Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Gig Review: BETAGARRI, Knust, Hamburg 2/12/2005

I took in this gig as part of a trip with a few mates to Hamburg for a long weekend. We had tickets to see St Pauli vs Werder Bremen II on the Friday evening and when we were sorting out the match tickets we found out that the St Pauli fans xmas party was taking place after the game so we got ourselves tickets for that too.

The barman in the Jolly Roger pub promised us a great night and particularly talked up the 2nd band who were to perform: Betagarri, "very good Basque Ska band. You will like".

The doors for the event opened pretty quickly after the match finished but we took our time in getting there so by the time we did so it was already pretty busy. The venue had 2 main rooms - a larger area with a stage at one end, a main bar and a small bottle bar, and an upstairs balcony around the top, also a fairly large bar, slightly brighter and with more seating. The gig was in the main auditorium so we made our way and got ourselves some drink just as the band came on stage. The audience were initially a little slow to really get into the performance and the band themselves seemed to take a wee bit of time to really get going. We made our way forward through the crowd and settled on standing about 20 feet or so from the stage for the fitrst few numbers. It was clear that there were a few people in the audience that were there specifically for the band and had heard them before, but that the majority were there as St Pauli fans and the music was as new to them as it was to me.

After 2 or 3 songs I felt that this was a performance I was going to enjoy, and the rest of the crowd started to get into it too. This seemed to feed through to the band, who were really warmed up by now and starting to put some feeling into the show. Frontman Iñaki Ortiz de Villalba proceeded to move around the stage like a madman for the duration of the gig, running up and down, dancing on the spot, spinning round in circles "shooting" the crowd and his band mates and gradually removing his top couple of layers of clothing as the place warmed up.

After another couple of songs my mate James suggested we move a bit closer to the stage so the 2 of us squeezed out way forward and eventually made our way onto the mosh pit where a good crowd of guys and girls were jumping, pogoing around, doing what in the Uk would be known as a "Madness Walk" and generally building up a healthy sweat.

Betagarri's music is a roaring Ska/Punk combination and live they are a fantastic experience. The rhythm section as you would no doubt expect, comprises drums and bass, then there are 2 guitarists and a brass section of trumpet, trombone and sax. As you would expect from a bunch of talented musicians who have been gigging together for a number of years, they're pretty tight and they really seem to enjoy themselves on stage.

The performance was interrupted for about 15 minutes when the St Pauli team arrived on stage and were lauded by the assembled throng. At this point James and I were pushed back slightly by some of the female members of the crowd - who'd be a footballer?!

Subsequently the band got stuck right back into their set and we proceeded to give ourselves some pretty achey legs and feet in the morning. The highlight was probably their biggest hit, "Verde" during which Ortiz de Villalba led the band and the crowd in enthusistic jogging from left to right and then back again - from my view at the front the level of participation was pretty high.

As you might expect from a Basque band there is a political element to some of their songs, reinforced by a chorus of "Bandiera Rossa" in Italian late on in the set case you hadn't picked it up from the Basque lyrics. This was never going to turn off too many St Pauli fans of course!

All in all a very enjoyable gig by Betagarri. I've had a look at their website which has a fairly extensive amount of English content but I can't see if they have ever performed in the UK. I know they gig pretty heavily throughout the Basque Country and Catalonia, and that the Hamburg gig was part of a German tour. They have also played in the USA in the past. If you do get a chance to see them I would recommend it - otherwise do check out some of their music on their website.

Postscript: A big surprise when I got home and played the CD I bought at the gig to my girlfriend ("I hate Ska" - though to be fair about the only Ska she knows is Madness!). Once it finished she asked me to put it on again and we've listened to it quite a few times since. Now there's a recommendation.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Restaurant Review: Domenico's, Sandport St., Leith

I'd been meaning to pay a visit to Domenico's in Leith, ever since a workmate recommended it after she visited with a friend a few months ago. I finally made a reservation on Friday night, and man, I wish I'd got round to it much sooner.

Domenico's is a small place, probably less than 30 covers, and with an unassuming appearance, situated on Sandport Street, off Commercial Street, in the heart of Leith's main restaurant area. We managed to acquire a table in the window, giving my partner, D, a view of the whole restaurant and myself a view of the small park across the street.

The waiters were friendly and contributed to the relaxed atmosphere with a fairly casual approach to their tasks. That's not a criticism by the way, but a positive comparison with some of the over-attentive staff found in some establishments. We never had to wait more than a few moments for attention when we wanted it. The Italian accents seemed to be genuine which I have often suspected not to be the case in certain of Edinburgh's better known Italian eating-places.

Some beautifully fresh bread was brought, along with a small plate of large black olives, and we selected the house "wine of the month", a very drinkable Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. The hand written menus are changed every few weeks, as the waiter explained while apologizing for the slightly worn nature of some of the pages, urging us to ask him if we couldn't make out any of the dishes properly!

D selected the Mussels "Mariniere", while I plumped for the Mackerel in Lemon butter. Both starters were generously proportioned, cooked to perfection and frankly, delicious. In each case the sauces were spot on, contributing an interesting flavour without overpowering or detracting from the taste of the fish. D considered asking for some more bread to soak up her sauce but based on the size of the starters, decided she should save plenty of room for the main course to come.

The mains appeared after a respectable interval to allow us to digest the starters (doesn't it annoy you when the mains are in front of you almost as soon as the starter dishes have been cleared? Fair enough at lunch time but slow down in the evenings guys!). I had selected the Rigatoni with spicy sausage, brie, red pepper, cream and tomato sauce. A large bowl of this arrived and proved to be most enjoyable. However I think I would be able to be much more positive about what was a fine dish, were it not for the sublime Pork fillet in creamy brandy and pepper sauce which D was tucking into. I had also considered ordering this but decided against it as I often find pepper sauce (especially the type often served with steak) slightly unpleasant and overpowering. I couldn't have been more wrong. The sauce was a fine subtle, creamy compliment the tender pieces of meat. A selection of firm boiled veg and potatoes made up the ensemble. Fortunately for me, D was feeling full well before she reached the end of the dish and so I managed to snaffle more than just a few morsels.

The waiter collected my plate, realised we were still finishing off the pork, and noticing that we had finished our wine, kindly topped up both our glasses for an open bottle from the bar "to help it down". A small touch perhaps, but one of those things that sends you away with a good feeling (as if we needed it after that food!).

We ordered coffees, liqueurs, and a portion of caramel apple tart to share (we just couldn't resist!) and finally asked for the bill, which arrived with another 2 liqueurs, compliments of the house. The total? Less than 60 quid! I challenge anyone to find a better quality, more enjoyable dining experience at this kind of price in Edinburgh.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

George Burley "parts company" with Hearts

So, it wasn't entirely unexpected but I don't think anyone saw it coming today. Vladimir Romanov told the Hearts first team at about 11am that George Burley would not be there today (or in the future) and that 1st team coach John McGlynn would take charge for this afternoon's game.

Is this a bad thing for Scottish football? Undoubtedly yes. More competition in the league has created a lot more interest this season (in stark contrast to England!) and today's news will surely weaken Hearts' challenge. Of course there is always the possibility that they will unveil a big name manager at this evening's press conference, but I suspect this will not be the case.

Certainly it's a good thing for my team, Celtic, at least as far as this year's league title race is concerned. Rumours are flying around cyberspace that Burley has walked out of Tynecastle in the knowledge that he will replace Alex McLeish in the "Ibrox hotseat" but surely we have enough of a lead over rangers that it will be too late for this season at least.

The scorelines from both Tynecastle and Ibrox this afternoon will be interesting to see, as will the developments over the next few days.