Hidden Door Opening Party, Granton Gasworks, Edinburgh *****
“The world got deleted, and now we're all back and we know none of its real,” said Johnny Lynch, aka Pictish Trail, his words belying his typically cheery, big-bearded, boiler-suited demeanour. “And now it's just us, stuck in this dystopian car park forever.”
If this was really where we were to spend the rest of our days, it didn’t seem so bad. Once again, Hidden Door have done a quite incredible job of transforming a disused industrial corner of Edinburgh into a stunning, temporary multi-arts venue.
The 2021 version of Hidden Door is actually taking place at two sites, both planned with Covid compliance measures built-in. At the end of the beachfront promenade to Cramond, a large disused warehouse contains art and bespoke performance spaces, while a little way along the road – in a desolate no-person’s-land between Granton and Silverknowes, but one which is earmarked for development in the long-term – the overgrown, scrubby car park described by Lynch has a smart, two-tier arrangement of back-to-back stages, which hosted a tag team of artists through the festival’s opening night.
On the smaller South Stage, Leith’s Callum Easter played a multi-instrumental solo set of remarkable ingenuity and musical variety, while Tiberius b played a solo set of sparse, dislocated compositions on electric guitar, their cover of Portishead’s The Rip showcasing their vocal similarity to Beth Gibbons.
As sun set, the illumination of the North Stage set against the glowing Granton Gasworks created a stunning scene, a post-industrial analogue of the Ross Bandstand against Edinburgh Castle. Hamish Hawk, Edinburgh’s most exciting artist of 2021, delivered a set worthy of TRNSMT’s main stage, building from measured indie with a vocal style somewhere between Alex Kapranos and Neil Hannon, to proper, Killers-style synth-pop anthems to close.
Finally, Pictish Trail’s band played as headlinersto a big, festival-style crowd, and he evidently relished the opportunity to finally play songs from his more measured and subdued new album Thumb World, touring plans for which were shredded by Covid. With the boiling electro-acoustic crescendo of Fear Anchor and the club anthemics of Browbeaten, he caught the mood of Hidden Door’s very welcome return.
Hidden Door continues until 19 September, see www.hiddendoorarts.org
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