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Eliza Jaye | Lucy Kitchen | Anja McCloskey

The Art House, Southampton

4th April 2015              

Our ‘Punk Throwback’  leaves his noisy comfort zone to check out the arty-acoustic vegan-café-scene in Southampton in a bid to stop himself obsessing further over the Sleaford Mods.

I fancied a change. Something non-rock ‘n’ roll and more befitting a man of my advancing years. A sit-down gig! And my mate Shaun has been trying to persuade me to see Lucy Kitchen for a while.

So off we went to the Art House; a two floor shop converted into a vegan café, pre-loved clothes boutique, art gallery and performance space. It’s all very knit-your-own-museli, green-party-boho-chic, rad-fem arty-farty micro-brewery hippy meets hipster heaven and instantly gave me the urge to belch loudly or pretend to have tourettes… but I did behave. And the staff are actually very nice, its just a small section of the audience who seem pretentious.

With approximately forty seats upstairs it’s a very cosy boho atmos in an intimate venue where you can see artistes that would pull far bigger crowds in other cities.

First on was the aforementioned Lucy Kitchen. Along with six thousand others she entered the Glastonbury Emerging Talent Competition 2015 and is down to the Final 8. Soon she will know if she wins a spot on a main stage at Glasto this year.

I don’t really know if she could be the heiress to Joni Mitchell’s crown or whether she is ‘the new Sandy Denny’ as someone who knows about these things said. To me, she is the antithesis to everything I like as far as music is concerned, generally speaking. Lucy Kitchen is The Anti-Sleaford Mods. The nearest I have to her style of music in my collection is Tracey Thorn’s Plain Sailing mini album. (Which sounded really dull last time I listened to it). I do know that Lucy seems to be the sweetest, most polite young woman you’ll ever meet. She’s old-fashioned and charming. As is her music. Gentle picking acoustic and a delicate but strong voice.  She can keep an audience captivated with her songs. They have an innocence and wistful melancholy. They seem deceptively simple and pure without being dull or saccharine. With the right breakthrough hit song, her Luka, she will be a star. A natural, old-fashioned star with no gimmicks or frippery. (She passed my personal test of whether I like a band or artist or not; I didn’t sneak out halfway for a fag, a pee or a drink.)

She works with various dance / electronic acts giving them an ‘organic’ feel and her a touch of modernity. If chilled alt-folk is your bag, check her out at your nearest boutique festival.

Anja McCloskey is a different kettle of fish. One bookish-looking woman with an accordion and loads of confidence. Her voice is a bit operatic and theatrical but the music that blasts out of her accordion is a marvel. The booming bass parts sound like a church organ and other complex runs sound like the Stranglers Dave Greenfield. At times I desperately wanted the song to segue into Alabama Song (probably because it sounds like it was written to be played on an accordion and somehow, to me, the song personifies what Anja’s music is like. Strange but wonderful. Out of the ordinary for sure. The dazzling musicianship and sound of an unfamiliar instrument outweigh the lyricism for me, but check out her albums if you’re intrigued.

Top of the bill was the extraordinary Eliza Jaye, a classically-trained violinist and guitarist. Melodramatic alt-folk-blues with a touch of rock ‘n’ roll. Playing solo she used a looper to record the guitar part first, then some violin, then she plays and sings over the top. It’s quite some skill as the looper can be an unpredictable machine and the mix has to be perfect – and for the most part was. Watching the song be constructed was part of the joy of her set. The ‘this one is a new one’ selection included a song called Deja Vu  which was astounding. A spooky Twin Peaks type love song with a psychotic glint in its eye. Eliza reminded me of a young Josie Lawrence (of Whose Line Is it Anyway fame) which detracted from her PJ Harvey-ish intensity. But her ballads did have a yearning and sensuousness lacking in many a female rock singer. I could imagine her teaming up with a young Nick Cave influenced male counterpart to make a great modern Nancy & Lee with the balance of power reversed.

This was an interesting night. A sedate affair for me but fun. Despite my micky-taking the Art House is a non-profit-making volunteer-run collective and well worth supporting.

All words by Ged Babey. More writing by Ged on Louder Than War can be found at his author’s archive.

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