Go Away to Aberdeen
If this year's anything like last year catch Go North's flagged talent before they go massive!
Okay, Scotland's third largest city may not have the brimming cultural calendar that we have down here, but if you're going to pick a time of year to go, pick April and May when it goes festival mentalÃ‚Â…
As venues go The Lemon Tree is certainly nothing to suck on, with it acting as Aberdeen's most well known theatre, comedy club, gig venue and gallery space all at once. April 10 to 15 are the dates it hosts Rootin Aboot, the festival of folk, roots and acoustic music which yes, does have fiddle music your parents like, but also the Peatbog Faeries, with their Scottish traditional-music-on-amphetamines sound, and the world premiere of a collaboration between the haunting but comforting blues of Bonnie Prince Billy and Harem Scarem, the Scottish-Irish traditional band.
Later in April Triptych will be convoying up a good helping of the best as well as a fair few equally agreeable gigs exclusive to the north: including one-man acoustic treasure Kitchen Cynics; Chicago house lover Gene Farris; local psych-folkies The Tells; and the highly spoken of visionary music maker and serial collaborator Bill Wells. These gigs are certainly keeping the "tri" in Triptych. If you're a first-timer going up to Aberdeen not during Triptych and are up for seeking out good clubs you can do no wrong to look at the venues they use. The Tunnels, hidden away under Marks and Spencer's, has decent local club nights and is the place where the likes of Optimo play when they're up. Or, Club Snafu is the slicker alternative; bringing up touring electronic and deep house acts to their cosy basement club.
After April slides into May there's still a lot happening; first up is Go North 06 on May 10 and 11. This innovative newcomer festival will have a mighty forty acts playing in six venues. Oh, and can I add that this is over only two days. And it's all held in one street. Final brag – it's all free. This tiny wee version of South By Southwest herds some of the most exciting new talent to Aberdeen from all over Scotland, the rest of UK and Scandinavia, and then lets rip with gigs. Thanks to funding from the Highlands and Islands Enterprise there'll be showcases from the post punk band with the prettiest melodies - Kircaldy's St Jude's Infirmary, energetic hip-hop roars from DOPE, swaggering Glasgow girl-band The Hedrons, and the Deen's very own Hookers Green No.1. Not to mention two of the highlights from the Highlands & Islands, include Stereoglo and Call To Mind. If this year's anything like last year, catch Go North's flagged talent before they go massive!
Nearly all these bands, and the thirty others, will be performing in Aberdeen's Belmont Street. It is a great street by any Scottish city's standards, really the best area to drink and shop in the city. It's here you'll find Fopp (needs no introduction), Cavern Records (pleasingly crammed full of rare and retro vinyl if not a bit dusty) and One Up (hub-like independent music retailer – with no clue about the city you can find out what's happening in here). Also found on Belmont St is Café Drummonds, the Sleazies/City Cafe of the North.
Finally, if music festivals are not enough, there's the writers' festival Word, May 12 – 14. Expect a varied programme of international and local talent to be announced soon, including the ever popular Poetry Slam.
One last incentive - Aberdeen has a clean, surfable two-mile sandy beach that spits upon Kelvingrove and The Meadows as a Springtime frisbee destination. Honestly central belt-ers - leave your dreary, cold, farm animal romancing preconceptions behind; these are the months to give Aberdeen a chance.
Online advance booking means Super Single fares from £4 each way from both Edinburgh and Glasgow
Express bus journey time is approx 3 hours
Aberdeen Youth Hostel, 8 Queens Road, 08700041100 – Four star facilities with 2am curfew, from £12 ppn
Balvenie Guest House, 9 St Swithin Street, 01224322559 - Family run, from £16pppn including massive cooked breakfast
The Globe Inn, 13-15 North Silver Street, 01224624258 – Cheap, huge portions and sports screens but no sports yobs
Foyer Restaurant and Gallery, 82a Crown Street, 01224582277 – Artwork and imaginative food from this charitable organisation
Club Snafu, 48 Union Street, 01224622660 www.clubsnafu.com
Café Drummond, 1 Belmont Street, 01224619931 www.cafedrummond.co.uk
Kef, 9 Belmont St, 01224 648000 – A relaxed and hip gig venue
Prince of Wales Bar, 7 St. Nicholas Lane, 01224640597 - A traditional pub with no pretence
The Tunnels, Carnegies Brae (ask for directions), 01224211121
The Belmont, 49 Belmont Street, 01224 343536 – Lovely art house cinema
Aberdeen Art Gallery, Schoolhill, 01224 523700 – A better cutting edge modern collection than Glasgow or Edinburgh, www.aagm.co.uk
Peacock Visual Arts, 21 Castle Street, 01224 627 094, www.peacockvisualarts.co.uk – Deservedly hip gallery and creative space
Rootin Aboot, April 10 – 15, www.lemontree.org
Triptych, April 26 – 30, www.triptychfestival.com
Go North, May 10 – 11, www.goevents.info
Word, May 12 – 14, www.abdn.ac.uk/word
For more info on Aberdeen, including accommodation booking, go to www.visitscotland.com/citybreak