Monday, 26 August 2013
Kenny Young and the Eggplants gig review
Acoustic Music Centre @ St Brides, Edinburgh
25 August 2013
It is almost 15 years to the day since I last saw Kenny Young and the Eggplants play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. On that occasion they were appearing at The Famous Spiegeltent which was situated on top of the Waverley shopping centre at the east end of Princes Street. I had seen them once before at a venue near the university which I seem to remember was a late night affair with a fairly small number of people in the audience. The Spiegeltent gig, however, was earlier in the day and they attracted a good crowd. At the end of that show Kenny stood by the exit to thank us all individually for coming and we were each offered a free Eggplants badge. But that’s the kind of band they are – they care about their fans.
Fast forward to August 2013 and the guys are booked to play four nights at the Acoustic Music Centre at St Brides. I get a ticket for the final night. The band are introduced by a St Brides’ staff member and they appear from behind a curtain at the rear of the Back Room, it being the smaller of the two rooms at the venue. The first thing I notice, not surprisingly, is that they’re looking older. Sadly not even living in the Eggplants’ alternative universe can save them from the passing of time. Kenny also looks different – is it his hair? Looks a bit darker than I remember but then I realise it’s probably because he’s wearing glasses. He and drummer Eddie Logue are pretty much instantly recognisable but it takes me a while to recall Gil Shuster’s face though this is perhaps because you’re more likely to remember him for his on and off-stage antics and his, ahem, vocal contributions.
As I only have a copy of their Toxic Swamp & Other Love Songs album, most of the set is new to me though I do vaguely recognise their song about a mutant cheese monster living in some guy’s flat which meets a sticky end courtesy of a giant mouse. Gil provides suitably alarming vocal effects as the creature meets its demise at the end of the song. So the highlights for me are the songs I already know including their stadium rock number ‘Earl the Squirrel’ and their paean to fast food, ‘The Kebab Shop’. “We’ll rest in the shade of the kebab tree.” That lyric says a lot about the band. It may be plain weird but, hec, it appeals to this reviewer’s sense of humour.
Other lyrics that stick in my head include suitably zany Eggplants fare such as a scientist working on a gnome genome project, an alcoholic grouse (Kenny mentions the grouse on a large poster at Edinburgh airport which they saw on arrival) and ghosts and werewolves being scared away by a morose singer songwriter who moves in next door.
Throughout the hour-long set Kenny is a calm friendly presence front of stage (reminding me of Emo Phillips when he pushes his hand through his hair between songs), Eddie moves between his electronic drum kit and a seat at the front to play various percussion instruments and Gil lurks around the stage playing some neat bass lines and singing, shouting and interjecting the occasional primal scream which is what we have come to expect from this slightly deranged looking individual. But I mean that in a nice way. He is the band’s loose cannon but an essential part of their stage show. Members of the audience are in howls of laughter at some of his shenanigans and as I leave at the end of the night I wonder if he was related to Spike Milligan.
Gil’s piece de resistance, however, is when the band play their theme tune and Gil is asked by Kenny what ‘instruments’ he will be playing tonight. On the Sunday night he chooses a small butterfly net and a tool used for picking up litter and such like. During the song he proceeds to bang these together and hit the stage with them and, inevitably, by the end of the song they are in pieces. These are then distributed among members of the audience.
As the gig reaches the 60 minute mark, we are asked if there is anything we want to hear and someone on the front row shouts out ‘Uncontrollable Urge’, a Devo cover which they recorded on their Even One Is Quite a Few album. I suspect this was one which they were half expecting so we get a spirited version with Gil and Eddie shouting, “He’s got an uncontrollable urge” with Gil pointing his thumb over his shoulder at Kenny, the sweat dripping off his face onto the floor. This brings proceedings to a close with Kenny encouraging people to sign up to their mailing list, buy the inevitable cds and t-shirts and come up and say hello as, he said, they get lonely up on stage.
So thank you Kenny, Eddie and Gil for transporting us to your world for an all-too-short but wonderfully entertaining hour. Hopefully I won’t have to wait another 15 years before I see you guys again.
Safe homeward trip to New York City.