Two Hallglen heavies and a Larbert lad walk into a pub. There is no punch line: they are the headline act. The pub being Behind The Wall which according to the black and white poster on the red brick background has (much like Buckfast) been providing Falkirk with “a social experience since 1985”. The act being Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo, a country-inspired trio once described by The List as “a psychedelic mishmash of bongos, wheedling organ lines and Nick Cave-lite barking”. And the gig being [Untitled] Now, an evening of poetry, prose and patter by Tesseract International to mark the launch of the sixth issue of [Untitled] literary magazine, which the Falkirk Herald often erroneously refers to as Unlimited. A fitting description of their capacity to overstress and underwhelm.
First up and first class was Janet Crawford, a “cool as fuck” mother-of-three and regular performer at Falkirk’s monthly spoken word gig Woo’er With Words organised by artist, writer and compere for the evening VIP Craig Allan who as the acronym suggests is not only a Very Important Person in the growing Falkirk arts scene but as we later learned was, is and forever will be a Vegan-Inspired Poet. (So nae danger of him milking the applause then. Badum-tish!) Sporting shiny black docs, skinny black jeans, funky black specs and a short-sleeved black t-shirt in celebration of The Bard of Salford, her humour is fittingly black. Think Mae “I used to be Snow White, but I drifted” West with an east coast lilt. The “parameters” of Janet’s life “may have changed”, but judging by her honest, heartfelt, humourous (and other superlatives beginning with the letter h) poetry, it has changed for the better. A cracking start!
Next up, the razor-sharp and laser-focussed Dickson Telfer who read a couple of short stories from his latest book Refrigerator Cake and the sixth edition of [Untitled]. The first, Ella 21:18 (not to be confused with Matthew 21:18 from the New Testament in which Jesus curses a fig tree with a Simon Cowell putdown “May you never bear fruit again!” or Deuteronomy 21:18 from the Old Testament in which Moses behaves more like a son of a bitch than the son of God by condoning the stoning of “stubborn and rebellious” children), is more Queasy Jet than Easy in that it tells of an unlikely and short-lived friendship between a young man and an elderly woman who swap life lessons and clothes as they plummet to their deaths aboard a malfunctioning aeroplane. Doing her best Corporal Jones impersonation, she urges her fellow passenger to refrain from panicking and join her in a rendition of Make It Easy On Yourself by The Walker Brothers’. “I look back at Ella and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh,” said Dickson. Which was the same response by the laugh-out-loud audience who were enthralled by his laconic one-liners which, given the fact he is a footsoldier of habitual bottom-feeders East Stirlingshire, must have been honed on the terraces of Gayfield Park, Galabank and Borough Briggs.
The third performer of the evening was the ever-excellent Stephen Watt who puts the “art” into his home town of Dumbarton. With two poetry collections to his name (Spit and the recently published Optograms which launched at The Tron in February) and with extensive experience of touring the UK and beyond including festivals such as Eden and Wickerman, Stephen is a class act for whom the pulse of music is not only a major influence on the themes of his writing but also its form and his impressive vocal delivery. Despite suffering from a bout of the lurgy which unfortunately led to the cancellation of booked acts Kirstin Innes whose novel Fishnet won the Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize and the “slam-winning Granny who writes short stories and poems” Finola Scott, Stephen spun a web of words from the bright lights of the The Barrowlands to the late nights of the artist formerly known as The Arches to the gob shites of the Turner Prize exhibition at The Tramway. In the spirit of the old Glasgow Empire, no turn was left un-stoned!
And finally (as Trevor McDonald used to say), talking and taking us up to the break, after which the aforementioned Sweethearts of the Prison Rodeo performed an excellent set of humourous and uplifting songs, was the legendary Gordon Legge who journalist Teddy Jamieson once described in The Independent as “a straight, Scottish version of Armistead Maupin, with a permanent seat at the bar” whose books “will leave many post-adolescent males whispering ‘That’s me! That’s me!'” Born in Falkirk and brought up in Grangemouth, with a number of hugely popular and critically acclaimed novels and short story collections to his name including The Shoe and In Between Talking About The Football, this was the first time I had seen Legge perform. And boy, did he make a big impression. Not for him the rehearsed anecdote. No like-me, love-me smiles or smoke-and-mirrors gesticulation. Just a man, a mic and his measured words which like the evening itself were A1!