A ‘Super Saturday’ (& September) for music in Edinburgh

Here’s a thought - I reckon Saturday the 29th of September was a bit of a ‘Super Saturday’ for music (1) in Edinburgh.

Sport fans will know all about the joys of a ‘Super Saturday’ - a day when there’s a feast of amazing events to gorge on. Music fans in Edinburgh are sometimes (2) starved of such choice – but not on Saturday the 29th.

On a personal level, it was the launch event of Edinburgh Music Lovers (EML) at Summerhall. Our ethos is to keep things eclectic, so we kicked off with the only UK date by the utterly unique American trio, SFD: Stetson-Fox-Dunn.

Led by Colin Stetson, who’s played with everyone from Bon Iver and Arcade Fire to Tom Waits and David Byrne, their improvised, instrumental fusion of free jazz, post-rock and abstract noise is pretty avant-garde and challenging to say the least. Someone described it as ‘a primal, raw, vast sonic energy - almost like a form of wild beast..!’. So it was hugely pleasing and reassuring to have almost 400 people in the audience.

Colin Stetson and his mighty bass saxophone - pic James Duncan

Colin Stetson and his mighty bass saxophone - pic James Duncan

Exciting music across Edinburgh

But as I’ve stated in our mission statement, EML isn’t just about our events – it’s about the wider goal of playing our part alongside others in helping make Edinburgh a thriving music city. In other words, while we’ll promote occasional events, we’ll also be promoting other people’s events and the city generally.

So that’s why I think it’s worth celebrating the amazing array of music that was on offer in Edinburgh that Saturday.

While SFD were melting minds at Summerhall, over at the Wee Red Bar, Braw Gigs were celebrating their 10th anniversary with two other equally extreme experimental acts, Detroit’s noiseniks Wolf Eyes and the uncompromising Guttersnipe.

We’re just starting our journey with EML and learning what it takes, so hats off to Braw Gigs for doing a decade of DIY gigs and bringing so much experimental music to Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, over at a sold-out Assembly Rooms, and the more mellow end of the music spectrum, 750 music lovers witnessed what was, by all accounts, a mesmerising set by Iceland’s Olafur Arnalds that captivated everyone from start to finish.

Olafur Arnalds, Assembly Rooms - pic by  Emma Fitzgerald via Instagram @ emu_fitz

Olafur Arnalds, Assembly Rooms - pic by Emma Fitzgerald via Instagram @emu_fitz

It’s so good for Edinburgh to see the Assembly Rooms hosting more and more eclectic music events. Their Alternative Peers Ball next month continues that momentum.

Along the road at the Voodoo Rooms, another venerated act was in town – Manchester’s post-punk icons, A Certain Ratio. A friend who was there reported that the venue was pretty packed and the first 40 minutes of their set in particular was ‘remarkable’.

Meanwhile, while the city centre was hosting all these live music events, a few hundred revellers were dancing away in the woods of Vogrie Park at the Woodland Dance Project. Over 3 stages and soundsystems, guests from across the UK and Europe served up a smorgasbord of reggae, roots, dub, drum’n’bass, jungle, house and techno. Check out all the photos here - it looked amazing.

Photo by ReCompose via the Woodland Dance Project Facebook page

Photo by ReCompose via the Woodland Dance Project Facebook page

Colin Stetson, Olafur Arnalds, A Certain Ratio, Wolf Eyes, a mini festival in the woods…. not bad for one night.

Some might say that’s the least a capital city like Edinburgh should expect, and places like Glasgow and Manchester probably have Saturdays like this regularly, but I reckon it’s pretty good going, and more signs that Edinburgh is thriving.

Elsewhere in September

In fact, you could say that September was a pretty good month for music in Edinburgh generally.

The night before the above events, Song by Toad held their 10th anniversary, and final event as it turned out, at Leith Depot (3) with Jamie Sutherland, eagleowl and Neil Pennycook (aka Meursault). The Scotsman gave that event a big thumbs-up.

On the Thursday, Sneaky Pete’s hosted a sell-out show by Declan Welsh and the Decadent West amid scenes, according to The Skinny, of stage dives and frenzied pogoing.

Sneaky’s owner Nick Stewart said that was a highlight of the month, “partly because it was great to have an upcoming Scottish artist sell out the venue, but also because the support was the debut show from Lazy Angel. They’re a brilliant band from Edinburgh via Glasgow whose members have been really promising for a while, and have finally pulled a rabbit out of the hat and made the music I've been waiting for.”

The week before, the Usher Hall hosted an emotionally charged MTV Unplugged set from Biffy Clyro, while FLY Open Air staged a spectacular weekend-long open-air electronic music festival at Ross Bandstand in the shadow of the Castle.

Earlier in the month, Fatherson, Assai Records and Usher Hall teamed up for an exclusive intimate event on the stage of the venue, while Kathryn Joseph sent tingles down the spine of everyone who attended her gig for Nothing Ever Happens Here at Summerhall.

Among all this, we also had Future Get Down at the Mash House, KT Tunstall at the Liquid Rooms and a special homecoming show from Garbage at the Festival Theatre. As with the Assembly Rooms, it’s great to see the Festival Theatre hosting music events like this.

So all in all, I reckon it was a pretty good month for music in Edinburgh (4). What do you think?


(1) When I say music, I mean quality alternative/independent music - indie, electronic, rock etc rather than mainstream pop, covers bands, traditional jazz/Scottish music, or folk gigs in pubs, although theres’s nothing wrong with any of those.

(2) Sometimes but NOT always. As I was writing this in a cafe, I was introduced to someone from Edinburgh who loves music. He’d just booked several gigs – and only one was in Edinburgh. And not through choice. Not exactly evidence, but it’s a common complaint.

(3) While this blog post celebrates all the good things that were going on in Edinburgh that night, it’s important to acknowledge that Leith Depot faces a struggle to survive.

(4) I’m sure there were lots of other great music events on around Edinburgh that I didn’t know about or haven’t mentioned. If I’ve missed anything or anyone out, let me know.