Words: Zoë White
As the sun went down on Sunday night at the newly revived Connect Festival, the talent-packed event brings Edinburgh’s festival season to a triumphant end.
The big news of the day was headline act The National’s surprise acoustic set on the Tiny Changes stage at Gardener’s Cottage. Offering a soothing break from the noise, the beautiful, floral garden played host to a variety of intimate performances, including Scottish talents Hamish Hawk, Lewis McLaughlin and Ross Leighton of Fatherson. Tiny Changes are a young people’s mental health charity set up in memory of Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison. Before performing a moving rendition of ‘About Today’, The National revealed that since Hutchison’s passing in 2018, the song often puts them in mind of their late friend and collaborator.
Just round the corner, the Guitars & Other Machines stage offered a solid line-up of rock and alternative acts, closing with a raucous set by Idlewild, performing their 20-year-old album, The Remote Part. For a party atmosphere, Unknown Pleasures was the place to go, where a stream of dance and electronic acts had the crowd boogieing into the night. The other side of the picturesque pond, the Speakeasy, hosted a series of talks and comedy sets throughout the day, while the Rest and Be Thankful tent offered yoga and other mindful activities.
On any one stage alone, there was enough to keep you busy the whole day. But the central stage at the Grand Arcade was where you could catch the biggest names. Experimental pop singer-songwriter Rae Morris and innovative rockers Black Country, New Road kicked off Sunday’s programme, and by the time pop sensation Self Esteem took to the stage, a large and enthusiastic crowd had amassed to help belt out her fearless empowerment anthems. Perfectly coordinated with the dramatic, staccato movements of her backup dancers, she invited the crowd to ‘pop off with us’ along to the pounding beat of singles ‘You Forever’ and ‘How Can I Help You’.
Next up, rapper Little Simz stepped on to the stage to the dramatic, orchestral grandeur of her 2021 tour de force Sometimes I Might Be Introvert. From the silky dance-pop of ‘Protect My Energy’, to the spindly syncopation of ‘Point and Kill’, she unleashes killer verse after killer verse from across her vibrant discography.
Simz was a clear standout from the day, as were Bombay Bicycle Club, who brought lively, colourful pop/rock to the festival in the late afternoon. The bouncing piano of ‘Shuffle’ and the funky brass section of ‘Feel’ created some of the festival’s most feel-good moments.
The dusky sky streaked with fiery colour, Scottish post-rock legends Mogwai sent out a blistering wall of noise, before The National concluded the night with a colossal performance of their smoky, richly textured rock ballads.
It was a monumental ending to an event you could relive several times and still not see everything. And fortunately, Connect has announced the festival’s return next year. So, here’s to more connections, more tiny changes and more music in 2023.
Words: Zoë White