Music reviews are a great marriage for me. But sometimes the shows I don’t see are the ones I remember more.
I should have been reviewing the last gig Rachel Sermanni played at The Glee Club, in September 2012, but I was an irritating 5,000 miles away. Holly Pyke covered it; stealing from me the chance to see Under Mountains in the flesh – an album I had been playing on religious repeat since I’d first heard it. But tonight is payback time; I’ve waited nearly 18 months and would now get my dues. I sidle into the back of the Studio Room full of an absurdly childish desire to sing in the dark.
What happens next could take up the rest of this review, but I won’t let it; for I am the keeper of words on this page. But I will expend some to say Mo Kenney, Mo Kenney, and just in case you didn’t get that. MO KENNEY; the laconic Nova Scotian armed with six strings and stories of plastic snake terrorism. A clandestine license to Middle of Nowhere Recordings and well worth some attention. More please. And I speak for the room.
After a short break and another glass of wine, Rachel Sermanni bounces softly on stage. Opening with Two Birds, the lead track from her recent Everything Changes EP, Sermanni strums out a confident tempo and builds her vocals, “…so sweet yet so bitter.” The melody feels a side step from the Rachel Sermanni I’ve got in my head and a positive new direction, one that may have occurred whilst in New Yor… hang on.
Keys. From somewhere, there are keys. All I can see is a pillar.
Breathe Easy comes next, which was the first Rachel Sermanni song I ever heard – on one of her Mahogany Sessions performances. I just want to listen. And again I hear keys; restrained and complimentary. I scribble ‘so beautiful’ in my notebook, knowing it won’t make my review due to being sycophantic and purple.
Following the Under Mountains track list, Bones gets delivered next with punchy vocal control (“Don’t…”) and mischievous storyteller eyes. By “I speak truth why, did you not, hold your ground” I realise I’m making notes in time with the music. Not good with my handwrit… and there, again; stolen from me by the wretched pillar, are keys. A perfect confluence.
A song I don’t recognise gets performed next, before Lay-oh swaps Sermanni’s guitar for (what I think is) a lute and keeps it centre stage for another track I don’t know. All three are new to me, and I’m so fervently behind 60% of Under Mountains (roughly, I did the math: 12-7/12×100) I tread carefully – fearing I might not give Sermanni’s new songs a fair trial. I want what I want. Me, me, me.
Luckily Rachel Sermanni’s stage presence and new material are both more mature than I, so I stay in the game. Plus I’ve never been able to turn down a sushi/fish segue. Black Hole comes next, the superb end track to Sermanni’s Everything Changes EP, and fills the room with tempered chords, vocals and heavy keyboard kisses peppering the end.
Sleep gives me another opportunity to relinquish my pen and sing (hopefully) to myself, before Everything Changes comes to life on stage in a way that a week’s worth of listening didn’t yet accomplish.
The Fog brings us closer to the end of what has been an awesome two sets, with the hidden keys returning to sit perfect and pretty from the second verse onwards. I’m as sucker for ivory, or its electronic cousin, and as we’re told Song to a Fox will close the show a penny drops in my head. Cue-wavy-screen-dream-sequence, the past… the past… the past…
It was with some trepidation I sat down to review Under Mountains in September 2012. I was abroad and had been ploughing my way through Rachel Sermanni’s online portfolio, loving the straightforward girl/guitar performances delivered with heartbreaking talent. My fear was that a producer’s ego might spoil it.
And at points my ego was right. But during Song to a Fox, the last track on the album, something curious occurred at 1min 13secs, and again at 3mins 22secs. A perfectly pitched piano. Alliteration allowed, it was the musical manifestation of sublime – like slipping into sleep; it was, and is, and always will be, just…
Back in the room, somewhere from the usually reticent Studio audience someone shouts out “MARSHMALLOW UNICORN”. And after a brief and unfair consultation (not asking me) the solid album track, along with Waltz, replaces something I’ve been waiting a long time to hear with only metres between us. I literally sink, into the dark corner where I once stood, and write some final notes in the emergency lighting.
Worth the wait. Don’t wait this long again. Better live. Wish ‘swimming with a whale’ had come from my head. Listen to Everything Changes at least 3 times before bed. Find out if whoever is playing the keyboard tonight played on Under Mountains/Song to a Fox. Find out what summer festivals Rachel Sermanni has booked. Find out if an hour can be late. Explore Middle of Nowhere’s wider roster. Love Black Hole live. Not so keen on Waltz. Always be thankful for the kindness of strangers.
And the last entry in my notebook, behind the lingering echo of request; simply, ‘robbed’.
For more on Rachel Sermanni, visit http://www.rachelsermanni.net
For more on Mo Kenney, visit http://mokenney.com
For further listings at The Glee Club, including comedy and music, visit http://www.glee.co.uk