Acoustic Idols Awards, Cabaret Voltaire ***
EDINBURGH, so the organisers of this event tell us, has a thriving club scene which offers performing opportunities for local singer/songwriters that is second only to London.
That’s not difficult to imagine, because this year’s Acoustic Idols Awards ceremony threw up a range of surprisingly accomplished talents, bound together by a sense of community and mutual respect for each other’s work.
Rather grandly, the programme for Edinburgh Rush (the mini-festival of homegrown events which this night is part of) tells us to expect "Edinburgh’s antidote to the MTV Awards", while, more realistically, it bills its performers as "those bound for the charts to those whose highest ambition is a round of applause".
For those pub-goers who might eye the open mic night with suspicion, however, there was more than enough reason to clap out of genuine respect and delight rather than politeness.
Headed up by local artist Peter Michael Rowan and the Acoustic Underground network, this was virtually a Best of ... selection from the most long-standing and respected nights in the city.
Split into four awards categories, groups were presented in a Top 20 countdown format. Minus call-offs and couldn’t-attends, everyone named also had a couple of songs to show us what they could do.
So, we had short but sweet sets from the wonderfully-voiced Andi Neate, whose second album Flutterby narrowly missed out on an award, the more reflective ponderings of Jake (a girl, by the way), and an acoustic spot by Electric White Boy, whose gravelly voice has a world-weary bluesiness that belies the pasty-faced youth his name suggests.
The fact that he was also the sole representative of the recently-split trio Sawmill Buddhas just illustrates the rollercoaster life of an acoustic troubadour.
Special guests for the evening were one-time New Acoustic movers and shakers Hobotalk. Setting the measure which everyone else on the bill will have to live up to if they wish to be signed, Marc Pilley’s sugar-topped vocals occupy that nebulous space between midrange and falsetto that only James Taylor employs to greater effect.
But by rights, it’s all about the winners - so, a big hand for the Waverley pub’s Out of the Bedroom (Best Club), Gingergreen (Best Act), and the impressive Hannah O’Reilly (Best Solo Artist and CD). When fame hits, we hope they remember their roots - and the warm and vibrant community which gave them their start.