23 September 2012

EH1 Live - Review

EH1 Live - Review

When I got asked if I fancied covering this one day event in Edinburgh I really didn't have to think very hard. On the face of it a good line-up of unsigned acts and it was taking place across one day and in five Edinburgh venues I knew well. Easy decision.

So, off the nation's capital I go and decide to head for Electric Circus first. The Machine Room are due on and I figure that's as good a place to start my Sunday afternoon as any. Even though I've said one of my reasons for not having to think too hard over covering this event was the line-up, I'm still very surprised when I get into Electric Circus and the venue is rammed. I've been here for many a good gig that was a lot less well attended. It's great the venue is busy though as The Machine Room kick off my EH1 Live with a really good set. There's a nice buzz from the audience and I spot three members of The Phantom Band in for the show. They kick off with little preamble and catch a few folk unawares, me included. The rhythm section are sounding good and by song number two there are hand claps. At times they channel Orange Juice and for an indie pop band that's not a bad thing. There's nice variety with the band switching between three guitars and two guitars/keyboard and bar one very minor sound issue and some mild confusion over when their set is supposed to end, it's very enjoyable and a good upbeat way to start a Sunday afternoon.

A quick glance at the running order and I pick Modern Faces as the next band to see. This is really only based of my vague memory of someone talking about them in the past and the fact that their name sounds like they are a Mod band. We all like reliving our youth right? I get up to Liquid Rooms, which is Madisons Stage today, and spotting a queue inside the door I wander in. The doorman clearly didn't like this as he demands a ticket from me so I show him my ticket and wristband. Naturally he has to growl at me and generally behave like a moron as he tells me he needs the ticket. Imagine me thinking a queue at the box office window in the venue was where I should go. Anyway, idiot on the door aside, I get down into the venue and find a good crowd here also. The PA is blasting out Oasis and The Charlatans and I fear I may have miscalculated. The band are about 15 minutes late in getting on stage and I can see that they are all young lads dressed like casuals or Oasis members (which is essentially the same thing I'd say). They proceed to sound check for another ten minutes and I'm getting restless. Once they do get started I quickly realise it's Oasis-lite. Through the overuse of the strobe lights, the band go about their business well. They are a tight outfit and the sound is pretty good. It's just not what I really want to hear. I came hoping for some Hammond infused, sixties inspired music but instead I'm getting a hybrid of Britpop and Dad Rock. There are plenty of people enjoying it though. Some, arms aloft, are singing along while the band swagger around the stage. It's just me that doesn't like it so I head for the exit a little disappointed.

I'm back at Electric Circus (thankfully all the venues being used are pretty close together so it takes minutes to get between them). Next on are Glasgow band John Wean. The venue is a little quieter that it was before, but with so much on offer this is bound to happen. The band kick off wit a big, brash opening. The bass guitar sounds really good and once the first song is out of the way, the singer decides to tell everyone that they are from Glasgow - "the real capital". I like his attitude and find it quite funny, especially as they follow it up with a song about Glasgow and "something close to their hearts", teenage pregnancy. The sound is a little messy around the edges at times, but that makes things much more interesting in my book. Who wants a completely polished sound? If you said yes, away and see Coldplay. This is good, honest indie-rock and in the same way Kid Canaveral approach things, these guys deliver it with a wry smile and twinkle in their collective eye. Towards the end they play a song called 'Pure' (I think that was it's name) and said they had been playing it since they were 15. you could tell as it was a much more confident sound from the band. They play a couple more and on the final three they sounded like they'd hit their groove with special mention to the drummer on the final track. Fantastic throughout, but he nailed the last one.

