Music review: The Great Eastern, various venues, Edinburgh

The Great Eastern Festival was an opportunity to hear a diverse range of music in some distinctive settings, writes David Pollock

Sacred Paws
Sacred Paws

The Great Eastern, various venues, Edinburgh ****

Founded in late autumn 2019 and back for a delayed return earlier this month, one-day, multi-venue music festival the Great Western makes a feature of its setting around the venues of Glasgow’s Great Western Road. Last weekend, for the first time, promoters 432 decamped to the Southside of Edinburgh for the perfectly-renamed Great Eastern sister festival.

To call this iteration a multi-venue festival was accurate, but maybe pushing it a bit. The largest halls hosting shows through the evening included the Queen’s Hall on Clerk Street, which welcomed Tracyanne & Danny (side-project of Tracyanne Campbell from Camera Obscura) and Beak>. The latter is Geoff Barrow of Portishead’s current ongoing concern, and the trio’s noisy and very analogue brand of space-rock was a cataclysmic synthesis of Neu! and Hawkwind, just perfect for this old church hall.

An equally serviceable but little-seen venue is just across the road, and the chance to see gigs in the King’s Hall – a similar space to the Queen’s Hall – was a real treat, among them Edinburgh’s own Broken Records and Sunderland’s eternally underrated Field Music, who mixed songs from this year’s eighth album Flat White Moon with a captivatingly diverse repertoire.

There were four other rooms in use but, thanks to the wonder of the nearby multi-space venue Summerhall and their in-house promoters Nothing Ever Happens Here, they were all in the same place. Amid this atmospheric Victorian maze could be found poetry readings, Margate’s BABii performing a set of off-the-wall electronic pop while standing on a table twirling a cheerleader’s streamer, Yorkshire-formed prog-punks Deadletter playing to a rammed bar, and much more.

Singer Anne B Savage shed a tear in the afternoon for the late Stephen Sondheim as a packed hell hung on her unearthly voice and gently reverberating solo electric guitar, and Rachel Aggs of de facto late-night headliners Sacred Paws (sadly Free Love and Romeo Taylor both had to cancel) told her crowd that “this has really lifted my spirits” after a typically joyful set. Throughout the day, the feeling had been mutual.

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