Since Yesterday @ Leith Theatre, Edinburgh, 24 Aug
Tonight's celebration of the unsung women pioneers of Scottish pop proves that Scotland brims with pop talent – yesterday, today and tomorrow
Never mind what’s going on in the Old Town, Since Yesterday’s Leith Theatre takeover feels like a whole festival in its own right. In a loving dedication to the “unsung pioneers” of pop, the Since Yesterday super-group (including members of Kid Canaveral, Randolph’s Leap and Altered Images) provides a backing band for a glittering line-up of women throughout Scottish pop history. Hosted by a beamingly proud Carla J. Easton, the night’s a teaser for her forthcoming documentary in collaboration with filmmaker Blair Young.
We start in the 70s with The Twinsets – aka sisters Gaye and Rachel Bell – who eagerly take to the mic-stands, pausing only to offer a dedication to The Shangri-Las (“the best girl group ever”) before they tear through two tracks with pitch-perfect harmonies. The icy cool nonchalance of Edinburgh punk duo Ettes follows; Easton explains that they played just a handful of shows some forty years ago, but they are fierce and fresh and full of power. More please!
Impossibly glam, Sunset Gun’s Louise Rutkowski showcases an enormous, opulent voice as the house band try to match her disco credentials; “We’re only from twee indie pop bands!” jokes Easton. After Jane McKeown brings gritty 90s Scottish riot grrrl in the form of influential Glaswegian group Lungleg, Chemikal Underground’s own Emma Pollock leads a tribute to His Latest Flame and Sophisticated Boom Boom, before joining Jeanette of The McKinleys for an incredibly moving rendition of their evergreen 60s hit Sweet and Tender Romance.
Jeanette and her sister Sheila (who passed away in 2012) wrote the hit as Edinburgh teenagers, and, as Easton explains, she hasn’t performed the song in fifty years. It’s an emotional reminder of the bravery required to return to the stage, and the audience’s rapturous response is proof enough that we’re so lucky to have these bands, and these total bangers, in our collective pop canon. The showcase culminates in Strawberry Switchblade’s Rose McDowall (joined by Adele Bethel) performing a suitably riotous version of their hit, and the evening’s namesake, Since Yesterday.
Earlier in the night, Glasgow four-piece The Van T's kicked off this celebration with an assured set, swinging from glam pop to gritty garage and back again, rousing an early-doors audience still drying from the rain. A joyful, unstoppable force, reigning SAY Award champs Sacred Paws turned the room into putty as a grinning Rachel Aggs bounced across the stage, picking out radiant, tumbling hooks. She may have her back to drummer Eilidh Rogers, but you can practically see their brains whirring as one.
Closing out the night are Bossy Love, in typically irrepressible form. Amandah Wilkinson and John Baillie Jr (backed up live by Ollie Cox on keys) can heat up any room, so – obviously – Leith Theatre gets sweaty. Like your dream party playlist, they mix exuberant singles like Talk to Me, Want Some and Sweat It Out with covers of Blu Cantrell’s Breathe and Ginuwine’s Pony: you couldn’t find a better reminder that Scotland brims with pop talent – since yesterday, today and tomorrow.