Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 July 2013
At the very start of the Festival period, the Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival treats the city to a pair of free events, totalling seven hours of alfresco music over the two days of its first weekend. The Festival's early timing means these events are largely attended by locals.
First up is Edinburgh's very own Mardi Gras, down in the Grassmarket just south of the Royal Mile. Starting from 1pm, there'll be three hours of music on a couple of outdoor stages - with a visual splash provided by parade bands, and a troupe of "brollie dollies" (their term, not ours). The atmosphere obviously depends on the weather, but on a fine day the crowd is enormous. Turn up early if you want to bag a table in front of one of the many hostelries along the side of the street.
The very next day, the Edinburgh Festival Carnival takes over Princes Street Gardens, embracing all comers for a solid afternoon's entertainment. This relatively new event is still finding its feet, but we're promised music, dance and street shows - with contributions from performers spanning all Edinburgh's summer festivals. Princes Street Gardens will be at the centre of the action from 2pm to 4pm, and back down in the Grassmarket, there'll be a market and live jazz from 2 till 5.
If you're a veteran of previous Festivals, note that there's no parade from City Chambers this year - Saturday's events start in the Grassmarket.
About the Jazz and Blues Festival
The weekend events are the curtain-raiser for the week-long Edinburgh Jazz and Blues Festival, the annual lead-in to the August Festival season. This most laid-back of gatherings takes full advantage of its pre-Fringe scheduling, temporarily occupying some of the Festival's most iconic venues for its busy and varied programme.
Though Jazz and Blues events routinely sell out, there's likely to be good availability for most gigs until after the opening weekend. The canniest way of approaching the Festival is to use the free events to sample what's on offer - then get in quickly for tickets to see the acts you like the most. When you're ready to book, find full information on the Festival's official website.
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