Fenne Lily, Sophie Jamieson, Marika Hackman @ Thekla, Bristol, 09/04/2015

Marika HackmanQuarter past seven. That’s what time first support Fenne Lily is due to take the Thekla stage this evening. Bamboozled by an unusually early start, for a mid-week gig especially, we’re only half way towards the venue when stage times are realised. We run. It’s important that we run. This gig has been held in high anticipation for weeks – not just because it marks the beginning of an awesome series of shows in Bristol, but because the line-up promises two of DrunkenWerewolf’s Ones to Watch alumni - Marika Hackman  in 2013, and Sophie Jamieson in 2014 and 2015 - in as many hours.

Racing to the underbelly of Thekla’s oil rig, we fortunately arrive in time to catch the majority of Fenne Lily’s set. Her music is softly strung and equally delicate in vocal, drawing comparison to Lucy Rose, who she namechecks from the stage, and Daughter but without the sonic experimentation of Elena Tonra's music. Although it can be a little singer-songwriter-by-numbers, there’s clear talent to behold as Fenne Lily performs tracks inspired by her time completing the Duke of Edinburgh award. Oh, to be young.

All three women perform alone tonight, and their solo nature means turnaround time is more than efficient. Moments after Lily has stepped down from her podium, Sophie Jamieson quietly steps forward. She’s clearly nervous and for the first few songs of her set, the audience fails to properly register her presence – many choose instead to hang around the bar. It’s testament to Jamieson’s unyielding skill that by the end of her performance everyone (and we mean, everyone) stands stock still in front of the stage. Eyes bulge and shoulders sway in response to songs such as “Dinah”, “Waterloo” and “Home”, as Jamieson delivers blow after blow, with her unique yet poignant vocal the shining star of the night.

Stood towards the front of the venue, it’s not until we turn around to get a breath of fresh air that we realise Thekla is packed out. Obviously it’s not unprecedented for support acts to gather a respectable crowd, but it’s certainly unusual for 99.999% of ticket holders to pay this much attention to anyone besides the headline act. If anyone deserves that break in routine, it’s Sophie. Jostling out of the hoards, it becomes even more apparent that everyone’s incredibly happy with the way things are going this evening. We overhear several people asking for Sophie’s full name and whether she has any merch for sale, while others can be found quoting songs they hope headline Marika Hackman will play.

As it turns out, Marika Hackman’s set is crammed full with her finest material to date – if not all of it. As efficient as Jamieson and Lily before her, she emerges from backstage before the majority have been served at the bar, and immediately begins to play songs from her lauded debut album We Slept At Last.

From gigs performed to three people to intimate one-off sets, we’ve witnessed Marika Hackman’s live-circuit progression first hand. Her stage presence has never been made so clear as it is tonight. She’s grown as a songwriter and musical talent, yes, but also as someone who can hold her own on stage. Despite a lack of bandmates – (we were expecting a full band from a headline UK tour, but ours is not to wonder why) – Hackman’s interlude chat is organic and captivating. That’s not to say she wasn't interesting before, but tonight she’s definitely more confident than she has been in the past.

There's good reason for that. If Thekla hasn't sold out, it's very close to capacity. From the old ("Here I Lie", "You Come Down") to the new ("Drown", "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel") everyone knows the words to Marika's songs, and they're not afraid to show it, bellowing out lyrics and blocking any kind of outside distraction from their mind. It's impossible not to feel a sense of emphatic pride for an artist who's getting her just deserts: a dedicated fan base combined with financial, and even commercial success. Previous Marika Hackman gigs have conjured up a feeling of indescribable glee, and though tonight is no different, there's also a sense of accomplishment in the air. She's at the top of her game, but Hackman shows no signs of relenting.

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