Bonnie Kemplay at Sneaky Pete's

05 January 2023

With a capacity of just 100 people, Sneaky Pete’s is a small venue that plays a massive role in Edinburgh’s live music scene.

Sneaks Sign Credit Maciej Kawka(Image Credit Maciej Kawka)

Open 7 nights a week, this tiny no-frills venue on The Cowgate in Edinburgh’s atmospheric Old Town, is a must-visit for any music fan visiting the capital. And just a 10-15 minute walk from Princes Street, it’s within easy distance of all the city’s transport hubs.

Staging more than 250 gigs a year with bands from across the spectrum of music styles, and clubs most nights, music-loving visitors are sure to discover something interesting. The club's reputation has grown further afield in recent years, culminating in some impressive award wins and recognition - notably winning Music Week’s Grassroots Music Venue in 2019.

A hub for new music, Sneaky Pete’s is the venue that every up-and-coming local band dreams of headlining – a milestone that shows they’ve reached a new level in their journey. It was where a young local trio called Young Fathers played one of their first shows on the road to becoming one of the world’s most innovative acts.

It’s also key stop-off for emerging bands touring the UK. From Ben Howard, Future Islands and Mumford & Sons, many a now-famous artist has taken to the Sneaky’s stage on their journey to arenas. 

And when the gigs finish, Sneaky Pete’s transforms into a thrilling club space adored by world-renowned DJs like Erol Alkan and Daniel Avery who hold it in such high regard they often return to play there in-between playing their usual array of massive venues and festivals.

The performance

Bonnie Kemplay At Sneaky Petes

At this gig, it was the turn of a rapidly rising local star - Bonnie Kemplay – to take to the stage for her first-ever headline show.

Kemplay is the latest success story emerging from Edinburgh’s eclectic and thriving live music scene, making waves across the UK and beyond like others such as BBC Radio 6 favourite Hamish Hawk and Swim School who have been gigging hard during 2022 and winning fans across the country.

Her breakthrough came when she was named the UK’s ‘Top Emerging Artist’ by BBC Radio 1’s Live Lounge in 2021. Since then she has signed a record deal with Dirty Hit (home of The 1975, Beabadoobee and Wolf Alice), opened for Adele, performed at UK festivals such as Reading and TRNSMT, and recently announced that she will support The 1975 on tour next year.

Now currently based in Manchester, this gig back in her hometown celebrated the launch of her debut EP ‘Running out of things to say, running out of things to do’.

But before her set, two other exciting young local bands emphasized the new wave of talent to be found in Edinburgh just now.

The first support act, No Windows, featuring the teenage duo of multi-instrumentalist Morgan Morris and singer Verity Slangen showcased a strikingly creative woozy layered sound, which evoked hints of Mazzy Star mingling with My Bloody Valentine while sounding completely unique. 

Quiet Houses At Sneaky Petes

Up next were Quiet Houses. Like Kemplay this duo - Jamie Stewart on guitar and Hannah Elliott on vocals - hail from Edinburgh but are currently Manchester based. Their enchanting fusion of folk and indie influences had the audience hooked, with the 2021 single ‘Cold Water Swimming’ - which is fast approaching one million Spotify streams - notably well received.

When it was Kemplay’s turn, she arrived on stage wearing a Snail Mail t-shirt, providing a handy reference point for her introspective lyrics and guitar skills. Accompanied by a four-strong band which included Jamie from Quiet House, her set started strongly with single ‘19’ - a perfect example of Kemplay’s ability to create intimate songs and distinctive guitar sounds that flirt from quiet to loud.

Standouts of the set included mellow 2020 single ‘Waiting for you’, ‘Checkers’, a song written with Quiet Houses, and ‘Static’, about her experience with a repetitive strain injury that prevented her playing guitar for 18 months. A rousing rendition of ‘Blushing’ felt like the perfect finale and the embodiment of Kemplay’s intimate lyrics, deft guitar lines, and her distinctive delicate power.

About the venue

Sneaky Pete’s is one of several live music venues situated in and around the Cowgate area of Edinburgh’s historic Old Town. Just across the road, music fans can discover The Bongo Club, while a short walk along the Cowgate there is La Belle Angele, The Mash House and beyond that The Caves. In addition, The Liquid Rooms can be found on nearby Victoria Street.

For a pre or post-gig drink, the area is also well served with some hugely popular live music bars such as Bannermans and Stramash.

In 2023, why not experience the lively experience of Sneaky Pete’s for yourself – see their website for a list of upcoming gigs.


This was a paid review, written by Stuart Niven for Forever Edinburgh and in partnership with Edinburgh Music Lovers