When a guy in Oklahoma asked the Ironbath about a new British indie folk act that are just about to make an international splash by supporting one of the hottest acts of the year, The Civil Wars, he felt compelled to find out more. It turned out that they were headlining a showcase gig in Bristol the following evening so off the Ironbath trotted… and he was very glad that he did.
Start The Bus is a trendy bar just by Bristol waterfront with a neat stage area. Sunday night there were 4 bands playing for a £5 cover charge, which is great value whatever your currency. The evening started with the rather dour Nick Mulvey – a talented guitarist let down a little by his vocals. Next up was the excellent Urusen that played a great set of catchy tunes featuring a double bass, cello, 2 guitars and (briefly) a ten string ukulele/mandolin hybrid apparently brought back from a trip to Bolivia. They play in a style that’s not a million miles away from Mumford & Sons, but that’s no bad thing and with their interesting string arrangements there is enough uniqueness in their set to put the band firmly on your radar.
The third band playing was Paul Thomas Saunders who sounded a little like a young Brett Anderson (Suede) but failed to capture the interest of the crowd. There was nothing really wrong with his carefully crafted compositions but after the toe-tapping Urusen set he sounded a little dull in comparison.
Another quick changeover and The Staves took over the stage. Emily, Jessica & Camilla are three sisters from north London. So far this year they have found themselves on stage supporting the likes of Laura Marling, Fleet Foxes, Josh Ritter & James Vincent McMorrow. And in just three weeks time they’ll be performing to a sold out Ryman Auditorium in Nashville supporting The Civil Wars at the start of a major US tour. That’s one hell of a step up from playing to 50 people in a pub in Bristol.
From the moment that they sung the first bar of the first song you could tell that the set was going to be something special. They sing beautiful harmonies on songs with a relaxed complexity reminiscent of Laura Marling’s finest. They are supported by ever so delicate ukulele and guitar which complements their voices perfectly.
On stage the sisters play around and joke with each other and the crowd freely, but then come over all serious when they start to sing. Throughout the gig they were all wearing broad smiles and they were enjoying themselves. The crowd clearly enjoyed the performance as well and there was a long line to meet the girls and buy their EP after the show.
You can download 2 of their tracks recorded at Cecil Sharp House from their website for the price of your email address.
When they return to the UK in February they will be supporting Michael Kiwanuka on a nationwide tour. Michael has a had a whirlwind year supporting Adele & Coldplay and has recently been included in the BBC’s ‘Sound of 2012’ long list. Some how it seems that The Staves know how to hang around with the hottest new artists, and the Ironbath is sure that they will benefit from the exposure they’ll receive on both sides of the Atlantic in 2012.
If you happen to be lucky enough to be holding a ticket for The Civil Wars in January, make sure that you don’t miss the support act because you’re going to have a wonderful evening.