20 years of any band is no mean feat, but even more so when it twists into characterful regeneration and presents all anew at least every few years. Edinburgh Schools Rock Ensemble has done just that, and yet stands as vital and magical as ever.
To celebrate the start of their third decade, ESRE took to Summerhall’s Dissection Room and set upon a rotatory whirlwind of over 50 musicians, from those stalwarts creeping into their mid-thirties to the freshest crop of high schoolers getting a headstart on their creative futures. Compered by the ever-charismatic Neil Sommerville, originator of the project (of course bolstered by an incredible cast of dedicated professional volunteers, profiting only in the knowledge of their positive influence), and backed by a slide-show of ESREs greatest memories; a set upwards of two hours commenced.
Sliding from decade to decade, genre to genre, the tightness and talent of whatever ESRE iteration was in position was unwavering. Closing one’s eyes would remove any clue of the age of musicians (and this is not a slight on the experienced performers, but massive kudos to the younger ones and their tutors). Across the set, each performance occurred as a potential highlight to the evening, but by its conclusion a few stood out as particularly special: notable ESRE alumni, Chris Bainbridge of Man of Moon and Stina Tweeddale of Honeyblood. The two each performed their own radio-regular songs between multitudinous ESRE alumni conglomerates. Highlights from the diverse cast’s collaborations across the evening include a harrowingly beautiful rendition of Bowie’s ‘Where Are We Now’, with only keys and sax complimenting wonderfully fragile and devastating vocals, and the climactic was sing-along of ‘Hey Jude’, where nearly every vocalist who’d taken to the stage sang a verse (at points to be lovingly drowned-out by the crowd participation).
ESRE has become more than anyone could’ve expected and has done for so many aspiring musicians what no other musical training could do. Scarce would one expect a night to be just as memorable for performers as crowd – this is certainly one: it was special for all.
For more about ESRE, check out their social media.