Festival Review | Stag & Dagger @ Various Venues

Stag and Dagger is an indoor Scottish music festival, and the biggest of its kind. It allows for local and international acts to be seen in some of Scotland’s most iconic venues over two days across Edinburgh and Glasgow. April 29th saw some of these artists play in Edinburgh’s incredible smaller venues. Stag and Dagger not only helps less-known acts get more recognition, but supports local venues that require assistance as the foundation of the Scottish music scene. Without these local venues, many of the biggest names in music, primarily Scottish talents, wouldn’t be as well known as they are.

Take a look below at the bands I saw at this year’s Stag and Dagger festival:

The Sheratons @ Cabaret Voltaire

The first act I headed to see at Stag and Dagger was The Sheratons, a four-piece band from Leeds. This was their second time playing in Edinburgh, and also my second time seeing them live. Their indie-rock tunes filled the room and had everyone dancing along with them. Among these tracks was recent 2023 single, ‘Bravo‘ and 2022 single ‘Bronze Tonight‘. The indie quartet were full of energy and power while playing their respective instruments. It was impressive to see just how many songs they could play in the short time slot they had. Other songs like ‘Raving and Drooling‘ were also played, a fan-favourite which now has over 150,000 Spotify streams.

The Sheratons are electric and honestly so fun to watch perform. Each member of the band have immense individual talent, which makes them so much more captivating to watch as a group. I highly recommend going to see The Sheratons, they were incredible!

Swim School @ The Caves

In the short amount of time between two slots, I headed over to The Caves to catch Swim School, another indie/rock band from Edinburgh. The trio are fronted by singer and guitarist Alice Johnson who is accompanied by guitarist Lewis Bunting, and drummer Billy McMahon. Each of their songs was welcomed by the crowd, some of their newer material had never been played to a hometown audience until that evening. This included ‘kill you‘, released in November 2022, and most recent release ‘don’t leave me behind‘. Also played was their dynamic track ‘delirious‘ which has quickly become their most streamed song.

I’ve followed Swim School’s journey for a couple of years now and I was so excited to finally get to watch them live. I wasn’t disappointed at all, they are all incredibly talented individually and it was a joy to see them perform, even for the short amount of time I was there. I was so glad I went, and I highly recommend them. They are perfect for fans of artists like Lovejoy, Wolf Alice, and Pale Waves.

Retro Video Club @ La Belle Angele

Next, I headed round to La Belle Angele to see another Edinburgh trio, Retro Video Club. This Stag and Dagger slot was also a hometown gig for them. From the moment they began playing, I couldn’t take my eyes off them. Retro Video Club continued to prove the impact they have and how much more they still have to show. They played a catalogue of their enticing indie anthems which had everyone singing along, or quickly learning the words as they went.

Liam Allison’s captivating vocals filled the club. Sam McGill’s incredible guitar work and Kyle Grieve’s powerful drumming perfectly complimented and added to Allison’s vocals. They played tracks from their 2022 EP, “SITUATIONS” including ‘Break Up Songs‘ and ‘Boys Like Me‘. Also performed was their newest single, ‘Dangerous‘ which is as incredible live as it is recorded. Fan favourites like ‘Chemistry‘, ‘Psycho‘, and ‘Youth‘ were also played. Retro Video Club were, as always, phenomenal!

Swiss Portrait @ Legends

Legends was my next stop where I got to see Swiss Portrait, another artist who I was very excited to see. Swiss Portrait is a group created by Michael Kay Terence, an artist from Edinburgh. Like Swim School and Retro Video Club, this was also a hometown set for Swiss Portrait. They are primarily influenced by the alternative and indie genres and all of their songs are so easy and enjoyable to listen to.

The group played a collection of these amazing tracks including their latest single ‘Before‘ which was released in April. They also performed a mix of songs from their 2021 album “Familiar Patterns” and 2022 EP “Safe House“. These have presented their most streamed tunes including ‘Casette‘, ‘Paralyzed‘ and ‘Your Mind‘.

I really enjoyed Swiss Portrait’s set and I am so glad I finally managed to see them. It was a welcomed contrast to the rock infused sets I’d been to prior to this performance. That’s the thing with Stag and Dagger Festival, the opportunity to see bands that have opposite musical influences but don’t clash with each other.

Acid Klaus @ Sneaky Pete’s

After Swiss Portrait, I headed next door to Sneaky Pete’s to watch Acid Klaus. Acid Klaus is a project created by Adrian Flanagan, a Sheffield based artist. This newest project comes after an incredibly impressive musical background of working with some of the biggest names in music. These include Phil Oakey from Human League, Sean Lennon, and Yoko Ono.

Electronic music isn’t normally something I would voluntarily listen to, but I took the chance that Stag and Dagger offered and headed along anyway. I really enjoyed this set! I loved that Acid Klaus provided the Sneaky Pete’s crowd an insight into how they create the high-energy tracks. I think this helped a lot of people appreciate this alternative and electronic genre a lot more because wasn’t simply a backing track that they were adding to. They showed the crowd the process of live looping which also made it much more impressive and immersive.

Among these popular dance infused tunes were ‘Blow Your Speakers‘, ‘Bad Club Bad Drugs Bad People‘, and ‘Step On My Travelator‘. Hearing this type of music live gave me much more appreciation for the genres I don’t regularly listen to. And I also have a lot of respect for artists like Flanagan who have built such an incredible musical reputation. Seeing him bring his material to life was amazing and I’m very glad I had the opportunity to do so.

Her Picture @ Bannerman’s Bar

The final destination for the evening for me was Bannerman’s Bar. The atmospheric pub has hosted some incredible talents, Stag and Dagger only made it possible for more of these talents to be seen. Her Picture are no exception. The Scottish group are fronted by Anny Tahaney who is joined by Cat Reid as bassist, and drummer Finlay Smith.

The Glasgow alternative-rock band recently released their debut EP in February 2023 named “Don’t Try to Comfort Me“. They played all four tracks from this EP and I was captivated by their performance. Tahaney’s vocals provided a haunting rendition of these tracks and her stage presence is incredible. By walking to the front of stage, and even joining the crowd at one point, she made the crowd feel involved and included in the performance. Reid and Smith were each powerful behind their respective instruments which really supported Tahaney.

Out of all the songs they played, ‘My Way‘ and the EP’s title track had to be my favourite. They are both a mixture of soothing but haunting vocals and heavier guitar playing. Hearing these live was amazing and it was really interesting to see how easy they made pulling all of those concepts together. No matter which member of the band you looked at, you could visibly see the passion they had for performing. I truly loved Her Picture’s set and I’m looking forward to getting to see them again sometime soon!!

Fright Years @ Bannerman’s Bar

The final band I saw that night were Fright Years. This was another hometown show as Fright Years are a four-piece indie-rock band from Edinburgh. They have 3 released singles and hearing these live was incredible! They managed to bring these to life and do them complete justice.

My personal favourite song of theirs is 2021 single ‘Another Life’ and I loved hearing this being performed. They also played 2022 singles ‘Warning Signs’ and ‘Every Weekend‘. The latter of these tracks has just under 150,000 streams on Spotify and it was clear to see why. Fright Years are a band that are certain to go on and do big things. It’s sometimes difficult for bands or artists who play late slots like this to gain as much attention but this wasn’t the case here. They completely packed out Bannerman’s Bar and I noticed everyone moving along with their incredible tracks. As the final act I saw that night, they didn’t disappoint. I highly recommend going to watch them, they each bring together their individual talents to create an amazing live set.