Help Musicians Scotland celebrate sold-out launch with incredible Idlewild set and outstanding performances from breakthrough musicians.

Words by Thom Watt. @ThomAlexWatt

We produce exceptional musicians on these shores. Not just songwriters or producers of good music, but storytellers of depth and feeling. Help Musicians Scotland show at King Tut’s wasn’t just a charitable event for a great cause, it was a reminder that we’re still doing it.

Help Musicians Scotland is – as you may have deduced – the local version of Help Musicians UK, a charity of some 100 years, dedicated to aiding and advising musicians throughout their careers or in times of emotional or financial difficulty. They launched their #rootedinscotland this year in partnership with Celtic Connections, and what more apt place to celebrate that hashtag than the legendary King Tut’s.

Edinburgh’s SKJØR (shure) opened proceedings with their dark ethereal pop, taking in a little bit of Warpaint, a nod to Nadine Shah and a very welcome dose of McGeoch-era Siouxie and the Banshees.

They were followed by Indigo Velvet, who have a pretty unique talent, besides the tunes (and there are plenty of them). Good bands can take a variety of influences, distil them down and turn out something new. The Leith four-piece manage to take a little bit from a lot of places – NYC swagger, east-African syncopation, the odd southern drawl and a very Scottish gang mentality – without overtly leaning on any one element. They take a bit of everything and yet somehow only sound like themselves.

One of the most satisfying by-products of the iPod generation is the willingness of bands to take what they like from Musical History, rather than what was prescribed. Indigo Velvet are a perfect example of exactly that. With at least half the crowd in their fourth decade or older, they got King Tut’s dancing on a school night.

Be Charlotte made it all look incredibly easy, bringing another level of energy with their rhythmic pop. Creating genuinely interesting pop music is an almost impossible challenge, because it relies on repetition and familiarity to get those elusive hooks into your consciousness. Be Charlotte manage to be both instantly catchy and surprisingly, well, surprising.

The first time Idlewild (or is it still idlewild?) played King Tut’s in 1995, the majority – if not all – of the night’s other performers were but glints in their parents’ eyes. The young upstarts who were famously described by Melody Maker as sounding like “a flight of stairs falling down a flight of stairs” progressed into some of the finest songwriters the country has ever produced.

That they were produced by “the country” matters.  Idlewild did for Scotland what the Manic Street Preachers did for Wales or The Smiths did for Manchester, bridging the gap between the cool (they worked with Bob Weston!), the literate (songs about Gertrude Stein!) and the traditional (collaborations with John McCusker and Edwin Morgan!!). Before Idlewild, lots of bands had come from Scotland. Until Idlewild, nobody was cool because they did. We were reminded why with a really special (semi) acoustic performance of The Hits – Little Discourage, American English, Live in a Hiding Place, Love Steals us from Loneliness – and some incredible harmonies.

We’re good at this, aren’t we?


Visit Rooted In Scotland for details of all events.  For more information about Help Musicians UK and Help Musicians Scotland visit their website.