There are a multitude of venues playing host to live music and gigs across Edinburgh, despite the perennial cries that nothing ever happens here. Ignore that – unless it’s the Summerhall gig series Nothing Ever Happens Here, which has brought many internationally renowned bands and soloists from Wild Beasts to East India Youth to the south side arts hub.
The Cowgate in the Old Town is peppered with venues catering to diverse musical tastes. There’s Bannermans, an underground lair that offers nightly gigs in its grungy vaults. Then there’s Banshee Labyrinth, claiming the hotly contested title of ‘Scotland’s Most Haunted Pub’ and staging live music including open mic nights, karaoke and battle of the bands. Located within the very vaults where plague victims were reportedly sealed to prevent the spread of disease during Edinburgh’s grim middle ages, it seems like a fair claim to make.
Sneaky Pete’s is a limited capacity venue that provides Edinburgh’s music fans with the latest cutting edge live acts from electro to indie followed by a club night later on. Next door’s Opium is for a rock crowd, and they’re not going to cater to any other tastes. Their mantra is WE DON’T DO POP (much); WE DON’T DO R’n’B; AND IF YOU WANT TO LISTEN TO HOUSE, FUCK OFF BACK TO ONE. Studio 24 (where Nirvana played, yeah) is a little more open-minded in its music policy, although it's also a safe haven for the punk and metal kids.
Next to Waverley train station, Electric Circus is a neon-filled cocktail lounge that presents gigs and karaoke shame at the back. In the New Town, the Voodoo Rooms offer gilt-mirrored salons and a home to long-running local band celebrants Limbo.
For the bigger gigs, Edinburgh is less well served, and home to an ongoing battle between residents, property developers and Wetherspoons. The Venue (where we once took in the likes of Dinosaur Jr, Boards of Canada and Tom Vek) has long since shut its doors and turned into a commercial gallery topped with flats. The Picture House has been conquered by the afore-mentioned pub chain, despite much local opposition.
Mid-level international acts can still be seen in the Liquid Room, located on Victoria Street. Bigger acts still can be found on the stage of the Corn Exchange, on the outskirts of town. Meadowbank Stadium has occasionally opened its doors for the odd big name tour (Prince, Radiohead, or Pixies anyone?) while the Ross Bandstand in Princes St Gardens offers a magical setting for summer gig series beneath Edinburgh Castle.
The Castle itself is not averse to the odd gig, particularly in August at the end of the Edinburgh Tattoo. Finally, any mention of Edinburgh live music would be incomplete without mention of Edinburgh's Hogmanay, the city’s world-leading New Year’s celebrations which feature live music on Princes St, in the gardens and throughout the city.
This is all only scratching the surface, so we’ve put together the best guide to Edinburgh gig and live music listings, from free events to superstar tours featuring both Scottish bands and international talent. If you’re organising an event or spot any information which needs listing or updating, let us know by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org with the event and venue details.