The Festival Cafe - day three
Today's show was stuffed to the gunnels with talent, so much so I was feeling a wee bit apprehensive about the logistics of getting all the guests to the stage. Especially as I was looking after the very wonderful Orkestra Del Sol, a nine piece brass band with their own brand of 'brass-bound lunacy.'
Leading the band up for sound check was a man with the biggest horn I have ever seen. This thing was massive; apparently it's called a sousaphone. Gi-nor-mous. And no, there will be no jokes to be made about it. Olly the only female member there today did spark a bit of a girl crush in me. In fact if I am honest they all did, Orkestra Del Sol are a pretty cool bunch. I am definitely going to catch their show at the Spiegletent. I think you would be pretty much guaranteed a good night out.
I was also looking after John Byrne and it was an honour. I have very treasured memories of watching Tutti Frutti and Your Cheatin' Heart as a girl. Both iconic series with the family gathered round to watch. I remember being amazed to see The Inversnecky café from Aberdeen beach in Your Cheatin' Heart. Television seemed so impossibly glamorous and remote that I couldn't believe my hometown was on screen. And in a programme as great as Your Cheatin' Heart too.
John Byrne is one of those talented people who probably deserves to be filled with their own self importance but what a man! He was so interesting and interested; it was an absolute pleasure to meet him and a definite highlight of my time so far. I think I am meant to keep a cool head when meeting the talent and I know I am gushing but I can't help it. Trust me he would have that effect on you too.
What is so great about this job is that you get to know new people all the time. Everyone on the show today was so diverse but had such interesting experiences and back stories. Henry Rollins was fascinating, what a life well lived. And I have to confess I have never read Val Mcdermid but the next time I get some free time I plan to settle down with one of her novels. That may be a while away but its good to have something to look forward too.
And what can I say about Le Gateau Chocolat? I wish I could pull off his look, it's nearly as wowy as his voice. His show comes very highly recommended and hearing to him sing and listening to his back-story its easy to see why.
So I am off home to revitalize myself for the next installment and to look up some more superlatives because the way the Festival Café is going I will definitely need them for this blog.
You should never meet your heroes they say, as you'll always be disappointed but today I had the pleasure of meeting one of mine without a hint of being let down and even added a few more to the list to boot.
The hero in question was Henry Rollins, a former punk-rocking hell raiser and lead singer of Black Flag, who cemented his reputation in 80s as a wild front man who would routinely fight with fans onstage. In that sense, I suppose I was destined to be a little disappointed, because the mild mannered 50 something writer, poet and actor was in no mood to scrap...despite my best efforts to annoy him with persistent questions about his politics, touring schedule, training schedule, thoughts, dreams...
Instead Henry's battles are channelled at 'sticking it to the man' (make sure you listen to the show on BBC iPlayer to hear all about it) and it was fascinating to hear his passionate exchanges onstage and off with fellow guests John Byrne and Val McDiarmid, who have both firmly implanted themselves in my hero shrine with their zest for capturing and understanding the world through their writing and art...and this is despite Val McDiarmid's awful taste in football teams (Raith Rovers)! Opening listeners up to new art is what the Festival Café is all about and it is definitely working on me.
Another incredible feat of the Festival Café (and the Edinburgh Festival season itself) is the occasional juxtaposition of its guests, mixing genres, generations and styles that really shouldn't work together but somehow just do. This alchemy was perfectly encapsulated today as 20-odd stone Baritone singer, Le Gateau Chocolat, wrapped in silver sequined lame, sidled up beside Henry Rollins and Clare English on the sofa. After initially looking a bit scared, Henry and the rest of the house were immediately won over by Le Gateau's easy charm and his rendition of 'I Dreamed a Dream' to close the show was worthy of a standing ovation. And it looked like I wasn't the only one who had found a new hero today as I'm pretty sure Henry Rollins could be seen sporting a Le Gateau Chocolat badge as he made his way offstage...
The third day at Potterrow has been and gone, and we've all got into the swing of things. Thankfully the weather was kind to us, so our tartan umbrellas were entirely redundant. Today's show was as packed as it could be - we had a grand total of six acts entertaining our excellent audience. On the sofa talking to Clare throughout were rock star turned raconteur Henry Rollins, author turned football director Val McDermid and author and all-round polymath John Byrne. We also had performances from the exuberant Le Gateau Chocolat, the fantastic Orkestra del Sol and Clare had a chat to Jorge from Hotel Medea about the fantastic six hour epic that he has created!
Today I looked after the lovely Val McDermid who will be hosting a talk at the Book Festival in Charlotte Square from 6.30pm tomorrow and Jorge from Hotel Medea who is performing every Friday and Saturday night from 11.45pm with an extra performance on Thursday 25th August. Val engaged in some interesting conversations with Clare and fellow guests Henry & John covering a wide variety of topics including politics, Val's love of Raith Rovers and the relationship that she has with her loyal fanbase.
Jorge, the other guest I was looking after, spoke to Clare about his role in the production of the six hour epic Hotel Medea. It's an interesting performance in which the audience choose the extent in which they are involved in the performance. It is loosely scripted, but the performance changes every night! One of the most interesting and unusual aspects of the play sees the audience split in two groups one male, one female. The groups are then led into separate rooms and the men undress and wash the groom and the women undress and wash the bride in preparation for the up-and coming wedding scene. If the thought of washing someone else puts you off, don't worry! Jorge explained that the cast are very accommodating and understanding of the needs of their audience. I'm certainly very intrigued by the performance, the forth wall has not simply been torn down it has been well and truly destroyed.
Next up on tomorrow's Festival Café we've got guitarist Antonio Forcione, the cast of vintage radio play Fitzrovia Radio Hour, singer Fiona Kennedy and the cast of Casablanca: A Gin Cut Joint. So join us tomorrow at 1.15pm, follow us on Twitter @BBCFestivalCafe and read the blog tomorrow to see how we got on!