The first WLAG show of the year saw a return to a familiar haunt in the Camden Chapel, which saw the brave move of putting on a gig in January rewarded with yet another sell out crowd. There was a bill of real quality, the seemingly ever present Emily Faye being tonight's official WLAG host, with long term #TEAMw21 favourite Devon Mayson, potential single of 2019 writer in Poppy Fardell and new to us but most welcome Leah Haworth, each of whom would bring something a little different to the evening. Following on from Decembers show there also needs to be mention of someone who won't play a note but will have something of an effect on the evening, last time round it was Kaity Rae, tonight it would be Sue McMillan, lurking at the back of the hall, whose songwriting skills would be repeatedly praised as the evening progressed.
The WLAG events are always a good safe space for trying out new songs and Emily kicked of a brand new song, co written with Liv Austen & Jon Wright called "Bad Ass", examining what that term means today. Even in this early stripped back format, this song suggests that it might give Emily a chance in the near future to really rock out, it is almost anthemic and seems tailor made for a crowd singalong. Poppy Fardell's rise has been nothing short of meteoric in the last few months on the back of a couple of wonderful singles and support slot at Vic Allens EP launch. Her opening song tonight was one of the aforementioned singles "Lose Myself In You", which comes with a cheeky punchy chorus that proves difficult to escape from once you've heard it.
Leahs first contribution "Shining Morning" was something a little different, written as a fifteen year old, it was immediately a more gentle sound, with a delicately faintly picked guitar sound over which Leah laid an almost dreamy vocal. In some respects lyrically it was brutally frank in its honesty about grandparents who had "not got long left!" although that line did come with the caveat "I hate myself for thinking". The song though went from strength to strength, gradually building in intensity both vocally and in terms of guitar playing as it looked for signs of hope in the ravages of time passing, which was quite a concept for a teenager to try and broach. A further change in style came with Devon's first song, very much a first person retelling of events in a song of unrequited love, with Devon's style of singing more traditional and sustained at times than her compatriots.
Round 2 once again saw Emily displaying her versatility with a return to one of her older songs from 2 years ago "Giving In". This was a much quieter affair with the vocals in general almost soft and sweet but with room to soar on the chorus, a nice trip down memory lane. Following with a slower second song as well was Poppy, with "I Better Start", which came with great and original country chorus, and showed Poppy's ability to project out a vocal to great effect. From her oldest song last time round, Leah chose to go with her newest for Round 2 with "Lie Now". Leah's style continued to intrigue, her playing style on this song initially relatively quiet, keeping the Camden Chapel transfixed before then building up her guitar playing into a much more expressive style creating something of an atmosphere before quietly closing out. The first time #TEAMw21 heard Devon's next song which we'll call "Back In Time" as its currently untitled, we were completely blown away and it retains its ability to tug at the emotions. Anchored firmly in reality, dealing with a family members dementia in such a sensitive way yet pulling no punches from the very opening line with her Nan repeating herself three times, laying out the cruelty of explicitly. The song though deals with the ability of an old video to try help her recall past times.
Emily's change in style continued with an upbeat self affirming song about not letting others make you feel small so that they can feel big. With a defiantly sassy lyric it is a great song of empowerment. It was a Sue McMillan co write as was the next one from Poppy Fardell, which also had contributions from Jake Morell. It came with a a very neat line in wordplay about things that perhaps shouldn't go together but do like the "Double Denim" of the title. with a much more forthright guitar style and uptempo tune, it paid off to great effect. Leah continued to somewhat plough her own furrow, a different style to her fellow performers, equally absorbing. Her song "Walk Away" created its own ambience, with an almost hypnotic vocal that rose and fell away and saw Leah again using her guitar to great effect. To close out the first section of the show Devon, unleashed another emotional grenade with "Fly High", again pulling no punches as she detailed the effects of losing a young cousin. Delivered with a message of hope and simply beautifully sung, this was a demonstration of just how powerful songwriting can be.
There was time for a short break for everyone to regain their composure, buy some merch and top up their drinks before the second half kicked off, and when everyone had taken their seats it was impossible not to notice that on Devon Mayson's side of the stage stood a harp which was to bring a whole new dimension to the evening. Emily's first song of Part 2 was "Fearless", another Sue co write has an almost Nirvana like downbeat guitar line that leads onto a gloriously expressive chorus, it was due to be recorded the next day and will certainly but one to watch out for later in the year. With everyone now settled in and relaxed the songs just continued to get better and better, Poppy's Round Four contribution was outstanding "Follow Me Down To" dealt with a difficult relationship situation, and was performed slower, almost folk like.
Leah next song "Strength To Leave" had a moody intense instrumental opening created with a slowly played guitar, and came with a lot of atmosphere. It was time for Devon to somewhat steal the show by bringing out the harp and then finding herself having to play it precariously balanced on a table. After reducing us to near tears in the previous rounds, this time round it was a "loved up" song co written with Liv Austen, somehow "How Did I Find You?" managed to blow the microphone however Devon's singing barely dropped a decibel and when matched with sound of the harp it was something truly special - as Emily said "Stunning"
The final round saw Emily preview her next single for which the audience became her rhythm section with some uptempo clapping, "Leaving Looks Good On You", looks certain to get her 2020 off to a great start judging by the reaction. Poppy definitely saved her best for last in the shape of "Hayley" easily one of our favourite singles of 2019, made all the more intriguing by the fact that the couple of times I've seen her play it she has not given a hint as to what it is about, which is great and lets us build our own theories from the many scraps of narrative provided of the disturbingly dystopian scenario. This version gradually built in intensity throughout with the very last Hayley being extended out over about seven syllables. Leah promised us her most depressing song from her EP "Hours", which may be a little harsh, however it was certainly considered and her guitar strings took a bit of a battering and the vocals were a little mournful but it certainly captivated and sustained interest. There was time for one final burst of harp with Devon, and it hard to do justice to quite how much of a beautiful sound it made. The song "Tonight" comes with a lovely harmonious piano line on Devon's album however this version with the harp was if anything even more superb, certainly the vocals were memorable.
The night ended with Talentbanq's very own Nostradamus Ray Jones forseeing a WLAG at the Royal Albert Hall, that may well happen one day but there will certainly be a show in London in February and WLAG is hitting the road so if you are in the Bristol area you can have your own evening of WLAG talent