Country Round Up - Two Ways Home, Kaity Rae, Fifth Floor, Anna Pancaldi
Our first visit to “The Round Up” now permanently relocated to Gails Kitchen, a venue just off Tottenham Court Road, and after entering past a counter of cakes and pastries, we settle down in the performance space, with a selection of chairs, and a comfy looking leather sofa, while in front of us are six tan leather stools. The show is free but judging by the size of the tip jars they are planning on putting on one hell of a show!
Two Ways Home have certainly been one of the busier bands around London this year, as well as hosting “The Round Up”, they have been at numerous events either as support or as fans, now on their third EP they are building a solid base of fans. Fifth Floor offered one of the finer debut EP’s of 2016 and it was always going to be a pleasure to catch up with our favourite Swedish country band ahead of the launch of their debut LP. Kaity Rae we recently saw at Bush Hall at her graduation gig, while Anna Pancaldi has delivered 2 more excellent EP’s since we last crossed paths at The Little Rabbit Barn. A stella cast therefore assembled for what would prove to be an excellent evening of song writing prowess in front of what can only be described as the cognoscenti of UK country music fans.
Round One, always sets the scene for these events, and this was to be a high calibre opening round, so starting from the left hand side of the stage was Anna Pancaldi, who by her own admission is not a country singer, in fact she is pretty much genre busting, best to just sit back and let her voice soar and swoop around you and absorb it all in. Her opener forinstance a vocal tour de force that almost made her guitar playing incidental, “Come On Love” came with a chorus that grew in volume and passion and served as an excellent introduction. Fifth Floor (Moa and Matilda ) continue to delight and their opening song “These Days” from the forthcoming album was an excellent taster, I love the way they look at each other as they sing, and also the transition between their Swedish intoned introductions and then their faultless American singing voices. Kaity Rae delivered a perfect piece of pop in the affirming “Red Dress” as in “You can’t have me in my red dress” while Two Ways Home finished the round with the uptempo “Just For Now” with their excellent combination of harmonies.
Round 2 saw Anna Pancaldi again defy expectations, with “Uneasy”, that started with a classic jazz standard feel like to it, and opened up into a deeply personal song before ending with a wonderfully high pitched flourish. There was a lot squeezed into that three and a half minutes that will take a few more listens to unravel. The evening was to prove a testing ground for brand new and rarely played songs, Fifth Floor’s next contribution “The Girl” had only previously been played a few times and arrived too late to be on the album but came packed with intrigue “You’re going to marry a girl in this room but it won’t be me!”, it also came with a glorious pay off in the final line. Continuing what was another strong round was Kaity Rae with a song written with fellow alumni and Ward Thomas tunesmith, Jess Sharman, “Spare Room” was an interesting take on domestic issues which also came with a final pay off line worth waiting for. It was not to be Kaity’s final contribution to the round as she joined Two Ways Home on a song called “Tattoo” so new that they had the words in front of them. It seemed to analyse the various reasons one might have for having a tattoo and what others might think of you for having one. It came with an engaging chorus and it will be interesting to see what this song sounds like once finally recorded.
Anna was to start Round Three, with a song from her debut EP, about not wishing to lose childlike innocence, “Promise We’ll Never Grow Old” from her debut EP, possibly the most folk like of her efforts, once again giving her voice free reign to roam, was utterly absorbing and hard to take your eyes off. Next up a truly laugh out loud song from Fifth Floor, how can you fail with a title like “You’re Still Ugly With My Glasses Off”. Kaity Rae may have only just graduated from her songwriting course but she already has an impressive list of co writes, the next one “When It Sinks In” was written with Liv Austen and should be on Liv’s forthcoming album, about the doubts that creep in after a break up. Two Ways Home were to then continued the co-write frenzy with a song written with Fifth Floor, “Anarchy” that had a deep South, Civil Wars feel to it, Izzy kicking off the vocal with Fifth Floor taking verse 2, another strong song on first listen.
A quick break enabled all present to get some refreshments and to prepare ourselves for the final two rounds. Anna Pancaldi opened Round 4 with a deep husky vocal on an extremely atmospheric song..Fifth Floor contributed a slower tune for them, “Coastline” was about them both being from coastal towns and about how you can miss the sea, it came with a sense of longing and showed a different side to them. Kaity Rae demonstrated exactly what these nights are for, debuting a song written that very day, “Somebody Else’s Problem” came with a deliciously wordy chorus that will make it a firm favourite for years to come I suspect. Two Ways Home closed the round with a song currently available on spotify only “Take My Hand”, with it's "lonely lovers trying to fall for one another" chorus, another exceptional song.
The last batch of songs as ever came round far too quickly, Anna closed her set with a song that almost started as a lullaby and turned into probably her most immediately accessible song of the night, it was a full intensity number called “No More Make Believe” for which she gave absolutely everything, wiping away a small tear at the end. Fifth Floor closed out with “Sipping On A Coke” their current single, which has the spirit of Maddie & Tae about it. It produced the first singalong of the night as well as the first sponsorship opportunity, when they were later presented with bottles of the aforementioned soft drink! Kaity Rae closed with “Grown Up” about the perils ahead now her university days are over, which saw first Lewis and then Fifth Floor and by the end nearly everyone contributing backing vocals. Two Ways Home finished their role of hosts for the evening with the wonderful “Push & Pull” providing a suitable finale.
Hopefully the tip jar was roundly filled up by the end of the evening as this was wonderful entertainment, there are at least three more “Round Up’s planned for the rest of the year – do yourself a favour and get along.