On a dark corner of Edinburgh, where a great stone bridge crosses the water of Leith, a curious pedestrian may spy a steamed-up door, and a room full of eccentrics. Beware ye, who enter. Sketchy Beats is not for the faint hearted, or the easily embarrassed.
The place in question is Sketchy Beats Cafe, a community-centered space for the weird and wonderful residents of Leith (and beyond) to gather in celebration of music, poetry and – on this particular night – Robert Burns. Chief Wrangler of such sessions is the wild-haired and talkative David Roberts – perhaps most eccentric of them all. His musical talent is not quite as plentiful as his enthusiasm. But certainly he has amassed a terrific set of artists to grace the lovely halls of Sketchy Beats Cafe.
Alicia Ukelele – a sweet pixie of a thing with a lovely voice and a permanent smile – cooed a number of beautiful burns-themed ballads, before gifting us with a few songs of her own.
Van Tastik, a half-french, half-American, steampunk-ish gentleman with his name sellotaped to his back, delivered a smoky voiced set which had the whole room a-stomping. Best of the night was El Lowin – a prodigious singer with a growling, soaring roar of a voice which far surpasses his modesty, and age.
And finally the food! Classic Burns fare, catering to both the carnivorous and the strictly vegetarian was delicious. Spicy haggis and roasted vegetables were plentiful and on point. Never have I eaten such a feast for a mere £6 – with entertainment included.
In summary, David Roberts’ nights at the café are in a league of their own. The man himself was nothing except eager. And he did a brilliant job of engaging the audience (bar the moment when he bade everyone watch a woman breast-feeding her child – privacy, David!).
For those singers and poets looking for a strange and accepting place to draw, write, perform, or listen – look no further than this little slice of paradise. There is many a night in Scotland full of talent. But fewer places where a lonely soul can find such a warm welcome, or a safe space. Be ready for an awkward moment or two – and don’t expect things to run according to any schedule. But do tuck a new poem or song under your arm, get your biggest smile on, and try something different.
Sketchy beats is certainly a little sketchy – but it’s warm as can be.
Reviewer : Charlotte Morgan