June 8, 2016
The final day of Hidden Door 2016 sees us all fighting back the tears. For nine days we’ve celebrated the hard work and imagination of Scotland’s artists, theatre makers and songwriters, and been visited by shiny talents from all over the world. But before the fest’s incredible volunteers hang up their hi-vis, we’ve still got 11 hours of creative culture to feast upon. As Rihanna once (almost) said, “please don’t stop the music, magic or site-specific artwork.”
Saturday afternoon finds the courtyard in a hive of activity; everyone’s making the the most of the food trucks, tasty bevs and the interactive installations before they vanish (sob). We kick off our final evening with thirty minutes in the Peely Theatre, watching Charlotte Hastings’ production of On The Box. Hosted by two likely-looking sideshow entertainers, all ruffs and scruffy waistcoats, we’re encouraged to draw comparisons between the grotesque entertainment of a Victorian freak show and our questionable, modern day telly habits. Slightly stilted audience interaction leads to us accidentally planning a new reality TV show – “We’d watch that!” our hosts respond, encouragingly.”Yeah, that would sell.” A montage of clips ranging from Jeremy Kyle to Sex Box hammers home their historical case-study of entertainment that takes advantage of our gross, exploitative curiosities. “And after this, you can evaluate our worth in 140 characters!” they beam. Wuh-oh.
Next up, we take it inside the box… the Edinburgh International Magic Festival (yep, a festival of MAGIC) brought their mysterious, magical Black Box to Kings’ Stables Road. The system was this: If you’re lucky enough to blag a ticket, you head inside the box for five minutes, watch some magic occur under your own damn nose, and then you pass your ticket on to whoever you like – but you can’t spill the (magic) beans on what you saw. So, unhelpfully, I can only tell you that we saw some excellent magic. Other than that, my lips are sealed.
The last night line-up in the Long Room is as diverse as ever. Kate Stables’ bluesy, folksy band This is The Kit feels born for Hidden Door 2016 – and she’s delighted to be with us, too. She enthuses, “I keep harping on, but this is such a great festival…” – yup. Combining incredible, wild harmonies, heavy bass, banjo hooks and sea shanty melancholia, This is The Kit knock it out of the park; a rowdy Saturday night crowd are transfixed by the rolling balladry of songs like Silver John, Misunderstanding and Cold and Got Colder – all from the band’s third album Bashed Out. The record was produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner and it’s gorgeous, but there’s an extra magic in watching the band piece together their layered vocals and measured, emotional melodies. Stables’ casual, confident chat wins approving laughter from the Long Room and the band receives rousing, riveted applause.
Our final night’s headliner is legendary producer Luke Abbott – the man behind as many breezy, summery electronic tunes as he is subterranean bangers, and was probably backstage on a ton of your favourite records and remixes, too. Abbott takes to the stage under some truly baffling lights in the Long Room at exactly 10pm. Green, spidery beams trace lines upon the stage as a half-ton of dry ice clouds out from behind the desk; we’ve seen a lot of wizardry at Hidden Door 2016, but Abbott’s entrance tops the lot. It takes him about 60 seconds to shake off the cozy warmth of the bands before him, and turn the Long Room into a seething pit of jabby elbows and pointed fingers. A bloke next to us loses his goddamn mind, swinging his rucksack into everyone near him with wild abandon. The crowd ‘oooohs’ in anticipation of a drop, but Abbott hangs on, taking his time, planning each build with precision. He cuts off an ominously deep, techno tinged run to take a quick breath, and then sets up the familiar beats of Brazil, from his 2010 album Holkham Drones. For four more minutes, the crowd bounces… and then roars for more as he attempts to leave the stage. Cracking a grin, he takes a bow and then mashes his maze of wires one more time.
A sweaty, satisfied audience eventually piles out of the Long Room, swarming towards the bars for a final pint. There’s an afterparty on the Cowgate, but no-one’s keen to abandon the courtyard just yet. Last orders are called, and, gradually, the lights switch off at the Electric City. See you next year, Hidden Door. It’s been a blast.