Every city needs a small, gritty venue where the music’s deafening, the temperatures are soaring and the hygiene is questionable. In Edinburgh, that venue is Sneaky Pete’s. While it might not appeal to all, if you walk away elated after being bounced around by grinning gig-goers and having your eardrums pummelled by young bands on the rise, then you’re going to love Pete’s.
The home of the Royal Scottish National Orchestra is, as you’d expect, the complete antithesis to the grungy charms of Sneaky Pete’s. It’s easily the finest concert hall in the city, and would give any other similar venue in the UK a run for its money. It’s one of the main venues for the Edinburgh International Festival each August and also regularly hosts gigs by big name artists. Catching the likes of Bon Iver and Ryan Adams in a setting like this is always a special occasion.
The Queen’s Hall
The Queen’s Hall is a converted church with a 900 capacity in the centre of Edinburgh’s student district that is another popular venue during the EIF and the Edinburgh Blues and Jazz Festival. Many of the church’s original features have been retained, making it a wonderfully quirky and unique place to catch a band. Its calendar is jam-packed all year, so there’s a very good chance you’ll find something to your tastes.
La Belle Angele
La Belle Angele has literally risen from the ashes, like a musical Scottish phoenix. In its first life, its stage was graced by British rock royalty from Oasis to Radiohead, but a fire in December 2002 destroyed the entire building. It took 12 years for someone to take on the enormous task of reviving what was once one of Edinburgh’s most beloved venues, but it’s back, and not a moment too soon. At a time when so many small venues in the city have shut down (RIP Studio 24, Electric Circus et al), it’s heartening to see such an important one back from the dead.
Another victim of fire, Liquid Room burnt down in 2008 and was rebuilt and reopened in 2010. That reopening proved a bit of a shot in the arm for the venue, elevating it from “decent” to “local favourite”. This small, dark room in a church basement (which sounds more like the setting for a horror movie than a gig) hosts gigs by rising bands and club nights than span the genres.