Born Sneaky - Sneaky Pete’s
The return of old Cowgate favourite Sneaky Pete’s as a cutting edge underground venue could breathe life back into the area. David Pollock pays it a visit.
It’s still hard to discuss Edinburgh’s club scene without referencing the Cowgate fire which claimed La Belle Angele and the Gilded Saloon in December 2002. The event, along with the demise of the Venue on Calton Road, was a hammer blow to the city’s scene from which it hasn’t yet recovered.
But we don’t want to go depressing you. In fact, we’ve got some good news to share -- a new venue has arrived on the Cowgate which inspires proper excitement rather than just curious trepidation. That it’s risen from the ashes (the metaphorical ones, in this case) of overpolished style bar Red only adds to the sense that some kind of victory is in the process of being won.
The place is now co-owned by Nick Stewart – previously Red’s manager and before that a club and gig promoter with his Clash! night at Cabaret Voltaire – and Paul Cardow. The latter runs the Glasgow-based gig promotion company PCL, and is aiming for Sneaky’s to play a similar role in Edinburgh to his Captain’s Rest pub in Glasgow, in that it can comfortably cater for very small-scale gigs by artists who will progress up the chain quickly.
‘This is a great place for local and national bands to start out,’ says Stewart. They can play here to a hundred people and pretty much sell the place out. Of course, that’s the same for all the DJs we have at our regular club nights as well. The place is very much led by the involvement of people who make and play music. We’ve got youth and interest on our side – we aren’t just a pub who have decided we fancy putting on live bands or DJs’.
Sneaky Pete’s reclaimed its name when Stewart stripped away the paint on the side of the building and discovered a sign for Sneaky’s as was years ago, a spit ‘n’ sawdust rock pub. In many ways a return to those roots has been attempted, although now the venue bears the air of credibility which only having people in charge who aim to shape trends can bring.
As well as putting on weekly clubs with their own distinct identity, Stewart also has a couple of fine monthly dates on the bill. More familiar house, techno and electro sounds can be heard at each, while the venue is already a key place in Edinburgh to enjoy a cutting edge soundtrack of bassline, Italo, Baltimore, dubstep and more. There will also be frequent big-name guest DJs, with the minimal techno sound of Soma’s Alex Smoke featuring at this fortnight’s StepBack, and rising London-based Scots producer Drums of Death having demonstrated the huge potential of this intimate space with a set at the great Playdate last month.
‘It’s really quite scary trying to open somewhere in Edinburgh,’ says Stewart, ‘if you actually want to put on proper gigs and do something worthwhile, particularly when everywhere else is just packing people in and getting them drunk. That’s not what I want. I want to put on the best possible shows for new audiences, who will hopefully stay with us for years to come.’
Alex Smoke plays StepBack at Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh, Fri 21 Nov. See listings for details of regular club nights and gigs.