Edinburgh: Bob Mould and a Bear!

So...we went to Edinburgh a couple of weeks ago to see Bob Mould and his band play. Bob Mould is an American punk/alternative rock institution, who was in the seminal Minneapolis band Husker Du. It was my sixth(!) time seeing him - what can I say, we, particularly the husband, are super fans! Like, I'm a big Bob Mould fan, but I'm pretty sure he would dump me to tour the world as Bob's roadie or something given the opportunity! And we have this whole convoluted story about how his music is a tiny bit responsible for getting us together, which we bored him with once and he was utterly lovely about it, said he "loved to hear stories like that!"

This gig was at the Liquid Room, where we had seen Mould play a solo acoustic/electric gig ten years previously (2006-his last Edinburgh show). There was a fire in the intervening years and the venue does feel different, smaller than I remembered. At any rate, we were able to get close to the stage without much trouble, and to my relief, it was a pretty chilled out gig audience wise (the last couple of Glasgow shows were fun but a bit too rowdy for me with the forty something dudes having a wee mosh when they get excitable!). Which isn't to say the crowd weren't appreciative, they were, but it was a Monday night gig so perhaps slightly more subdued than a weekend gig might have been.

I first got into Mould's music, like many people my age, in the early 90's, with his solo stuff. I was slightly too young (cough ;-)) for his band Husker Du, which were part of the formative Minneapolis music scene in the 80's, along with my other favourites, The Replacements. Mould's solo work was downright poppy by comparison and his band Sugar had heavy college radio play in the Mass/R.I. area anyway. I really loved his lyricism, it's always the first thing that grabs me with an artist, and his shimmery convulsive guitars were the icing on the cake. Like, I'm not a musician so I'm talking out of my ass here, but Bob Mould's guitar sound, while loud, unapologetic-ally LOUD was also always weirdly pretty to me. I think maybe because he has this not so secret gift for melody. Not muddy/boring like so much of the Seattle guitar sound of the early-mid 90's.

While most everyone else I knew was getting deeper and deeper into sub-Nirvana grunge bands, I was mooning over tortured romantic lyrics and catchy hooks by Mould, Westerberg and yes, Morrissey (and Marr with the hooks, obv.!). I had one or two friends that were also into him, but I never got to go see him play when I was in college. I think because I probably didn't want to go by myself/couldn't convince the bunch of hippies in my dorm to put down their Blind Melon or Dave Matthews c.d.'s! ;-0

At any rate, this was I believe our third gig seeing Mr. Mould play with his current band. It is a lineup that has been going strong for a few years now (3 or 4?) I think. On bass is Jason Narducy (most recently of solo project Split Single), on drums Jon Wurster (Superchunk). Both are talented musicians in their own right, with their own successful musical careers, who take time out to play with Bob, I imagine out of sheer love for the music and the man. And so they are a perfect pop punk trio, who attack the Husker Du tunes *, and the rest of the catalogue, with vengeance and glee. There is certainly deep harmony and respect emanating from the stage, creating tight as anything jet propelled sets, and taking the crowd by storm.

The band are quite a fierce machine of noise at this point (we brought these musician's earplug things, seriously it is a necessity at a Mould gig these days!). There was a lot of new material, but honestly it's sliding in pretty seamlessly with his other classic tunes. Mould seems to be having a real creative renaissance at the moment, I know the new album is top of the musical wish list in my house when it comes out next month!

This video from his last album Beauty & Ruin is all kinds of Portlandia type japes, also a cameo from The Decemberists' Colin Meloy. Everyone from Ryan Adams to Dave Grohl are vocal Bob Mould fans, so you know, if he's passed you by, check him out, he's only one of the most important musicians in terms of influence around.

Check out the Franco looking dude photobombing us! The cheek!

Setlist for gig:

A Good Idea
I Apologize
The Descent
I Don't Know You Anymore
You Say You
Voices In My Head
Hold On
If I Can't Change Your Mind
Hey Mr. Grey
Tomorrow Morning
Kid With Crooked Face
Losing Time
Hoover Dam
Come Around
Your Favorite Thing
The War
Hardly Getting Over It
Chartered Trips [extended version]

Flip Your Wig
Hate Paper Doll
Makes No Sense At All

Other stuff we got up to in Edinburgh: We had tea (that's what Scots call dinner!) with our friend G., at a posh pub type place off the Grassmarket called Under The Stairs. To be honest my meal wasn't amazing, but everyone else's was, so I think I just didn't order well, as seems to be my wont.

We then went for a pint at The Blue Blazer, a really cute, old fashioned type pub with a huge draft selection. There were some musicians taking turns playing and singing acoustic tunes, no mic, just a sort of regular songwriters gathering was the impression I got. It was nice and low key. We also had pizza at Made in Italy on the Grassmarket the night of the gig, which was really good and very reasonably priced.

We stayed in the Grassmarket again (The Apex City Hotel) as the venue for the gig was nearby. The hotel was a bargain in February, but the room we had wasn't nearly as large as the one on our previous visit (to see Ryan Adams this time last year - where does the time go?!), and the view of the street behind not as nice as the castle view to the front. I was a little bit annoyed, as the hotel didn't seem super busy, but the o.h. is not one to kick up a fuss so we kept our room. It was fine, it had a nice modern bath and comfy bed, I just missed the extra space (I think maybe we had been upgraded and not realized on the last trip?). So were I to stay there again I might swing for a bigger room/ask for a castle view.

Edinburgh Grassmarket - it's kind of dreary looking in February, they light up the trees with fairy lights at night which is pretty though :-)

Also a rummage in Armstrongs, I came away empty handed but it's always fun to trawl through the vintage goodies.

The other thing I was bound and determined to do on this trip was go and see the recently unveiled memorial for Wotjek the Bear. Wotjek was a Polish bear, who was raised in the army from a cub, and lived with the soldiers and basically was the best soldier bear that ever lived! Of course I have mixed feelings about a bear being used in captivity in this way, but I do think it shows the softer and amenable side of the bear nature that often gets downplayed by the media/societal perceptions. At any rate Wotjek is beloved in Poland and he lived out his retirement in Edinburgh Zoo, so the city has a strong connection to his story.

Wotjek the Bear statue Edinburgh

Bear bum! I was genuinely impressed with the attention to furry detail on the statue

The memorial is in Prince's Street Gardens, just off of Prince's Street, and definitely worth a look, I think it's lovely that the Wotjek Memorial Trust were able to get such a prime spot and have such a lovingly rendered statue made for this special bear!

* Yes, that is Fred Armisen playing with Bob Mould :-0


  1. Looks like a fun little trip! And the fur on the statue is pretty detailed.

    1. It was, it's nice to get away in February, even though Scotland is grey - um I mean GRAY ;-)everywhere!