Outside, you can hear music before you even set foot in the place. Inside, a small group of tourists and half-interested bystanders are replenishing their drinks and checking their watches, whilst nosier patrons try their best to talk above the bluesy sounds oozing from the stage.
The cold, unwelcoming atmosphere isn’t helped by the bitter December air blowing down the stairs. Even singer-songwriter Lee Patterson – a seasoned troubadour, who, judging by his casual, just-popped-out-to-buy-a-pint-of-milk clothing, gives the impression he’s literally been drafted in to play the early slot at the last minute – doesn’t wait for the half-hearted applause to arrive after each entertaining song he just rattles into the next tune.
You can tell: he’s experienced this kind of situation before.
Many a new band’s music is first heard wafting along South Bridge. Live music has emanated from Whistlebinkies’ open door since 1992, and it’s a proud fact notified by the side of the venue’s stage. Love it or loathe it, you can’t deny Whistlebinkies doesn’t offer new groups the opportunity to perform on a ready-made stage with (usually) a ready-made audience, and without the burden of having to cajole every friend and family member through the door at several pounds a ticket (at least not on a Tuesday).
Case in point: The Beyond – a young, old-school-style heavy metal/fusion band who, last night, made only their second-ever live public appearance.
Clear masters of their respective instruments, they sound like a cross between Iron Maiden and a music college performance tutorial. Frequent rhythmic changes ensured tapping your foot along to the music was, if you’ll pardon the pun, no mean feat. And devoid of smiling faces, they look as if they’d all lost a tenner and found a fiver. Still, they’re an accomplished quartet, and the stagecraft side of things will come with time. Even a group of initially sceptic onlookers warmed to them by the end.
Which all goes to show: you just might stumble upon a decent new band at Whistlebinkies – if you’re willing to take the chance.