It is not often you get invited to attend a hush hush gig at 18:00, even more unusual is when you've never heard of the venue, a club on the edge of Soho where the entrance is via a nondescript steel looking door with a videophone entry, Upon gaining entry an Eastern European lady welcomes me in and says what you are looking for is on the third floor!.
Upon reaching the third floor a complimentary glass of wine is offered and a range of canapes will be delivered throughout the evening. The playing area is a low stage no more than a foot off the ground, there are 4 huge lights and a drum kit so small that the local Salvation Army may well have a more impressive kit. The room is small and somewhere between 70 and 100 specially invited guests will spread out and mysteriously none will go within eight feet of the stage as if some force field is keeping them out - as you can guess this is not your average gig, this is a Big Machine Showcase, in the week of C2C. and they are going to wheel out three of their C2C acts for mini showcases.
MC for the evening is TeamW21 favourite and by now honourary Londoner Baylen Leonard and his first job of the evening is to introduce the CEO of Big Machine Scott Borchetta who gives a short little speech on the importance on the UK market. With that done it was straight on to the first act of the evening - Danielle Bradberry, who takes to the stage with just an acoustic guitarist. It's her first UK performance and it is superb. Opening with "Sway", she immediately captures hearts with soulful vocals. She seems incredibly tiny even with a pair of high heels but in person seems to possess a much bigger voice than you might imagine. There follows a song that was a late addition to the album "I Don't Believe We've Met", in the form of "Human Diary" which is one of the songs that she did not write on the album though she clearly empathises with it's content and puts in a quite powerful vocal performance. Her short set closes with "Worth It", where she grips the microphone stand with one hand while expressively emphasising the words with the other hand, it is an absolutely stunning vocal performance.
Nearly as soon as Danielle vacates the stage, the drummer and bass player from Delta Rae start setting up on stage and a couple of people stand next to me I assume in anticipation of the next act. As Baylon introduces them I expect to see some additional people take to the stage but instead the people in front of me start singing from off stage a capella and for a few moments I feel like I'm the fifth member of Delta Rae. The song they open with is "Long And Happy Life", and after that first verse they take to the stage properly to continue. To the far left of the stage is Eric Holljes and his sister Brittany, Leading the vocals for the opener, in a quite blistering style is Liz Hopkins while in front of me stands final sibling Ian. This was full on joyful music that is going to see them garner so many fans over the forthcoming weekend, the multiple harmonies are a sheer joy to watch,
The second song was written by Eric, and is a raw break up song, so raw that although he sings harmonies, the main vocal is taken on by Liz again. the rest of the band join in after the first chorus and the four voices together are something quite special. For the closing song it is a return to the very first song they wrote together "Bottom Of The River". The lead on this song is taken by Brittany while the others stomp ( and I mean STOMP!) as well as providing backing vocals - it is simply like nothing I have ever seen before , as gospel meets tribal. Half way through three of the band take out drum sticks and beat a rhythm while Brittany continues to fire out her vocals. They are like a vocal hurricane ripping through the room and by the end you feel that you have truly experienced something special. I can only implore that you see this band over the weekend you will not be disappointed.
Midland are fresh of dates in Germany and Holland and their set literally begins with a bang, while Mark and Jess have taken to the stage, their third member is nowhere to be seen. After a minute or so Cameron appears with guitar and bottle of beer, trips and crashes on to the stage miraculously managing to save his guitar and his bottle of Peroni. From such humble beginnings came a set of sheer beauty starting with "Burn Out". With their unique stage attire and a sense of humour they had the room in stitches but as soon as they played they seemed to just click into another gear. By their own admission there had not been a lot of sleep and possibly more than one Peroni but the moment they kicked into "Make A Little", even on three acoustic guitars they were able to make a hell of a sound.,
Their post C2C show sold out in 15 mins, and as they moved on to "Drinkin Problem" delivered with aplomb, you kind of wished for Monday to come around all the sooner so that you could relive it all over again in a small venue as we may never get this chance again. Even though only nine songs were played this was a special evening that those who were there will talk about for some time to come.