Yes, it’s strummertime…and the livin is easy. Especially if you are livin, workin or visitin Edinburgh over the comin weeks.
The Edinburgh Fringe, Festival, Tattoo are just a few of the headline events this and every summer but, before all of the above, the Jazz and Blues Festival is upon us. And, boy, do Edinburgans know how to put on a show.
The capital is transformed for these weeks every year and it just keeps getting better. Major venues put up the sold out stickers weeks in advance but it is the less spectacular temporary sites that contribute more to the city’s upbeat mood. Garden squares become destinations in their own right with buses, trams and taxis providing mobile viewing platforms in between.
The temporary venue highlight has to be the SpiegelTents. (A SpiegelTent is, literally, a mirror tent – Dutch for a mobile entertainment venue with canvas, wood and of course mirrors and stained glass creating a semi-permanent hotspot for all kinds of hospitality occasions.)
Best of Alba paid a flying visit to the St Andrew Square Garden Spiegel Tent in…er…St Andrew Square in the centre of town, one Friday in July. The calm and peace of a fine garden square had been transformed into a bustling ‘pleasure centre’ that would have looked right at home in any of the major European capitals. ( - Any of the OTHER European captials, I mean.)
On a warm but humid Friday afternoon / evening, the square played host to innumerable tourists, students, young families, office workers – and even older musos still living the dream. (Bald blokes with long hair, jewellery not yet back in fashion, regretted tatts and, of all things, nail varnish for the 50+ set. And women of a similar age but carrying it all quite a bit better.) In short, a fun crowd.
Edinburgh does the whole drinks and eats outside thing so much better than Glasgow. Correspondingly, it simply coins it in in the summer months.
Before our gig, we had checked in to a clean and comfortable self-contained apartment in Haymarket. With one double bed and two double sofa-beds, this is an attractive and value for money family option.
With only one gripe; no parking. Parking in the centre of Edinburgh is virtually an adventure sport, especially during the week and at weekends (!) Luckily, the central location and the new tram service compensated for any driving frustration and we blew £1.60 on tickets to the heart of Princes St.
From the tram we were transported to a Sushi Train in under a minute where good food and great service set us up for the day ahead. Two minutes from ‘The Train’ and we were in the St Andrew Square where the vibe was jumpin. A couple of drinks – Edinburgh lager, Edinburgh Gin – and we were in the mood to party.
Enter The Spiegel Tent! The deep south’s Lightnin Malcolm (vocals, guitar, harmonica, kick drums) is an instant party of an entertainer and soon had the crowd grooving to his Hill Country Blues set. If music has colour, then LM dishes up a rainbow of sounds with disarmingly melodic song-writing married to hypnotically soulful sounds.
A solid hour on stage in an intimate venue enabled him to connect with the crowd to the extent that a nominally conservative audience were up and dancing by his finale. Fantastic entertainment for a tenner a head!
Dinnertime, and the audience was hungry. Again. So to Amarone just off the Square where down to earth pizzas are offered in a high ceilinged room with more than a little glitz in the décor and glam in the custom. Elegant piggery. Just the job. A couple of robust reds later, your reviewers headed back for an early night before driving back up to the Highlands on a beautiful Saturday morning.
Well done Edinburgh! Top class entertainment, outstanding hospitality and customer service charm throughout. With everything, including our drinks, made in the capital city we promise to be back real soon.
Time to lift your game Glasgow!