Independent Venue Week: Vanishing Point @ AMP Studios
Pimlican ft Josie/Gabrielle Sey/Colorvox/The Fragile States
Thursday 3rd February 2022
As a live music promoter I don’t generally write reviews of my own events (!) but the Vanishing Point gig at the magical AMP Studios in February was a special occasion. It was an official Independent Venue Week and BBC Radio 6 Music event that featured three recent Fresh on the Net ‘faves’.
The cold February weather does not deter a lively audience coming out to support grassroots live music and the atmosphere is electric from the outset. First up are The Fragile States. They are a band with quite some pedigree. Singer and guitarist Dido Hallett was in Tiger in the nineties, guitarist and backing vocalist Donald Ross Skinner was Julian Cope’s muse and main musical partner for a decade and has been a member of Salad for three decades. Also in the band are Maria Manrique Perez of LFW Promotions on hand percussion and BVs plus drummer Hugh joining for the first time. Until recently the ex-Perfect Disaster bassist and singer Dan Cross was also a member.
The other unusual aspect of The Fragile States is that three of them work at AMP Studios! Dido co-runs the business, Maria manages the venue and Donald is the sound engineer. They play a set of charmingly laid back but punchy Psychedelic Alt Pop including fresh fave track Swimming Pool. Dido’s distinct and appealing voice is boosted by Maria’s and Donald’s cool harmonies. Drummer Hugh and Maria play thoughtfully, suiting their slightly whimsical Englishness while Donald’s playing is impressive, inventive and delivered with an effortless lightness of touch. It is an engaging and warm opening to a special evening.
The Fragile States
Next up are Colorvox, a duo one half of which is Steve Hellier, a founding member of Death in Vegas. The other member is guitarist Richard Thompson. They combine pulsating electronic beats and programmed electro-synth grooves with Steve’s ethereal synth and Richard’s cleverly played guitar that utilises an array of effects pedals to create some dazzling textures. The set is a continuous medley of tracks, ending with recent release The Body Electric. It is a journey through a series of moods, tempi and differing aspects of ambient electronica and experimental EDM.
Colorvox are mapping out their own unique place in the broad landscape of current electronica, combining their experimental and futuristic electronic tendencies with the ability to write cool melodies and use rich harmonic ideas. It all comes together with great clarity, helped by the excellent sound in the venue and is well received by an enthusiastic crowd.
Third on is Gabrielle Sey, accompanied, as always, by fellow guitarist and backing singer Ruben Vasquez-Amos. Their sound is tailor-made for the intimacy and acoustics of the railway arch in which Vanishing Point takes place and immediately Gabrielle’s stunning voice is overwhelming. Her tone, her dynamics, the sheer power she yields and her expertise in using her voice as a precious musical instrument are breathtaking. People used to talk about how, at Dead Can Dance gigs, huge sections of the audience would spontaneously burst into uncontrollable tears when Lisa Gerrard began singing because there was something indescribable in the timbre of her voice that shredded their emotions. I quickly find myself having mine shredded by Gabrielle.
When you add to that the quality of her songs, the chemistry between Gabrielle and Ruben and his virtuosity as a player (not to mention his lovely backing vocals), they can do no wrong. For recent singles Patterns and White Noise Gabrielle dispenses with the guitar, kicks off her shoes and sings solo with Ruben accompanying and still the sound fills every corner of the room. Earlier in the set, they reveal new tracks including the stunning Colour Blind which I am hoping will be a future single release. Their sound is hard to categorise. Bits of Soul, Jazz, Folk and the canon of great singer-songwriters all inform Gabrielle’s songs. Shades of Joan Armatrading, India Arie, Paddy McAloon, The Staves, Angie Stone, probably a host of other references that I have missed. But really it is not that important.
Gabrielle Sey has achieved something that is impossibly hard in today’s oversubscribed market where so much has already been done. And that is uniqueness and originality. If tonight is anything to go by, she should be on her way to big big things. The audience warm to her engaging personality and swoon to her stunning songs and performance. With the fine folks at Talentbanq now taking an interest, things look bright for her in 2022. So they should.
The final act of the night is another fresh fave Pimlican ft Josie. Just over a year ago, I encouraged singer-songwriter Josie to collaborate with Pimlican, accomplished DJ, producer and writer who had commented positively about her vocals on a track I played on my radio show on Exile FM. Four singles together later and with a stunning performance at my Tomorrow Calling Festival at this same venue in September under their belt, they were in fine fettle.
Pimlican kicks off with one of his mind-spinning scratch mixes before Josie skips onto the stage and they deliver a set consisting of all the singles, kicking off with Temptation, another fresh fave choon. Josie’s bubbly persona makes her an instant hit with the audience while Pimlican’s crisp beats, grooves and funky chord sequences provide the perfect soundtrack for her to stretch out and demonstrate the gutsy bluesiness of her singing. It is that combination of Pimlican’s instincts as a Soulful and Funky House artist and Josie’s more organic songwriting that makes them special and her multi-tracked harmonies are goose-bumping. Latest single Without You is a thrilling finale to an excellent set, rounding off a fantastic night.
Pimlican ft Josie
Big thanks are due to Independent Venue Week and their volunteer Veronica who was busy posting pics and comments on social media throughout the gig; also to the amazing staff at AMP Studios and to all who helped make the night such a success. It was also nice to hear artists thanking Fresh on the Net among those they singled out for supporting them. I look forward to our involvement in Independent Venue Week becoming an annual event.