Next port of call is Bannerman's, located on the Cowgate. The band I'm here to see, Caravan Club, are completely unknown to me. I've just randomly picked them from who's on at the moment and we'll see what happens. Bannerman's is basically a pub that has one of Edinburgh's caverns attached to it, where they put on bands. It's so dark I can barely make out the people gathered but there are a few. The place is dark and dank and smells of sweat. I find a corner and settle in. The band appear and begin their sound check. Already I see a trumpet and an electric violin. Worrying times ahead. Again, the band are running well beyond their advertised start time which is odd given I'm now in a different venue, but it would seem there's not enough time between advertised set times for bands to change over and get prepared. This could impact seeing bands later on. They eventually get started and the opening number is very good. The guitar sound is excellent and has an alt-rock feel to it. There's the violin, which actually sounds pretty good, and two guitars, with drums backing them. It really needs a bass though to counter the other stringed instruments. I'm just finishing the thought when the song finishes and the lead singer informs us that they are down a singer and bass player tonight. I feel a bit guilty, but at least there's a real reason for the omission. From there on, the band do a great job of filling the bass void. The drums are louder and the lead guitar seems to lead on his top notes and while not covering the missing bass completely, it certainly goes some way to doing it. When the trumpet is used, it sounds great in the cavern, echoing off the walls. I'm more and more impressed with these guys as they go on. There are some really strong songs in there, along with a few more uptempo numbers. Probably the band of the day so far. Hopefully I can catch them when they have that bass guitar.

Next on my list is Selective Service (and NOT Select Service as I keep calling them in my head and in my notes). They're playing in Cabaret Voltaire, which just so happens to be about a minutes walk from Bannerman's. Again, I arrive just before the advertised start time to find that Davey Horne. Cabaret Voltaire is hosting the Tenement TV Stage, which was also present at this years Doune the Rabbit Hole festival which our very own Boab covered in two parts, here and here. I was also there (covering it for someone else but don't mention that) and went to see Selective Service at the Tenement TV Stage. I thought they were excellent and was really looking forward to seeing them again. Sun Kil Moon wins the "Best PA Music of the Day Award" (he was unavailable for comment). After the now obligatory 20 minute delay the band get going in front of a modest crowd. The keyboard plays a very prominent role on their sound, which it has to be sound, is fantastic. The frontman is no slouch. Like a young Martin Shaw he looks straight out of an episode of The Professionals. The band remind me a little of Dr Feelgood and the Hammond laced sound, backed by a great rhythm section is exceptional. There's hint of Mod, Garage, Northern Soul, Psychadelia and all mixed up beautifully. There's an assured confidence to these guys that I really admire. They behave like there are thousands here and their only role in life is to make sure we're bown away. Job done, I'd say. Second to last song 'Show What You're Made Of' was a great example. Drums driving the song forward at breakneck speed and dragging the crowd along with it. Brilliant stuff and enough to topple Caravan Club as the band of the day for me.

My next band will be my last band. Having a young daughter and a job to go to means an early start, so I'll leave the late shift that runs until 2am at Whistle Binkies to the youngsters. Liquid Rooms and The Phantom Band are my final destination. I manage to get in with only the mildest of scowls from the doorman. I get downstairs to find the place jam packed. The OK Social Club are finishing up their set so I see a couple of pretty decent songs. I had hoped to see more but the accumulation of delays has meant I've missed almost all their set. So, after the 20 minute delay (don't want to overdo this but how can it happen at every venue I've been in?) we're off and running. My previous time with these chaps live was in a big field and they sounded epic. I'm hoping for my head to be blown off in a smaller, enclosed space. The venue is quieter now, but I'd guess 8% of the audience are photographers, judging by the amount of backpack wearing people scurrying around snapping picures down at the stage. The band are sounding brilliant. Rick prowls the stage, bellowing his vocals and staring at the audience from his pulpit on the stage like some mad reformation preacher from days gone by. The fact there are six of them in the band, with keys/synths, up to three guitars, bass and a drummer who seems to want to kill his kit violently gives them a big sound. 'Folk Song Oblivion' sounds mighty in this room. There's even a forward roll from Rick as a song ends. All in all it's the perfect end to the day. The Phantom Band lived up to my expectations and in all honesty exceeded them. They were the icing on a particularly good cake. The lateness at various venues was a minor quibble, but all in all it was a really great day with lots of great music.


  1. Anonymous23/9/12

    you are too old too stupid and talk about Edinburgh like it's somewhere nobody has ever been? Another bout of terrible journalism like the Doune festival review.
    You are so scared of the dark! pathetic

  2. I like it when someone who struggles to grasp the very basics of the English language critiques a writer's journalistic abilities ;)