The happenin’ at Haddowfest

Susannah Fitzgerald

Haddowfest 1Any mention of a festival in Edinburgh is bound to invoke images of August pavements packed with loud American tourists, along with more PR people and leaflets than University Avenue during SRC election week. However, the city’s most recent offering proved to be a little different.

Haddowfest took place between 11 and 12 October and featured some of the best-loved faces on the indie scene, along with plenty of new talent. Now, in its fourth year, the festival swapped its usual one-day format for two, promising even more entertainment for those brave enough to handle a whole weekend in some of the capital’s favourite drinking haunts. The venues included Maggie’s Chamber, Sneaky Pete’s, HMV Picturehouse, Cabaret Voltaire and the Liquid Rooms; all far enough apart to explore the Old Town but close enough to avoid splashing out on taxi fares that would set any Glaswegian’s heart racing.

Choosing to take on what the Saturday had to offer, we got together at Queen Street Station and headed east. The day got off to a fairly quiet start – chilled out acoustic sets from the likes of Green Man Running and Aaron Wright with Jacqui Abbott in Sneaky Pete’s, with something a little fun and quirky sandwiched in between, such as Ded Rabbit in Maggie’s Chambers. The diversity of venues, each one offering a slightly different feel, meant that during the day the festival-goers were free to disperse and discover some of the lesser-known acts before assembling at the main venues for the headliners in the evening.

The first to draw a noticeably bigger crowd was The 10:04’s, who took to the stage in Cabaret Voltaire. With the event named after the band’s drummer, Paul Haddow, the group are festival veterans, and their solid performance proved why. With memorable, melodic songs the band sounded not unlike a Scottish version of White Lies or Editors.

A stroll through the dreich weather of the Cowgate and the Grassmarket brought us to our next destination – the HMV Picturehouse. The Merrylees, another firm Edinburgh favourite, pleased the crowd with their unique brand of indie rock tinged with distinct Western influences. The one drawback was that, as the biggest venue on the bill, the Picturehouse didn’t deliver the same intimacy that had been tangible throughout the rest of the day and is, arguably, one of the best things about smaller festivals like Haddowfest.

Yet this wasn’t enough to dampen our spirits, even if the rain did manage to do just that to our clothes as we traversed back across the cobbles to the Liquid Rooms, where we would remain for the rest of the night. At around 9pm, JonPaul Palombo bravely graced the stage as a solo act. This daunting task didn’t stop him impressing the crowd with catchy acoustic numbers and a strong voice before the last two bands of the night.

Next up was The OK Social Club, whose energetic set list and clever lyrics drew big support from the crowd. Winners of the 2013 Scottish Alternative Music Award for “Best Live Act”, they lived up to their title, boosting the atmosphere in preparation for the final performance of the night.

The headline act of the festival was We Were Promised Jetpacks and the crowds packed in to hear the boys’ performance. Having supported Jimmy Eat World on their North American tour, Bon Jovi at Hampden and gracing the prestigious Coachella lineup in 2012, a high standard of performance was expected; and delivered. The haunting element of the band’s songs entranced the audience, but the energy with which they were delivered was matched by an equally enthusiastic support.

The party continued for another three hours with DJ sets and plenty of drunken revellers. As the last of them stumbled up the stairs of the Liquid Rooms and the doors were shut, thus concluded another successful Haddowfest. Fans of the Scottish music scene, great live bands, or those looking to uncover some new local talent should keep their eyes peeled for the release of next year’s lineup sometime around September 2014. Even if you’re not particularly familiar with the acts, those who just want a great day out with their friends, or maybe fancy a good way to explore the capital, will find all of these things in Haddowfest. The welcoming and contagiously fun atmosphere of the event is undoubtedly one of its greatest attributes and is what it allows it to successfully draw in fans, both new and old, year after year.