Gerry Farrell: End of an era...or end of an earache?
Another one bites the dust. Edinburgh's live music venues seem to be melting away like Fab Âlollies in a heatwave. ÂStudio 24 rocked Calton Road for 22 years; in three days, it'll be gone forever. That's how it is '“ as music changes, venues change.
I went along to the old place on Father’s Day for the best of reasons – I like ska. Some great bands had turned out to give the place a raucous send-off. Bombskare were headlining, snazzily supported by Spliff Richards & The Snapping Turtles and Big Fat Panda.
Best of all, my own son Olly was deputising on keyboards for Bombskare, his first gig back with them since he slipped and fell 30 feet down Arthur’s Seat, breaking his leg and collarbone. Watching him make his way cautiously on stage, I felt as proud as I did the day he took his first steps.
Judging by the comments on this paper’s online thread, there are a few Edinburgh residents who aren’t sorry to see the back of Studio 24.
“Thank goodness for the closure. Another cheap and nasty dive to be taken off the map. For a change, well done the council.”
“Residents have rights too. Noise is fine for revellers but the all night scene has made life hell for many. Out of town non-residential venues are the answer where they can be better regulated.”
I’m not sure exiling Edinburgh’s vibrant music scene to the edge of town is going to do much good for the city’s image. We’re not much of a capital if we squander our cultural capital. Then there’s the question of who got there first? I don’t think I’m wrong in saying most of the nimby noise complaints came from private apartments built long after Studio 24 opened its doors.
As one supportive commenter said: “You shouldn’t move next to an airport then moan about the noise the planes make.”
Should those swish new apartments have had proper soundproofing built-in? For sure. Was there the odd noisy scuffle on the Calton Road cobbles? Of course there was.
The council tweaked the city’s harsh local laws on ‘noisiness’ last year after a sustained and sensible campaign by a group called Music Is Audible. Previously, music had to be ‘inaudible’ to local residents, which was frankly laughable. Now it’s OK for the sound to be heard as long as it’s not ‘a nuisance’. The council says it hasn’t had a complaint about noise since November 22, 2016. Studio 24 says different: “We’re jumping before we get pushed.”
The place was certainly jumping on Sunday. I managed 20-odd minutes of pogoing myself. Squeezing my eyes shut, I was teleported back to the sprung floorboards of Tiffany’s in St Stephen’s Street in the 70s. It also helped me delude myself that Olly couldn’t see his dad, dancing like a dancing dad.
The heady spirit of the venue was sweating out of the walls. The band looked like the runners-up in a fast-motion wet T-shirt contest. Mandy Clarke, the bassist in this unstoppable ska machine, is about the same size as her guitar. It didn’t stop her knees-upping all night.
Did I say it was noisy? DID I SAY IT WAS NOISY?? I watched one bouncer screw up pieces of toilet paper and stick them in his ears.
It was hot too. I went outside and begged a roll-up from one of the smokers. I wandered 20 yards up the street to the nearest apartment and phoned my wife. “Can you hear the band?” “Not a peep” she said.
Getting to the art of the matter on a day out at Teletubbyland
This planet’s warming up, there’s no denying it, Mr President
La-La-La Not-Listening. But on days like Saturday it’s hard not to grin when the sun turns its laser eye on Midlothian.
Out we come, all at once, like albino rabbits fleeing their burrows. We look for grass,
ice-cream and expanses of water to jump into. We improvise penthouse balcony living, stepping out of tenement windows on to scaffolding, removing our tops and barbecuing sausages. Waitrose sells out of picnic antipasti (how terribly awful).
Sometimes, when we remember it’s there, we escape to another planet. Have you been to Jupiter Artland? My missus hadn’t, so I took her. It costs £8.50 to get in and they give you a beautiful big map so you don’t get lost. That said, it’s somewhere you can happily get lost.
What’s it like? The clue’s in the second half of the name Artland. There’s loads of art hiding in there, waiting to jump out and ambush your senses.
“Go and look for the gun next to that tree, Zsuzsa,” I said. I didn’t tell her it was a giant shotgun 20ft high, leaning against a big oak ‘as if it had been left there by some absent-minded gamekeeper’. Boom! It blew her away.
The artist, Cornelia Parker, was inspired by an old Gainsborough painting called Mr and Mrs Andrews in which a woman sits next to a man, their backs against the trunk, his gun propped idly next to them. She’s been exhibited at MOMA and the Tate. You can see her work in Ratho.
Once you get out of the woods the whole place opens up into a sculpted green Teletubbyland, all soft curves sliced by shards of blue water.
From a distance, this extra-terrestrial scenery looks like one of those TiltShift photos with tiny, toy people scampering up and down its banks and braes. There’s a boathouse on a little lake with the names of rivers listed in alphabetical order on its outer wall. When you go in the door, there are two shelves of different-shaped glass bottles, one for every river, each one full of water from that river.
The artist leaves you to figure that out for yourself so you’re spared those awful wee cards stuck to the walls in galleries. The ones that use unnecessarily long words to explain every piece of art you stop and look at.
The whole atmosphere is strangely surreal yet perfectly normal, a bit like the line in that Genesis song: “When the sun beats down and I lie on the bench I can almost hear them talk. Me, I’m just a lawnmower, you can tell me by the way I walk.”
Do not fall for a troll
The dictionary gives three definitions for the word ‘troll’:
1) An ugly dwarf that lurks in a cave waiting to attack innocent passers-by.
2) A similar creature that hides online and leaves nasty, anonymous messages to get attention.
3) The verb ‘troll’ which means pulling a baited line through the water in the hope a fish will bite.
Trolls are easy to identify and deal with. In the same way bullies hate being told they’re bullies, trolls hate being told they’re trolls. But what peeves them most is being ignored. Try that. It’s like squashing a bug.