Concert Review

Edinburgh’s Wrest play to a packed 100 Club in London

The iconic 100 Club in London opened its Oxford Street doors in 1946 as a jazz club and has been hosting live music ever since.

Words and Pictures: Clive Braham – CB Music Photography

The walls of the 350-capacity basement venue are steeped in musical history with photographs of some of the legendary acts who have performed here over the decades. Acts who have played here include The Rolling Stones, Paul McCartney, Blur and The Specials. In 1976 the 100 Club was the epicentre of the new punk rock movement, hosting energetic young bands who would go on to become legends, such as the Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees, UK Subs, The Jam and The Clash. The famously independent music venue has continued to support breakthrough bands and establish acts ever since, and almost everyone who’s anyone has passed through this unremarkable looking glass door between the shops and downstairs into the basement at 100 Oxford Steet.

Tonight that trend continues when three guys from Dumfries and one from Falkirk take to the hallowed stage.

Wrest are a 4-piece Edinburgh-based indie rock band made up of lyricist Stewart Douglas on lead vocals and guitar, Stephen Whipp on lead guitar, Craig Robertson on bass and Jonny Tait on drums. Formed after a chance meeting of some of the members at an Edinburgh open mic night, they have been making waves in the Scottish indie folk-rock scene for the past 5 years and are gearing up for their biggest ever headline show on 31 August next year at Glasgow’s Barrowland Ballroom. 

After releasing self-funded debut single ‘Adventurers’ in 2018, followed by the album ‘Coward of Us All’, the band were soon selling out a succession of gigs across Scotland. Follow-up album ‘End All the Days’ was released in 2022 and the past twelve months alone has seen Wrest playing shows the length and breadth of the UK and touring extensively in Germany where they played 11 gigs. In 2023 the band also hit the stage in France, Denmark and Ireland as their stock continues to rise.

The sound combines hypnotic picked delay-infused melodies, soaring rock guitars with often emotionally charged, sometimes melancholic and always beautiful lyrics. The prominent and dynamic bass and drums lead us up and down like the rise and fall of the Firth of Forth tide. Sonic similarities to some of U2 and early releases could be buried in the foundations of Whipp’s lead guitar work before the glorious Scottish intonation of Douglas’ dulcet voice firmly plants a flag on Wrest’s unique territory. It’s not Scottish trad music but it’s clearly made in Scotland. Fans of acts such as Frightened Rabbit, Biffy Clyro and The Twilight Sad will embrace this band if they are not already besotted.

The band took to the stage and fired straight into the opener. The first stripped-down but atmospheric sixty seconds holds the audience captivated in anticipation before the full band blasts the sound into the stratosphere. During the set I had been making mental notes of adjectives to describe the sound but I need all of them for the first song. “Kingdom” is all of poetic, anthemic, melodic, powerful, euphoric, uplifting, heavy and soft, and it set the tone right away for the rest of the night. 

“End All the Days” offered more of the same, with Tait’s prominent snare drums driving the mix. Next up was the beautifully crafted “A Perfectly Spherical World”. With the reflective lyrics of “Second Wind” and the wall of sound built around Robertson’s storming bass climbing to a crescendo,  the London crowd were whooping with delight. 

“Alive” gave the audience another sonic rollercoaster ride, paving the way for one of the highlights of the evening. “Adventurers” – with its heartfelt lyrics, starts gently with twin guitars intertwining and gradually builds throughout until pounding drums beat the outro to a close. “Hope Springs” completes a triumvirate of songs lifted from the first album. 

Returning to the second album for the next three, “Bold” prepares the now sweaty audience for the melancholic masterpiece that is “The End of the World”. If you only listen to one Wrest song, make it this one. For this hot tip you’ll want to thank me later. “Medicine” and “Keep Going” continue to captivate the audience while the latter could be early Coldplay dipped in a good a Lowland malt. 

The next song was the latest single “Little Star”, and in contrast to the full band recording this was just Stewart Douglas and his Telecaster. You could hear a pin drop as the audience stood in reverential silence and drew possibly the biggest applause of the night- a sign that new material is going to take this 100% DIY band to even greater heights. 

“Lost On You” was next before Douglas introduced the fruit of the band’s lockdown home recording sessions, “Hello Indigo”. Spare time well spent as it turned out. Closing the main set was the majestic “Breathe Out” in which the vocal delivery has an air of Biffy about it before the amp-bursting refrain gives way to lowering drums and bass until Whipp’s closing lead notes bring cheers from the crowd and smiles all round. The audience were delighted when the encore brought the much anticipated and highly polished “Human” and for a final treat Douglas grabbed his acoustic guitar and joined the audience in the middle of the floor for an unplugged and personal version of “Universe Around You”.

The EP Bedtime Rhymes is released on 24 November, featuring lead single “Keep Going” and other new tracks, the same day they play a headline show at The Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh. 

Tickets for Wrest at the Glasgow Barrowlands on 31 August are available now at Skiddle

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