Pic: The Union Chapel, London.
Big thank you to Billy Hamilton of Under the Radar for his write up of Saturday’s night Trampoline show at the Wee Red Bar. It really is appreciated and it’s lovely to see them taking a more active role in reviewing live shows these days. I do hope it’s not completely at the expense of unearthing new bands though as their contribution to Scottish music on this front is invaluable, in my opinion.
Anyways, reading the review it was interesting to note Billy’s thoughts on the layout of the Wee Red. In my opinion, the way it’s laid out can be both a negative and a positive thing for the night. When people arrive at Trampoline, it is true that they often grab themselves a beer then find themselves a seat and often remain seated for the whole night of music. Some times this works. In fact, sometimes we set out rows of seats depending on the style of music that is on offer. Sleepingdog for example requested the seats be laid out to create a more relaxed, intimate and informal atmosphere. At Glissando and Trespassers William nearly the whole venue sat on the floor and watch cross legged. That was lovely. When the music is more intricate and delicate it is often the best approach to things. Perhaps for Thomas Western’s set it would have been appropriate on Saturday? I don’t know. However, there are other bands like Over the Wall, Cancel the Astronauts, Broken Records and Woodenbox with a Fistful of Fivers, to name a few, who would undoubtedly prefer the seats to be removed and the venue to be standing room only, or so I would assume. Of course, it would be totally possible to get rid of most of the chairs and tables, but as the venue doubles up as a club there’s no way we’re moving the sofas! I guess it’s down to the people watching though. Like at most gigs, there is a tendency for people not to want to get too close to the front and, if chairs exist, then to sit down. Over The Wall dealt with this beautifully by asking people to move forward. Sometimes that’s all it takes. Sometimes all it takes is one or two people to make the move and others will follow. It’s a tricky one though. I love the Wee Red for the staff, the sound system and how it looks when the lights are low. Like other venues it suffers from not having a stage and without doubt it suffers due to the sofas etc. Then again, I’m sure they’d argue that they have more club nights than gig nights so the chairs, tables, sofas all make perfect sense. It’s certainly something I’m comfortable living with.
There was an interesting comment left on this blog recently about how Glasgow had better venues, better bands etc etc, than Edinburgh. Personally, I think Edinburgh has a plethora of decent venues but could benefit from more. Though I’d be the first to admit that I am not a fan of the Bowery in terms of sound quality and lack of stage, the actual space itself is bursting with character and with a bit of a cash injection could be the perfect gig venue. Old churches are without doubt lovely places to play and convert beautifully into gig venues. The Bristo Hall above the Forest Café, though a sound engineers nightmare, is another lovely space with bags of character and atmosphere. I remember playing a show there with Thomas Traux. On that occasion, the venue made the gig. The Wee Red has character as well, but as mentioned above clearly suffers from doubling as a club. I have never really been a fan of CabVol as place to watch gigs (cost of beer is outrageous!) but there is no doubt that Edinburgh’s underground network of caves do create a special atmosphere. The same applies to the Caves themselves which have the same sort of vibe on a larger scale. Electric Circus is a bit weird. Really cool stage and screens behind the stage but the swanky ness of it might put many people off. Personally I like it (perhaps cause I rate Solen as a top, top promoter) but I have heard rumours that it’s still open to anyone even when gigs are on, which can really impact on the noise during performances. When we played there people spoke all the way through Wounded Knee’s set. It wasn’t cool. The Voodoo Rooms is a big old room with loads of character but also suffers from the table and chair issue present at the Wee Red. I miss Henry’s Cellar Bar. When I first moved to Edinburgh it was a smokey old jazz club but also ran loads of gigs. I might just be out of the loop (I really do feel it sometimes) but I don’t think it’s used as much these days, which is a real shame. It was a nice size and though it was awkward in terms of layout I always enjoyed watching and playing shows there. I’ve also witnessed lovely shows at both the Collective and Stills Galleries on Cockburn. Rob St John’s show at the Collective is maybe still one of my favourite ever gigs. Tiny space, amazing atmosphere, intimate and lovely. What I do wish Edinburgh had more of is venues like Stereo, Mono and the 13th Note in Glasgow. When I’m through there I love passing the day sitting in those bars with their lovely relaxed atmospheres, good food and good music. There are really no places like that in Edinburgh where you can just go and chill out and then go downstairs to see a gig. Well, not that I know of. I wish there was.
I guess above all what I wish for most of all is more venues in Leith. The Leith Tape Club operates successfully out of the Iso Lounge. However, in terms of catering for larger gigs there are not too many places I can think of. The Leith Theatre is an amazing venue but in real need of restoration and really doesn’t appear capable of dealing with shows as yet. This is a shame as it’s the perfect space for larger events like an all day festival. The Leith Dockers club does seem to be a good place in terms of stage, layout etc, but it does have a Phoenix Nights feel about it, which might not appeal to everyone. I enjoyed seeing the Wave Pictures there though and Withered Hand’s album launch took place there also so it might be a venue on the up in terms of putting on gigs. Other than that though, my knowledge of venues in Leith is limited. I believe the Kays might be playing the Queen Charlotte Rooms in Feb – but I have no idea where that is or what it looks like but perhaps this could be a good option for gigs down Leith way. It would be lovely to have more spaces though. Quite a lot of musicians live down Leith way so it’d be nice to have a bar/venue like Stereo/13th Note to chill out and put on good shows.
So yeah, what are people’s thoughts on Edinburgh venues? What are we missing? What do people like/dislike? Just thought it’d be good to have a chat on this front. Nothing too controversial for a Friday.