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Guest tips: On the musical Fringe

By | Published on Sunday 27 July 2014

People often forget what a great musical programme there is at the Edinburgh Festival, and of all genres too. A lot of it, though, is stand alone gigs rather than the residencies you find in other genres.

Daniel Cainer

But some music people come for the whole shebang. To get you in the musical mood we asked ThreeWeeks Editors’ Award winner Daniel Cainer to pick out some highlights.

Along with the honour of receiving an Editors’ Award last year, for what I can only assume was an acknowledgment of me having simply survived multiple Fringes, comes this rather more challenging task of picking a few acts out of the bulging Fringe guide. Having looked through the music section I have been stunned at my ignorance and feel not unlike the judge of an infamous Old Bailey trial in the early 1960s who was unaware who the Beatles were. “Beetles? What are these beetles?” snarled the judge. “They are a beat combo m’lud” replied some helpful young barrister, after which the judge was probably none the wiser. Music, of course, covers a wide area, and it would be unfair of me to pretend I’ve got it all covered. But what I have done is picked for you some Fringe institutions, every one of them a class act.

Camille O’Sullivan
A Fringe favourite conspicuous by her absence for the last couple of years returns with, I assume, her usual irreverent, sultry, chaunteusy, schtick. Camille is a charismatic, sexy, drama queen of a singer with a terrific range and great band. Plus when she found out that I had written songs for the deceased cult cabaret cult singer Agnes Bernelle (for many years a co-resident of her native Dublin) I was suddenly shot from the basement to the penthouse on the elevator of her estimation. Thanks Camille, you will have forgotten me, but clearly I not you.
The Assembly Rooms, from 30 Jul until 24 Aug. Tickets here.

Dean Friedman
A singer-songwriter from the 1970s who had huge hits but who then disappeared off the radar. It turned out that the huge royalties generated from said hits went to pay for the mansions of some rather unscrupulous music business management. This was, of course, not untypical of the time. How much more straightforward it is now that nobody pays for music in the first place. Dean is an extremely accomplished songwriter and musician with a unique voice in a register higher than you might expect. Hearing and watching his audience lovingly duet with him on the extremely schmaltzy ‘Lucky Stars’ is something that everyone should do at least once. Plus when he found out that I’d written songs for Agnes Bernelle…
Sweet Grassmarket, from 6 Aug until 24 Aug. Tickets here.

Antonio Forcione
Antonio is at his best an eighth wonder of the world. Alright, joint eighth then. Come to think of it, there is rather a big jump from just one item for each of the first seven categories to several billion in the eighth. But you get my drift: he is a fantastic, virtuoso guitarist. Musical, technically brilliant, joyful and soulful with a wicked sense of humour that permeates through all his material. I hope that he still does his party-piece which is a dazzling, musical-comedy solo guitar instrumental that will make your jaw drop, unless you happen to be wearing a balaclava. I’m not sure if knows about the Agnes Bernelle thing though.
Assembly George Square Studios, from 8 Aug until 17 Aug. Tickets here.

Fascinating Aida
I know Sarah-Louise Young tipped this on the cabaret pages as well, but I couldn’t not include them here too. So consider them doubly tipped. They’re still at it: two grand dames and a bit of slightly younger, posher totty. Alright, they can be a bit mannered, a bit Home Counties, and the music is mostly pastiche, but Dillie and Adelle are true mistresses (and I am being gender specific here quite deliberately) of the comedy song. Revitalised by the viral YouTube hit ‘Cheap Flights’, a fabulously imagined Irish reel parody that encapsulates the budget airline experience more accurately than actually flying on one, the girls go from strength to strength simultaneously revitalising audiences of a certain age throughout the land. Plus, they know all about the songs I wrote for Agnes Bernelle.
Underbelly, Bristo Square, from 31 Jul until 25 Aug. Tickets here.

Folk Heroes
You can take your pick of some of the great and mighty grandfathers of the UK folk scene who are playing selected dates throughout the month. There’s been a bit of a revival of the folk genre lately and every young whipper-snapper of a band these days has to be seen sporting a banjo or perhaps two with which to duel. Why, even my own promotional poster this year features one… and, for the record, I can actually play it (just). So feast your folky-ears on John Renbourne (Acoustic Music Centre), Martin Carthy (Acoustic Music Centre) and the great Richard Thompson (Queens Hall) to name but a few. Which reminds me: have I mentioned Agnes Bernelle? Now there was one hell of a banjo player.

So there are my tips. Though this exercise has exposed me to a long list of other interesting sounding acts of with which I’m not familiar, so I am determined this Festival to take my chances and see more things that I’ve not heard of… which is is what the Fringe, in my not so very humble opinion, is about. So, I finally recommend, should you.

Daniel Cainer’s own show ‘Jewish Chronicles’ is on at Underbelly Bristo Square from 30 Jul until 25 Aug.

LINKS: www.danielcainer.com

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