The Hidden Doors festival, Leith: Gwenno, Stina Tweeddale (Honeyblood) and Dream Wife

My wife Kath and I went up to Edinburgh on Thursday just gone, mainly to go to a festival in Leith, Edinburgh’s sea port, amongst other things. The festival is called Hidden Doors, and it’s on from Friday 25 May to 3 June. It takes in music, visual art, theatre, film, spoken word and dance. Its centre of gravity is the old Leith theatre, which I think may have fallen into disuse, but has now been reclaimed for the arts.  It’s a great space. Inside it seems to me as big as Shepherd’s Bush Empire, so it’s ideal for the kind of bands I like to see: up-and-coming, and still passionate about what they do. Still feeling new.

In this case the main reason we came up from London was to see Stina Tweeddale from Honeyblood perform a solo set – just her and her electric guitar. I’ve waxed lyrical about Honeyblood on this blog enough times before, so I won’t do so now; except I knew their songs, which are all written by Stina, as far as I know, would lend themselves well to interpretation and a stripped down sound. And so it proved.

Friday 25 May was the first night of the festival, and music was the main feature. There were four artists: Gwenno, Stina, Dream Wife and Nadine Shah. I didn’t know Gwenno beforehand, but all the others were excellent as far as I was concerned. In the event we didn’t see Nadine Shah, as she was on quite late, and we were pretty pooped after a long day; but first three I will take in turn.

Gwenno was advertised as being a singer of Welsh and Cornish songs, so I assumed it would be a folkie sound. In fact she and her band played an electronic, dancey sound a lot of the time, although the singer, whose first name is Gwenno, did sing Welsh and Cornish tales. It took quite a prog turn at times. I liked it and will certainly check her music out.

Then it was Stina. The main reason for being there. She crept on and started to sing. The opener was “Bud” from the first Honeyblood album, of the same name. Songs from that first album dominated the set. Stina had flagged that up because she had said on Facebook and Twitter that she wanted to revisit some of her less played songs. And she invited suggestions. I suggested a few and some got played: “Bud”, “No Big Deal” and my equal favourite song of all “Hey Stellar”. That alone was enough to make the concert a success for me! But, yeah, it was great. Nine songs in the forty minutes she had. Each one really good, and well received by a decent crowd. I thought she was a little bit tense – maybe being without Cat, the drummer, there? And describing herself as Lonerblood was said with some meaning. But Honeyblood’s music is embued with a lot of complex feeling amid all the rock’n’roll. And pared down, that feeling was going to come out. I was glad I came.

And for those of you who would like to hear the music, here’s a Spotify playlist of the Honeyblood versions of the songs Stina played, in sequence.

Next up, and last for us was Dream Wife. I saw them at the Scala with my mate Jon G in November last year. They were great. And they were even better tonight. I guess you would describe the music as a mix of punk, pop and indie. They sing about things they care about; but the thing that makes them so entertaining is the sheer dynamism of the performance. The music really rocks, and singer Rakel Mjoll is an incredibly lively and charismatic performer. They really got the crowd going. You just can’t not like this band, live. I’ve yet to explore their first album, but downloaded it tonight. They have to get bigger. This is a band that puts a smile on your face.

I was sorry to miss Nadine Shah. She is good. I have her first album and saw her at Latitude in 2015, when she was excellent.  But we had just run out of steam and needed to get back to the city centre. Another time, no doubt.

So, yeah, if you are an Edinburgh local and read this, get down to Hidden Doors! It all finishes, musically, with Young Fathers, which should be awesome!

About John S

I'm blogging about the things I love outside work: music, sport, culture, London, with some photos to illustrate aspects of our wonderful city. And anything else that I happen to think is worth writing about!
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3 Responses to The Hidden Doors festival, Leith: Gwenno, Stina Tweeddale (Honeyblood) and Dream Wife

  1. Resa says:

    Another fab music event! The pics you took of Rakel Mjoll show her enthusiasm.
    So, a music shop opened up on my block, and they are totally promoting all the bands I read about on your blog. Right now they got a large Chvrches sign out front.
    It’s a small shop, but they are not doing the Hip Hop/Rap thing, which is very big here.

    • John S says:

      Yeah, Rakel is a real performer. Sounds like a cool shop – hope it does well. Chvrches’ new album is a bid for pop stardom (the Taylor Swift template is in a lot of the tracks) but it still has a bit of indie attitude too.

      • Resa says:

        Rooting for the Chvrches!
        Hey, FIFA posters are all over the city. It’s finally caught on in a mainstream way over here.

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