Walking in to the Grace Darling on a dry autumn night, the warm sounds of Ainslie Wills call siren-like from the top of the stairs. Performing in duo mode, Wills’ smoky voiced bare bones brand of folk rock sends the room into an appreciative hush that is punctuated with applause. She finishes up with her single “Fighting Kind”, an upbeat tune that sees the previously dead still crowd bobbing back and forward.
Launching her album First Time, Long Time, Jo Schornikow took to the stage and quickly showed all and sundry why she is one to be watched closely. Her songs are wordy, cleverly so, and any comparisons to Martha Wainwright are both unsurprising and totally deserved. While accompanied by a full band, her drummer and bass player are left with little to do for the first few songs but when they do come in their impact brings the set to a whole new level. The crowd is so silent during her set that it is only when they burst into loud and generous applause that you remember that they are there and that Schornikow is not singing to you and you alone.
Schornikow’s songs run the full gauntlet from tender to completely gut wrenching, one would not want to be the inspiration for the lyrics “you don’t deserve love”. While her lyrical content may be a little searing at times, Schornikow herself is a sweet and gracious performer. Her single “Bird’s Nest” closes off her flawless set beautifully. The talented songstress and her jangly, soulful guitar pop make you want to throw out your Adele CD, buy some gin and feel the pain. Schornikow puts into words every single hideous break up and manages to make something truly remarkable. Her set is testament to her huge talent as a writer and performer and the large crowd shows their love loudly.
Six-piece Texture Like Sun solidly close the evening with a Mogwai-like intensity. Mark Pearl’s vocals are heartbreaking in the best way and bear more than a passing resemblance to the late, great Jeff Buckley. Texture Like Sun manages to make their blues-tinged folk sound creep into every corner of the small room and consume the audience from the inside out. They create a sound that goes from sunny to mournful in the blink of a damp eye. Nothing about Texture Like Sun comes close to ordinary and their set is near perfection in its rawness and stark beauty.
Whilst occasionally crossing a little too deeply into Augie March territory, for the most part they are a compelling watch. They are not big talkers which is okay as the slightly thinned out crowd continue their trend of silence. “You don’t talk much do you? Hi,” says Pearl in one of the only band/audience exchanges of the set. “You’re a good crowd,” he goes on to assure everyone. As the dappled light of a mirror ball falls playfully around the room, Texture Like Sun goes to make every song that they play sound like the last dance between doomed lovers. Everything they do and play is perfectly measured yet has a spontaneous fluidity to it. Texture Like Sun is definitely one to write home about.
– Madison Thomas
Live image © Sam Cope