Edinburgh’s Hogmanay review: First Footin’, various venues, Edinburgh

The return of Edinburgh’s New Year’s Day concert crawl offered a feast of introductions to new music and unusual concert spaces, writes David Pollock

First Footin’, various venues, Edinburgh ****

One of the most missed aspects of Edinburgh’s Hogmanay in recent years has been the Scot:Lands free concert crawl series around the city on New Year’s Day. One early bit of good news in 2023, then, was that the return of Unique and Assembly as the celebration’s organisers saw the event reinstated as First Footin’.

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Across three afternoon hours, in 13 city centre venues, 25 bands and singers played 36 sets. Such a wealth of young Scottish artists meant it was impossible to get around all of them in the time available, which meant sadly missing such delights as harpist Dara Watson in the no-doubt perfect surroundings of the Scottish National Galleries’ Scottish Café, or the compact crawl around Rose Street and George Street, with Shears, Lariats, Brodie Barclay and Michael McGovern each playing a different pub.

Katie Gregson-MacLeod

Elsewhere waverley. (punctuation the artist’s own) played as an acoustic duo on piano and guitar in the Rainy Hall of the Assembly Hall on the Mound, and traditional folk group the High Rolling Sessions blended well with the pub bustle of the Grassmarket’s Black Bull. The Greyfriars Kirk bill was perfectly choreographed to emphasise the church acoustics, including Withered Hand, the striking gospel singing tone of Nigerian-Scots Afrobeats artist Emma Aikamhenze, aka AiiTee, and breakthrough singer-songwriter Katie Gregson-MacLeod, whose viral hit Complex topped a stunning acoustic set which made her many new fans.

The new Virgin Hotel on the Cowgate revealed itself as an impressive live venue, both in its Eve bar’s back room, where singer-songwriters Siobhan Wilson, Annie Booth and Lizzie Reid all played alongside Billy Got Waves, who fuses hip hop with mature pop songwriting, and in the church-like main hall, whose perfect acoustics enhanced a solo electric set from Honeyblood’s Stina Marie Claire and young Edinburgh rock group Swim School.

Along at Cold Town Hall, meanwhile, the day’s biggest draw and only ticketed (and sold out) show saw Callum Beattie play his own anthemic Tears in My Eyes, Bowie’s Heroes and more in the corner of a packed bar, a pub show with concert hall quality. All in all, a feast of introductions to new music and unusual concert spaces.

Withered Hand