As Edinburgh continued to enjoy respectable temperatures for the time of year anticipation was also running high for the continuation of this, the first Franklin Fest. Given the calibre of the bands set to play across tonight and tomorrow there was much to hope for and as things unfolded from 8pm onwards expectations were to be readily met, if not in fact exceeded.
First to appear in the Franklin Academicals Beige Cricket Club pavilion tonight were local trio Sally Skull, reconstituted 17 years after their last gig specially for the event. Not a band that rang any bells with me from back then and whilst the length of time since that previous show was at times all too evident they got through their time slot pretty much unscathed after at least warming up the crowd as is the lot of an opening act.
Localism was the name of the game for tonight's second act as the legendary Thanes came on for a hometown show. Have I ever seen them play better? I doubt it. A tighter unit it would be hard to imagine. Whilst on record they can at times be a tad too light they had a rawness and energy about them this evening that sucked the crowd in and carried it along for the ride. Lenny Helsing, a chap you'd find it difficult to describe as anything other than mild-mannered, performed like a man possessed as the quartet raced through a packed set that amply showed what musical polymaths they are, covering Dutch beat tracks and suchlike along with their own wholly authentic original material. That and the exceptional sound quality they and the rest of the weekend's acts enjoyed made this a clear highlight of the whole experience.
Which meant that there was ever so slightly more meaning behind Russell Wilkins' thanks for Lord Rochester being placed next in the bill. The audience though needed a bit of a breather so the trio's Bo Diddley inspired activities, whilst not exactly slow by any means, came as a bit of relief after the previous musical assault. Pounding through a host of their own material including 'My Baby Won't Ride Beside Me', 'Seven Steps To Heaven' and their main inspiration's 'Who Do You Love?' they exhibited the bantering and inclusive nature of the festival as a whole with their solid engagement with the receptive crowd. They even inveigled Bruce Brand to step behind the drumkit for a rousing singalong finale, which is no small thing.
Mr. Brand was then of course back in the performance space in no time at all (swift changeovers being another major plus point in the event's favour) as The Masonics played us into the early part of the next morning. Longtime stalwarts of the scene Mickey Hampshire, John Gibb & Bruce were last seen by this writer at the inaugural Hipsville back in 2013 so being involved right at the birth of such events is looking like a bit of habit for them. Not though one they should break any time soon. Kicking off with 'I've Only Got Myself To Blame' they joked & thundered through more of their own classic material as well as new track 'Don't Torment Me' (during which the volume managed to rise significantly). Joined for a few numbers by Ludella Black (including 'Make You Mine' during the encore) theirs was as consummate a performance and example of what the weekend as could have been hoped for. Top marks & extra points for somehow managing to stay suited up in the pervading heat of the hall.
A finer first night proper you'd have been unlikely to find anywhere and one that those behind it and involved at any level could be rightly proud of. A hard act for Saturday night to follow ...