May 28, 2016
Charged by people power and dangerous craft beers, Friday night saw the lights switched on for the opening evening of Hidden Door 2016’s Electric City. Thanks to the hard-working hands of the festival’s volunteers, the old street lighting depot behind the Kings Stables Road has been transformed into a neon-lit, industrial wonderland of arts, music, theatre and, most importantly, noodles. For nine days, this diary will walk you through the eerie, curtained entrance to the courtyard and report first hand on the action on the cobblestones; it’s a hard job…
Sacred Paws – the first band to be plugged in on the Long Room’s stage – charmed a handful of interested listeners and transformed them into a filled room of flailing limbs. Madly charismatic guitarist Rachel Aggs and powerhouse drummer Eilidh Rogers warmed a misty Edinburgh evening with star-jumps, huge hooks, anecdotes of a travelling Grandma for San Diego, a track from last year’s Six Songs EP and topped the whole show off with a Dolly Parton cover. “Cold, isn’t it? You could warm up by, you know… dancing?” Aggs suggested. The Long Room agreed.
Michael Kasparis, aka Night School Records’ boss, aka Apostille, was the first act under the Tempest Stage’s maze of LED lights. Between dealing out daft one-liners (“Sorry, I thought I was a Fringe show” got a big laugh) and bludgeoning his excitable audience with abrasive loops and crackly, difficult walls of sound, Kasparis stepped out behind his table to throw shapes just as confrontational. A particularly vigorous move saw him clutch his face; “Just chipped a tooth…?” he mutters, “there’s plenty more where that came from.”
Back in the Long Room, under the fluffy white clouds hanging from the ceiling, there’s a slightly more subtle gig underway. Welsh chamber-pop sensation Meilyr Jones has brought his talented, multi-instrumental four-piece band with him, and they’re spinning his witty, warm-hearted ballads with determination. A chatty crowd proves a tough match for his keys-based, solitary ballads, but Jones takes the boisterous room in his stride and turns to the bongos instead. Punching out How to Recognise a Work of Art and Olivia, both firm live favourites, the band demands the attention it deserves and Jones jumps off stage to sing amongst his rowdy audience. With Morrissey-like vocals and a shirt borrowed from Ian Curtis’ wardrobe, Meilyr Jones wears his influences with pride – but turns them into sunny-side up, pop gems that are all his own.
A rickety green staircase leads you back to the Tempest Stage, where Glasgow’s latest sensations Bossy Love are taking their positions under that mammoth lighting rig. Amandah Wilkinson and John Baillie Jr, plus their theatrical keyboardist Ollie, come out with one obvious objective: to steal hearts and minds. The duo have only just released their first ever single, but Want Some is received with such frenetic joy that it already feels like a classic. Apparently the whole room knows what to expect from a Bossy Love show, and from the first beat there’s suitably sleazy bump’n’grinding from the front row to the back. Combining sticky noughties garage beats with all the wide-eyed, jazz-handed performance of musical theatre, favourites like Body and Sweat It Out throw extra heat on the flames; Amandah’s a ridiculously engaging performer, and the crowd tries and fails to mimic her exuberant moves. Bossy Love already have a passionate following, but this Friday night slot clearly added extra numbers to their rapidly growing fan club.
It’s a tough call to top off this evening, particularly following a show as sweaty as the one previous, but NZCA Lines give it their all. The pop project of Michael Lovett since 2010, he’s since been joined by Charlotte Hatherley (previously of Ash) and Sarah Jones (Hot Chip) to fully flesh out his nostalgic synth soundscapes. It looks like only Sarah and Michael are in attendance on Friday, but they’re dressed in matching, super-chic white ensembles that make them look like classy musical aliens – with the vibe to match. Eager shouts for “LOUDER!” are met, and Persephone Dreams rings out above waving, pint-clutching hands, all kooky percussion and stylish, pop-world euphoria. A jostling Friday-night crowd counters Jones and Lovett’s clean-cut futurism with a hearty bellow for “ONE MORE TUNE”, and with that, Hidden Door 2016’s opening night fades out into a celebratory blur of well-deserved afters.