12 August 2011

Fringe Festival

The beer garden in Bristo Square, the
heart of my campus. See...school
can be fun!
Every August Edinburgh plays host to the Fringe Festival. For those not in the know, this is a massive, city-wide event. The population literally doubles -- from 500,000 to a cool 1,000,000 people. It is, according to the always reliable wikipedia, the world's largest arts festival. The city is crawling with performers and there are countless shows on each night. There are plenty of comedians, bands, and plays to catch your fancy. Plus, there are so many options that you can just show up like 10 minutes before and see what looks good. It is unjuried, so literally anyone can put on a show if they want.

There is a long history of comedians, bands, and actors getting their big start at the Fringe. It's where Russell Brand was discovered and where Ricky Gervais got his big break. However, this doesn't mean that the city is crawling with a bunch of unknowns hoping to be discovered...just the other day I was walking to the gym and passed Tom Green. Plus, John Malkovich was spotted handing out fliers for the show he is directing. Small world!

Our student union, a major
hub for the festival.
I have already spent a couple of nights checking it out. On Tuesday Sami, Deirdre, and I went to check out the happenings in Bristo Square. We grabbed a crepe for dessert at a stand and a Magners in the nearby beer garden. Funny story: as we were sitting in the beer garden, we were able to listen in on Michael Winslow's show....we got to hear sound effects from this star of the Police Academy movies, free of charge! How lucky of us! (and there was only a small amount of sarcasm there....)

My first festival show -
Looser Women.
Sami and I ended up going to a show called Looser Women, which was a trio of women talking about relationships, sex, and love. We just went into the box office and asked the woman behind the desk what she recommended, and her advice ended up working out well. The show was very entertaining and funny, and for only 5 pounds a ticket! What a deal!

The Royal Mile at night - much
calmer than during the day.
We also walked around the city a bit and were a bit overwhelmed with what we found. The city is so crowded you can barely pass someone on the street,  so you have to be patient. On the Royal Mile, there are little booths set up that performers can rent out and perform on. In this first video, here is a band that we happened upon in Hunter's Square:

My festival adventures continued last night when Catriona and I went to a show at Queen's Hall. Both bands, Manran and Wolfstone, are Scottish rock bands. Catriona knew much more about each band, especially compared to me. I particularly enjoyed the bagpipes and fiddles, which made me feel like I was getting a really original Scottish experience. 
Catriona and me at the Manran/Wolfstone concert!
Manran is a newer band, but you couldn't really tell. I loved the accordion, which gave their songs a really funky feel. Plus, their songs were in Gaelic, which just made it all that much cooler.

Wolfstone was the main band. They've been together for a few decades now. They have a big following in Scotland, which you could really tell from the crowd. I especially like the lead singer who was doing a bit of a Bono impersonation and the bagpiper, who managed the impossible: he made me love the sound of bagpipes. Huzzah!

On Monday Sami, Deirdre, and I are going to the Military Tattoo, which is a major event taking place at the castle. For Tuesday, I'm going to see David Sedaris with Courtney and Emily....so my last week in Edinburgh should be fun-filled!

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