It may be home to the country’s parliament, the Festival, and a tram project unraveling faster than a Taiwanese kilt.
However, Edinburgh has never hosted a Detour Wee Jaunt.
For the uninitiated, the Wee Jaunt is a music (de)tour around the city, for free, with bands performing short sets in unusual, surprise, locations. It’s organised by Ally McCrae (off Radio One), David Weaver, and a massive team who document the goings-on.
With all this technology around me, I must apologise for this rather old-school, written after-the-fact, review, as I’m camera-less and only equipped with an iPhone. Many have tweeted with the #weejaunt hashtag on the way – for example, Karen (an itm? writer of old), was uploading video as she went.
I’m a Detour virgin, so sprint to the secretly-revealed start location of the Scottish Parliament, lest the crowd leave without me. Happily, they’re there – easy to spot among the other tourists, all young and in indie garb. We’re led off in some warm-up exercises, as it’ll be a long day despite the “wee” in the jaunt.
First up, a skip and a hop and into the shadow of Arthur’s Seat/Holyrood Park, where a Red Bull soundsystem van has a rapper, er, rapping. Didn’t catch the name though it may have been Madhat McGore. Or not. Rambling improvised and thickly accented rap over dubstep and lovers’ rock samples, it’s effective and lyrically sharp stuff
Then, off, past the Parly (a rumoured set inside the grandiose building perhaps unsurprisingly doesn’t materialise) and up the Royal Mile to the Scottish Poetry Library. Host Ally McCrae reads a poem, warns us about our conduct inside such an austere establishment, and then says “fuck it” and draws back a sheet to reveal four-piece hardcore punk act Shields Up, who break all remaining library rules with a short and decidedly sharp set, which shocks library staff (and audience) with its ferocity.
Suitably blown away, we’re off on the road again, winding around Edinburgh’s closes and alleyways, next alighting at the Bongo Club. Although the open-air ethic is one that’s to be applauded, most of the crowd have dressed for a Scottish summer – which started and ended the day before – and getting inside the decidedly hot’n’sweaty upstairs bar is something of a relief. We’re further warmed by a set from Stanley Odd – another rap ensemble, but one playing ‘live’ and showing a neat line in instrumentation and songwriting to go along with the wordplay of mainman MC Solareye, including the couplet “How do I know the economy’s affected?
For the first time in a decade we’ve got £10 eccies”.
Such is the winding route taken that my failure to log things as they happen may well lead to some errors and omissions. Thus, next stop was probably the Pleasance, or, precisely, round the back, where one man with a guitar is precariously perched on the roof. See what I mean about unusual venues? There was a recent discussion on the popcop website about people talking through gigs. Picture this: a free open air show with an oh-so-quiet bloke armed only with an acoustic, who gets absolute silence from a crowd many of whom wouldn’t know him from Adam.
Since he’s afforded such respect I’m able to pick out some familiarity in his high-class tuneage, and a quick web search (the iPhone coming in useful for something) tells me that he is, as I suspected, I Build Collapsible Mountains aka Luke Joyce. A former member of The Gothenburg Address, he couldn’t be further removed from the instrumental noiseniks, but in a sense his songs – lyrically complex – are matched by the twists and turns of his chord structures, far removed from three minute pop but just as engaging thanks to their fleeting hooks and considered progressions.
A break of sorts next, as our hosts point out the diversity of Edinburgh’s scene.
Dinnertime! The email that revealed the essential details for the day (i.e. starting point) actually contained little else, apart from the fact that we could get food for a fiver. As our chain winds its way around the Bridges area, I suss that we are probably heading east. Yes, a curry at the legendary Mosque Kitchen is the treat laid on for us.
One rather impressive sag aloo later, we’re ready for some after-dinner entertainment. Over The Wall duly oblige – in unusual acoustic mode, we get three numbers from them including the jiggy, trumpet-fueled ‘Theme from Burnistoun’ (as it’s not called).
The Detour snake is gathering bodies apace, leading us to wonder how everyone will fit into the next stop, the Scottish Storytelling Centre. I’ve been here once but didn’t realise it had a theatre in the basement. And I certainly didn’t realise that it would have radio’s Vic Galloway, sitting on a carved wooden throne, awaiting us squeezing into the rather welcome comfy seats. Vic, as per the theme of the venue, tells us a story, which he’s largely made up off the cuff, but which he carries off through sheer enthusiasm for the subject. The tale is about his life-changing first-ever live gig, a Damned gig in Edinburgh, which he attended with his childhood friend James Yorkston and an event which set the pair of them them on the musical path that they’ve turned into both careers and a way of life.
Once he’s done, the curtain at the back is drawn, revealing something typical to Edinburgh, a hidden garden-cum-ampitheatre. We enter this via a massive glass door and group round Withered Hand, a troubadour well-kent in these parts for his ready wit and keen songwriting abilities. Of course, the day is all about introducing new music to the uninitiated, so on ‘Cornflake’ there’s an audible intake of breath at the line “I’d do anything to get my dick inside her” followed by laughter at the punchline: “But that’s not what she wants to hear me say”.
Next stop, another courtyard down one of Edinburgh’s countless avenues and alleyways. Conquering Animal Sound are at the front door of The List magazine’s office, and their looped electronica and Bjork-ish vocals are quite beguiling – though James may not have endeared himself to some of the crowd, explaining that they were previously Edinburgh residents, but left because the locals were too rude. Happily, as with every act on today’s bill, they are welcomed by the city’s residents like homecoming heroes.
We’re off again, and in the general direction of the afterparty. However, in true Detour style, there’s a bit of a guerrilla gig – halfway down one of those staircases that criss-cross Edinburgh, a kind of alcove, just big enough to house Lady North, who are winding up the Jaunt in style. A post-rock racket with jazz tendencies, they are well-suited to their location given that the narrowness of the lane means that passage is futile. The majority of the Jaunters have to listen pretty much from Cockburn Street while anyone trying to catch a train will have to either fight their way through the throng, or find another route. Though it appears that any passing tourists are content to wait and enjoy what is a rather unusual form of street entertainment – well, for once it’s not a lone piper.
The whole event winds up in the Electric Circus and is, perhaps, something of an anti-climax – sure, getting a seat indoors, access to a bar, and being entertained by Discopolis and Found is not to be sneezed at, but it is, after all, just a regular gig.
The Wee Jaunt, however, was nothing like a regular gig, and that’s precisely why it comes so highly recommended.