Blue Orchids & Blood


Posted by in March's Magazine

Temperature and tears. Anger and fears.
Needles and weights. Chemo and dates.
Radium and blood. Mother and love.
Strength and luck. Family and love.

‘So proud of my perfect baby girl,
Jorden Harris. So strong for so long’.

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That is my niece, and that is her mother writing about her, presumably on Facebook. I have to be honest I must have cut and pasted this when I was bevvied because I’m not usually thought of as a family man, as my extended family will attest. But christ, it would take an ocean to hide the tears.

At Leith Depot
A mate texts from Dunbar ‘fancy going to see The Blue Orchids the night?’ Not for the first time, someone who lives a good 30 miles away tells me about a gig taking place a scant 200 yards from my front door – thems the breaks when you’re an old curmudgeon who never engages on social media.

The venue in question turns out to be Leith Depot on The Walk and it also turns out to be sold out, damn! Wait a minute isn’t that the distinctive matelot jersey which is the calling card of Neil Cooper? Yup, the roving reporter, popular man about town and professional scouser is indeed unmistakably present among the throng. It turns out he is promoting the evening so I gain entry via a judiciously purchased pint of his favoured Guinness.

The last time I saw The Blue Orchids was the night my mate’s band split up after supporting the Rolling Stones at the Playhouse. When I asked him why he said, “What else are you going to do after supporting the Rolling Stones?” An admirable answer.

The Orchids were playing in a nightclub upstairs and back then had perfected a sound that I had a particular fondness for, which was later labeled drone rock. Rumour had it that heavy heroin use played its part in their mournful exhortations. Evidenced by the album’s title The Greatest Hit and song names like The House That Faded Out and A Year With No Head.

Tonight’s event couldn’t be further removed from that blissed out concert. The place is sardined with sweaty souls and the band members are frenetic, vital, focused. It is enormously invigorating to see a group of men who look like they wouldn’t be out of place on a building site making the kind of racket you’d expect from a spotty faced teenager with a bad attitude. Class.

A nod too to Leith Depot itself, a very fine venue indeed for watching live music, especially if you favour hang outs like King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut or, anecdotally, CBGB’s. Upstairs is tiny but perfectly formed and downstairs, according to gourmande, bon vivant and noted bow tie wearer Stuart Hislop, “Serves the best macaroni cheese I’ve ever eaten.”

As ever, it was nice to catch up with the inscrutable (or should that be diffident?) writer Gordon Legge; a fellow who does not so much keep his own counsel as his own praetorian guard. I think – though I can’t be sure – that he was equally enamoured of proceedings.

The whole package is just the kind of Arts Hub that Leith needs – and before anyone writes in saying it’s been open for ages, remember our mantra: ‘At The Leither things grind exceeding slow’.

Photograph: Trevor Pake

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