I made my way to Edinburgh in a slightly dishevelled and hungover state last Sunday morning. A Friday evening spent in the regalia of The Dictator in Stirling was followed by a Saturday night in Shettleston dressed as a cowboy (brave I know). The promise of a day of live music in the capital including two of my favourite Scottish bands in Broken Records and Meursault was however enough to drag me out of my comfy warm Glaswegian bed.
So it was an early train and then to the courtyard of The Three Sisters just after midday to climb aboard their old double decker bus and pick up my wristband for the day’s festivities. Anyone who knows me knows I love a festival wristband, as I type I’ve got seven on ranging back to Connect 2008 via several Glastonbury’s and Benicassim (stop looking at me like that, they get washed when I do). Anyway a new shiny blue Haddow Fest one was a nice unexpected addition to my collection.
This was the third year that the festival had taken over the streets and venues of Edinburgh for a solitary day of stellar live music. The festivals strongest line-up to date saw over forty bands play across six stages in the heart of the city. This year Haddow Fest showcased not only a wealth of homegrown talent but also bands that had ventured from further afield, including the HMV Picturehouse headliners those lovable rogues from Wakefield The Cribs.
Still having an hour before Broken Records were due to open the festival at Whistle Binkies I decided to make a minor detour to Victoria Street to refuel my hungover body at the amazing new Hog Roast shop Oink. Although I felt a bit weird asking the girl behind the counter for an Oink, the pulled pork roll I got in return was just what the God of hangovers demanded and set me up perfectly for the day of music (and pints) ahead.
Broken Records – Whistle Binkies
Walking into the dark surroundings of Whistle Binkies just after one o’clock and sipping gingerly on my first pint of the day I stood at the bar and watched Broken Records run through a wee soundcheck blocked by the mighty Great Wall of China like barrier of 6 bar stools. Before taking to the stage lead singer Jamie Sutherland came across to collect a big case of water from the bar. Whether this was to help with their collective hangovers or just to make sure they had something to sip onstage I’m not sure, but given his offering of “It’s really early on a Sunday, fucking hell” during the gig I suspect it might have been the former.
After the dismantling of the Berlin wall of bar stools those of us who had ventured out early sidled down towards the stage. Jamie welcomed us with a “hello, welcome to Haddow Fest, we’re broken records” before launching straight into a new song which was full of driving drums and swelling keys, that built to shouts of “Can you hear us now” and “Won’t you please be here tonight”. Jamie was as ever talkative throughout the set building up a good rapport with the crowd. He ushered us to move into the space that was still between the audience and the stage saying “feel free to come forward I don’t think we smell that bad, although I’m not entirely sure”.
After a second new song which showed the slightly slower delicate side of the band the banter continued as Jamie asked us “Did you enjoy your extra hour in bed?” to which a member of the crowd responded “I won’t tell you what I did”, Jamie’s repost of “Scratching your arse and watching match of the day 2″ was met with a “that’s on tonight” to which Jamie conceded “Well that’s shite banter then isn’t it”.
The first sign of older material came from the anthemic toe tapping “A Darkness Rises Up” from sophomore album Let Me Come Home and it sounded as immediate and epic as ever. Referring back to the space that still separated band and crowd Jamie offered prizes for the best dancers on the “dancefloor”, however I think the early hour coupled with not enough time for liquid courage to sink in meant no one took him up on the offer.(maybe if they had played “A Good Reason” I might have contemplated it)
A mournful solemn version of “A Warning” from the “Out On The Water EP” followed on with Jamie introducing it by saying “this is a song to all the gentlemen out there, it’s our version of Cat Stevens father and son”. This time no pause was taken as Rory’s Violin hummed and built ominously before the drumming of “A Leaving Song” kicked in and a Jamie’s scream of “I wanna feel alive” tore through the venue. “Modern Worksong” kept up the pace and received a hearty round applause from everyone assembled under the low ceilings of Whistle Binkies. Jamie’s sincere thank you’s and ear to ear smiles after each song really lit up the venue and highlighted just how much the band must enjoy playing together for an appreciative audience.
Before a run of four new songs in quick succession Jamie explained “We’ve been trying out a bunch of new songs for our new record which is out next year”. The first of those saw violinist Rory take up the role of second drummer to which his brother joked “may or may not be a good idea, just to heap the pressure on.” The double military drumming added another dimension to the already textured Broken Records sound and I for one felt privileged to be part of “only the second crowd to ever hear it”.
The next new number started with full band hand claps that lasted a good couple of minutes into the song. “Nothing Doubtful” followed on complete with trumpet intro and furious guitar bowing, culminating with Jamie saying “thank you very much, alright we’re on the home straight” with a big grin on his face.
That home straight was then driven with two Broken Records live classics back to back. Jamie started singing “I’m dreaming a dream, gotta keep the fire burning” which is a section of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dream Baby Dream” before sliding seamlessly into their self confessed “Springsteen” song “You Know You’re Not Dead”. The set came to a clattering close as it so often used to open with the swelling intro of “Nearly Home”, anyone who has seen Broken Records live before will know you stand there transfixed waiting for that bit of violin to kick in, you know the bit I mean and then just let the song wash over you. With a “We’ve been broken records enjoy the rest of your festival” they left the stage to an enthusiastic round of applause from those of us who made it down early enough to see one of Edinburgh’s finest live bands, the eleven month wait was worth it.
I left Whistle Binkies and turned right for the tiny one minute or so walk to The Caves where I planned to stay for the remainder of the afternoon. The Caves is a gorgeous little venue steeped in character with its exposed brickwork, high vaulted decorated ceilings and candlelight. One would also imagine more than one ghost (if you believe in that sort of thing) walks the room after dark, alright Halloween must be rubbing off on me, enough of that.
The Gold Lions – The Caves
First on stage after my arrival were Edinburgh two piece The Gold Lions, who clearly love blues rock, think of The Black Keys, Jack White and Wolfmother and you’ll get an idea of their sound (alternatively just listen to their soundcloud links below). Guitarist and vocalist Owen Robertson welcomed us by saying “Take a few steps forward we won’t bite” which I thought was a slightly strange statement to come from the mouth of a lion, but anyway his pleas worked and the crowd (with probably very little Christians in it) Inched closer to the lion’s den. The first thing you are hit by about the band is that they make some bloody racket for two unassuming looking guys.
Owen’s vocals shifted from Jack White’s nasal drone to Devendra Banhart style vocal rolls on songs such as “Sleeping With The Enemy” and “Elsie’s House” while his guitar work was excellent and blended perfectly with Rupert Lee’s primal stickmanship. Finishing their extremely well received short sharp five song set with “Cause And Effect” the lead singer thanked us for coming out saying it meant a lot and that we could see them “playing somewhere soon”. Thankfully he was helped out by his drummer with some more details of the show which is at the Cabaret Voltaire on the 17th of November. Someone next to me in the crowd made a comment after their set had finished that the drummer left every inch of himself on the stage at the end of the last song. To be honest that summed it up perfectly, the hard hitting, hard rocking duo definitely left a lasting impression on everyone inside The Caves.
Look out for part two of the Haddow Fest review coming your way in the next couple of days……….