Withered Hand and Meursault head up Edinburgh's Retreat!
Home-grown, DIY city festival, in a church
As we stagger, tired and bewildered, in the twilight of this year’s Edinburgh Festival, there’s a DIY pop haven on the horizon, and it’s got all of our names on it. It’s locally-sourced, it’s BYOB and it’s for all ages. Its name is Retreat. Sorry – Retreat!
Whether its designate suggests a late-Fest kickback, a lost weekend, or a grassroots call-to-arms – most likely all three – the third annual Retreat! will amass independent Edinburgh music stars like Meursault, FOUND, Withered Hand, Wounded Knee, Rob St John, Milk, 7VWWVW and many more for an underground carnival that also promises film screenings, record and book stalls, costumery, foodstuffs and an arch-compère.
The recently rechristened ‘Tracey Trails’, of Edinburgh promoters Tracer Trails, co-founded the micro-festival two years ago, but its counter-cultural doctrine goes way back. ‘Retreat! has been ripped directly from the handbook of self-organised popular music,’ she says of the event, which ran through several weeks in 2008, and as an all-dayer in 2009. It’s over a weekend this time around. ‘The present incarnation might bear resemblance to the first International Pop Underground Convention held in Olympia, Washington in August 1991; or Homegame 1 in Anstruther, Fife, April 2004,’ she offers.
Co-organiser Bart Owl, of local gig-hosts The Gentle Invasion and, of course, the melodic heart of eagleowl – who’re also playing – thinks the event offers a celebratory and artist-friendly sanctuary for local bands too. ‘Retreat! has a different feel [to regular concerts] as it’s always been in a non-venue space, or at least a space not usually used for gigs,’ he enthuses. ‘I think this year’s venue is amazing – it’s a nice size, there’s a proper stage with plenty of room. We played a show there a couple of weeks ago with Calvin Johnson and there was a really relaxed atmosphere,’ he says.
Retreat! may thus experience a lack of disgruntled musos and battling egos, but Bart confesses that there’s a risk in playing at an all-ages festival. ‘We’ve had kids dance at our shows before, but then again we’ve also had them run away screaming,’ he sighs. ‘Kids can be the harshest critics.’