Gig review: Lost Map’s Howlin’ Fringe, Penicuik

Haud the bus: Johnny Lynch's Lost Map festival was a crowd-pleasing trip
Haud the bus: Johnny Lynch's Lost Map festival was a crowd-pleasing trip
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For those taking the bus (only 25e minutes from the heart of Edinburgh, our host Johnny Lynch assured us) to the midst of Midlothian for the latest homespun Lost Map festival creation, the contrast between sleepy Penicuik and the chaotic bustle of Edinburgh in August would have been sharp. This location doesn’t have quite the same romance as Lynch’s previous Lost Map (and before that, Fence Collective) outings in fishing town Anstruther, seaside Portobello and on his home island of Eigg, but the beauty of Lost Map is that it carries a charming one size fits all celebratory spirit wherever it goes.

Lost Map’s Howlin’ Fringe - Town Hall, Penicuik

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For this first and hopefully not final edition of Howlin’ Fringe, a concept which Lynch hopes is transportable to similar locations around the country, the regular travelling contingent of Lost Map fans and family and the local folks of Penicuik embraced the event with eagerness. Town hall locations have proven to be perfect for what Lynch is trying to achieve, not just because the capacity and space suits – this show had been planned with 350 in mind – but because they inspire a sense of comfort and homeliness which relaxes everyone. Penicuik town hall is a great space with a high stage at one end, easily darkened windows and a more community hall-like space at ground level selling pies, stews and cakes. The creaky wooden floor and simple, primary lighting recalled school discos of days gone by.

Described by Lynch as his last chance to play in Scotland and to get all his friends together this year, before the imminent arrival of his first child, the day-long micro-festival featured all of the names now associated with the label. It’s a positive affirmation of just how much Lost Map shows are about the experience rather than star names that the cancellation of the day’s special guests and only group not on the label, Slow Club, led to no grumbles. Everyone’s understanding here, and it’s fair to say Lynch was – since the Fence days when King Creosote and James Yorkston were at Homegame – not reliant on external names for a sense of recognition.

Blissful Glasgow shoegazers Tuff Love were here, and off-beam Winchester folktronica singer Rozi Plain and her band, both deserved favourites of the BBC 6 Music crowd. Ireland’s Seamus Fogarty was also involved, while core Lost Map indie-pop quartet Kid Canaveral debuted new material. Penicuik native and finder of this space Neil Pennycook (yes, that is his name) played with his band Supermoon, a haunting but viscerally sharp-edged set with resonant accordion and female backing vocals adding a pealing, folksy edge to songs like I Will Kill Again. “A lady’s doing haircuts – she’s got a good track record, she did me,” he said, pointing out one of Lynch’s cheerful gimmicks for the event and raising his cap to show his bald head.

There were also decamped Fringe comedians, including Andrew Learmonth and Elaine Malcolmson, playing before the acts, but none made as much impact as Lynch himself. Playing some lithe, groove-ridden tracks from his forthcoming album, he detoured into jokey messing around with hardcore techno “30-second songs” from his In Rooms record with the vigour of a man happy to have seen his day go to plan.

Seen on 08.08.15