A night held in a barber’s and offering a discounted haircut ticket option is a little out of the ordinary, which seems apt as sadly good quality live music events in Durham are a little out of the ordinary themselves. For a university town to have such a dead music scene is depressing, so thank heavens for Gigiti for putting on shining-light events. This show in question promises us it will be ‘a cut above the rest’ (see what they did there?!), and it certainly delivers on this promise. Three thoroughly enjoyable and varying artists take to the stage, mesmerising us with their own unique qualities, much to the appreciation of the sold-out and slowly more and more inebriated crowd -thanks largely to the event’s BYOB policy, which is born of necessity (Rusty’s has a lot of cool facilities for a barbershop, a bar not sadly one of them just yet), but still manages to aid the events warm, cosy and community-spirited atmosphere.
First up is Durham University student Laura Paul. For her first track all that is present is her voice, a microphone, and a loop-pedal; these three tools she utilises to sensational effect. A set-up which has the potential to leave her exposed and distant from the audience has the exact opposite effect: drawing the respectful on-lookers in, Laura manages to instantly break down the barrier between performer and spectator and make the use of technology undoubtedly human. This feeling is unintentionally exemplified when she fatally messes up a Sam Smith cover part way through- owing to the way that songs must be built layer upon layer, she has no choice but to apologise and start again. Unfazed, Paul sets about re-recording the ‘bas’, ‘las’, and ‘das’ that make up the soundscape upon which her great voice can self-harmonise to its heart content.
Whilst she also has a middle section in which she performs some songs on a keyboard, whilst pleasant and skilled, this does not have the same wow factor as the brilliant a capella dishes she has served up so far. The excitement and showmanship returns however with set closer, a cover of Ingrid Michaelson’s ‘You and I’ heavy on audience participation. Keenly willing audience members stand beside Laura with the chorus words written out on sheets of card, which she commands the whole room to bellow at the appropriate time. Ironically, Paul herself struggles to remember the lyrics and cranes her neck to read the cues intended for the untalented of us in the crowd. Rather than awkwardly unprofessional however, this comes across as warm and humble, providing a charming end to charming set from probably one of Durham University’s most talented singer-songwriters.
Following Paul is Harri Endersby, a folky acoustic performer ably backed by her playful band. Endersby plays cuts from her recently released ‘Ivy Crown EP’ as well as some older tracks and covers. She is shy, commanding and infectious all at once, endearingly playing off both her musical backers and the crowd, whilst delivering a series of folk gems, rich in storytelling and rustic-imagery. Combining quiet and touching moments with exhilarating summits rich in resonating 3-way-harmonies, the room is awed by the abilities on display. During any lulls in between songs there is also the presence of perhaps the most excited man in the room, Endersby’s banjo player, to temper any dips in excitement.
Bringing the biggest crowd of the evening, Harri effortlessly relates to them, again reinforcing the musical togetherness this night brings. Another nice touch is the way that the musicians cramped onstage mirror the room, which is packed to the rafters. Everyone is close to everyone else, and this suits the touching claustrophobic quality Endersby’s music has. Dripping in emotion, Harri expands on the realness her songs have to offer with a moving story about an elderly widow asking to smell the tobacco tin at the local post office on each visit as it reminded her of her husband, before launching into set highlight ‘Tobacco Tin’. Musically brilliant storytelling song-writing at its finest is what Endersby and her group deal in, which results in a paradoxically light-hearted and emotionally-heavy set.
The final act of the night is Immy Williams, a local musician, and easily the youngest person present. Whilst for many socialising, let alone performing (headlining!), in a room full of university students would be daunting, Williams shows a confidence beyond her years, pleasantly without a hint of arrogance. Delivering mature originals and covers from behind the piano, Immy plays with a professionalism that alludes to great comfort on the stage. Ambitiously tackling ‘Blue Jeans’ by Lana del Ray and nailing it shows the proficiency this young talent has to offer.
Immy’s by turns sultry and sweet voice resonates around the chic and cosy venue, adding warmth to the chilly piano tones. The only act this evening to perform in such a stark and vulnerable manner, Williams exudes confidence, even when at the most beautifully fragile moments of her set. A triumphant closing set reverberates spiritually around the by now celebratory atmosphere of the room long after her last notes drift away into the evening haze. The night is certainly a success, and a welcome one at that; a qualifier for this would merely have been in going ahead, yet this is more than that, a room filled with 50 odd people who all enjoy the music, and communal atmosphere it brings, makes for a great authentic alternative to typical Friday night alcoholic fare. Although this event is lubricated by merriment courtesy of Tescos/Head of Steam (big-up!), it is the music which proves most intoxicating. Punters file out into the night air, going home satisfied, or to further leisurely destinations (or to take an all-night bus from Newcastle to London to catch a flight to France at ridiculous AM like my fellow Editor; unfortunate) having gorged themselves on the musical feast presented by Gigiti, Laura, Harri et al. and Immy.