Edinburgh-based multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Callum Easter visits Leith FAB Cricket Club to celebrate the launch of his debut full-length release, Here or Nowhere, out on Lost Map Records.
For this evening’s hardy punters; the pros of a rare opportunity to evade door tax for a gig as enticing as this one, along with the promise of club-priced beer at the bar, have defeated the cons of the freezing drizzle and the arduous trek from civilisation into the remote wilderness on the far side of Leith Links, so the clubhouse of the grandly-titled Leith Franklin Academicals Beige Cricket Club has filled to its plywood gunwales long before the opening act takes to the stage.
That opening act are a local three-piece called Sanna, made up of guitar, vocal and a multi-instrumentalist who switches freely between cello, clarinet and melodica. Backed by electronic beats and bass loops, they present us with an engaging brand of pastoral indie-pop that evokes that free-reigned sense of experimentalism often to be found in work released by members of previously successful indie bands when they embark on their solo careers.
I watched Callum Easter perform earlier in the day at an in-store performance at the Underground Solush’n music shop on Cockburn Street, and a striking alteration to his stage attire for the main event this evening has been made with the addition of a rather natty boater, well suited to the sporting heritage of his current surroundings.
The musician’s stage set-up has also been augmented with an array of different amps and an electronics rig, but the core equipment he relies most heavily upon; an accordion I’m told he picked up for forty quid in a Portobello charity shop, and a curious vintage drum machine that looks more like a arcane item of 1960s scientific research apparatus than it does a musical instrument, remain at the forefront of the evening’s headline performance.
There’s something almost steampunk about the appealingly ramshackle and resourceful combination, and the result is something quite unique, intimate and remarkably personal. Easter has spoken about the pleasure and inspiration he takes from recycling unusual and unexpected instruments, challenging himself to make meaningful music from them, and the fruits of this labour are paying off handsomely before this audience tonight.
On occasion, Easter’s crackling, rasping voice and attacking, even brutal, approach to his accordion recalls the bruising, bluesy Americana of the Felice Brothers. He combines his naturally laid-back and good-natured bearing with a thrilling intensity of delivery to intoxicating effect as he charges through a bracing selection of tracks from both the new LP and his previous short-format releases.
The crowd provide an enthusiastic contribution to the set’s finale, Feeling’s Gone from 2016’s Get Don’t Want EP, singing the song’s irresistible hookline “Hold me and the feeling’s gone…” over and over in devoted chorus long after Easter has left the stage, only stopping when the DJ eventually starts his set.
After this show, Easter’s next booking is a live session on BBC 6music for Marc Riley’s show later in the week, and, on tonight’s evidence and the strength of material he now has under his belt, there’s no reason to doubt this performer’s trajectory will continue skyward.