In the vanguard of a truly international line-up with an audience to match (flying in the face of bizarre voting in some parts of the country) the second iteration of Edinburgh’s Franklin Fest kicked off tonight at the salubrious Voodoo Rooms (replete with surely one of the city’s few remaining sprung dancefloors).
First on stage was Sterling Roswell, shorn of the backing band he had when last seen by Musos’ Guide at Tilburg’s Paradox as part of the Incubate festival. Catching him a bit late on due to the pedestrian approach to the venue currently resembling something from the Crystal Maze he launched into a version of The Traits' ‘Nobody Loves The Hulk’ which was met with a decent amount of humour from the early crowd. There were only three more numbers to enjoy including ‘Ballad Of A Civil Servant’ which has now come out as a single since first being heard last September in Holland but this was a solid warm-up for what was to come.
The Reverse Cowgirls graced the Saturday afternoon part of last year’s fest but they’ve been promoted in the closed season & so had the benefit of being the meat in tonight’s sandwich. Starting off with the apt ‘Ride Into The Sun’ that sandwich was pretty close to being a cheese toasty given the oppressive heat in the cave-like performance space. The audience certainly though warmed up in terms of appreciation as the band were being roundly applauded by the end of their relaxed and well delivered set. Special mention needs to be made of their second guitarist’s double strap mishap. After a languid fiddle around with his pedals etc. during a bit of duelling from the other guitar & bass his big return was reduced to comedy as an attempt at some hands off feedback or something resulted in his instrument tumbling to the floor. It wouldn’t happen to Jeff Beck but he took it in his stride.
Rounding things off came the dapper Kid Congo with his Pink Monkey Birds, employing at times no less than a six string bass which in my experience you don’t see that often in garage-type bands. Touring in support of new album La Arana Es La Vida (our review here) they went down a storm with the room seemingly wobbling as well as bouncing, so involved were the bulk of the crowd. Tracks old and new (‘She’s Like Heroin’, ‘Magic Machine’, ‘Nine Mile Blubber Pile’) mingled quite happily in the set-list along with new flexi single ‘La Arana’.
A definite character & entertainer in his beige wallpaper-like suit and fur hat (doubly absurd in that oven of a room) the Kid was a lesson in sheer entertainment. With nowhere to go but into the crowd at the end of the main set the and were quickly back on stage delivering a four song encore including ‘Bruce Juice’ and a version of ‘Sexbeat’, probably the best received song of the night. A band that definitely need to be experienced live before you jump to any conclusions about them and a fine start to Franklin Fest 2016 (for which tickets are apparently still available via here).