The Edinburgh music scene has a new home at the festival
Rachel Sermanni

As far as alternative music is concerned the Edinburgh Fringe is a bit of a black hole for local acts, writes Matthew Young.

Rachel Sermanni
[Rising star Rachel Sermanni will be performing at the Queen’s Hall in the capital on 9 August]

Those of us putting on music during the festival can’t reach the visiting audience because we don’t have the commercial power to compete in the blizzard of promotional confetti, and we struggle to reach our own audience as they tend to see something from out of town while they can.

When I moved here in 2005, the Fringe was well served with music. In fact, seeing Yo La Tengo at T on the Fringe got me into the habit of going to gigs by myself, which led to me making friends in the local DIY scene and ultimately to the founding of the record label – Song, by Toad – I now run.

T on the Fringe morphed into The Edge, and although both were targeted more at big-name acts, of whom we had very few in the city, there were nevertheless opportunities for local bands to get support slots.

Musicians with careerist sensibilities tend to flee Edinburgh pretty sharpish, heading for the more established stamping grounds of Glasgow or London, so the people left behind tend to be the hapless, the idiosyncratic or the plain bloody-minded. I suppose I would say I am the latter. It makes for an interesting mix, and in the 2006-11 period there was a real swell of success and enthusiasm. It brought us a lot of the Edinburgh bands who fill the larger venues in town today: Broken Records, eagleowl, Kid Canaveral, Meursault, Rob St John and Withered Hand.

A lot of this was driven by the Tracer Trails gig promotion team, and in 2008, at St John’s Church, they put on a month of shows involving almost entirely local bands called Retreat. Retreat evolved to become a weekend-long celebration of local music. And then, sadly, there wasn’t one last year. Emily from Tracer Trails moved to Glasgow, and co-conspirator Bart Owl didn’t have the time. In fact there was almost no local music on during the Festival at all.

As soon as Retreat failed to happen last year, the very first thing I thought to do was to have a go myself. For anyone thinking “idiot” at this stage, don’t worry, I agree with you.

I sounded out Henry’s Cellar Bar and sat down with Bart Owl, Neil Pennycook from Meursault and Rob St John to talk about doing something locally driven in August.

And we have done exactly that: nine nights of brilliant, locally sourced music, in a venue which has for years been one of the engine rooms of the underground music scene here in Edinburgh.

To give the nights a little more character we’ve asked the nine headliners to pick their own support acts. The price is being kept deliberately low, with all but one of the gigs a mere £5 each. You can even buy a season ticket for £25.

The bands range from the introspective singer-songwriter Malcolm Middleton to the dark, atmospheric eagleowl, eccentric electronic pop experimentalists FOUND, screaming mentalists The Leg, snarling country-tinged punk from Sparrow and the Workshop, and Scottish Album of the Year Award winner RM Hubbert. There are many more: 27 bands in total over 31 days.

Meanwhile, the Queen’s Hall has Withered Hand, King Creosote, Rachel Sermanni and Stanley Odd on this year. Similarly, the team behind Haddowfest are promoting gigs at The Liquid Room, with Broken Records, Kid Canaveral, The Twilight Sad and The Pictish Trail. It may be risky, but it looks like 2013 might well be the best for local music yet.

MORE INFO: For more on Pale Imitation, read Matthew Young’s blog at For Queen’s Hall gig listings, visit

Local Musicians at the Queen’s Hall, throughout August

During August The Queen’s Hall plays host to some of Scotland’s finest folk and alt-folk musicians including King Creosote, Withered Hand, Eugene Kelly, Admiral Fallow, Karine Polwart, and Rachel Sermanni. Also playing are brass band Orkestra Del Sol and Edinburgh hip hop act Stanley Odd who are reprising their Celtic Connections collaboration with the Electric String Orchestra.

In addition, the venue is hosting several performances of the award-winning show Whatever Gets You Through The Night which features new work from over 20 writers, musicians and artists from across Scotland.

Our pick of the Queen’s Hall August shows:

Stanley Odd, 2 August
King Creosote, 3 August
Orkestra Del Sol, 8 August
Rachel Sermanni, 9 August
Withered Hand / Eugene Kelly / Second Hand Marching Band, 10 August
Admiral Fallow, 13 August
Karine Polwart, 17 August
Whatever Gets You Through The Night, 20- 25 August, various times

More details:

Haddow on the Fringe, various venues, 1 – 16 August

Local promoters Haddowfest have orchestrated eight shows in seven different Edinburgh venues from August 1 – 16, with headliners including The Cribs, Alabama 3, Broken Records and Kid Canaveral (who will be joined on-stage by Glasgow’s Cairn String Quartet).

According to organiser Hamish Jolly: “With a strong bias towards focusing on new and up-and-coming and established Scottish talent we’re delighted that we’re able to put on these shows around Europe’s biggest festival. What better than to enjoy the festival and maybe take in some comedy during the day and come to see a great band that evening?”

The full Haddow on the Fringe line-up is:

Twisted Wheel + The Velveteen Saints +The Rah’s + The Litigators – Cabaret Voltaire, 1 August
Capitals + support TBA – Cabaret Voltaire, 2 August
Alabama 3+ The Stagger Rats – Picturehouse, 3 August
Greg Pearson + Support TBA – Sneaky Pete’s, 4 August
Broken Records + John-Paul Palombo – Liquid Rooms Annexe, 8 August
Art Brut + The Nature Boys – Electric Circus, 10 August
Kid Canaveral (with Cairn String Quartet) + Ballboy – Liquid Rooms, 10 August
The Cribs + Paws + The 10:04’s – Picture House, 16 August

In addition, Haddowfest’s  monthly club night will see The Pictish Trail play with Fence Records’ new charges, Monoganon on August 24 at the Liquid Room.

More info: |

The Pale Imitation Festival, Henry’s Cellar Bar, throughout August

This series of gigs has been organised by Back Garden Promotions (Matthew Young of Edinburgh record  label Song, By Toad and friends) to give a focus to  both new and more established local bands. The name refers to its similarity to the Retreat! Festival which provided a similar function in previous years.

According to Young “we selected nine headliners and then asked them to suggest the rest of the line-up and to provide the music for the night, to give a much stronger sense of the personality of the bands involved”.

William Henry Miller, Jonnie Common, The Bad Books (plus opening party until 1am), 1 August
FOUND, Adam Stafford & Mike MacFarlane, 3 August
Plastic Animals, Deathcats & Mad Nurse, 8 August
Sparrow and the Workshop, The Rosy Crucifixion & Siobhan Wilson,  10 August
RM Hubbert, Wounded Knee & Lidh, 17 August
The Leg, Zed Penguin & Numbers are Futile, 22 August
Malcolm Middelton, Ian Humberstone & Now Wakes the Sea (plus Papi Falso til late), 24 August
Rob St. John, Hanna Tuulikki & David Orphan (DJ set), 29 August
eagleowl, Rachel Lancaster & Nap Sholty, 31 August

More info: All advance tickets, including season ticket. | Facebook events.

Doogie Paul Memorial Concert

As well as his Queen’s Hall show King Creosote  also appear at The Music Hall on August 8 as part of the Assembly Rooms Fringe for a special memorial concert for Doogie Paul, one of Scotland’s finest bass players who was best known for his work with James Yorkston and The Athletes. Also playing at that event will be Mogwai,  Alasdair RobertsKathyrn Williams and James Yorkston, and Ian Rankin will also make an appearance.

More info: