At the Hunter Club last Friday night, they held their first Open Mic in nine months. For both the club and the performers this was a big deal, for many this was the first time they’d stood on a stage since March. At most open mic nights there are nerves, but when you add social distancing to the mix, masked staff and food and drink orders by text there were lots of uncertainties to deal with.
Musician Matt Reaction is the co-host of these Open Mic nights, and he appears first on the bill. There is nothing vain in this scheduling, it is practical. By doing so he breaks the ice and sets the tone in his self-deprecating style, reminding you that you are among friends. This was a curated Open Mic, not a turn up and play gig and all the names on the bill were new to me, although some I had heard of but not seen play live.
Jasmine Faye followed Matt onto the stage and immediately made me sit up and take notice with her beautiful high ranging voice. Opening with a song called ‘29th November’, followed by a new song she’d forgotten the name of – its Open Mic, that’s allowed – and rounding off with a song called ‘Cosy Jumper’ written for her friend Kerry who joined her to sing backing harmonies. Jasmine admitted to feeling strange on the Hunter Club’s “big” stage, preferring the intimacy of the smaller room normally used for open mics.
Tori Ramsay was the next behind the mic. This young 17-year-old looked and sounded so confident. Her deeper bluesy voice a complete contrast to Jasmine. Like everyone else she was adlibbing her way through song introductions and nobody cared that the last chord of her first song was… eh… off! But kudos to a woman who performs in front of her mum and tells her off for being on her phone! Really Mum!
Indie duo Collars I had heard about through another event promoter in Norfolk. (Collars The Band if you are searching the interweb). I loved their set. They don’t fit neatly into a genre what they do is theirs and theirs alone – best summed up by their own Facebook profile: “Indie duo based in rural Cambridgeshire. One sings and one plays guitar and drums at the same time to create wholesome indie like your mama used to make, if your mama was Florence Welch and your godparents were the White Stripes.” Yep, couldn’t have said that any better.
A very nervous looking young man, Jack Darren, going by the name of Jackism was next. I’d be nervous too if I was about to take to an open mic stage for the first time using a loop pedal. Those things are dangerous – they can add so much to a solo performance and they can go terribly wrong too! Jackism may be new to looping but there was nothing to criticize about this performance. I just loved ‘Game Addict’ – a fast Sheeran-esque rap that reflected the lives of so many teenagers. That and ‘The Guy from Dagenham’ with its naughty lyrics involving Saveloys! As host Matt said – a perfect opening act next time Ed is in town.
Not everyone on the bill made it to venue – life happens. This allowed some to sing extra songs and forced Matt to frantically put a second set together to fill the gaps. In this second, impromptu set, he included a song he hates: ‘Its Corona’. Odd really, given that he wrote it!
Less Than Perfect are a mis-named duo. I could not fault their performance and can fully understand why our host has played their track ‘Misery Suits You’ 432,798 times on Spotify (That might be an exageration, but only slightly). Naoimi’s voice and Nick’s guitar work perfectly complement each other. Check out their EP “The Voices in Our Head” on Spotify
Too soon it was time for Edenveil to round off the evening. The name was new to me, I try not to look up performers before I see them for the first time live, so I had no idea what to expect. Edenveil are an example of why I do this – it’s that feeling you get when you stop dead and say ‘Sh*t I like this’ and forget that you are there to take pictures. Their first song was about freezing to death followed by an upbeat number about starving to death – and it’s not even folk music! I’m thinking Enya, Mellow Candle (an Irish band I was very fond of back in the 70s) – or Curved Air… all these two heavenly voices need is a heavy metal band backing them…. What? They have? Holy crap on a cracker I need this music in my life!
I know people who wouldn’t darken the door of an Open Mic – “Oh but I don’t know if I’ll like the music” they will say by way of excuse. On Friday I discovered six new artists to follow in 2021, I will enjoy watching their careers progress and when they do their first stadium gig I will smile smugly and say “Yeah, been following them since they started out at The Hunter Club in Bury St Edmunds.”