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The Stag and Dagger festival comes to Edinburgh

Multi venue music festival in Scotland review - who ya gonna call? Julia Mason!


The format of multi-venue one or two day festivals in cities across the UK has really taken off. Scotland has its own version, the Stag and Dagger. Originally just in Glasgow, it has now expanded to include my hometown Edinburgh over one weekend. Ridiculous value for money, both days are also logistically a joy as the majority of venues are within ten minutes walk of each other. The stress of course comes with the decision-making – who to see where and when, and that inevitable sinking feeling when your favourite bands clash. Here is my report on a music-packed day in the various music venues of Edinburgh’s historic Cowgate. Wristband secured it felt only right that the day should start in Sneaky Petes, Edinburgh’s most beloved of independent venues. With a capacity of just under 100, it fell to Scottish electronic duo Post Coal Prom Queen to opened proceedings. Their self-deprecating humour included being taken aback by the number of people who were in the venue for their 1.50pm slot. Technical problems with their kit were handled beautifully, and their music was a perfect start to the day, and the banter with the crowd setting the relaxed tone for the day.

Strawberry Guy from Liverpool has had an astronomical number of listens on Spotify. He was here with a full band and even though it was a slightly shorter set due to tuning taking a little longer than planned, it was a gentle set and a confident performance. It amazes me how these days run. The technicians and venues do a miraculous job of keeping things moving. Of course stuff happens and for whatever reason bands switch slots, timings change and running orders can be fluid. And so it was with the next band on Sneaky Petes stage. Was this Pale Blue Eyes as per the original schedule? I suspected not at this was definitely heavier than I had listened too. (Yes, sad but true, I did research in advance of the day!) Transpires this was Humour. With very little faffing or chat, they powered through their set. Dominated by thunderous drums, three guitars and twitching post-punk vocals it all flowed smoothly and seamlessly. Transpires this is a local band and definitely one to watch. But the excitement was building for the much-anticipated Gustaf from New York. This was the reason I had hardly shifted from my spot at the front of the stage. Their first time in Scotland the room was buzzing with expectation. The manic energy onstage particularly by lead singer Lydia was infectious. Their music is part punk, part art-house, part funk and completely fabulous. Lydia also played the flute which is unusual in a band of their genre. The interaction with the crowd was joyous and their set flew by. They even name-checked the technicians which was pretty cool. Next up was Legss with their version of post-punk, all simmering energy, switching between loud and quiet with angular guitars and thrashing drums. The industrial sounds filled the room and with a lead singer who is animated and captivating it was a confident performance. Leaving Sneaky Petes the plan had been to go to La Belle Angele to watch Let’s Eat Grandma. This was the biggest capacity venue being used on the day. However there was obviously some problem judging by the size of the queue with just 5 mins before they were due on stage. So I made a snap decision and dashed back to The Bongo Club. En route I bumped into TRAAMS and had a quick chat, another advantage of these events. It is inevitable you will meet the bands milling around too. Inside the venue Mandrake Handshake were creating a wondrous psychedelic ambient sound and the room was dancing in appreciation. I believe I counted 8 in the band and The Bongo Club has the perfect stage for both band and crowd to enjoy the vibes. I made a slight tactical error at this point as I bought a pint before checking the schedule. Yes it had to be downed immediately when I realised that the aforementioned Pale Blue Eyes were about to step onto the stage across the road in Legends. Another wonderful discovery of the day, the trio of two guitars and drums created a dancey light sound and they drew quite a crowd to see them. Also had a lovely chat with the band afterwards. Dancing then shifted to a whole new level with Fake Turins back in The Bongo Club, all 11 of them. This was funky with saxophone, clarinet, cowbells, drums, keyboards and about 4 guitarists plus the ultimate front man. Completely blown away by their sound and another band I hadn’t seen before. This was followed by Baba Ali who recently released a single on Yard Act’s Zen FC label, as well as supporting them on their UK tour. More dancing, this time to electronic dance music, and they kept those beats driving on throughout the whole of their set Quickly nipped back to Legends to see Bad Waitress from Toronto who are currently supporting Gustaf on some of their headline UK tour dates. The 4-piece rocked out and gave it everything in their set. On their first time in Scotland it was great to see some serious appreciation and dancing, in the crowd! I bumped into them on the stairs on the way out of the venue which took me a bit by surprise and I think I yelped at them ‘OMG you were fab!'

TRAAMS were setting up as I got back into The Bongo Club. What a wall of sound they create, perfect for this venue with its low ceiling and wide stage. This was all about letting the music take you away, somehow they manage to make it more expansive and wonderful to see them play in Edinburgh.

Sneaky Petes was full to capacity for their last band of the day, so I missed the opportunity to see Keg – which was absolutely fine. I headed home very happy in the knowledge I was going to Glasgow to do it all again the following day. I had spent the day with a bag full of cereal bars, bumping into friends all and listening to great music. Now when are Early Bird 2023 tickets onsale???


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