IN THIS PHOTO: Pillow Queens
LITM vs. Musicmusingsandsuch: Kiera Court, Lewis Fieldhouse and Pillow Queens
THE signs looked ominous as the rain decided…
IN THIS PHOTO: Lewis Fieldhouse/PHOTO CREDIT: Juliette Carton
to royally cack itself all over Harringay (and other parts of the country, for that matter – it isn’t that selective) and the, predictably, unstable British weather had a bit of a paddy. Another wet Sunday and what better place to be than under the roof of The Finsbury – there are others but it seems rude to mention them in a feature about the place! In any case, it was a pleasure returning to the bar and one of the best small live venues in the capital. Not having met any of the three acts that were due to perform last night; I was curious how they would all blend – and whether there was going to be any clashes in sound; a bit of an imbalance.
Before that, and it seemed like things would go pretty well. Meeting the acts before the gig took place – and offering a few of my 'free beer/cider can' tokens (I was driving so had to be ‘good’) - it was interesting seeing their reaction to the place. Going through the sound-checks; I got a chance to see the acts for the first time. Everything went smoothly and it seemed, just before the punters started to roll in, everyone was happy.
It was, then, down to the act of performing….
PHOTO CREDIT: Julien Lallouette
One of the most charming and unique artists on the night; there was something captivating about Kiera Court. She is only twenty – it was mentioned a few times on stage – but that made the set all-that-more-remarkable as she handled the impressive-sided crowd with confidence. It was, away from the songs, the rapport and conversation that gathered laughs and smiles. Many performers rattle through songs and do not engage with the crowd: Kiera was eager to chat and explain the songs and their origins. It seems, for most of the tracks, a particular guy was the inspiration. Whilst pretty cracking to look at – her words; not mine – it seems, as is the case with a lot of relationships, his morals and loyalty didn’t match his looks. Getting that background – mixed with humorous and vivid backstory – provided us exposition and depth. The songs, as such, meant a bit more than, say, they were delivered with nobody knowing anything about them. It was clear, even before a note was played, Kiera has a stage presence and personality that draws you in. The audience was charmed and were enraptured by the performance. The sparsest set on the night – just Kiera and a guitar – it was a brave and seamless set that saw the likes of Hot Mess, Cinnamon and London Town delivered. Cinnamon’s title was added later in the creative process – Kiera was, as you’ve guessed, eating cinnamon when searching for a title – and showcased the purity, range and beauty of her voice. Hot Mess, one of the jumpier and more energised moments, was first out - and got a great reaction.
PHOTO CREDIT: @allison__stoddard
Joanna, dedicated to and about her friend, was a tender and exceptional song. Among the other songs she delivered; it seemed any pre-gig doubts were unwarranted. It was a great start to the night and, long after the performance was over, people were talking about it. Kiera recently released her E.P., Angry Face & Boat Shoes and has dates in London on 31st (The Social) and Apples and Pears Bar (on 9th August). Look at her Facebook page (below) to keep up - but I would thoroughly recommend seeking her out. She is an assured, memorable and compelling performer whose performance/songwriting talent belies her years – someone who is barely out of their teens should not be that good! In any case: Kiera is moving to London very shortly – not too far from The Finsbury, in fact – and will give her centrality and convenience. She has other London gigs approaching but I can imagine, on the strength of the performance at the likes of The Finsbury, she will be getting many more requests. I caught shades of Lucy Rose and This Is the Kit in Kiera’s vocals and a nod to classic artists – someone whose tones, lovable personality and huge talents will see the people flock to her gigs.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ray Roberts
If Kiera Court’s performance was the most unadorned and uncomplicated; Lewis Fieldhouse’s was the most eye-opening. Not only because of a rather natty and awesome shirt – the sunshine well and truly brought to N4 – but the stories behind his songs. Kiera’s tales concerned moving to London and friendship; a jerk of a boy that, despite his prettiness, left his marks. That seems normal for a teen/twenty-year-old but, for someone slightly older, one might not expect the kind of inspiration that Lewis explained. Accompanied by two fine fellas – whose voices thickened the harmonies; the keys/strings backing heightening the drama, beauty and rawness – Lewis provided the crowd with revelation. Theodore Washington and the Central Valley had its heart in a U.S. trip Lewis took back in 2013 (apologies if I got the year wrong). At the time, his mum was diagnosed with cancer and, rather cruelly, he was dumped six days into the trip. The American voyage was a chance to reflect, discover and detach. Whilst there, as one can hear from his album, there were bar-room dwellers and strange characters; some gorgeous scenery and the open road. Songs performed on the night – in their origin – included loose women, failed love and stark realisations. Fell in Love, F*cked It Up, opening the set, boasted a chorus that, by the second time around, was in the head and being sung by members of the crowd. Live So Fast, Kiss So Slow, a sprite and body-moving slink; Istanbul (based on a trip Lewis and his at-the-time-girlfriend were going to take before they split - the bitch!) more emotional and introspective; He Hath Made You Rich a highlight and crowd favourite. It is a song that has energy, addictiveness and memorability – one of those big choruses that, despite the self-flagellating and harsh subject matter, is one that embeds in the mind.
