Jasmine Rodgers, Hero Fisher and Sonia Stein
EVERY time I come up to London…
which is, to be clear, not as often as I should, my stresses lessen when I get there – they always start when I begin the trip and find the capital’s people a lot more conducive to a relaxed and memorable time. This was the case as I headed to #BLOGTOBER – my second year taking part in the event – and found, after travel delays, people issues and general stress – I was safely deposited in London and found my way to The Finsbury. Once there; bedecked in the warmth and daylight of October – last time I was in N4 it was dark so it is rare to be up there whilst still light – I sat outside the performance area at The Finsbury and listened to the soundchecks take place. Chatting with Lost in the Manor’s Chis – thanks to him for organising it and having me again – it was interesting hearing the slightly distant soudncheck playing against the faint sound of the bar’s music. Doors opened at 8 P.M. and I was up there a few hours beforehand. The acts relaxed beforehand and took time to enjoy the food and drink at The Finsbury. Sonia Stein and her band checked first and had some time off before they night-closing set; Hero Fisher arrived after and was the penultimate act – Jasmine Rodgers arrived after and was the first act up. I have seen Rodgers play before – she was one of my chosen acts for the first #BLOGTOBER – so I knew her set was going to be a solid and exceptional one. I had not heard Stein and Fisher in the live environment so it was interesting discovering how their music, which I was aware of, would sound on the stage. After all the stresses of actually getting to London: a night of great music was exactly what the nerves and brain needed. Stein and her band, along with Fisher, made their way to the backstage/artist area as Jasmine Rodgers took to the stage.
PHOTO CREDIT: Maria Aragon
Her pre-gig ‘promise’ not to tell any jokes melted as quickly as the subject of her first gag – which asked what one would get if they mixed a snowman with a vampire (the punchline is ‘frostbite’, in case you were wondering). It gained a good smatter from the crowd – going down a storm, as Rodgers, rather cheekily, said – and that was not the only joke (they were actually pretty good). It is part of a personality and artistry that offers more than stilted chatter and quietness. I find a lot of musicians plough through their music and do not really provide any conversation with the audience. It can be nervous on such a stage – small and intimate as it is – so, one would be forgiven for having a heads-down approach to performance. Rodgers is someone, like Keira Court (who I saw a couple of months back), who tells some jokes and brings the crowd into her set – relaxing them and putting them in a good mood before a note is sung. Joined by Sean, her guitarist, Rodgers’ set was a fantastic and compelling one. Her current album, 2016’s Blood Red Sun, is one I am familiar with – so it was nice hearing material from it. Icicles, perhaps the standout from the record, is a song I am always excited to hear, but the entire set was incredible.
Rodgers’ set-up is, essentially, an acoustic guitar and ukulele – or mandolin; she’ll forgive me for a mix-up – so one gets sweet and infantile strings and more familiar sounds. It is rare finding a solo artist who has that blend so, when mixed with Sean’s vibrating, evocative guitar echo, it was a combination of emotions, colours and sounds. Few could command a stage with such ease as Jasmine Rodgers; that is a testament to her natural stagecraft and loveable personality. She is someone I want to feature, in some capacity, very soon as she always gets a great reaction from the crowd – and someone who deserves a big-label deal very soon! I am not sure whether any label bosses were in the audience but they would do well to see her play as soon as possible. It is obvious anyone related to (legendary musician) Paul Rodgers has a passion for music and immense skill. His daughter's music, not like that of Free and Bad Company, is its own beast and takes from different genres and cultures – before the set, she told me about a Japanese project she is lending her voice to at the moment. It was a great performance from Rodgers and, as 2018 looms into view, I would not be surprised was a new album to arrive from her. With her voice in especially fantastic form – going from tender to ecstatic and enraptured – it was a perfect way to kick off the night...
Hero Fisher is a personality and human who could have her own T.V. series. There is a blend of dramatic and comedic about her. She is, on paper and in the flesh, a heroine that has immense allure and beauty - but a sort of rebellious edge and charming core that makes her incredibly intriguing. Alongside her ailing guitarist/musician, who was fighting off a cold on the night (the second in a month, as was revealed), the bond between the two made the set very strong. I am not sure whether they have been touring for a while but the ersatz relationship/strong friendship dynamic gave the set a flicker of flirtation and romance; a clear edge that resonated through the venue. If one is unfamiliar with Fisher then they would do good to get onto her music. Since 2014, when she released songs like Fear Not Victorious and No Ceremony, she has released a lot of work – an E.P, Slipstream, and a series of singles. In fact, Push the Boat Out was unveiled a couple of months ago and is a fantastic and addictive track. On stage, we were treated to a mixture of older and more recent songs. Fisher premiered a brand-new song – and future single – and provided the excited and vivacious crowd a look through her back-catalogue. By this time, more people came into the room and, aside from a couple of sound issues – the door to the room was constantly opened as people came and went; it meant we got bleed-through from the bar quite often – it was a triumphant set and one that revealed a true talent and future star. Fisher already has a solid and growing fanbase - but she is someone I can see doing tremendous things in the coming years.
