Festival review: Hidden Door 2022

After resounding anticipation over the new venue, Hidden Door Arts kicked off their festival with somewhat of a notable bang with a headline set from St Etienne, but the mighty Microsteria from Edinburgh-based band, Maranta, stole the show on the opening evening. Taking over the Old Royal High in Edinburgh on Regents Street for 2022, Hidden Door had a seven-day programme that stretched over two weekends. With art installations, spoken word, poetry, theatre, dance and live music, the festival has much to offer, with an underground vibe to it, whereby they encourage you to get lost and see where you end up amidst the artwork and strobes over the evening. 

After a trek around the venue to discover the rooms, the artwork, the heritage that the old building has to offer, it was time for some live music, catching a little of the electronic vibe that Jacuzzi General and The Jets has to offer before moseying on down to the main outdoor stage. With decent bass and a room by the city’s Paradise Palms, there was much reason to stick around at this beach scene adorned space, whereby we spotted sun loungers where we would normally expect backing dancers. 

Connie Constance was performing at the outdoor stage, enticing the sun to come out with her bass-filled indie tracks and gold shades. However small the crowd, they did seemingly enjoy the music. The sun was occasionally pulling through but let’s not forget we are in Edinburgh and the greyness persisted before we hit another indoor room to see Makeness before catching any remnants of rays left for headliner St Etienne. Playing a mix of old classics and new tracks, there was a healthy crowd for the London-based pop act. However, the sound was not quite on form, diluting the vibe, but the band certainly brought the crowd together for as much of a festival feel as can be mustered for this intimate outdoor space. 

It was the indie act, based in Edinburgh, Maranta, who were very recently signed to Lost Map Records, that stole the show for day one, however. Maranta in Microsteria was a unique performance in the venue’s Central Chamber, which saw band members Kenny and Gloria joined by a plethora of costumed characters to offer an immersive experience. Collaborating with Chell Young, a visual artist specialising in film and set design, and Vomiton, the costume design collective, as well as, dancer and choreographer, Hannah Draper. An electronic, yet soulful set, with such visual delights was a great way to set the bar for the Festival for the next seven days, with that spotlight on local, homegrown talent. Hidden Door gets the balance just about right for mixing the local with artists from further afield, but with their premise of opening doors to unknown Edinburgh treasures, where wrong can they go with Maranta? 

Venturing next to the Old Royal High for more Hidden Door action on the 16th June, I was in for a delightful programme, with post punk spoken word artists Dry Cleaning on the headlining spot. Arriving in time for theatrical spoken word piece in the Pianodrome by Missleading (Nadia Freeman), it was great to indulge in some other elements of the festival, other than the music. Though it’s not long before I am back in the crux of it, watching local band Future Get Down performing in beekeeper suits their variable mix of krautrock and electronic. A fun, dynamic and energetic set, I was invigorated before hitting the outdoor stage to catch the main act. Making poetry out of the mundane everyday, but with a slicing of gothic post punk, Dry Cleaning are well received by the Hidden Door crowd. 

Performing tracks such as the funky ‘Scratchcard Lanyard’, Florence Shaw and band members give Hidden Door a heightened sense of the underground, before leaving us with Manchester’s aynth-based Julie Campbell, AKA LoneLady in a room too small to fit all of her fans. With this in mind, it was time to check out the SPECTRAL BALLROOM performance in the Central Chamber, with music composed by Luci Holland and Florence Richardson. The Spectral Band came on initially to perform jazz, adorned in bowler hats and braces, afore the main thoroughfare, the electronic visual rave that presented itself after the instruments were dismantled. 

The penultimate day was just as fun with it having brilliant spoken words and folk elements. Catching Imogen Stirling in time for readings from Love the Sinner, with a synth-heavy underscore, it was a delight to take in some spoken word before indulging in the work of folk-musician Dana Gavanski over at the outdoor stage; ideal as we contend with a muggy summer’s eve. This is the Kit rounded the evening off nicely with their stunning back catalogue of tracks such as ‘Moonshine Freeze’, ‘Bashed Out’ and ‘This Is What You Did’. Sadly playing to a chatty crowd, it was impossible to enjoy this set as much as I was hoping, but with Kate, Rozi and other band members at the helm, this was one of the best sounds from the outdoor stage the last 8 days or so. 

And with light design to rival the sound, it was great to see them given such presence for the Friday night slot. Friday was rounded off by an OK Pal Records curated spot in the Pianodrome that had the trippiest of feels, with members of the collective dressed as knights.

Housekind kicked off the set with some delicate and fragile folk before handing the space over to Mock Tudor via some gladiatorial battles. Mock Tudor, a multi-sensory musician that gives height to their feelings, was an enlightening experience before witnessing Queen Millienia (the artist formerly known as Kissing) singing about 90s internet. With this combination of musicians plus games to keep the audience enthralled, this fun slot was typical of the OK Pal folks, offering heightened entertainment for all in the room before heading home at the late night 1am close. 

The final day of Hidden Door was a cacophony of brilliance, arriving in time to catch electro punk performers, Benefits, rile up the indoor music stage with Teeside’s Kingsley Hall’s manifesto against nationalism. Agitating, aggy and punchy, Benefits were the ideal warm up before headliners, Warmduscher. Bella Union’s post-punk, hip hop, London-based act played a belter of a set, nailing the final night vibes with tracks such as ‘Midnight Dipper’ and ‘I Got Friends’, encouraging a raucous crowd ahead of their Glastonbury performance.

With warmth and festival conclusions in the air, the band brilliantly concluded one of the most ambitious Hidden Door Festivals yet, before we all took to the Central Chamber for one of the festival’s most exciting performances yet: Post Coal Prom Queen’s Music For First Contact, which combined the efforts of Stephanie Lamprea, Laura J Wilkie and Calum Cummins to name a few of their collaborators.

An immersive sonic experience that supported the surreal narrative of a referendum vote on making contact with creatures from Mars, this Music For First Contact was an ethereal and stunning performance from Lily and Gordon from the band, alongside their show performers, giving a weightier, fleshier sound to PCPQ, cultivating a fine finish to 2022’s Hidden Door. 

hiddendoorarts.org

Image credit: Chris Scott


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