pianist Dave Milligan, who arranged the music, was outstanding.

The Pearlfishers’ music has been one of the great joys in my life over the last 25 years or so, and it is good to see the work being extended into this field.  Also good to see the composer, who was in attendance at the concert and took his bow in a proper showbiz style.


Books · Festivals · Music

Retail is detail…


Alan Johnson Please Mister Postman


Knowing I’m going to see Alan Johnson, fellow Pearlfishers fan, during the book festival, I thought I’d better read the second volume of his memoir.

Book priced at £8.99, shelf edge in Tesco says £6.00, then it scans at £3.85.

Sticking it to the man, in a very gentle fashion…

Addendum;  this looks as if it may have been caused by price matching with Amazon.  The pop-ups on my computer were pointing me toward it as I searched for an image of the cover.  Spooky internet-ness.  And who can be making any money off this?


The Pearlfishers – Glad Cafe

So… you wait for ages, then two come at once…


The Pearlfishers at Glad Cafe Glasgow

The amazing eight day run (Pearlies, Gaga, Pearlies) culminated on Saturday 25 October with The Pearlfishers at Glasgow’s Glad cafe.
Billed as an acoustic show, what it really meant was a “no bass and drums” format, but with a string section, which format embraced the performance of a number of songs which haven’t been played for some time – “I Was a Cowboy,” “Night Breeze” and “Sugar Mountain Babies,” which I believe was last played by The Pearlfishers on 3 July 1999. At East Kilbride Arts Centre. Must get out more.
The Glad Cafe in Pollokshaws Road is a beautiful bar/cafe/venue and well worth the trip. Obviously, The Pearlies were great and it was possibly their greatest show since the previous Saturday. A lot of it is on You Tube, I’ve added a bit below (Barry, sorry I didn’t see you there…)

Gigs · Music

The Pearlfishers – Stirling Tolbooth 18 October 2014


The Pearlfishers and Lady Gaga October 2014

This was a big weekend for music…on the Saturday evening, The Pearlies in Stirling, on the Sunday, Gaga at the Glasgow Hydro. The stars were aligned.
Stirling was the first Pearlfishers show, since, I think I’m right in saying, December 2008 and their first sole-headlining show since longer. Davie Scott has played numerous shows in the interim as a single or in different formats, but this was a return as the parent band, whose “Open Up Your Colouring Book” album was a breath of air earlier in the year (and for me, it’s been a good year for music.)


Pearlfishers Stirling Tolbooth

The Maharaja, just a few minutes walk from The Tolbooth, provided the best Indian meal I can remember before the show and we had time for a drink in the delightful venue and to say hello to Duglas and Jim before The Wellgreen’s opening set.
A note for the hip here…if you go to The Tolbooth and stride directly toward the front row to take a seat, beware that there is a wooden lip at the front, which is great for falling over and allowing you a dignified crash into the seats…I just got away with it, I think…
The Wellgreen have doubled in number since I last saw them as a duo and the addition of more pieces (and indeed, a crucial third harmony) has added much to their appeal. Fantastic 12-string Ovation Balladeer in use.
The Pearlfishers played their best show ever, although I was corrected afterward by Davie who is of the belief the best Pearlies show ever is still to come (I hope this is a Platonic ideal rather than just a reference to the upcoming shows on 25 October and at Celtic Connections next year…)
There were no highlights; to say there were highlights would suggest that the sequence of the concert sometimes went below excellence and this was not the case. All corners of the Pearlfishers catalogue were aired; songs from the new record, (including the transcendent “Her Heart Moves Like the Sea Moves” as a first encore;) my all-time favourite “Up with the Larks” and the mysterious and majestic “Blue Riders on the Range” from its parent album; and climaxing with the second encore of the Carry On Songwriting celebration that is “Stella Painted Joy,” from the oldest group of songs played on the evening.
I took my chances after the show in negotiating the space from my seat to the stage – didn’t fall over anything this time – and picked up this set list.


Pearlfishers setllst Stirling Tolbooth

Next show is at The Glad Cafe in Glasgow on Saturday.