On some numbers, using an effect peddle, she would sing a vocal (wordless, normally), and, with the press of a switch, that vocal could be looped as she would continue singing live. It provided a haunting and impressive extra layer to the set. I had not seen a live performer do this before and, because of that, one could enjoy Fisher’s incredible voice replicated and heightened. Her musical beau – his name has slipped my mind; it will come to me – provided percussive elements (via another effect peddle/on-stage device) and guitar. It was amazing to see such a full and eclectic sound come from two musicians. Fisher’s guitar-playing was sensational and her set was one that gained rapturous applause. Favourites like Bird of Prey and Sylvie (which got the biggest reaction) mixed with songs many there would not have heard performed live. It was a storming set and again, like Jasmine Rodgers, I would love to house Fisher again, very soon! As the final song was performed, and many demanded an encore, it was the conclusion to a tight and hugely accomplished set from a unique and amazing musician. Expect Hero Fisher to be a mainstream inspiration very soon...
Sonia Stein is why many turned up to The Finsbury so it was not a shock seeing many cram into the room and see her play. The three performers each had their own stage mannerisms/composition: Stein was, as I found, more softly-spoken. Not that Rodgers and Fisher were booming and lary but it was interesting seeing the difference between the three. Like Rodgers and Fisher; Stein was joined by other musicians – she had her full band on stage to bring the magic and fullness of her records to life. She is, as I understand, on her way to Los Angeles to shoot a music video (alright for some!). Beforehand, speaking with a few people like musician Cocoa Futures (Greg); it seemed many had made the trip to my #BLOGTOBER especially to catch Stein up-close. She has performed around the country and acquired a band of dedicated and loving fans. When her set got underway, it was not a surprise discovering why that is. She combines the sound of 1980s Pop with modern-day Soul and Electro-Pop. A voice that is expressive, versatile and powerful – a striking and unforgettable performer who had the crowd stunned and hooked from the first number. Stein is another artist who has been releasing music since 2014: we got a nice mix of her career trajectory and a perfect balance of material. One of Those Things, saved to last, got the biggest reaction but her entire set was stunning and body-moving. There was a lot of dancing, cheering and response from the crowd as Stein whipped up an audio storm.
It was a perfect way to end the night and proof she is among our faint young artists. As she is off to L.A. – jammy sod! – it will be interesting to see the result of her music video. I know there are rumblings of new material and, like the other two performers, one pines for an album next year. There is a lot of impetus and desire in Stein so I expect she is already one step ahead. Credit must be given to her band on the night who provided guitar, keys and percussion. It was the biggest-sounding set of the night and beforehand the most kick – a nice contrast against Fisher and Rodgers. In fact, if one takes it chronologically, the night got harder and fuller as the sets progressed. From Rodgers’ enticing, if more subtle, set to Fisher’s more volumised and electric turn – it culminated in a full-out romp when Stein took to the stage. By the time she performed her final song; there was a call for more from the hungry crowd. They were, I must say, well behaved and crucial on the night. I have been to The Finsbury when various elements from the audience have let the performers down. There were no drunken shout-outs and loud chatting during songs. This meant the musicians were free to play their sets without anxiety and disruption. Sonia Stein is almost certainly on her way to the mainstream and another artist who can easily buckle the knees. Her clear connection with audiences and the stage means she will be getting gigs all over the place in 2018.
PHOTO CREDIT: Anna Sandul
It was a day, for me, of contrasting emotions and fortunes. It started wretchedly – train delays and people stress – but, as soon as I stepped into London, that dissipated and my mood bettered as the night wore on. That is, in no small part, down to the artists on the night. They blended superbly and, who knows, maybe there will be collaborations down the line?! I could certainly imagine all three performers going on to brilliant things next year…that is guaranteed! As I stumbled my way into the North London night; the buzz and electricity of the gig were still fresh in my ears. From Jasmine Rodgers’ perfect opening set – I actually liked her jokes and made me giggle on the way home! – to Hero Fisher’s incredible turn (must book her again!); right through the spectacular swansong from Sonia Stein – a brilliant evening that few will forget anytime soon! It is only left to me to thank the staff and peeps of The Finsbury and Lost in the Manor’s Chris for being hospitable, accommodating and kind. I hope to get an invite this time next year - maybe a chance to do something else at The Finsbury in a few months? – as #BLOGTOBER provides a chance to showcase three musicians a website/blog holds in fond esteem. Catch the artists I featured and follow their updates: see why they are among the finest and...
TALENTED artists we have.