I was delighted to accidentally bump into the lead singer from The Mechanisms in town, or at least as accidentally as I could given that I already knew exactly where he was handing out flyers. There was no need to look at me like that though. Honestly, you build one shrine and people think you’re some kind of weirdo.
I started the day proper with Catherine Scott’s show A Woman With a View. Unfortunately it was obvious as soon as I walked into the room that I was in the wrong place, but there were only four of us there and she got my name, making it very difficult for me to walk out again. Her poems were largely about how the good old days were better (they weren’t) and it just wasn’t my cup of tea. Then again, neither is a cup of tea, and I could at least see that they were good for what they were and genuinely witty - I was worried that we were in for the kind of crap you get in the “readers’ poems” section of the local newspaper, but she was much better than that.
I then decided, more through habit than anything else, to try to catch Miranda Kane’s show The Coin-Operated Girl, and to my surprise, actually made it. It was well worth the wait, Kane is a funny and personable presenter and managed to pull the humour from her experiences without actually denigrating the clients, whom she seemed to genuinely like.
After that I did something that would probably horrify hardened fringe-goers, and went to see The Mechanisms again. I bought their first CD, thereby ensuring I didn’t get the discount for buying both, the singer handed me a poster, and I decided that there’s only so much stalking you can do in two days and left it there.
That left the thing I’d supposedly come for, The Poet Speaks, a performance by Philip Glass and Patti Smith as a tribute to Allen Ginsberg. Most of this consisted of Glass playing piano while Smith recited poetry, but both had a solo spot as well. They also seemed to have brought along two different audiences, each completely baffled by the other. I have to say that Glass’s solo spot was probably the highlight for me, Smith seemed to completely forget the point of the evening during her own and began reciting poetry by Robert Louis Stevenson instead, and in one of the least rock and roll moments I’ve ever seen, sang a version of “Beautiful Boy”, changing the final word to “George” and adding “goodnight, sweet prince.” I’m fairly sure he wasn’t in the audience. I’m still not sure what to make of the show as a whole, but it was worth it just to see Philip Glass almost incredibly playing a piano accompaniment to “The People Have the Power” while the audience clapped out of time. His piano music is usually his most static and minimalist nowadays, and not likely to win any new converts - although judging by what I overheard on the way out, he’d done exactly that.
I felt a little flat after that, and decided to head for one last show - The Magic Faraway Cabaret, another compilation show, but as the name hints, more cabaret than stand-up. It was the right choice and I cheered up immensely. The acts included a couple of gays gaying, two burlesque dancers whom I found particularly cheering, a magic act, two strange men singing about the end of the world, and ...
I don’t know if it’s a sad reflection on me or on comedy that the most screamingly hilarious thing I saw in my time in Edinburgh was Hitler singing Sinatra songs. But Frank Sanazi was just so far on the other side of wrong that there was no point fighting it. I’m fairly sure he carried the five levels of irony necessary for this kind of thing to be acceptable, and it was worth it just to watch the audience all carefully checking what everyone else was doing before laughing. I know I’ll be losing friends mentioning this - perhaps almost as many as when I talked up Bono - but I’m sorry, I couldn’t help myself.
There was no point trying to top that, so I went home to bed. There was a lot running through my head this weekend, some of which I can’t quite put my finger on and some of which I’m not talking about, but I actually felt as if my life changed a little during all this. Which is why I’ve bored you all with this account on it. Don’t worry, I won’t describe the train journey home.