Despite the fact that I fully subscribe to the aphorism – THERE’S NEVER A CROWD ON THE LEADING EDGE’, I am still disappointed when such fabulous events aren’t sold out.
The Anxiety Cabaret, curated by Kevin P. Gilday is the type of late-night spoken word event that has come to define the Paisley Book Festival as a showcase for exciting, new literary talent.
Sean Wai Keung introduces his work as being mostly about food and grief. Drawing upon his obsession with Chinese food as well as his relationship with his maternal grandparents from Hong Kong, Sean’s readings are subtle, funny but most of all they are absolutely bursting with love.
Elaine Malcolmson is up next, a comedian from Northern Ireland. Comedy is different from all other performance art forms in that it is purely meritocratic, you are either funny or you’re not. There are ‘pop stars’ who can’t play a musical instrument, there are ‘film stars’ that cannot act, best selling authors who cannot write… but comedians who can’t make people laugh don’t last long in the game. Elaine had the audience in stitches with her dry, sharply observed wit. Listening to Elaine, you realise how under-rated comedy is as an antidote, however brief, to our increasingly anxious existence.
MilesBetter was the biggest surprise of the evening. Hands up, I’m not a big fan of rap. I appreciate the literary contribution of the lyrics, but I’ve always found the rest of it challenging. I was, however, blown away by the musical quality of MilesBetter’s performance. His use of samples, effects and, yes, harmony in his vocal work, made his literary contribution to the evening highly listenable, and, dare I say it hugely enjoyable. Anyone who missed this show should absolutely check out his work.
If the Anxiety Cabaret was a roller-coaster ride, Katie Ailes provided the velocity. She performed four pieces in her set, the middle two of which were utterly devastating in their emotive power. In response to recent events involving violence against women, her second poem was about a friend who had attempted suicide in Katie’s home town in Pennsylvania. The third poem, written just this week, was a response to the murder of the trans teenager Brianna Ghey. A poem of anger and rage, of beauty and love, this was one of the most powerful poems I have ever heard performed. It also demonstrates the dynamic range that spoken word events of this kind can produce. The contrasts that emerge from the variety of performance styles as well as the ability of the medium to showcase such a diverse range of talent is testimony to the strength of this type of literary event.
The Cabaret was brought to an end by Kevin P. Kilday, the modern master of the genre. Reading from his newest book Anxiety Music (and other works), Kevin covered a plethora of issues including pub politics, mediocre white men, orgies, breakups, and quantum Scotland. A fitting end to a masterfully curated evening of talent which segued seamlessly into the DJ set of resident polymath, Allan Bisset. The fact that Allan’s peach Doc Martins perfectly matched the colour of the geometric shapes on his Aztec design top, suggested that he had given thought to more than the just the order of ‘choonz’ in his killer set.
Another literary triumph for the Paisley Book Festival.