With Just A Hint Of Mayhem

Music trivia, useless info, extra added random stuff and the odd rant from me

Songs Under Skies – No. 6 – Elkyn and Fawn – NCEM, York – Thursday 17th September 2020 September 22, 2020

Filed under: Review — justwilliam1959 @ 10:57 pm
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Thanks to this vile bastard Covid-19 I went to my last gig more than half a year ago on Saturday 14th March, now 187 days later I am finally got to another gig. It is the sixth and final in the Songs Under Skies series of acoustic shows in the grounds of York’s National Centre for Early Music (NCEM). I had planned to attend two earlier shows the previous week, but illness, not Covid-19 thankfully, put paid to that. These shows were masterminded by the NCEM, the Crescent and the Fulford Arms with support from the Music Venues Alliance. I would like to say a huge and heartfelt thank you to everyone involved, of all the things I have missed during lock down and beyond, it is live music that I felt the most. It was also great to meet up with so many great people from York’s fabulous music scene. Thank you Zac, Chris, Harkirit, Mikey and Marc to name just a few!

There were two acts on each of the six nights. Gates opened at 6:30pm and the first act was on at 7pm with a 30 minute break at 7:30pm while the final act took the stage at 8pm for a 30 minute set. My evening was kicked off by the delightful Elkyn with their weird, wonderful and warm folky sounds. Set opener “Seventeen” was built on Simon and Garfunkel style harmonies, soft acoustic guitars and a harmonic drone in the background. Is it even possible to have a harmonious drone? I don’t know, but this bloody well was! All of Elkyn‘s songs were quite special, “Change” was underpinned by a more harmonic almost orchestral drone. It is a new song that had never been played live before, it is a truly gorgeous melancolic chill out tune. They played the lead single from their new EP ‘Beech’ it is called “Yue” (I think). This sublime song, which rippled with raw emotion, was probably my favourite Elkyn performance. There was an extended guitar tuning session, which the band should have introduced as a strange avant garde classical guitar movement, we would have been impressed. After this we arrived at “Stupid World” which was overshadowed by the noise from the bottle bank next door being emptied. But Elkyn did not let that get them down, they are real troupers, and, wait for it, they didn’t bottle it! Lyrically the song is very powerful, with lines like “where can I go from here, I can’t flee from that” which for some reason made me think of the hardships so many of us have endured in the past six months. Check out Elkyn on Spotify by clicking here, you will not regret it.

In a rather nice twist of fate the second and final act tonight were Ilana and Crispin better known as Fawn. Why was that a nice twist of fate, well Fawn were on the bill at my last gig on March 14th. That was at the Fulford Arms where they were supporting Julia Bardo. Kitty VR was also on the bill that same night and she made her own Songs Under Skies appearance the previous week. Ilana’s vocals throughout were exquisite and very Joni Mitchellesque on the first song. “I Know Nothing” is a song all about making dumb decisions in your youth. Ilana’s voice carried a supreme range of emotion on this song, the same breadth and depth that a young Linda Rondstadt could do so well. In the middle of the set headless guitarist Crispin (he was a little tall for the small stage) left Ilana alone for a stunning, immensely beautiful song about uncertain times, a perfect theme for 2020. Her yearning vocal and deep lyrics took the evening to a real peak. “Romans, Vikings And Knights” is a song that Ilana wrote about her then home city, York. This was many years ago when she worked at the Fulford Arms. Crispin provided some spot on slide guitar on this track. Another song was an ode to another former hometown of Ilana’s, “Sleeping Giant” tells of a mountain near her old home town in the US. The story of this particular peak is that it is in fact a giant taking a very long sleep. The legend says that if the giant wakes up the world will end. But as Ilana pointed out despite the apocalyptic feel of 2020, the giant is still asleep. Click here to get some Fawn in your life, you know it makes sense!

All photographs were taken by the hugely talented Marc McGarraghy of Yellow Mustang Photography

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Julia Bardo – Fulford Arms, York – Saturday 14th March 2020 March 30, 2020


This post is very late largely because the whole COVID-19 somewhat dampened my enthusiasm for writing. This is now the last gig for me and all of us for weeks, maybe months. So I feel a need to document it. It was another great looking line up from Simon Pattinson head honcho of Northern Radar. First up were Fawn, a musically talented bunch and the pet project of Ilana Zsigmond, a transatlantic singer-songwriter who moved to the UK a few years ago. Her band featured Crispin Halcrow who has featured on this blog before as a solo performer. Ilana reminds me of Linda Ronstadt in her early, in which case are her band a fledgling Eagles? Who knows? Crispin is more Glen Frey than Joe Walsh in style, so maybe! Ilana’s between-song banter was intelligent, amusing and frankly spot on. Her song about York (apologies I missed the title) was close to sublime while “Skin” was truly stunning, a really beautiful song. For me, it encapsulates perfectly that journey of understanding who you are and getting to know and understand yourself. Lyrically it is faultless, with my favourite line being ““But I still build forts and I still skip stones and I still haven’t read every book that I own”. That sums me up to a degree, although I probably need to start building more forts!

Fawn

Next up is the extraordinarily talented Kitty VR. I have seen her previously with a band and also solo acoustic, tonight was with a full band. In this environment, Kitty loses a little of her solo acoustic fragility. But that is more than compensated for by the deeper and more expansive sound that a band brings to her growing canon of great songs. “My Kind” is an open-hearted lament when performed solo acoustically. But here it felt like an amazing collaboration between Massive Attack, Portishead and the Cocteau Twins with Jimmy Page producing. this was not just a highlight of Kitty’s set for me, it was also the highlight of the night! Kitty, whether with band or solo retains that elusive Jeff Buckleyesque style that since Jeff’s sad demise I have only ever heard through Kitty and her supremely talented contemporary Laura Kindelan.

Kitty VR

This was the first time that I had come across Julia Bardo and I was pretty impressed. She has great songs with elements that sit on the softer side of Patti Smith and maybe a little Justine Frischmann (Elastica) and Louise Wener (Sleeper) seeping into Julia’s tonal quality. She has some soaring, heartfelt and soul pouring ballads in her powerful song repertoire. There is also a Stevie Nicks comparison which wasn’t apparent until Julia and her band launched into an awesome cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Dreams”.  But this was not just a carbon copy cover the song evolved into an extended guitar fade, jam, wigout that matched the Velvet Underground at their peak. Julia Bardo is well worth checking out if you like great music and classy tunes you will love her stuff! Interestingly given the focus on gender equality festival line ups all three of tonight’s acts were incredibly talented women. Festival organisers take note for 2021 (on the assumption that the 2020 festival season will be canned).

Julia Bardo

After the gig, I went for a few drinks with the aforementioned Simon Pattinson and Jared, Joe and Jordan from Avalanche Party who were punters at the show. That is another band that I am looking forward to seeing again once this virus is history. Given that was my final pub visit before close down I can think of far worse people to spend it with. Simon, Jared, Joe, and Jordan thanks for a great night and I look forward to meeting up again on the other side of all this!

All the photos apart from the gig poster were taken by me on my cheap Chinese android phone. The videos were all found on YouTube if one of them is yours and you would like a credit or for me to remove it please let me know. 

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