So I went to another gig last night. I know – on a school night! And I am so glad I did, even though, sadly, We Aeronauts had cancelled due to illness. My reason for attending this particular gig, was to support the lovely Sylva Kay, so I was still very much looking forward to it.
First up was Bear, of Bear and the Woods (which I have been calling Bear in the Woods to everyone and anyone. Whoops!). Bear did an acoustic solo set, sans The Woods, to the quiet Listening Room, and very lovely he was too. Quietly spoken, with beautiful eyes and a rugged lumberjack look (big beard, checked shirt…) and half shaved, half floppy-fringed hair, he was the kind of guy I was in love with at college. Intelligent, poetic and way out of my league! And then he started singing. Yep, so far out of my league, he was but a dot in the distance. Bear’s voice was so rich and soulful, with a slight rasp and an amazing range. When he openly discussed his personal fight against depression, it went some way to helping understand the pain within his singing and lyrics. The folky, rocky style of his music prevented his set from being a big sad-fest, and I found myself smiling as I tapped along to the stories he wove for us. It would be easy for me to compare his sound to that of Mumford & Sons but despite it being within the same genre, his voice is unique, and it would be dismissive of me to make such comparisons.
When Bear spoke of depression, I almost wanted to stop the show and get into discussion with him. I suffer from depression, too, and I also think that talking about it as openly as Bear did is the way forward. I do – I’m very open about it. I don’t want to make people feel awkward about it, but I do want them to be aware that although I am a very jolly person - I laugh, a lot, and frankly, I am hilarious - my brain chemicals are faulty, and sometimes take me to dark places that mean I can’t deal with the world occasionally. Not even with my tiny part of the world. So, his heartfelt plea to speak out really touched me. His lyrics went some way to conveying this struggle against his demons, especially a very new song Spilt Milk. But it wasn’t ‘all doom and gloom’ as he self-effacingly declared a couple of times. For Ellen is a brilliant love song to Ellen Ripley. From the alien in Alien. I was smirking and smiling to myself and enjoying the references to the film: ‘no-one can hear you scream’ and ‘meet me at the airlock, oh I can hardly breathe’ among others. However it was his cheeky cover track that had me wanting to laugh out loud. The theme tune to Fresh Prince of Bel Air folk-rock style. Inspired.
Next up we had Sylva Kay. I heard Sylva on BBC Radio Oxford, so thought I had an idea of what to expect, but watching her live was a whole other story. Not to repeat myself, but she is the kind of girl I’d have fallen in love with a school. As with Bear, quite soft-spoken, a little self-effacing, somewhat quirky, very beautiful and amazingly talented. Unlike Bear, no big beard. There was so much tech and so many wires and boards of knobs and stuff on stage that I was fascinated by how on earth she could know what to press and what to twiddle and when to do it. All while playing a guitar, or brushing a cymbal, and singing. I mean, she is the ultimate in the multi-tasking woman. But aside from my complete awe in her clever looping and button-pressing, it was her voice that had me hypnotised. There’s something ethereal and sweet about it, but also quite clear-cut and precise, which nicely complements the retro, rough-around-the-edges, sound she creates. My mind was trying to match her up with singers I know – Bjork, PJ Harvey, Juliana Hatfield all came to mind. But, as with Bear, there isn’t really a comparison. She is quite unique. And I found her lyrics heartfelt and poetic, therapeutic even. Combine this with the outstanding ability to add all the clever looping stuff that allows her to record her own backing track live on stage, and I know that I will be playing her CD, Undercut, well, on a loop, I guess.
In both cases I wanted to hang around and tell the artists how brilliant they are, but I get all gushy and fangirlish when it comes to talking to talented people, so I saved everyone that embarrassment! Maybe next time though…