It’s not often you’ll find me at a gig in Edinburgh which Bannermans isn’t playing host to and since Cabaret Voltaire is a new venue to me, it was handy that it was literally round the corner from the infamous rock and whisky bar/venue. And much like it, Cabaret Voltaire is all brickwork on the inside but steeped in red on the outside – creepy.
Taking to the stage first is Richy Neill with only an acoustic guitar. Fairly standard fare when it’s a three band bill. But he decides to keep it interesting. With a Southern rock/country vibe to the music, full of stories and relatable lyrics, he loops his guitar for effectively another set of strings to bounce off as well as vocal effects and hitting the body to produce a steady beat throughout. As Neill appears to usually have a band with him, this gives him a fuller sound for his set and it works well but there’s a sense that he could give just as powerful a performance if he stripped it back. It’s a good twist to the format to provide a beefier sound and a canny move given what’s to follow but you can’t help wondering if it could be just as effective without it.
Sauza Kings open their set with a story of how they ran into transport issues on their way to the gig. However, they overcame it and from the looks of things, their set was a great way for them to blow off some steam. Powering through with a fuzzy, groove-filled hard rock sound, there’s meaty bass lines throughout to push against the pair of guitars. Mark Burdett finds ample opportunity to wander into the crowd to play his set of six strings as well as some flexible poses, all without missing a note. They keep some of their best songs towards the end such as “Like a Dog” and “Stone Machine”, the latter of which sounds like Clutch on a shitload of steroids. They’re a tight live band and it’s no surprise they’ve built up a dedicated following, especially being so close to home.
As their first headlining gig, She Burns Red show no sign of nerves. Instead, they’re out to have a good time and much like Sauza Kings, it appears they’ve got a dedicated following as they interact with people they clearly know throughout the set. Fully embedding themselves in the hard rock camp with a metal edge at points as well as willing to bend into the more melodic edge of the spectrum, they’re a solid band. They know their formula and are happy to stick with it to provide some great hard rock songs, but find room to play about to keep it varied rather than just hitting you over the head with the same thing for an hour. All equally skilled on their instrument of choice and a great chemistry between the members of the fourpiece, it makes for a wonderful end to the evening.
However, there was one thing off the entire night. Not one act had even passable acoustics. Richy Neill suffered badly as his live guitar was mostly buried beneath his loop and his vocals were largely inaudible until they were later beefed up. Similarly, Sauza Kings also suffered from vocals which were buried. Meanwhile, She Burns Red – to begin with the bass guitar was way too high in the mix, only for them then to ask for more guitar which was still, for the most part, lost. I’d happily watch all three bands again but in a venue with decent acoustics.