Christmas spirit abounded at the Portobello Town Hall in Edinburgh, 12 days before Christmas. Buckfast may not be a traditional Christmas beverage but it seemed to be going down well on stage for the fifth annual festive gathering of Kid Canaveral and their friends.
Kick off time was 2pm – we arrived around half-past, after driving down from Aberdeen and checking into our hotel. Things were in full swing by then, with the first band, The Spook School, already playing their hearts out.
We had a quick chat with Rose Canaveral, on the door about photographer protocol, donned wristbands and hit the hall to grab some shots of the band before their set ended. An unusual indie pop band – with three young folk up front and a more mature chap (I thought) on drums who seemed to be the spokesperson for the band.
One of the songs they played was commenting on the idea of gender and how it is considered black or white when there are actually shades of grey between for some. I suppose, having a transgender member makes them something of an expert in the issue of gender not being a fixed state for all.
During the band changeover, we explored the venue – upstairs there were the balcony seats and a room where the merch stand and a photo booth area were set up. Down in the main hall was the bar and a DJ who filled in the space between bands. Some purchases were made – a pink heart shaped vinyl version of ‘Who Would Want to be Loved’ for me and a ‘Clumsy Knot’ CD/booklet for G.
Next on stage was Synaesthete – aka Sarah Tanat-Jones – who works by layering and looping vocals, percussion and synth to create a big noise – with a strong beat that gets the body twitching and the feet stomping. Check her out on Soundcloud – ‘The Beat’ is one that really stuck in my head.
The bouncy Randolph’s Leap were up next. I first saw them when they played The Tunnels in Aberdeen with Kid Canaveral earlier in the year. Always good for a dance – Adam has such a cheeky grin and likes to keep the rest of the band (all seven of them) on their toes – as we saw when he got the songs in the wrong order and they had to go back and do the one he missed. Sadly time was running over so they never got to do their version of ‘Last Christmas’ at the end, however you can catch it here if you like.
Then came Paws – a lively pop/punk/rock trio that I first saw at Belladrum last year, and again at Bella this year. They’ve been touring madly this year, all over Europe and America. Their very lively bass player had a strap malfunction part way through one song leading to some good photo ops for us although it probably made his life more difficult and took the bounce out of him for a bit.
Post Paws, there is a dinner break scheduled, so we head out into the darkness to find food. There’s a plethora of fast food outlets or pubs to choose from in the vicinity, so we hit the pub next door and had what would have been an amusing session, had we not been so hungry, with a chap who informed us (very quietly) that just about whatever we decided to order was finished.
Unfortunately we (well, I) missed the, much mentioned online, fudge doughnuts. I was very sad about this, especially as I could still smell them in the air when we were hunting for them. Oh well, on with the show.
I wasn’t too sure about this next act. I’d heard of The Pictish Trail of course, but wasn’t really in the mood for acoustic by this point. Still, in we went to take a few shots. However, they drew me in and I enjoyed them. The Welshman, Sweet Baboo (Stephen Black) and the Eigg-man, Pictish Trail (Johnny Lynch) had teamed up in a strange sort of double act – performing their songs alternately. There was an air of wide-eyed fragile innocence to Stephen which contrasted with the bearded, gentle giant-like form of Johnny. Together they had my toe tapping along and they seemed to have a lot of fans in the audience.
A total contrast was to follow with the next band, the hip-hopping Hector Bizerk. In the interval we had come across Louie, of Hector Bizerk – we’ve met him a few times over the last year as various festivals and this time I got an unexpected hug from him. We’d hoped to find him a bit earlier in the evening and do a short interview but there wasn’t enough time at this point. We’ll have to do that another time.
Originally a duo of Louie and Audrey, but they add various folk to the show so there never seems to be the same line-up twice. This evenings’ cast included guitarist (Fraser Sneddon), artist (Pearl Kinnear), and break-dancer (Ibby) who added a new (to me) touch to the show, jumping off the stage and into the crowd at one point.
Kid Canaveral, our indie-pop hosts, were the penultimate act, coming on stage to rousing applause and some good-natured heckling. Sporting a lurid red Christmas shirt (which he promised to burn afterwards) and swigging Buckfast from a bottle, David and the band swung into the opening song, ‘Low Winter Sun’.
He shows us a gift from his girlfriend – and plugs it in, which causes some (speedily remedied) issues with his guitar pedals as it turned out. It’s a Buckfast bottle filled with colourful fairy lights.
Personal favourites of mine, ‘The Wrench’, ‘A Compromise’, ‘Skeletons’, ‘Without a Backing Track’ and the eternally joyful ‘You Only Went Out to Get Drunk Last Night’ all made me a happy soul, singing and bopping away at the back of the room.
There is mention of a new band member – Michael Craig , on keyboards hidden away up the back – he takes over the parts Kate usually plays. Sadly, I found him quite hard to hear at times – especially noticeable on ‘You Only Went Out to Get Drunk Last Night’. Not sure if the mixing was wrong (the drums seemed overly loud too) or if I was just in a bad location. Still, no matter.
Ibibio Sound Machine – a new name to me – were excitedly introduced by David for the finale. A colourful bunch (eight of them in total), they produce a very funky, almost carnival sound, West African beats to get everyone sweaty. Interesting titles such as ‘Voice of the Bird’ and ‘Uwa the Peacock’ get the mind dreaming, in the mix of brass, electric guitar, mixed percussions and electronics. It’s a compelling, dancey beat, and almost impossible to stand still to. A fine way to end the evening.
We tumble out of the hall, hot and hungry – stumbling across the street to the chippy, we see the ‘open’ sign turned over to ‘closed’ as we reach for the door. Darnnit.
Words and pics by Dark Secret.