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The Granite City might not be the most obvious pit stop in Scotland for a thriving music scene, but chip away at the surface and you’ll be amazed at what you’ll find here – from great hangouts to forward-thinking festivals.
Since opening in early 2005, The Tunnels has emerged as a strong supporter of new bands, with this 300-capacity venue proving small enough to feel intimate and big enough to attract the likes of Kate Nash, Hot Chip and Ladytron to its subterranean stage. Local club, Snafu, also runs live music nights through the week, with big name DJs like Optimo and Steve Bug amongst those manning the decks of a weekend.
For year-round gigs, The Lemon Tree and the grander Music Hall ensure that big name acts passing through the city have somewhere to tread the boards, with local success story Emile Sande just one of the many names to have graced their stages. Over in the Merchant Quarter of old Aberdeen, Musa – owned by Brewdog’s James Watt – offers the brand’s well-established knack for laidback quality, with a space that multi-tasks as an art gallery, live music venue and restaurant, all within the cool, relaxed confines of a 19th century church.
More recent years has seen a slow but ever-increasing rise in music (and arts) festivals in Aberdeen, utilising some of the city’s coolest spots. Relative newbie The Big Beach Ball sets itself in and around the city’s famed Beach Ballroom - which previously played host to the Beatles, The Small Faces and Pink Floyd in their heyday. It may have lost a little of its former glory (with weddings, conferences and the like now part of its year-round roster) but the dance floor is famously bouncy (thanks to its fixed steel springs), and the art deco interior should interest the architecture geeks among us. Set over just one day in May, The Big Beach Ball has shown itself as anything but shy when it comes to putting on good rock, pop and electronic acts, with local and international DJs completing the mix, alongside stand-up comedians, Tiki bars and food markets galore.
Later on in the year, normally around October/November, look out for the north east festival, Sound, which brings together a programme of events exploring new music. Previous years have seen the festival’s opera strand staged in a stable and on board a bus, as well as in a flat, a pub and in an art gallery. The Beach Ballroom, incidentally, is often just one of the many spaces used.
With so many underground music spots to explore, Aberdeen is becoming quite the arts capital. Prepare to be surprised and chances are you won’t be disappointed…
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Header Photo © The Big Beach Ball
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About the author: AnnaMillarAnna Millar
Anna is a Glasgow born and Edinburgh based freelance writer and editor specialising in arts and travel. When she’s not exploring the Highlands and Islands or reviewing Scotland’s festival scene, she’s likely to be found propping up the bar at one of New York’s finest watering holes or exploring Europe’s untapped corners.