Saturday, December 13, 2008

Word of Mouth Café - December 2008

I went yesterday evening to Edinburgh’s Word of Mouth Café in Albert Street. It’s an open-mic event for music and poetry, and I didn’t know what to expect. The first thing to say is that it’s a great place, intimate and atmospheric. The MC, Mira, seemed really nice, as did most people in the audience. Charlotte Runcie was there and told me that the home-baking was terrific.

Unfortunately, the event was marred (but not ruined, as I’ll explain) by two dimwits who can go by the names of 'Tom Waits Wanabee' (TWW) and 'Drunk Moron' (DM). TWW was on first with a couple of musicians. He wore a hat, just like Tom Waits, and sometimes he attempted to reproduce a throaty growl, but to little effect. The songs were unadventurous 12-bar-blues of a kind you might find in any pub populated by six paralytic, leather-jacketed, fifty-something, lonely men after eleven at night on any weekend. It was like Status Quo might have sounded before they learned to sing or play their instruments.

I was on next. TWW and DM obviously didn’t appreciate the switch to poetry and decided to disrupt my reading by shouting out stuff and talking loudly while I read. The audience would say, “Shhhhh! Shut up!” which only seemed to encourage them. To be honest, I’m more than a little annoyed at myself for allowing it to rattle me and I didn’t read very well although, in my defence, it wasn’t easy. I had planned to read two poems, but read a third just to piss them off – that probably wasn’t a good idea either… My set-list (although I might as well have been reading a telephone directory) was:

1. Hangover Hotel
2. The Deconstruction Industry
3. Taxi

After my set, Mira asked them to stay quiet during performances. TWW (or perhaps DM) shouted at her that she was behaving like a schoolteacher. Actually, that’s the first sensible thing he said all night, likening himself, I guess, to an eight-year-old spoiled child.

The thing was, there were some terrific acts to come. A band called All at Sea were brilliant. I even bought their CD. I picked up some Smiths influences, a touch of Pulp – great songwriting. An un-named duo comprising of a bass-player and a woman singer – something between Ella Fitzgerald and Mary Margaret O’Hara – were also superb.

Drunk Moron started getting annoyed at this guy who refused to shake his hand, not unreasonably protesting, “I’m not your friend!” DM became verbally abusive. Luckily, before Charlotte went on, Mira helpfully ejected DM, explaining that this was one advantage of being a woman. She could eject drunk and disorderly men from the premises without it seeming like an act of aggression. Very true. Charlotte read some excellent poems and read them very well.

So I’d recommend this place as a café and as a venue. It was just unfortunate that TWW and DM were around. TWW sat down at my table and started asking those present whether, if they were trapped in a room with a red-hot floor, they would step on their daughter to save themselves. What insight he had into this moral dilemma was never made clear. When given answers, mainly from women (e.g. “No, that’s horrible”) he tried to intimidate them by saying, “What do you mean, “horrible”? That’s no answer. Give me a proper answer!” – that “Are you talking to me or chewing a brick?” routine, in which any answer you give is going to be the wrong one. One woman refused to say yes or no, and he became angry. I got angry too and decided it was time to have a go at him:

TWW: Give me an answer. You can’t refuse to answer!
Me: Why should she answer? Why should you control this conversation and tell people what they can and can’t do? They can do anything they want.
TWW: (for the first time, taken aback, and discomforted – yeah, triumph at last!) eh…um…by the way, your poetry is really bad.
Me: Not that you listened to any of it! In any case, your music was total crap. It’s the most boring stuff I’ve heard in ages.
Nearby Woman: Yes, it’s like you were trying to be Tom Waits and couldn’t get anywhere near (or words to that effect).

The conversation swiftly turned to politics and TWW asked people to name their favourite politician. No one had a ready answer for that one. Then someone said ‘Nelson Mandela’. TWW replied, “No. no. I’ll tell you who my favourite politician is – Robert Mugabe!”

It took a few seconds for everyone to register that TWW was, in fact, being absolutely serious. It wasn’t irony or a joke. He really believed Robert Mugabe was a good guy. Coming from TWW, that makes prefect sense. Of course, he would admire Robert Mugabe.

I had to leave before Anita Govan and Fiona Lindsey performed their poetry sets – a shame, as I like Fiona and Anita, but I had to get home. I’ll be back to the Word of Mouth though. I want to stress that, despite how this article might sound, it is a great place with some really interesting poetry and music going on. Definitely a venue well worth supporting. Thanks to Mira and everyone else for their kind comments on my set (!) and for the delicious mince pie.


Matt Merritt said...

Good God! I think you and a few others showed remarkable restraint, Rob.

Charlotte R said...

An excellent summary of the evening, Rob! What a night. I was absolutely exhausted by the time I got home!

Anonymous said...

Askew doing excellently, Macca put off by the louts.

At least you salvaged something from the night Rob. Even though it was an appalling exeperience for you, it made fantastic reading for your cheerleaders in cyberville. If nothing else, suits you Claire, the rock 'n roll of yobby reality. Well done on the excellent reading the first time at senior HQ.

group hugs

BA SD - Ard Ri

battle axe, surely dent, the institute of ID ears.

Rob said...

Des, I know Claire (unlike you, I think) and no, "yobby" is definitely not an environment she would fit into! Your imagination might be working overtime...

But I enjoyed writing the article and I'm glad it's been entertaining.

Anonymous said...

Suits you sir, the Imagination on undertime, is all i have as a nob robbing titles from the alphabet.

The great thing about louty do's, where there's alcoholic looneys to barter with in the social contract of remaining appropriate at all times, lest we get arrested by the thought police - is that we can always turn our crap nights into art which transcends the shopping at Tescos and M&S.

. i'm more of a Lidl nob, bestriding aisle ten, poshed imagination to ovetime, ogling the poles and wondering, am i a weirdo for fancying the plank of enoblements?

Forgive me Sir Bob for i have sinned, Peaches and cream coloured Monday's I don't like em, fwends on facie's Nu Labs tickin 'n flickering beyond love

the last sun fled when passion
beneath this hooded caul web

enmeshed Her fragrance in memory
of what passed between us, what

pale gold leaves, befell us
and why the goddess will cast

a green glow. metal bar sheathing the bole with six foot iron rods

boarded up the heart and corner kings will, the prince wickedness

satanic nobs posher gods, Lords bobbing with Earl of the estate

let me be the thousand blushing
reads a Muse speaks to free us

Sincere regards

Gawds. A Nob hobbing with the lowers a Euro and stop dreaming

about the damage. Join Europe now.
be rug air - word verification