Edinburgh Festival Fringe: Clash's Highlights

Scroobius Pip pulls in the punters…
Scroobius Pip

Si Hawkins selects some of the standout moments of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, with more than half a mind on what makes Clash click…

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A few years ago something odd happened to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, a place famously full of oddballs anyway. Usually the domain of fantastically niche theatre projects (plus several thousand stand-up comedians), the world’s biggest arts festival suddenly began to attract a different class of act.

Perhaps it’s the music industry downturn causing a rush to find other live outlets, but some well-known, Clash-friendly figures are now doing lengthy Fringe turns each year – and not necessarily in the guide’s ‘music’ section. 2013 has seen a typically mixed bag hit town.

Scroobius Pip (pictured) is, of course, a renowned spoken-word artist as well as Dan Le Sac’s resident rapper, but this is his first time doing a full three-week Edinburgh run, and it’s certainly working out for him. Where many acts struggle to get double figures into their daily shows, Scroob has a long queue lining up at the merch stand he mans after each performance.

The show itself is a retread of the Words show he performed at Latitude and on a short tour last year, anchored by old favourites ‘Angles’ and ‘Letter From God To Man’, but with newer material too, including some verses from the forthcoming Pip/Le Sac album, October’s ‘Repent Replenish Repeat’.

Admittedly the cheeriest effort is about unrequited love, and an hour of such music-free verse might sound a bit dry, but the very darkness of Pip’s material allows for much tension-diffusing piss-taking in between. He’s becoming quite the polymath.

Simon Shlomo Kahn is no stranger to arty environs either, as the resident beatboxer at London’s South Bank Centre, and his latest Fringe experience brings a personal touch to tongue-juggling.

Admittedly he’s in town for less than a week, but he performs two shows a day: a kids one in the morning and the autobiographical Human Geekbox experience later on. The latter is the story of the family Kahn, thwarted musical dreams and how Shlomo switched from potential scientist to full-time spitter. Particularly memorable is the tale of the meeting that changed his life, with the splendidly named Orifice Vulgatron of the band Foreign Beggars.

Each night he has a different Fringe artist in to help – the show Clash sees features fellow beatboxer Tom Thum, who’s doing an interesting Edinburgh set with acoustic singer-songwriter Jamie McDowell – and he’ll be putting a charity spin on that idea when he takes it on tour this autumn. A nominated local performer will help create a new track each night, which will then be downloadable for Warchild, with a whole album made by tour’s end. Visit www.shlo.co.uk to help choose the guests.

On a similar theme, in the rather nice Gilded Balloon, Beardyman has been running the self-explanatory One Album Per Hour, in which he and 300-or-so nightly guests (ie the paying public) unite to do exactly that.

They shout the bandname, track titles and musical genres, and he rather magically throws a track together, 10 times, with live videos created by a trio of visual improv specialists. It’s quite a spectacle, marrying comedy and some actually pretty impressive ad-hoc productions. Although the bandname left a bit to be desired the night Clash turns up: Beardyman and the Hermaphrodite Pigeons. 

In the rougher and readier Nightclub venue downstairs, Irish web sensations the Rubberbandits bang out their plastic bag-headed hip-hop bedlam, but we won’t dwell on that as it’s pretty much the same show that won them a Fringe award last year.

Meanwhile, a couple of fine Glasgow bands turn up elsewhere in the hefty guide: the much-admired Admiral Fallow are the most enticing act in the aforementioned music pages, but sadly only perform one show, while the excellent Errors are involved in an intriguing theatrical event called Whatever Gets You Through The Night, a multimedia affair “inspired by Scotland at night”. That’s still on, until Sunday (August 25th). 

Scotland at night brings us back to the venue recently vacated by Pip (they’ve cleared the chairs) for some proper clubbing, courtesy of viral kingpin Cassetteboy. Ably abetted by DJ Rubbish, who’s actually an MC, this isn’t far from your average suburban disco: all the big obvious tunes, but with much subversion and good old-fashioned stupidity chopped in along the way. There’s a horsey new version of Robin Thicke’s saucy video, an EastEnders/Justin Bieber mash-up, free glow-sticks and some ludicrous headwear.

Be warned, though: all that worthy art and drama, and the one thing Clash has stuck in its head, post-Fringe, is a scampi-based version of ‘Get Lucky’.

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Words: Si Hawkins

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