Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Edinburgh 2013 - Halfway Through Week Two

I am sitting in a lovely bar in which I was once dumped. Back then I was crying so hard I could only see the fuzzy outline of the coffee cup and the wilting froth within. They didn't charge me for my drink, and I'm still grateful for that touch of humanity.

Nearly ten years have passed since that moment, and here I am tapping away like the Apple Mac twat I have become in the intervening decade. I have walked up here after my performance today, to do a bit of tapping and thinking. I thought it would be nice to come back here, to re-live that moment and think about how far I've come since I came up to Edinburgh in my early, mid and then late twenties. Last year I was performing an excerpt on the Free Fringe, and six years ago I was flyering for cash during the days and spending my nights at the Jazz Bar waiting until four in the morning for the chance to sing a single song (read about it here, if you like). Now I wake up and gather my self and my stuff, hoist my heavy rucksack onto my back and trek out into the day. Flyers fanned, I take the first deep breath of many and approach the "punter".

This hurdle successfully negotiated, I chat away with everyone I meet. "Oh yeah!" I realize. "I like talking to people! This is OK."

People react in different ways. Some are happy to take the flyer but feel that eye contact is too much of a commitment. Some smile indulgently, as though I'm an errant but well-intentioned puppy. Others refuse, which I don't mind, especially when they are nice about it. Sometimes they stop and look intently at the flyer, which I take as a cue to begin talking about the show until I notice an expression of fear and bafflement begin to creep across their features and realize they aren't understanding a word I'm saying.

Some people are morons about it, taking the opportunity to enjoy the brief flash of power they feel as the potential consumer of something I'm trying to sell.

"I can't come to the show because I'm going home now" said one such delight. "But sell it to me anyway!"

In automatic sell-mode, I began, much to his amusement. I trailed off and he laughed imperiously.

"Well, good luck with that!" he sneered, and wandered off.

I approached two elderly gentleman.

"Can I give you a flyer?"

"Yes!" one replied "But only if I can take your picture. Pretty girl like you!"

So I dutifully smiled with my flyers as he fumbled with his ancient camera, pressing wrong buttons and eventually thanking me and tottering off.

I spent a long time talking to two Irish women about the festival and the nature of fame and sexism in the media.

"So" one of them leaned in. "What happened when you tried to make it in the music industry?"

"Ah ha! You'll have to come to the show and find out!"

She slapped me gently on the hand. "Oh, you!"

At the end of our chat they promised to come to the show, and one of them hugged me.

"Well done. You're doing so well. We are so proud of you."

Everyday I go into the dressing room about twenty minutes before the show before me finishes. I have begun to take their cues for my getting ready process. When I hear a little shriek I know it is time for me to turn my computer on, and in the first moments of the music that whispers the end of the play my stomach does a flip. Perhaps for the rest of my life, when I hear those notes, I will have a Pavlovian response and nerves will scratch at the door. I hope so.

Bright Lights is going very well. I have had another review, which was very nice! I won't bore you with them here (FOUR STARS) but if you want you can read them here and here. I think the hour that I am actually performing is the simplest bit, because by now I know exactly how that goes. Everything else is a weird mix of adrenaline, sweat and trudging.

In other news: my EP CDs have been dispatched so I will be selling them at my music gigs, the first of which is tomorrow. My lovely flatmate Fi and I have been having wine-fuelled jam sessions in our kitchen, with her on guitar and vocals and me on cello and backing vocals. I am hoping that Fi will be able to come with me to some of my solo gigs and we can perform together. We've been trying to think of a name for our band. So far we have come up with Fi-lé, but are unsure of it due to the inevitable fish associations.

(Side note: Fi's Mum has been known to read this blog, so if you are reading this, Fi's Mum: Hello! Thanks for reading! Your daughter is great!)

I have eeked out this coffee for as long as is reasonable. Due to not having been dumped in the last ten minutes (as far as I am aware) I will almost certainly have to pay for this one.

I am still knackered and can't remember what a vitamin looks like. The spot on my chin is still clinging on (although Ben says it brings out my eyes) and I am covered in inexplicable bruises. But I love it (not the spot). I adore my flatmates so much it's unseemly, and am making new friends everyday. Later on I am going to a seance! I hope it's like Charmed (bagsy being Alyssa Milano). Then later I am going to see Luisa Omelan's epic What Would Beyoncé Do?, which I have seen one and a bit times (I performed just before and after her, with Eggs Collective at Latitude).

