Noise is everywhere. In my head, in the air, sandwiched between each unsolicited silence; there is no escape.
Literally. I wake up every day with a song in my head, and go to sleep likewise. I don’t have to have heard them recently, they doesn’t have to be relevant; but they’re always there. And taking me from one to the next is the usual traffic and conversation; so much shouting, so much laughter.
But right now it’s a packet of crisps – and the obnoxious consumption of the man in the corner.
Ort Cafe is small venue, ‘intimate’ if I was writing an advert, and not a good place to be selfish. Tonight’s support act, Rhiannon Mair, with her deep reaching vocals explaining songs of frustration and love, has already thanked “you all for coming out to listen, being respectful and quiet” – but the message appears not to have fully sunk in. Deftly delivered though it was.
So I glare into the man, hoping he’s sober enough to feel embarrassed. Daisy Chapman is headlining tonight, and I’ve been pillaging her portfolio with YouTube and Spotify for a fortnight (iTunes reparations have been subsequently made). If my ears don’t get to reconnoitre unmolested there may be a controlled explosion.
Ms Mair delivers another delightful velvet glove punch, a nod to the youthful front row table seemingly obsessed with a small plush toy horse; before enforcing a sing-a-long, selling CDs and introducing Ms Chapman.
Guitar gives way to piano (or Chapman’s ‘trusted touring Roland RD-170’ to be exact) and the Bristolian songwriter opens a cappella to silence the room, with ‘The Life of Mary May’.
It’s a little traditional and tired for me, a staggered demise through narrative verse, and a song I’d often skip when listening to Shameless Winter – Chapman’s second and most recent studio album. Skilfully sung though it is, by the second verse all I can hear is the sound our photographer, clickclickclick clickclick, and the strains of nervous guilt as I order another “large, please”.
‘Madame Jeneva’ introduces Sue on violin, helping to retell Hogarth’s dystopia and the disintegration of addiction. I grew up dotted around Moseley and Balsall Heath, and as Ort’s audience are warned of being “drunk for a penny or dead drunk for two” I hear the echoes of unfortunately formative years.
‘Jealous Angles’ delivers a mournful keys led lament, and allows Chapman’s voice to soar into the room (a word I don’t often use); before the vaudeville returns with a dark tale of patricide in ‘Oh Daddy’.
The endless rustle continues from the corner, and I notice Chapman’s eyes flick recognisance daggers at the front row table who’ve swapped talking for texting. Somewhere behind me a tray of pantomime glasses fall to the floor.
Chapman asks for “a bit more piano”, and begins the slow melody of ‘A Sinner Song’; incorporating loop pedal harmonies and violin accompaniment. ‘Does She Know What I Know’ follows the vein of minor keys, strings and beguiling introspection; before ‘The Gentleman in 13b’ returns the playful counterbalance to Chapman’s more difficult questions.
I’m suddenly very aware that I’m sitting alone, with my lens hidden companion currently squatting underneath the Foosball Table, and try to shift my driving sense to sight from sound.
The title track of Chapman’s latest LP is introduced, with a nod to the turning seasons making ‘Shameless Winter’ a more appropriate feature in her set. And as the nostalgic story of “mirage summers” and “luxury problems” gives way to the eponymous season, I watch Chapman’s hands dance along the keyboard like acrobatic spiders.
‘The Piano’, another track from her debut album, The Green Eyed, comes as penultimate – adding a uniformed hand clap to the looped harmonies and “uninspired, uninspired, uninspired.” To me, this is Chapman at her best – a skilful pianist, creative performer and gifted vocalist. And as the sonorous circles wrap themselves around the room, and the spiders settle into another determined march, I rest happy and complicit.
“…TIME ARE YOU GETTING YOUR BUS?” booms out from the corner of the room; possibly drunk, definitely ill considered, and wrenching my ears back into the driving seat. Even the mouthful of crisps feels compelled to issue a warning.
We are robbed of an encore, but I understand why; and as Chapman’s set still hangs in the air, the background cacophony muscles its way back into prominence. It all feels a bit rude.
Both acts tonight deserve much more attention – from both the Ort Café audience and Birmingham’s live music circuit; I’d like to see Daisy Chapman on the Glee Club stage or at the Moseley Folk Festival.
And whilst I steadily fall for the Ort Café, seduced by its considered musical offerings (Chris Cleverley 19th Oct), film nights, wobbly tables and seemingly eternal welcome, I wanted to bull whip tonight’s crowd.
But I don’t, and as I head back into town I remind myself how perfect parts of tonight were; the evening’s scales and melodies become my lasting impression. Frustration dissipates, appreciation grows; and as my head hits the pillow I hear “…and they’ll find their way, through solid ground.”
And when I wake up, “Call the Captain boy… call the Captain boy…” Two for two. God bless digital downloads and the survival mechanics of my mind.
For more on Daisy Chapman, visit http://www.daisychapman.com
For more on Rhiannon Mair, visit http://rhiannonmairmusic.tumblr.com/
For more on the Ort Café, including listings of all events and activities, visit http://ortcafe.co.uk