Now in its second year, Edinburgh’s HaddowFest proved it had come on a bit since last year. Over a hundred bands graced the city’s underground pubs, clubs and some of its well renowned ones.
They went for the big draw this year with Razorlight headlining the Sunday night show, along with a pick of the festival’s most popular bands including, the 10:04’s and Pose Victorious. But avoiding the bigger venues, a mid-afternoon walk around the back of Waverly train station brought you to true legends The Undertones still rocking away and more local talent from The Marvels at new music venue come club, Electric Circus.
It was a daunting task to pick and choose. This is truly a festival that’s rounded up some of Scotland’s and more predominantly Edinburgh’s unknown talents. No matter if you were in the country’s ‘most haunted pub’, The Banshee Labyrinth or the HMV Picturehouse, there was something new and exciting to be discovered. Music ranged from indie to hip hop, heavy metal and even folk with bands such as Stanley Odd, Johnny Foreigner and Broken Records on offer.
My picks of the first day were found in the smaller venues, most notably the Banshee and Electric Circus. Glaswegian singer songwriter, Scott McWatt started the day, setting the standard for everyone who had to follow. His pitch perfect voice is complimented by his innate lyrical talent. He had no need for the microphone, not with a voice that demands all eyes on him.
You couldn’t help but feel a little bit transfixed, especially with his impressively and somewhat individual take on Jay Z’s, 99 Problems which was no mean feat for just a boy and a guitar. Already Scott is coming in to demand, with him travelling straight down to Manchester the same day for another show that night!
Later on Kontroband took to the stage, certainly raising the bar again even if a little disorganised at times their unique form of Blues/Rock was reminiscent of the rock bands of yesteryear. Also hailing from Glasgow though, it seems the West was kicking the Capital’s ass royally today. Some smooth guitar rhythms, complimented by a soulfully gritty voice from lead singer, Guy Hamilton they say they are real rock n’ roll and I won’t argue with that.
A walk down the City’s cobbled streets brought you to fairly new venue Electric Circus which brought me to my final pick of the day, The Marvels. As an Edinburgh based band it was time for some competition for our Western counterparts. This band just exuberate a fun-filled attitude, more pop than real rock n’ roll but don’t sneer, their talent and musical ability were on a par, if not better than bands such as Pigeon Detectives and other popular bands. This is a very together band, who can put on an entertaining show with harmonised vocals, extraordinary piano skills and exactly the right amount of catchiness that should see them through well when they play their biggest gig so far at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall with Johnny Foreigner and Jakil later in the year. Highly impressive, and probably some of the most fun had all weekend.
The next day was an even harder day to follow all that was unfolding around the City. I started the day with a safe choice in The Undertones. The venue was again Electric Circus, with what could only be a 200 capacity venue it was safe to say the place was rammed, a good mix of the young and old turned up. Perhaps like myself had grown up to their dads playing – ‘Teenage Kicks’ or ‘My Cousin Kevin’ full blast in the car on the way to school…or maybe that was just my ‘unique’ upbringing! Starting with their classic ‘Jimmy Jimmy’, their wonderful sense of humour and ageless jump around music made this a gig worth getting up early for. As they embark on a new tour this was the perfect kick start, as soon as they are somewhere near you I do urge you to go see them, they certainly do still have it. Playing through all their hits, I don’t think you can be much disappointed!
Next up on my list was Broken Records, an Edinburgh band who have been much likened to Arcade Fire and who hold the gauntlet for the Edinburgh music scene at the moment. A six-piece collaborative effort, they never fail to impress. A few technical hitches were a problem at the Caves venue but Jamie’s haunting voice rung through just as deep and affecting as ever especially on their track ‘Wolves’. Their range not just vocally but across the array of instruments that include violin, bass, drums, keyboard all contribute in providing an epic sound. After a recent tour of the UK, Europe and America and future performances lined up this Summer including one at Rockness they are sure to continue to make waves with almost overwhelming talent.
For the rest of the night I headed to the HMV PictureHouse to catch the festival’s big gig, Razorlight supported by some up and coming talent from Edinburgh and beyond. Making their debut was Every Day at Ten, headed by Daryl Demarco they strutted about the stage like they had been doing this a long time! They were a confident bunch with a rocker attitude already in the making it seems of which I am sure Edinburgh has not seen the last of.
Also in support were The Matinees, Where’s Strutter, Pose Victorious and the 10:04’s, who set up the night before heading off to play in other venues an hour later – true dedication to the cause! The turn out for the big act of the weekend, Razorlight was a far cry from the days were they could pull of sell-out stadium gigs and with a brand new line-up to the band it was perhaps expected they would fall on their faces, nevertheless they dispelled any chance of that happening with a surprisingly rip-roaring performance.
At times it did feel like they were living on past glories but the crowd were excited and sporting a rather fetching moustache and granddad jumper, Johnny Borrell seemed more than happy to be back on stage with his new band. In fact, they seemed to be enjoying themselves so much, not only was Edinburgh treated to one encore but TWO encores, much to the crowds delight.
This festival can only get bigger and better next year, with all the bands on offer it is a wonderful platform for them to get noticed whether in the big venues or the more cosy ones. My only gripe was that I couldn’t split myself up to enjoy everyone!