I like sitting here, the scene of ancient heartbreak. No longer heartbroken. Maybe the tinest bit bodybroken, but I reckon I can just about deal with that.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Edinburgh 2013: Week One

It’s nine o’clock on Saturday night and three of my housemates have just decided to have a nap. (In other, totally unrelated, news: the Edinburgh Tattoo with its fireworks that resound across Edinburgh every Saturday night, hearty as haggis, has just begun in earnest.)

This evening I have dragged myself away from the promise of pleasures abound to have a rest. I am weary. My skin has begun to protest against the diet of wine, cobbles and wretched anxiety in the form of a painful chin-based spot.

It was raining hard last Monday afternoon as we pulled up to C Nova, our venue in Edinburgh. Director Montse was already there, cowering under an umbrella. Ben, Dan and I clambered from the van and onto the Scottish sheened cobbles and, after checking in and not quite drinking a cup of coffee, we hefted my set into the studio theatre space to begin the technical rehearsal.

I had been brittle with nerves about the tech. Bright Lights is set around a reception desk with a telephone that acts as a loop pedal to record and play back my voice. All swishily simple, really, and something I can set up easily in my house with my stuff, but I had no idea how to plug it all into an unknown venue. I had never met Ash, the freelance technician I had employed for the run. I had no idea what anything would be like.

As soon as Ash bounded in he began sorting things out. Talking to the venue technicians, joking with Montse, plugging things, testing things and gaffa taping other things. Montse guided us all through the tech, sorting out all the lights and sound, I just stood in the whirlwind and mentally crossed something out on my Things To Be Terrified About In Edinburgh checklist.

We finished at about ten, and Montse and I headed back to our flat. Ben and Dan had already arrived, and had carted all of our stuff – cases, instruments, boxes of cables, set – up the seven flights of stairs. Lifts, apparently, are not the done thing in fancy Edinburgh townhouses.

Simply put: this flat is a palace. Last year we all nearly had to stay in a place that was reminiscent of the place where dogs go to defecate and die. This year we played the Fringe housing game and won gold. (Maybe silver, actually. For it to be gold standard it might have to have a lift.)

The large wooden coffee table in the living room was covered with an array of cheese, wine and small artisan biscuits, around which was an even better array of housemates. There was Ben and Dan, (whom I love and adore and respect and admire as humans and men). Then Tomás, who is performing a show called Tomás Ford’s Electric Midnight Cabaret, and Aaron, his manager. They are from Perth and are both the sort of people who make you laugh so loudly that you worry they think you’re a bit needy. Then there’s Fi, from Wanaka in New Zealand. Fi is funny, gutsy and cool, plays a mean guitar and is a whiz on the whisky. Alex, our final housemate, hadn’t arrived yet, so we all proceeded to bag the best rooms and spent a large amount of time laughing wildly and pointing out the castle to one another. “Look” someone would exclaim at least once every five minutes “at the castle! It’s right there!”. A collective, smug sigh would ensue, before someone else would point joyously in the other direction. “And there’s the SEA!”.

Between then and now all has been brilliantly, weirdly heady. I had the worst dress rehearsal ever, followed by two preview shows (one of which was awful and the other alright). Yesterday I felt like I finally, tentatively began to relax. “Oh, yeah!” my brain mumbled. “I think I might like this.” I have spent such a long time planning and worrying about it, and had somehow forgotten all about the good bit.

I have been wondering recently whether I might be better off just performing my songs. I feel comfortable on stage when I am just being myself, singing songs I’ve written and chatting away to the audience in between. I have played those songs so many times, even the new ones. I know the format of gigs so well that I am rarely fazed by them any more. But this is my first solo show. It is barely out of the packaging: shiny and not worn in. But quietly yesterday I began to feel like I knew it, and today I suddenly breathed and felt comfortable, to my enormous, unending relief.

Today and yesterday I have had good, biggish audiences. Yesterday I performed some songs and cello at C Nova, and tomorrow I am doing a spot on Pick of the Fringe at the Pleasance. I am going to begin doing my proper music slots next week. And I have had a review! Which is very nice and lovely, and was from the preview that nearly sent me under, so I feel heartened. Montse went home today, but she set me up and held my hand, giving me notes and support and being generally on my team in a massive way.

Now I can hear my housemates stirring and I want to go and hang out with them and laugh too loudly at their jokes. We haven’t quite been doing the all-out Fringe party, although there has been some carousing, drinking and seeing shows at midnight (we all went to Tomás’s show, which is insane and hilarious). Now we have been here for nearly a week and it’s starting to not feel weird and scary, it’s starting to feel like that thing that I do everyday. What luck! I can do this every day. I would prefer to do it without a spot on my face, but you can’t win them all.

I think maybe it’s all going to be fine.