Eclectic, electric, colourful and clearly in support of the NHS, this curated night from the lads from Lau (aptly titled Lau Land) was an array of colours, noises and surprise, as part of the Light on the Shore strand of the Edinburgh International Festival programme this year. Bringing together Joan As Police Woman, James Holden and the Animal Spirits, Alasdair Roberts as well as many I have yet to encounter such as Rant, Whitburn Brass Band and Nadah El Shazly, it’s an interestingly curated mix of electronic, Scots trad and alt-indie that culminates the evening.
Unfortunately missing the curators and first act on the bill, Lau, who are a trio of musicians that hail from Edinburgh, Oban and Orkney, the first I encounter stunningly are the Whitburn Brass Band, who had concluded Lau’s set by joining them on stage, before then blowing us all out of the water with their own set. The bar was high for the remainder of the evening, and who knows what else to expect after this monumental orchestral performance. Unfortunate to miss Lau, however, I inquired with a few in the audience and from what I can gather it was their best set to date.
Sadly following this Brass Band was Joan As Police Woman, wearing a fabulously gold jump-suit, but with little else to stimulate the senses. With a banner in the backdrop screaming We Love the NHS, there was lots visually to get from this performance but unfortunately Joan’s music for me has always been a bit, take it or leave it, never inspired or stimulated but her set which included Tell Me, and a cover of Prince’s Kiss was interesting to watch just the same, albeit underwhelming.
There was a second room of programmed Scots trad sets (it was titled the Beasts of Trad) which was almost always difficult to acquire a seat, on the rare occasion you did and snap it up quickly as this was a common place to chill and listen to the likes of Rona Lightfoot and Brighde Chaimbeul or the renowned avant-folk talent Alasdair Roberts singing tracks such as False Flesh, Actors or The Common Clay, which reminded me of the tongue-in-cheek humour of Roberts. Rant were also a feat in this room, previously nominated folk band of the year in the Scots Trad Awards 2016, it does not take long to see why. The quartet of fiddle players, two from the Shetland Isles and two from the Highlands, are a beautifully stimulating set, all four lasses weaving their sounds, stories and energies to create rich aural pieces using just fiddles.
Elsewhere, Nadah El Shazly was in the main room performing from her laptop, with an otherworldly Egyptian influence. It was all a bit too intense and personally lacking visual stimulation, like watching another Four Tet/Kieran Hebden set.
However, concluding with previous techno artist, now turned psychedelic folk-popper James Holden & The Animal Spirits, meant the crowd were warm from a sensory overload, as colours and finely produced noises filled the air of the Leith Theatre. This rainbow rave finished the night for me on a buzzing high. A mixed bag, this diverse programme of music certainly made me wish I had seen Lau.
Photos courtesy of Ryan Buchanan and David Wilkinson.
For more on the Edinburgh International Festival’s Light On the Shore programme click here.