Of all the C words I’ve been called, ‘cynic’ is probably the worst. It can be true.
And as I watch Louise Petit’s video to ‘Christmas Time with You’, her Benetton friendly 2012 yuletide release, I feel the Grinch growing under my skin. How dare people be so happy.
I had a similar reaction to the opening track on Petit’s Fear and my Other Friends EP, ‘Love is Pure’; the very title making the angry amphetamine addled teenager in me surface for revenge. Love isn’t pure, it’s painful and spiteful; and if I want any chance of surviving tonight’s gig I’ve got a 20minute bus ride, to the Ort Café in Balsall Heath, to come to terms with my demons. They’d better serve wine.
Arriving at Ort I see an old friend by the entrance; he makes his way home with a Jalfrezi as I walk in to a small and crowded café. Nestling up to the bar I order a “large glass of red” and make my way to the only available spare seat and wobbly table.
I’ve never been to the Ort Café before, and tonight feels like Moseley meets The Custard Factory at a Bring & Buy reunion. But welcoming, in a way I imagine Inns of yore were to travellers, and I’m quickly making small talk to the men sitting behind me.
Having missed the last minute support act Chris Tye, who stepped in when Injured Birds pulled out due to injury, I sit down just as Louise Petit starts her headline set; opening with ‘Ghosts’, another track from her self released EP.
Petit’s voice is soft and sincere, with a reticent power lurking behind it; and the double bass and stripped back percussion that support her, elegantly complimentary. Honestly I was expecting more chintz.
‘Home’ picks up the tempo, before ‘Knots Inside’ – a candid reminisce about her old bass player, who was apparently a “lovely guy, but quite angry…” (sounds like someone I know), introduces a modern jazz flavour and well delivered harmonies. And above the wailing of sirens along the Alcester Road, I’m reminded of both The Kinks and Scott Matthews.
A friendly soft lament gets delivered to us next, making the woman in front of me start the single shoulder sway and wedding knee tap that is usually reserved for tired receptions.
I start to sense most of the room know most of the words; and as I mouth “…not even a crossword” discover, apparently so do I. But from where..? And as the chorus tell us “myyy love is puuurrre” my internal Bill Murray walks out the room in disgust. But bollocks to him, it’s a good song – even if the whistling reminds me of a certain compass specific milkman.
The rest of Petit’s set rolls through with some colloquial banter, soft acoustic melodies, and the occasionally overused metaphor.
Highlights come in ‘All Be Good’, a composition Petit penned for her GCSE Music course, and ‘Plastic & Glue’; the latter and love song being directed to Petit’s fiancée sitting directly behind me. An unfortunate logistical discovery which undermines one of my more preferred C words whilst reporting, ‘covert’.
As the obligatory encore ensues, and a much merrier me sinks his teeth into a sing-a-long, I remind myself to be happier; even Tori Amos has her place. And the Ort Café, for tonight at least, carries a genuine air of camaraderie and companionship. I arrived alone but never once felt it, ending up with another old friend at the bar before leaving.
And as for Louise Petit, I’m further sold now I’ve seen her play live. And whilst I won’t watch the saccharine jumper fest she released last Christmas again, expect to see me front row centre at her Moseley Folk Festival performance.
(which, if I’m reviewing it, may be in disguise)
Louise Petit plays the Centre Court Stage on Friday Aug 30th at this year’s Moseley Folk Festival. For more info visit, http://www.moseleyfolk.co.uk/line-up/friday/
For more on Louise Petit, visit http://www.louisepetit.com/
Or more on the Ort Café, visit http://ortcafe.co.uk/