Tucked inconspicuously down a lane on Elgin’s High Street, the Drouthy Cobbler is seeing a particularly busy Friday night in its restaurant and beer garden. Upstairs in the venue is no different – tonight’s event is near enough at capacity, and the darkened room with purple mood lighting gradually becomes warmer. Neu! Reekie! hosts Michael Pedersen and Kevin Williamson give an anecdote-filled introduction to proceedings, including an amusing story about an oatcake-eating competition being held at Elgin town hall.

Local writer Jo Haslam opens the first part with a story and poem about a recent real life event involving a Birchback canoe and a man named Angus who had built one, whom she’d visited to find out more about them. The story was told with humour and panache, and the poem, Bon Voyage, was written about her attempts to befriend Angus which he ultimately rebuffed. Haslam is an entertaining new talent and definitely one to watch.

Two animations directed by women follow – Ape by Julie Zammarchi from 1992, inspired by a Russell Edson poem, and, Trusts and Estates by Jeanette Bonds, based on an overheard conversation between four lawyers from 2011. The first half is then wrapped up by a sublime set from another local act, singer-songwriter Fionn McKerron in his first solo gig. Catchy songs such as Red Light, So Much More and Mesmerise are well received by the audience.

Following a brief break, poet Hollie McNish takes to the stage to bring her own brand of humour to the north east. She performs poems about her youth, dealing with subjects from handjobs and Saturday jobs to post-partum sex. While bawdy in places, her raw honesty only serves to make things more enjoyable.

Michael Pedersen then reads a poem named Fortunately Lush, written in the aftermath of the death of his close friend, Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison. After this, a film about Hutchison is shown. It is a fitting tribute, both humorous and poignant, featuring candid footage as well as performances – notably his cover of American Girl in honour of the late Tom Petty at Neu! Reekie’s event in December.

Closing proceedings is another of Hutchison’s friends, Kathryn Joseph, fresh from supporting The Cure at Hyde Park, who is launching her new album, From When I Wake the Want Is. Her voice is delicate but powerful, and is complimented beautifully by her piano skills. Her set features many numbers from her new album, including the title track and Tell My Lover.

Although the heat in the venue is uncomfortable by the end, the line-up is well received, and it hopefully won’t be too long before Neu! Reekie! tour the north east again.

Photo courtesy of Kat Gollock.