BurySpy, 5th March 2015
This piece was written for BurySpy.com, and the original online copy can be found here.
As venues go, the Living Room is an odd one. Placed in a back room of Bury St Edmunds’ Hunter Club, it replaces standing room with a mix of vintage chairs, tables and comfy sofas, the stage is covered with a Persian rug and next to the speakers stands an upright lamp with a tassel-covered lampshade. I’m not sure if I’ve come to a gig, or if my grandmother is hosting a live music event.
As the first act comes on stage, the intimacy in the room creates a sort of awkward stage presence. Nineteen-year-old Oliver Daldry is up first, and as he lingers between songs – barely eight feet from the edge of my table – there is a sense that he might be just a little bit too close. The fourth wall hasn’t just been breached – it’s not yet been built and we’re watching Oliver practise at home. “Are you all alright?” he asks as he tunes up a folky-looking electro-acoustic. There isn’t a need to raise our voices to respond.
And yet, that intimacy was the event’s biggest asset. The singer-songwriter music that becomes so impersonal on a big stage felt completely at home in The Living Room. Daldry’s sound combined heartfelt lyrics with folkesque strumming – think Noah and the Whale’s Charlie Fink crossed with Radical Face. Tentatively admitting that “all of my songs are kind of about the same thing”, he played a relaxed, unpretentious set with good vocal range, and finished with a song he modestly describes as one that “apparently James Blunt likes a bit”. We’re not surprised.
Ellie Jamison, until this point an inconspicuous member of the front sofa, took the stage after Daldry and tuned up another guitar. Her set-list was punctuated by short insights into the origins of her songs: “this one’s about my kids,” or “another complicated relationship in a song”. Her tracks had interesting and original lyrics which felt more like a conversation with her audience – in keeping with her folky, acoustic roots, she was unobtrusive and genuine. In a surreal twist, she brought out a ukulele for her last track and the room sang along to a cheery chorus. Not serious, but not unwelcome.
The poster boy of the night, ex-support act for Ed Sheeran and Passenger and ‘Vine’ artist on the internet (check it out) was Ethan Ash. He took the stage in his signature red performance shoes, flashed an Epiphone Dot – (something electric!) and settled into his set. He billed his first track, somewhat bizarrely, as “a song I wrote for someone I didn’t care about, like in a relationship”. Any ambiguity was lost as the song began: it’s a rejection letter in musical form. Ash warbled through verses of I Haven’t Got There Yet, gloating of the love he doesn’t return. But darling it’s OK/You can still stay/in my bed tonight, he continues, in what appeared to be a song written entirely for his own ego. “I don’t talk to her anymore” he sniggers. Again, we’re not surprised.
Musically, his vocals were interesting, but built around melodic lines that were not. There was a disjuncture between his somewhat derivative sound and stage presence, which was concentrated in the small venue and cloyingly confident. The title track of his new EP, Chasing Your Love, was romance-autobiographical and whilst less self-indulgent, no more original. Ash took time between tracks to deliver personal anecdotes about how difficult he was to live with. At risk of repetition, we’re not surprised.
The Living Room was a great venue with some good acts. Designed to bring acoustic music to a small, personal audience; it brought to life the folky tracks which had real depth. The stand-out performer was Oliver Daldry, whose quiet modesty and soulful tracks warmed the audience and made them – quite literally – at home. “This is my first performance in a while, so it might be a bit awkward” he told us. “I hope you enjoy the awkwardness”. Notable ego aside, we did.