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  • Writer's pictureDanny C

Shelf Lives, Sneaky Pete's, Edinburgh 22-02-24

Well, that was unexpected! Brilliant and eventful but not what I thought I was going to be seeing. I couldn’t even try to count of the number of midweek gigs out to see bands “on the up” before they take off to another level, and catch them while they’re still playing small venues like Sneaky Pete’s. At these, they play only a few feet away from the crowd and in a more intimate setting that makes being at a bands early stage shows something a bit more special – and this, for many reasons on and off stage, was just that.

Speaking with Edinburgh Gigeratti regulars after the gig, Ian and Grant (who have both dabbled in music reviewing in the past), we were all in agreement ”How do you describe that then!?”. I usually try to write up a quick note for the blog as soon after the gig as I can, but I decided to leave this one a few days to try and answer that question with a few days perspective. I’ve thought about this a few times since Thursday and I’m not sure this will do it justice, but here goes…

I got there just before the main set and headed nearer to the front of the venue than I usually do and found quite a few of the older Edinburgh giggers in amongst a mainly  younger crowd, which is fairly normal, but by the end that would change quite a bit! From their recorded material, I expected a mainly punky sounding set from Shelf Livess but that couldn’t be further from what came about over the next hour. I can only say not just punk but a good mix of electro, thrash, hard rock, more than a nod to The Beastie Boys and Rage Against The Machine too,  all blending together effortlessly at different points during a very lively set. Shelf Lives (Sabrina and Jonny) are a tight and versatile duo who bounce off and complement each other like veterans, constantly switching keyboard, vocals, and guitar duties. Their set was a seamless, dynamic, engaging, relentless wall of sound that just kept getting faster and louder with every song, which the crowd responded to perfectly.

And if that isn’t enough, they have incredible stage presence. Pacing back and forward across the stage at all times Sabrina showed this to the full when halfway through the set a small mosh pit appeared with a few folk crashing through to let loose. In doing so, a couple of older fans at the front unexpectedly caught the effect of it and when one turned to the other to let his feelings be known, the other didn’t really explain very well that it wasn’t his fault (“wisnae ma f*ckin fault!”). Just as it was about to escalate Sabrina quickly sorted things by rightly interrupting them with the intro to the next song that included something along the lines of “They’re [the moshers] just trying to have fun and it’s not about you - IT’S ALL ABOUT F*CKIN’ ME!!” which got a roar of approval from the crowd. Stramash avoided and pit resumed. Best outcome all round as Ian summed it up perfectly later on with ”that was two guys who didn’t know how to properly argue with each other”

As the band got the crowd going even more, the temperature went through the roof – to Jonny Shelf Lives regret, as leather chaps maybe weren’t the best choice tonight, and I decided to make a more to the back end of the venue where I expected it to be a bit cooler and calmer. I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the place already packed with older giggers already having had the same idea and beat me to the retreat – as one guy behind me said to his gig buddy “that’s nae guid for me doon there, ahm sixty year auld, ah cannae go in a mosh pit any mair!”. Wise choice because minutes later something I don’t think I’ve seen in Sneaky Pete’s for decades happened when one fan was up beside the band, stage-dived and was crowdsurfing for the second-from-last number. That summed up a fantastic gig perfectly that left everyone buzzing.

A quick note on the support Gravelle, which I missed but Ian and Grant were raving about. This almost-local band (from Livingston, just outside Edinburgh) were compared to Christian Death, Xmal Deutschland and other various 80’s goth references to give me an idea of what I would’ve seen to make me regret not going in earlier for them, although gig-alerts now set up and socials followed so I won’t miss them next time.

If you get the chance, go see Shelf Lives - your life will be better for it (just expect it to very hot, lively and moshy. Leather chaps are optional!).

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