Bannerman’s Bar in Edinburgh’s Cowgate is nestled under George IV Bridge. In fact, the main live gig space is often referred to as the tunnel, as it’s right under one of the bridge supports. It’s been a mainstay of the Edinburgh rock scene for decades with its two popular bar areas. Most nights of the week live bands are thundering away in the cosy confines of the near two hundred capacity live music room.
Christian Kimmett is the man responsible for getting the bands in at Bannerman’s, something he squeezes in along with playing bass for the likes of Warrior Soul, Love/Hate and other touring bands.
“Bannerman’s became more of a rock bar in the early nineties,” explains Christian as we chat on the venue’s stage. “This room that we’re in just now used to be half the size it is. It was a guy called Paul Hasty who started putting the live music in. He wanted it to be the only venue in Edinburgh that would provide a backline to give local bands the opportunity to come and play. The musicians didn’t have to worry about bringing stuff except for their guitars and themselves. Then, a bit further down the line, they knocked the wall through. This is why it’s now just under 200 capacity, and it’s had many a band through the door since.”
Christian Kimmett used to play Bannerman’s before he became part of the team. He began working in the bar around 2010. “Then, after maybe about a year, I had the opportunity to put a band on here,” the veteran bassist says. “It pretty much sold out. Then I thought I could try and do this again with another band. I did it, and then it was just about how you deal with it all.
“Now, I’ve been here for about 13 years and in that time, I’ve probably been responsible for the music for about 12 of those years. It’s great. I love it. I wouldn’t do anything else.”
Like all the other grassroots music venues up and down the UK, Bannerman’s has had to deal with many challenges. The pandemic, the economy and finding the audience to support live music 5-7 nights a week. But over time, they have built up a loyal clientele for both the well-run bar and the variety and quality of the live bands who play.
Ruminating on the ups and downs of life at a live venue, Christian says, “Sometimes you might put on a show, and if it’s a band that people don’t necessarily know, they can play next to nobody. And, I mean, that could be a band that maybe plays to big crowds in other parts of the world or even in other cities in the UK.”
However, Christian says there are real positives. “Like when you bring a smaller band through, and that then builds and builds. I’ve had the likes of Massive Wagons play here to fifteen people. I used to have Mason Hill open up shows and stuff like that.”
Bannerman’s Bar often get bigger names through the doors too, though, as Mr Kimmett confirms, “We have some acts folk would say are probably beyond playing here, but they come back because we look after them.”
I mention that I’ve seen the likes of Geoff Tate here. “We’ve had the likes of Doug Aldrich from Whitesnake,” Christian says, “and Gilby Clarke of Guns N’ Roses, Cherie Currie from The Runaways. There are loads of them. Mick Ralphs from Bad Company played a solo show here, and then the following week, he was playing the Hydro arena.”
There’s a note of pride in the man’s voice when he says, “Paul Di’Anno from Iron Maiden was here for two nights. When I was a kid, if anybody had ever told me I was going to work with the singer on the first two Iron Maiden albums, I wouldn’t have believed them!”
With future gigs, including an already sold-out show by Ginger Wildheart, original Thin Lizzy man Eric Bell, plus up-and-coming acts like US sensations The Bites, Bannerman’s will continue to be an Edinburgh institution for many years to come.
Shows for the next month or so can be seen in the list below with ticket links if you want to join the Edinburgh party under the bridge. You can find out more on our Bannerman’s Venue Page or at bannermanslive.co.uk. You can read more about our featured venues here.