Leith Depot Edinburgh (Folksville Night)
Saturday, sunny day. The sunniest day of the year so far, actually. 16 degrees Celsius. And that was the ‘real feel’, too, this time. We’ve had a few sunny days the past few weeks, which is about time (though actually the winter has not been so bad this time around) but today it was that real sun. The no-cloud, blue-skies sun. No breeze, or very light breeze, kind of sun. Which if you don’t know already, is very rare in Edinburgh. Though not as rare as in Shetlands, which is where Laurence is from, and where I was able to come to that realisation first hand after one of the roughest flights I ever had. But anyway – Sunny Edinburgh! There is nothing more beautiful. The architecture gleams; the big aristocratic, Victorian buildings with a modern finish, like the downtown streets of New York, except with a history. Edinburgh really does give me that feeling sometimes. Some streets will be real Victorian looking, and other streets, you glance at them a second time, and it could be New York; tall narrow flats, grand stone buildings, stairs to the main, large doors. While some roads are narrow, other roads are surprisingly wide in Edinburgh, the side paths littered with fresh tall trees, like little umbrellas waiting for your arrival; now whose petals were outstretched and bathing in the sun. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of an Edinburgh like that? Beer gardens.
Drinking. Socialising. People come out of the woodworks, the sun is a celebration in itself. Though there was also the grand national. Laurence and I got invited to a little rendezvous at a downtown bar to see a live gig. All we knew was that it was acoustic. And of course, free. We were sold. We are always down for some music, and Edinburgh has a lot of that.
After a lovely nature reserve expedition – which you should look out for in another post with some funny pictures – we got ready and went there by 8. My god, you wouldn’t believe the sky, like a live painting. A slow, setting sky, where the light dies down yet somehow it still looks so blue, and wide, with slight hints of pink like a man with a cotton candy truck had passed by in a hurry and some got caught in the clouds. I pondered all this in the uber.
Leith Depot is situated in the heart of Leith walk, a lively and quirky long street with many different pubs, restaurants, and mainly, a very convenient selection of takeaway shops which stay open well into the night for when the pangs of hunger call after a night of booze. It looked smaller than we expected. Like a normal bar, darkly lit, slightly tavern-like mixed with modern touches, so it definitely wasn’t totally pub-like. But quaint. The DJ was a stout, older man, who could have also been a customer, though the music was good – if you could hear it well enough on top of the incredibly lively group of people, of all age groups, that is. It was trendy, yet down to earth, and slightly gritty. The bathrooms most of all showed this quirky character, whose wallpaper was a montage made entirely from pictures cut out of actual magazines, showing different cultures and parts of the world. I love this type of character.
This little bar was truly buzzing, sporting one long table right in the centre by the bar where strangers could sit together, as well as separate, private tables by the tall glass windows. Our friends were by the windows, where they had just had some food. We didn’t have any, but it seemed like they had fish, with an array of dips. One had a risotto, even. Not bad. Naturally we got alcohol.
Being down there, I forgot entirely we were there to see a live gig, because it was small and did not sport any kind of stage, but we soon found out that the fated place was situated upstairs. A little tipsy, we climbed the stairs laughing and joking, and became totally embarrassed once we entered the door and found an incredibly small, intimate little red room, whose stage took up almost half of the space, and people huddled around on seats with some having to stand. It was dead quiet, like entering some sort of Narnia. It really is a shock to the drunk senses to be met with a change like that. We could not tell at first, but the array of seats went all around the stage, every single one taken, even by a little crook to the right where another mini bar stood hiding for people to top up their drinks there, instead of going downstairs again. They had bathrooms upstairs too (which were surprisingly spacious, with many cubicles). This little place was like a Mary Poppins bag.
The window was open but the dark curtains reaching from ceiling to floor cosily drawn, to contain the warm red little cave, scattered with jars of fairy lights all around like they had captured the stars and had placed them there as part of the audience; as though the door we entered was almost a little black hole into another part of the universe.
It being acoustic, this I think added to the intimacy. It was folk night. Lots of guitar, passionate, quirky singing, and other times deep and heart felt. There was a lot of respect in there for the singers and artists, and the cosy intimacy made the appreciation for the music more tangible. It felt like we were all in there for a reason, rather than ghosts who come in and out as outsiders to a scene. The hosts were funny, friendly, jokesters, and all talented. In between acts, the hosts played a little themselves – and were amazingly good! It being free, a bucket was passed around after the acts had played to donate money if you wished, and albums available to buy. One of our friends won an album in a raffle prize, even though it was another of our friends who had cheekily entered him.
This little place felt like a private house party rather than a live gig, and it felt truly special to be able to witness live music like that (in front seats too!) while jars of stars hung around us, like we were in the Avatar of something. I truly loved that place. And if you’re thinking maybe it was too quiet, and uncomfortable – definitely not. People clapped, applauded, sung along (and were encouraged to do so) at times also, and while some bands were almost acapella, other bands had a succession of violin and guitar, and even a tambourine. We enjoyed tasteful, ripping blues.
If you’re looking for a place to be absorbed and to get lost in, this place embodies it. Whether it’s in the liveliness of the songs, or the depth of them, it feels magical, like sitting around a campfire. When you go back downstairs it is like entering back into a different reality. How a place can contain two such worlds in one small space astounds me, but it is definitely a place to experience for yourself.
While they had folk music that night, the genre changes with each event. So if you’re more of a rock person, or otherwise, definitely check the event listings! We loved it.
Laurence – The Leith Depot was actually the first live music I have experienced in Edinburgh. On the outside, my first impressions were that it was a relatively small and quiet bar/restaurant. However, as we walked in the front door we were greeted with a vibrant energy that seemed to reverberate through the whole building! We waited for our friends to finish their meals and ordered a round of drinks.
As we climbed the creaky wooden stairs to the next floor, the energetic sounds of live music grew louder. The host ushered us in and we were seated right at the front of the live music acts. Although we felt a tad apprehensive to be so close, this soon passed as we became more and more engrossed in the diversity of the acoustic sets on offer. We were also seated within 10 feet of the upstairs bar which was an added bonus!
I particularly enjoyed the wide variety of live acts performing. It was great to sit back enjoy short 30-minute sets of contrasting and unique music styles. I think what sets Leith Depot Live Nights apart is the homely but energetic atmosphere. At no point in the night did I feel uncomfortable or that the music was jarring. The host was extremely welcoming throughout the night and did a fantastic job at introducing the acts and making us feel at home. The experience of being in that cosy upstairs room, filled with distinctive live music is something I’ll never forget – and something I definitely want to experience again!
Check out the bands / artists which featured on Folksville night:
David Hershaw & Sandie Forbes https://www.davidhershawandsandieforbes.com/
Keith Douglas http://www.keithdouglas.co.uk/
Caro Bridges and The River https://www.facebook.com/pg/carobridges/