De Rosa / The Graeme Mearns Band / Private Jackson
Edinburgh The Loft (27/5/2007)
The Loft makes for a curious venue. Tucked into the upper corner of the rambling Three Sisters pub, its only entrance is via their main courtyard. Weaving your way through the stag parties, broken glass and staggering drunkards is no mean feat, but luckily Tigerfest have supplied a line-up that makes running the gauntlet just about worthwhile. Private Jackson have been around long enough to be considered something of an Edinburgh institution, but going by tonight’s performance they’re unlikely to spread their rather rough-edged punk-lite elsewhere. The distressingly flat vocals don’t help their cause, and while some of their newer material hints at future potential, their old songs drag them back down again. Despite a handful of good tunes and some solid bass lines they never really get off the ground, and the small crowd that’s gathered to watch them gradually drifts back to the bar.
The Graeme Mearns Band offer us a far slicker performance, even if it begins to sound a little samey. There’s an indisputable pleasure in watching a man in a three-piece suit and trilby tackling hard-edged rock, and if the lights were dimmed a little you could almost believe that William Burroughs has returned from the dead to thrash out some AC/DC covers. Effect-pedal troubles mar the middle of the set, but once they’re back on track with a war cry of “this is not fucking emo pop” they manage to shake The Loft’s stone columns in suitably distorted fashion. Even the two girls dressed as bumble bees who accidentally wander into the venue don’t put them off their stride.
There’s no doubting that tonight is De Rosa’s night, however, even if they’re looking unusually humble and hungover. Opening with old favourites ‘Cathkin Braes’, ‘Camera’ and ‘Evelyn’, they then slot in a short burst of new material, due to be recorded later this year. If anything it’s even better than the material from Mend, seeing them expand their sound into new areas while retaining their ear for a strong tune, and you can almost see the crowd salivating in anticipation of their second album. They return to Mend with ‘Father’s Eyes’ and ‘Engineer’, before being called back for what we’re told is their first ever encore in Edinburgh. Possibly Scotland’s best kept secret, De Rosa have shown us yet again that you don’t need on-stage theatrics or three-piece suits to bring the house down. Now, it’s time to brave that courtyard again…Dan Coxon