Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Gemma Quarterman / The Haiku / Small Blue Fish / The Great Plain @ The Island Bar, Tuesday 14th April 2009

First time at the Island Bar (I know, I don't get out much) and my first Acoustic Brew UK night too. It looks like the Brewsters have been doing this kind of thing for a while, I know they were pretty active at the Atticus Bar (RIP) in Bearwood. The basic deal is get to see a bunch of 'acoustic' artists (up to 5 in one night) for the grand price of...bugger all. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Sweet FA. That sounds like a bit of a bargain to me. You'll find the nights at the Island Bar on Tuesdays, Katie Fitzgeralds (in Stourbridge) on Wednesdays and at The Dog (in Bearwood) on other random places here and there. I have no idea how anyone makes any money out of this but gawd bless 'em for going to the trouble of putting on so much live music.

Speaking of which tonight saw a pretty wide range of styles, kicking off with some nice two part male harmonies courtesy of The Great Plain, the new age tinged folk of Small Blue Fish and the new wave flavoured folk stomp (think XTC, Wonderstuff territory) of The Haiku. Some really good stuff in there - the danger with an 'acoustic' night is that one act can blur into the next...but tonight's bill neatly sidestepped that with a wonderfully diverse line up that shows the Brewsters, as well as being damn generous souls, know what they're doing.

It was the last act of the night (for us at least...sadly we had to miss the final band - February March - due to transport related issues) that was the big draw for me though. I've followed Gemma Quarterman's career for a while now and I've seldom seem such huge leaps in confidence, songwriting and the sheer joy that she clearly gets from performing now. Each time I see her that voice is just that bit better, the show that little bit more polished and the set list more varied. Gemma's voice is becoming really individual, a bluesy belter one second, as smooth as the Cadbury's Caramel bunny the next. Lyrically there's some seriously emotional stuff going on. Relationships (and their ups and downs) have formed the central theme for some of the best music ever made and Gemma's material ('Crosses' and 'Do You' in particular), for me, stands up there with the likes of John Martyn's 'May You Never'. That's high praise, but well deserved. It seems that I'm not the only one who's hooked either. Gemma's recently featured in probably the only music magazine that really matters these days, Artrocker, (they used one of my pictures...mad fools), been flown over for a radio slot in Budapest and is heading out to Noo Yawk for some gigs in the summer. There's a rumour of a signing too so, hopefully, the word will spread even faster over the coming months. I've long argued that she deserves a slot in a 'big' venue (The Town or Symphony Halls would be perfect) - hopefully with a label behind her this might happen. But, for now, you've got the chance to witness her close up and personal. I'd make the most of it if I were you...

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