PHOTO CREDIT: Ray Roberts
The performances (from all three, in fact) were wonderful and it was the vocal blends that provided some of the highlights. In a lot of ways, the harmonies put me in mind of Fleet Foxes. One got the same lustrous and cascading tranquillity; the heady rushes and sweet-scented perfumes. Lewis, like Kiera, is another performer who has that ability to banter, connect and charm. Among the between-songs chat; we learned that his mum is doing well (kicking the cancer) and things are getting back onto an equal footing – he laughed that, although he was hanging with some luminous characters in the U.S., his love-life is pretty good now. As a singer; Lewis showed he was able to produce those graceful, spine-tingling high notes and the growled and lower contrasts. A full and gorgeous voice that added dimensions and physicality to the performances – another performer I would recommend everyone check out. Lewis hung around after his set and was selling C.D.s and chatting to the audience. I would recommend, if you can, buy his album - and bond with a brilliant musician with a big future. Lewis has a gig coming up in October but you can get abreast of all his happenings on his social media platforms. Like Kiera, again; another performer who has many years ahead of them. I look forward to seeing how Lewis follows his current album and whether its inspirations will be as astonishing and rare as hedonism and transformation in America!
I was a bit worried, because the weather was a bit crap, I had brought Dublin’s Pillow Queens all the way to London and provided them damp meteorology. Fortunately, they have another gig in a few days (in London) so it was not a one-off trip. The fourth gig in the country – other dates included Nottingham and Exeter – the quintet – rocked up to The Finsbury and, before taking to the stage, sampled the pizzas, beer (and cider) and ambience of the live room. It is clear, from meeting them, they have a real accessibility, wit and connection. I am not sure how long they have been together but they have a huge affection for one another and unbreakable (sisterly) bond. This translates onto stage where, from the opening seconds, one knows they are in the presence of a mainstream-worthy band. The headline act on the night; they managed to draw a really healthy crowd – the numbers for all three acts were better than expected (even though the quality was very high; the fact it is Sunday, and the weather was hostile, could have driven many away). It seemed, as they joked, half of Ireland was there to see the girls storm the joint! That they did as, from the introduction notes, they were going to get a big reaction. Again, an act that can put the audience in their palm and get big laughs and reaction.
Throughout the set, we heard anecdotes and insight. Rats, right near the end, trying to follow it, was kinda-sorta influenced by Michael Jackson’s Ben – the vermin-related songs not exactly common; if you’re going to be inspired by anyone, Jackson is a good start. I am not sure whether it was the craic or, perhaps, the beer, but there were giggles, long-winded explanation and comedic story-telling. I am not sure whether the story is true – I bought it – but the girls were brought to teary laughter – I believe, as they say, this anecdote might be repeated for their next gig – but the song was a stormer on a night when Pillow Queens saw the poor weather and added thunder and lightning to the mix! Even from sound-check; it was obvious the noise would be something to shake the walls. The crowd were jumping and, even though many had not seen the band before, were singing back parts of the first song. They were amazed the music had that telekinetic quality.
The thing about Pillow Queens is the fact that, when you hear a chorus, you are compelled to chant it and provide it support. The songs seem to blend Pixies-like Punk genius with the vocal range and sweetness of someone like Waxahatchee. If one can think of a few names to tie to the Dublin group it is, in fact, their individuality that sets the tone. Switching instruments between songs – bass and guitar exchanged – they are one of those bands that are adaptable and multi-talented. By allowing inter-changeable lead vocals and guitar/bass leads; it afforded the set a variability and freshness that did not compromise fluidity and structure. Cathy, Pam; Rach and Sarah are musicians I am keen to hire/see again and, if we can tempt them back to London, it would be awesome to put them up. This was the first time in the capital and, considering that, the turnout was staggering. They joked – or with some seriousness, in fact – they needed petrol money so, if the audience liked what they heard, to donate and buy their music. It was their banter and humour that balanced out a fierce and passionate set. Many did not want them to leave the stage (me included) because they really got into the hearts of the crowds. Queens is their U.K. tour and, between songs making it to seven-inch and plans afoot, it will be a busy one for them. If you can catch them at New Cross Inn (London) In on Thursday, I recommend you do – a show you will not forget in a hurry!
PHOTO CREDIT: @richard.burke
Apologies must go to the girls who, I am afraid, did not get a chance to say goodbye to – after their headline set; they had their fair share of admirers eager to chat. Having to catch the last train, it meant a dash across London but, I will see them very soon, and was so glad they were able to come. It was a felicitous, week-defining and marvellous event. Apologies to all the performers who, in spite of producing epic and fantastic sets, were marred and let down by a faction of the audience. Aside from the fact the live room is quite small – and has a door either side – people were coming and going and not showing good door etiquette - the constant to-and-froing must have been a distraction and unwanted noise. The worst was the chatter that, despite the fact people have been to gigs before, thought nothing of chatting during songs! It is this kind of behaviour I cannot tolerate and was reserved to the minority – a few drunk guys, especially during Pillow Queens' set, were chatting throughout songs and their conversation. It added a stain to the otherwise-stunning night and made me a bit cross. Idiots and ingrates aside; a host of positives and great memories from the event.
Thanks to Giedre (from Lost in the Manor) for making it happen (with Chris Sharpe) and being there; the staff at The Finsbury and, above all, the trio of artists who made a dreary and rain-cast Sunday evening…
PHOTO CREDIT: Ray Roberts
ONE to treasure!