The setting for tonight couldn’t be better. Cocooned by heat, Thekla have thankfully chosen to host in their upstairs bar. It’s an area that, over the course of the evening, transforms from a personable space into a pretty deck flanked by the city lights of Bristol Harbourside. For an acoustic gig it far out ways the alternative: the dank underbelly of the ship, which has been known to spoil low key artists similar to tonight’s.
First to test the waters are Holika, a local band who would be just as at home in a sea-quenched pub. Their music is reminiscent of Ani Difranco during her softer, lounge-esque moments, and instances of surf see the band narrowly avoid Jack Johnson territory. Armed with no less than three guitar players using their knuckles as percussion, vocalist Tori Maries provides the biggest attraction with a very occasional whip of attitude. Their style, neither threatening or insightful, isn’t something DW usually goes in for, but for tonight at least it works.
Gathering momentum and playing - by chance - as the sun goes down, Rebecca Cant spends her time on stage well. Though her older songs retain their charm, the growth and maturity in her new material is stunning, pegging her closer still to the likes of Laura Marling. Unfortunately her set is slightly blemished by a violinist, who doesn’t add much and sometimes spoils the moment with slipped notes. In such an intimate space these mistakes standout, but you can’t help feel forgiving: as both keenly point out, she’s a new recruit.
Closing on 10pm and still faced with a half hour rest before Jenny O lumbers on stage with an amp and little reason for the break, normally at this point the crowd would grow restless. To Cant’s credit, instead everyone is remarkably sedate, lapping in the body temperature air outside and anticipating the Californian artist soon to grace the stage.
And when she eventually takes her place, Jenny doesn’t disappoint. Her typically coy attitude suits her stage persona well, and though it’s hard to imagine her ever causing a fuss on arrival, her bumbling about and quipped remarks makes her mid-set sound check and electronic malfunctions seem endearing.
More importantly, between the long silences filter some of the best crafted pop songs heard from a single woman and an electric guitar. Recorded sans band but no better or worse for it, the go-getters of her Home EP – “Well OK Honey” and “Won’t Let You Leave” – survive thanks to a “fucked up” amp and Jenny’s captivating squirm. It’s an odd thing when a musician displays a lack of confidence to the benefit of her set, but Jenny manages it extraordinarily well, filling the gap where a bassist, guitarist and drummer would be by ankle-kicking her own legs and flapping her arms in tandem. The lady has enough charisma to fill the whole rig.
There’s more to come. Travelling through songs that could easily be a cover of some rock and roll great, alongside quieter moment litered with a unique trip in Jenny's vocal, the night floors its audience. Like Cant, the songs taken from Jenny’s forthcoming album Automechanic demonstrate a clear development, with the title track making a particular impression. With any luck and an uncertain confirmation on our side, she’ll be back in the UK sooner than we can say “sophomore please”.
Check back next week for our interview with Jenny O!