Tour Diary Day 5 – Edinburgh

TOUR DIARY DAY 5. Edinburgh is grand city full of impressively weighty stone clad buildings that speak of old money and a rich history. Before this tour I had heard more than I’d seen, previous trips having been conducted solely in the hours of darkness, so I was determined to seize the day before the show.

Recovering somewhat slowly from the previous evenings excitements, we were greeted by sunshine, blue skies and shortbread for breakfast before Flynn the dog and my curiosity dictated we head out. Togged up to the nines against the wind, we set out en masse – Gus, Anouk, Calum, Xena, Flynn and I – and we took a walk to Holyrood Park, home of the mightily impressive and much storied Arthurs Seat.

It was as we approached the path to the cliff face that Calum casually mentioned that Edinburgh was in fact sighted on a long dormant volcano. Our attention caught, he explained in graphic terms how magma forced its way to the surface, ripped up the ground, twisting eons of years of rock into a chronologically confusing layer cake. It was these layers that apparently led James Hutton a few millions years later to get pondering, and lo geology was born. Fixed with a newly impressed frame of reference, (talking about lava brings out the kid in all of us) we were joined by Daniel from Sink and walked to a commanding view point, commanded it briefly, before the autumnal colours impressed upon us the need for soup and warm drinks.

While I rested in the afternoon, Gus made his way to rehearse with Sink who would accompany him on the gig. I joined them all a little later and was immediately struck by the venue – the unique octagonal church of St Stephens in Stockbridge. With an extremely high ceiling, pews are organized around each wall to leave an enormous open space in the centre in front of a large and beautiful organ. Impressed and a little daunted, we took turns testing the acoustic and made final preparations, and minor existential crises before the doors opened.

I played first. To start we turned all the lights off and as I sang acapella Gus slowly lit a large number of candles in three braziers, arranged in a triangle pattern on the stage. It was wonderfully dramatic way to begin, the reverb of the space bouncing the lyrics to ‘Sam Hall’ all over the room. For the rest of the gig I played surrounded by the candles and a few gentle blue and red lights which left me lightly illuminated in the otherwise pitch black. It was magical, and while I couldn’t see the audience as I performed, I could feel them as they carried me along. By the time I finished with ‘Darling Day’ and ‘Two Bells’ I felt quite emotional, the darkness making me draw from the core of the songs within myself.

As soon as I finished the main lights went on and we all came up for air. The red wine was soon sold out at the bar, it being that kind of night. Next on were Sink who so amazingly organized the whole show. If you haven’t heard them before, they’re a little hard to describe but I’ll try. The three of them began, a fiddle, baritone sax and Daniel playing the grand organ. Tim Sink and Leon prowled, skipped and padded around the giant centre space, sharing lines, using their voices, interchanging parts, playing with each other and the audience in a way that I haven’t ever seen before. They remind me of what I imagine medieval minstrels to have been like. Never resting too long on one thing, wearing their manifold abilities as lightly as an autumn breeze, but underpinned with a deep love and craft that is palpable. They confuse the line between improvised and written music and win you over before they play a note. If you should ever have the chance to see them, you will not be disappointed.

Gus played last and on the face of it, had the most work to do to ensure his words could be heard off the echoing walls. But what could have been a challenge become a triumph as the audience, suitably ready for the spoken word after two sets of music, hung on his ever syllable. I watched from behind the piano as Gus intoned his poems with the subtle theatricality of a preacher and had a vision of what unusual building was made for – to elevate the word into something greater than the speaker, more than the sum of its parts. Sink joined Gus with élan for some of his tunes before we all improvised a final song together. After all that had come before it felt a fitting way to finish what was a beautiful and slightly mysterious night with the collective spirit of our shared love for doing this.

Later, in the after glow, we shared soup and noodles with Sink, talked about string quartets and made all sorts of plans for future endeavors before arriving back at Anouk’s house, worn out and elated. Today we head to Newcastle where we have a date with the North sea and gig with the wonderful Ditte Elly and her band at the Cumberland Arms on Monday. Onwards! x