Updated: Aug 19, 2021
It was a big day in Scotland as gigs returned - Julia Mason was down the front to bear witness
So this was it. After 18 months and literally thousands of miles covered going to gigs in England, the day had dawned when I could finally go to a gig in my home country. And what a special occasion it was too. Edinburgh band swim school supported by Midnight Ambulance in the Big Top at North Berwick as part of the Fringe By The Sea festival. And it was as if the Gig Gods had a chat with the Weather Gods and requested that the thunder and lightning forecast could be cancelled and the sun could please shine instead. We have to remember that these are the first outings for the venues, the technicians, bar staff as well as the bands and ourselves. Patience and empathy are the required responses, followed by the outpouring of emotion for live music after all this time. The Big Top was open at the sides and it was a huge stage for these bands to play on but both embraced it fully, hugely appreciative of the crowd who had come out to see them on this glorious Sunday afternoon.
First up were Midnight Ambulance. Fraser and Amelia walked onstage and he started playing the coolest guitar I have ever seen while she sang. The guitar had synth pads so it added beats to the track. But then things got even cooler. Another guitarist and a keyboard player joined them onstage and Amelie got behind the drums. She continued to be the lead singer and drummer for the 4-piece.
I counted numerous guitar changes for Fraser, who is a North Berwick local and most of the songs were written here. The music was indie rock with Amelia’s drumming dominating some of the tracks, whilst the addition of cowbells is never a bad idea! Someone Else’s House reminded me of Siouxsie and the Banshees with that distinct vocal and pounding drums. When they announced this was their first ever gig I simply couldn’t believe it. They have already had 6 Music airplay for current single 5am which finished their six track set.
Edinburgh’s swim school are fresh from playing at Latitude Festival but this is their first Scottish gig in nearly two years. They opened with See Red which just rocked the place - hardly surprising with three guitarists upfront. Lead singer Alice Johnson was clearly delighted to be back onstage in Scotland and it is quite a week for the band as their debut EP Making Sense of it All is due for release on Friday. Previous singles let me inside your head, anyway, too young to know and outside were all played to a crowd which danced more and more as the set progressed, to the obvious delight of the band. Alice is joined in swim school by Lewis (guitar), Matt (bass) and Billy (drums) and the 4-piece are tight and exuberant.
The band were on the brink of a hugely successful 2020 when the world took a horrific turn, but they are catching the eye of many and with their mix of anthemic grunge plus hook-laden indie pop they are certainly picking up where they left off.
With a headline gig at King Tuts in Glasgow on Saturday 21 August, it was a privilege to see swim school at such a unique venue.
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