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Feeling the love for independent music venues

ByVerity Loughlin

Feb 21, 2017

Last week music lovers all over the UK took part in Independent Venue Week, celebrating small music venues across the nation.

Independent Venue Week aims to highlight the importance of smaller venues in facilitating a strong arts and music scene within towns and cities. By working with Arts Council England, Independent Venue Week brings together small venues as well as breaking and establishing artists, promoters, labels, and bloggers to create a nationwide series of gigs at the end of January. Previously, artists such as Honeyblood, C Duncan and Admiral Fallow have performed in Edinburgh during this week, and have gone on to play major festivals and support larger acts.

Venues such as Sneaky Pete’s, Electric Circus, La Belle Angele, Leith Depot and The Mash House all held amazing gigs throughout the week. Sneaky Pete’s even held their first over-fourteens gig, which featured performances by upcoming indie rock and shoe gaze bands such as Brainglue, Wylde and The Van T’s. When talking to some of the younger gig goers they expressed how refreshing it was to be able to go to more gigs locally rather travel to other cities to see live music . Hopefully IVW will inspire more local  venues to cater to a younger audience.

Edinburgh has often been criticised for the city’s lack of live music spaces compared to its Glaswegian counterpart. However, Indepent Venue Week  has proved that there is a growing and thriving music scene within the city.

Inspired by Independent Venue Week, The Student has compiled a guide to the best music venues that Edinburgh has to offer:

The Mash House By Rachel Alice Johnson

The Mash House is essentially an arts hub of creativity; where the social space of a bar and club also functions as a live music venue and home of art classes and unique clubs. Located on Cowgate, the Mash House takes inspiration from the lofts of New York, offering a unique atmosphere and a contemporary space for those hunting for a contrast of industrialised architecture in Edinburgh. The main venue and bar room alone offers a mighty 300 capacity, along with two floors above each providing a 100 capacity space. Featuring a vibrant, nightly selection of new bands and performers, the venue is definitely a top pick for Edinburgh’s thriving live music scene.

Sneaky Pete’s By Ross Devlin

Sneaky Pete’s is the hardest partying hobbit hole in Edinburgh. It is a dynamic, intimate club and the only one where you can dance on the stage while the DJ mixes on the dancefloor. You can catch a diverse selection of new music every weekday, from local bands to big name producers like Ryan Hemsworth and Daniel Avery, to new, obscure acts like Palmbomen II. The venue is the size of a living room, but it positively thrives, and artists come from all over the world to experience the crowd. People do not go to Sneaky Pete’s to be seen dressed up, or to try and pull, or because it is where all the other Freshers are, or because they want to seem cool, or because there is a photographer (there isn’t). They go to have a great time, and that is the only requirement to get in.

Leith Depot By Marissa Field

In a room above a pub, Leith is developing a local cultural scene quite unlike what you will typically find in the centre of town. The pub downstairs is clean and new, entering its second year on Leith Walk. The venue room above is cozier and more welcoming than most venues; it feels a bit like your mum’s living room plus candlesticks and a tiny disco ball. The venue draws quirky local acts and a wide range of musical styles, always of quality and always for cheap.

What Leith Depot does not have is an actual stage; it is more of a corner with speakers, rather than a dancefloor with fancy lighting, but I have had more fun at gigs here than anywhere else in town. Despite sparse amenities, they pack in the locals almost every night for a different show or benefit or club night. The Depot is becoming a real local hotspot. With a full bar downstairs, mini-bar upstairs, amazing pub food and Sunday film screenings, I don’t really know why you would not try it.

Electric Circus By Alasdair Flett

Situated adjacent to the Fruitmarket Gallery, Electric Circus has had a remarkable impact on the scene despite its relative newcomer status, having opened as recently as 2009. As a music venue it has played host to many up-and-coming bands, with its intimate setting providing performers with the chance to really get to know their audience and gauge an immediate reaction to their sound. The stage’s low elevation invites intimacy and a feeling of directness otherwise hard to come by; the border between spectator and songsmith becomes blurred as the musicians mingle with the crowd during their technical set-up. Sadly, Electric Circus is set to close its doors in the near future as the neighbouring gallery expands its exhibition space into the premises.  One always feels among friends here, with the venue cultivating a congenial atmosphere that serves as an essential prerequisite for many a good night. Its loss will be sorely lamented.

Summerhall By Rebekka Yallop

Summerhall is an arts venue home to installations, theatre, festivals and is now one of Edinburgh’s key music venues. Formerly the Royal Dick Veterinary School, Summerhall is now home to Nothing Ever Happens Here (NEHH), a regular night of live music which features an eclectic range of established and upcoming musicians with a focus on Scottish artists. Concerts take place in the Dissection Room, a unique space which allows a visceral  experience of live performance. Recent artists that have performed at NEHH include Girl Band, Goat Girl, Tisso Lake and Sarah Neufeld. NEHH also includes one-off events such as its upcoming Mardi Gras Party, as well as album launches and collaborations. Summerhall has further live music events such as its weekly Folk Club, ceilidh dances and occasional club nights, with more events being added all the time which can be found on the website or by visiting the box office.

La Belle Angèle By Paige Mullins

La Belle Angèle was originally formed in the early 90s and for over a decade stood at the forefront of underground art, music and clubbing culture until it was famously destroyed in the Cowgate fire on Dec 8, 2002. 12 years later the institution that once hosted live performances by the likes of Oasis, Radiohead and The Libertines, not to mention being home to ground-breaking club nights such as Manga and Ultragroove was finally rebuilt and La Belle Angèle has returned. La Belle Angèle hosts many varied nights, from having local acts on the stage including wecamefromwolves, Academy Strangers, Donnie Willow, The Carvelles and many more, to the bigger acts such as Twin Atlantic, Alien Ant Farm, The Xcerts and Admiral Fallow. The club nights range from techno to drum and bass to old school 80s nights. If you are ready for a night you will never forget, head down to La Belle Angèle for a great time full of live entertainment, great tunes and a very well stocked bar. They bring in top-notch entertainers, so you are sure to see an amazing show almost any night of the week. La Belle Angele’s fun atmosphere and good vibes guarantee you will have a fantastic evening.

By Verity Loughlin

Music Editor

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