It is super inspiring to see a small player demonstrate big ideas and real ambition, nonetheless, that is what Scotland’s Wide Days is about. Rightly, a passion in its own culture, as a nation, is part of the vision, as it continues to deliver one project followed by another.
As the annual Edinburgh based event gets ready to enter full celebration mode in a bid to mark the fifteenth year, its refusal to stand still could not be stronger, it would seem. The fourteenth edition of the annual event is proof of renewed ambition for the artists it aims to feature, matched by dynamic conference panels, strong national and international partnerships.
The cultural encounter is known for facilitating select learning environments and excellent conditions for networking, and both form the basis of Wide Days’ vision. With delegates from ten countries on top of the UK nations, the popularity of the event continues to increase, as organisers report a 25% rise in registered delegates.
It’s not hard to see why. Panel discussions are scheduled throughout day one and two. Tackling a range of topics, discussions on sync, algorithms, A&R, accessibility in music, Mexico – Market Focus, sustainability and much more are on offer, while other delegate highlights include brunch visit to Paradise Palms, a whisky tasting session, music walking tour and a record shop tour.
The Scottish capital is the perfect location for the event. Combined efforts comprising of nationwide and international industry bodies, as Scottish, Welsh and Canadian live takeover showcases promote some of the best emerging talent and conference panels. Charity Attitude Is Everything is there, it presents a session on inclusive design, how to make festivals accessible as well as valuable insights on neurodiversity.
The book ‘Pandamonium – How Not To Run A Record Label’ by Simon Williams came out last year. His In Conversation session at Wide Days on day two is as much about his career as a journalist and label boss of Fierce Panda Records, which he founded, as his own personal story, the narrative about his mental health and survival. Witty, insightful and moving, the conversation unveils the complex mind behind it all, and the fascinating talk offers plenty of food for thought.
Takeover showcase providers PRS Foundation & Music Venue Trust, M For Montréal and Focus Wales deliver rich palettes of genre and sound that truly impress.
More broadly, the calibre of artists is vast, and it includes alt-soul singer Russell Stewart, songwriter Silvi, Casual Worker, indie-folk duo Quiet Houses, The Big Day and post-punk inspired act Humour. There’s songwriter Lewis McLaughlin, dream pop artist Goodnight Louisa, singer songwriter Tommy Ashby, Iona Zajac, Lizabett Russo, Aberdeen’s Chef The Rapper and Katherine Aly, Canadian electro pop devotees Bibi Club, pop singer Laroie and alternative artist Laurence-Anne.
While every act on the bill, across the three days, demonstrates distinct musical potential, Clash has picked seven sets that captured the event.
It takes the Inverclyde indie band less than a few minutes to work the supportive crowd in the Bongo Club. The venue space feels elevated even before the five-piece take the stage. Destined to make the crowd jump, they perform a handful of bouncy belters, and the idea of having fun with your mates is a big part of the group’s DNA. Rather fittingly, they play on day two, which is a Friday. Slix are the sort of guitar band you have secretly been longing for, but now the secret is out, it only makes sense to own it.
Glasgow based Uninvited write and perform grungy pop songs with fine hooks. Scheduled to play in the Belle Angele, the crowd is of a decent size with the expectations to match, and the group does not disappoint. Clearly driven to deliver the sort of sweaty rock ‘n’ roll set that you had hoped for, the ambition goes even further, there’s a determination to want to see things change in society. Uninvited are an undeniable force to be reckoned with.
The complexity of rap and R&B artist Sage Todz is a cause for celebration. The string of songs in Welsh and English makes his work stand out, as does its eclectic nature. Based in North Wales, but born in Essex, the musician has an authentic stage presence that engages. While the songs carry subtle socio-political messages, each track has a soft melodic touch that makes it catchy and memorable. Sage Todz is one to watch.
Playing the smallest Wide Days venue, the authenticity of Sneaky Pete’s makes for an off-kilter match to Becky Sikasa’s set. The intimacy greatly showcases her emotive soul pop. Playing on the Friday, the space is packed to bursting point, most punters have clearly planned to watch this set. Laying her soul bare, or at least that’s how it seems, the Glasgow based singer ensures an arresting performance. The proficiency of Becky Sikasa’s voice is impossible to shake off.
The atmosphere in the Belle Angele is one of anticipation and excitement. While the attitude of the probing Edinburgh alt-rock duo can seem uncompromising, the live sound is more approachable and direct. A creative outcome of lockdown, Midnight Ambulance have been writing and making music since, and drummer and vocalist Amelia Stokes and guitarist Fraser Fulton have come a long way. Supported by the crowd in the room, it’s fulfilling to see the result of their personal and musical energies come together, and the artistic journey is worth following.
Atmospheric and poetic, alt-folk artist Ailsa Tully appears to belong to the category of musicians capable of stunning her listeners through live shows as much as recordings. Tonight the Welsh vocalist and instrumentalist has the audience at the palm of her hand, the intricacy is there, as is the haunting lyrics and striking ambiance that fill the room. A compelling performance that draws you in, it’s not something you can choose to escape or be un-enthralled by. It is too remarkable.
But one set stands out completely, delivering all the goods of a magnificent live show. A standalone moment, every minute spent in Choses Sauvages’s company is one of energy. Melding post-punk, new wave and electro pop, the Montréal quintet give an immersive and electrifying performance. If exercising a bit of crowd-surfing was ever going to make sense, now is the time to do it. A defining Wide Days moment, the magnetism of this showcase is supreme. These guys are a huge deal.
A highly satisfactory few days, there is no doubt about Wide Days’ level of ambition and ability to deliver for artists, industry and public bodies, and this is why it continues to go from strength to strength, year upon year.
Words: Susan Hansen
Photography: Gaëlle Beri / @gaelleberi