Given my last two start-of-the-week outings, I was a little bit apprehensive about going to another Monday night gig. One advantage of The Basement Bar is that it is a lot smaller than the other venues I frequent so, if it was a small audience, it wouldn’t look quite so empty. Conversely, a disadvantage would be that, if it was a small audience, even lingering at the back would leave you quite visible from the stage. It turns out that I needn’t have worried as a reasonably large audience made the place look quite full and I didn’t have to feel any guilt about helping to turn away the extremely drunk young man who tried to get in. (Although, if I’m honest, I doubt he even knew where he was, let alone who he might have seen if he’d been allowed in…)
Opening tonight was a young lady with the rather tongue-twisting name of Alice Ostapjuk. Self taught on the guitar and playing solo after several attempts to form a band, her quirky mannerisms and, in some ways, her voice may have given the impression that she would somehow be better as a comedy act but some of her lyrics had the ability to take your heart and wring tears out of it. Despite playing just an acoustic guitar, Alice opened with a cover of Where Did Our Love Go? (Diana Ross and the Supremes) which was instantly recognisable as one of their songs but very different to the original. From then on, it was mostly her own songs, continuing with Samuel’s Secret, the introduction for which showed her comedic overtones even if she did, in my opinion, blow the delivery by extending the story just a few words too far. Tripping, a new song, was written because a hatred of arguments and was followed by another cover, this time Fairground Attraction’s Perfect, which she had only learned recently and, despite starting off wrongly, gave a pretty good rendition. Then came the emotion. What About Us? was dedicated to her Gran, who loved to listen to her sing and, presumably, is no longer with “us” as the lyrics deal with those left behind – “The angels they took care of you, but what about the rest of us? Left bleary-eyed, we cried and cried and cried.” – and the song is delivered in such a heartfelt fashion, I suddenly found myself welling up. Thankfully, Paper Planes And Shooting Stars was much more uplifting and had the audience clapping along. Alice finished with The Chase, which was inspired by a dream and prompted another humorous story during the introduction. With a clipped but emotive delivery, simple but varied playing and, at times, some very mature writing, Alice is definitely worth checking out if you like acoustic folk/pop and most of the set can be found on Soundcloud.
Next up was David McCaffrey who, it has to be said, seemed to have managed to entice a few friends along to swell the audience. With a very mature sounding voice, which belied his youthful and slightly geeky (in the nicest way possible) appearance (David’s MySpace bio says he is still only 16, but there’s no note as to when it was last updated, so he could be as old as, gasp, 18…) and playing his guitar from the back, if you see what I mean, David started off with Sons And Daughters, a very mellow song that, even so, had some soaring vocals and was followed by Train Track North which had a nice catchy riff. Apparently, David’s favourite band is Stornaway and his only cover was a version of The End Of The Movie. Knowing neither the band or the song, I can’t comment on how good a cover it was but, again, he delivered it in style. Musically, Through The Sun was a much faster, lighter song and was followed by Mountain Tops and, finally, Stars which contained a lot of screeching of strings as fingers flew between the frets and was, in my opinion, the best song of a very good set from a promising new(ish) artist.
I couldn’t help but smile as Misty Miller prepared for her set by tuning her ukulele on what appeared to be an iPhone balanced on her knee, proving that there really is an “app” for everything. Continuing the theme of the evening, 16 year old Misty is self taught on an instrument that I always think has comedic overtones (perhaps solely due to George Formby), something which proved far from true tonight. Perhaps trying a little too hard to eschew what could have been a dainty image (young blonde girl playing a “miniature guitar”) by performing in holey t-shirt and designer shredded jeans and complete with nose ring, Misty proved to be a very confident and capable young lady. Soft spoken between songs, with a singing voice that, at times, sounded like a more refined version of Lily Allen and playing simply by brushing the strings with the fingernails, Misty started off with Evergreen Love, a lovely dreamy, wistful song before launching into Remember (the song that really made me think of Lily Allen) a much faster song with some really nice lyrics about growing up and unrequited love. Rail On Me was followed by Bones, introduced with a story about seeing her brother performing live and wanting to write a song that she could stamp her foot along to. It may have been a little stronger but I still wouldn’t have said there was much stamping going on. Wild Thing was followed by a cover of Why Try To Change Me Now? (originally by Cy Coleman and covered by Frank Sinatra) which she said she loves to sing but which, I’m afraid, did little for me. Born Bad was written while thinking about a place at college and was followed by Rabbits and the set was completed with Vampire which, being a love song to one of the undead was, perhaps, the song most expected from a girl of that age, despite containing some wonderful lyrics. It’s a very nice song but I’m willing to bet that Misty has read the Twilight series…
I wasn’t sure what to expect tonight but I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised and had a thoroughly entertaining evening.