Background To The Festival:
This isn’t a full festival review, but rather a short round up about a brand new indoor festival in Edinburgh, Scotland called the Red Crust Festival. Held within the 500 person venue known as La Belle Angele, the event brought together bands both local to Edinburgh and around Scotland but also from England and Ireland and musically included old school rock, stoner, sludge, progressive, doom, post-hardcore amongst others. It certainly catered for a good variety. The event was over 2 full days and one pre-show party evening (held at a smaller venue known as Opium). For much of the days, it was short sharp half-hour sets showcasing what the bands are about with 15 minutes turn arounds! This is where we have to give great credit to the bands themselves and the sound crew at the event as everything just about ran on time and I don’t think anyone had to curtail their set at all. Fabulous stuff.
The sound was good throughout the event which considering the different styles of bands and lack of sound checks was remarkable. I won’t do a review of every band due to time constraints (and not taking extensive notes) but will highlight a few bands that impressed and moments that I personally enjoyed.
Saturday best for me included 3 piece progressive rock/metal outfit Solar Sons from Dundee. The first track had real elements of Tool about it but then it was a cross of Mastodon and Iron Maiden so thunderous and heavy but with lovely changes of tempo throughout. There was some good humor in the set with audience banter about song subjects. Due to the last 2 songs being both about snakes someone suggested one about “ladders” as well. When folks started shouting out different animal names the band cracked up. The whole weekend had a bonhomie feel with lots of interaction.
Coming from further afield were Electric Mother hailing from Orkney who were a cross of grunge meets classic rock. There were moments of both Alice In Chains and Pearl Jam but mixed with Alter Bridge. In vocalist Calum Elder they have a strong focal point. He certainly used the whole stage and danced away cajoling the audience.
Sapien from Edinburgh were sludge doom. What I think was the second last song had plenty of false endings… or it was more than one song joined together. To be honest I was enjoying it so much I hardly cared! They gave us a pummelling. The Decibel Geek approved Ramage Inc played a blinder. Asking “do you like it heavy?” and being met with a resounding “yes!!” they then proceeded to kick our collective arses. I can honestly say I had neck ache at the end of the set. With that Devin Townsend sound of progressive metal, they went down brilliantly.
Bringing something very different were 20 plus drum group Harbingers Drum Crew. The idea of 40 minutes of non-stop drums might seem excessive, but by god these guys and girls were outstanding. 40 minutes flew by. The leader at the front danced and leaped around conducting them and I was almost knackered watching him. A mixture of industrial, techno and drum and bass with more groove than you can shake a (drum) stick at. I was blown away as were the rest of the crowd.
1968 from Cheshire grooved away with their mix of (in my opinion) Led Zep meets Soundgarden, with one song having a riff bearing an uncanny similarity to “What You’re Doing” by Rush which made me smile and rock out even more. Jimi Ray jokingly tasked who had been there all day and wondered how we were still upright! In my case only just! However it wasn’t time to go home as headliners Hair Of The Dog still had to do their thing, that being “riff heavy retro rock”. The 3 piece finished the night off beautifully. Easy to move and sway to as well as headbang along with they created an old school rock with an element of stoner/groove.
Sunday was the heavier of the 2 days and was opened by a band that I didn’t know much about called Codespeaker. They were brilliant. Some fine guitar work, great riffs and a lunatic singer who nearly knocked himself out when climbing the front barrier to get in amongst the crowd. When he did get there he got in folks faces whilst prowling like an angry animal. I look forward to seeing more of this band that is for sure. Next band up Red Larsen were really young, as they are all studying at an Edinburgh university. Their music was quite varied with the singer Lydia Stryder both singing and rapping. There was some nice soloing guitar-wise on show, but for me, the best track was the last one as it had a touch of Curved Air about it (vocal tone made me think of them as well) albeit this was much heavier than CA. They were quite rightly well received.
We Came From The North are an instrumental outfit who call themselves “post-rock” whatever that means. All I can say is they were excellent and at one point had a track with a hint of Big Country and a few times there were nods to Alex Lifeson from Rush which pleased me immensely (whether they mean it or not). There was plenty of banter with the crowd as to how far north do you have to be from to always be from the north! Great music and they made me smile. Also from Edinburgh were “witch-rock” Juniper Grave. My first time seeing them and they created a great atmosphere. Singer Jenni has a lovely haunting voice that suited the music beautifully. Drummer Jason added some great touches to the songs with clever fills. Very good indeed.
Possibly stealing the weekend were Irish progressive sludge (their description) ZhOra! With just the right amount of brutality and technicality along with great stage presence, plenty of movement and crowd involvement they blew the place away. Every festival has a “find” band and this was the band that I didn’t know before that made the biggest impression (and that is no disrespect to several others who wowed me during the festival). I really want to see them again sooner than later.
Bringing the event to a close were King Witch. This Edinburgh band have played festivals such as Sweden Rock so have plenty of experience and know how to entertain. It is unusual to hear a doom style band fronted by a female (one of the few genres that seems to still be the case) and in Laura Donnelly, they have a first class one as she can sing, wail and scream as is needed at any point of a song. Even by this stage there were still folks headbanging and having a great time. Did I say this was only a “round up” and not a review? I will let readers judge!
This looks to be a great addition to the festival circuit and is terrific for Edinburgh. Pleasingly the promoters are already booking acts for next year as this year has been such a success. I had a blast. A lovely friendly laid back event which is held somewhere there is an outdoor area for smoking (one you can also take your beer out as well) between bands. Roll on next year!