LIVE REVIEW: ‘Life & Soul’ Bristol 9.4.17

We could all use some uplifting and encouragement, so when a live music, poetry and spoken word event pops up with the name ‘Life & Soul’, you can expect it to do exactly what it says on the tin.

On Sunday 9th April, public relations and events company E. Stellar PR hosted its first live event at Toto’s Wine Bar in Bristol. Where “soul and inspiration collide”, the evening promised to “uplift, inspire, spread love, bring life and be 100% honest and real as artists share their truth”. Sounds good, no? I must reveal that I was part of the line-up, and I also happen to be sibling to the organizer, but here’s proof of my non-bias:

(Yes, I did just use Twitter as a credible source – it’s 2017.)

Nepotism debunked and thus pushed aside, honestly – if I thought it was crap, I wouldn’t write about it.

Keira and Soulay of the podcast ‘Two Fools Talking‘ came down from London to host. After the jocular duo warmed up the crowd a little with an introduction and a joke or two, the poetry began.

First up: Thembe Mvula – an experienced and pronounced performer. She shared poems about familial relationships and of young women and their desire to save, support and stand by young men who, perhaps, sadly are only looking for fugacious shelter. Thembe, being committed to her feelings and her musings, speaks with a satisfying conviction. I had never heard her material before and I felt every word that she spoke.

Thembe Mvula Life & Soul Bristol 090417 E. Stellar PR

It’s cool how you can reconnect with people from your mostly undeveloped, nascent past and discover that they not only have creative talents, but are actively pursuing them – Pierise Poetry is someone I went to primary school with. She has more of an abstract quality as a poet, which I like – it makes you think and really pay close attention. She performed a few short poems and a couple of long ones, and my favourite had to be her ending piece about confidence and her refusal to conform or be less, said to be inspired by one of her favourite poets, Maya Angelou.

Pierise Poetry Life & Soul Bristol 090417 E. Stellar PR

To close out the poetry section, Aiden Williams came up to do (if I’m not mistaken) one of his first performances. A wearer of many hats (among other things a writer, poet and photographer) Aiden has been writing poetry for a long time and his thoughts on life are deep. Much like his personality when you meet him, often he’ll say one line or finish a stanza and it will take you a full five seconds to gather the full import of his intention – and your response will either be to laugh or profoundly nod your head. He’s a skilled writer, knowledgeable of the sharp tools he possesses in order to build concepts you want to walk inside, interrogate and experience.

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Ellis Aaron Life & Soul Bristol 090417 E. Stellar PR

To begin the musical part of the night was singer-songwriter producer Ellis Aaron. You can’t get any more soulful than his voice and his productions have a groove and contagiousness, which the band (Mike, Jon and Jerry on keys, drums and bass, respectively) effortlessly absorbed and played. His focus is towards the light and moving on, a powerful and universally relatable message.

 

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Two Fools Talking Life & Soul Bristol 090417 E. Stellar PR
(Left to right) Soulay and Keira of Two Fools Talking

 

Genie Marie brought spoken word firmly into the programme after the brief interval (Aiden had performed one spoken word piece at the end of his set), and she was definitely the energy high of the night. Her flow is serious, swagger effortless. She really vibes on the music and jammed with the band as she talked of relationships, inspired by the successful ones around her. Then Hetty Jane performed a handful of covers from Alicia Keys, Bob Marley and Lauryn Hill. Accompanied by Everton on guitar, it was a stripped set, which is all her emotionally-driven vocals need – the audience was silent throughout her performance and her voice resonated, carrying her purposeful deliverance of each song.

Genie Marie Life & Soul Bristol 090417 E. Stellar PR

Hetty Jane Life & Soul Bristol 090417 E. Stellar PR

 

Last up (or so everybody thought) was Eleanor VS.

…I’m not about to review myself, so let’s just say I had a good time.

At the end, our organizer Estelle sprung a surprise on the audience, gifting two covers by India.Arie and Emily King, which I was honoured to join her on, as well as with the band.

Life & Soul delivered and lived up to its word. It was a great turnout and it should also be noted that the majority of the acts were from Bristol – hardly surprising is it, my fellow Bristolians? It was such a treat to witness so many talented artists and see the world from their enlightened eyes. Here’s to more truthful and authentic soul being brought to our own.

For more information, news and updates on E. Stellar PR and its events visit:

estellarpr.co.uk
facebook.com/estellarpruk
instagram.com/e.stellarpr
twitter.com/estellarpr

Life & Soul Bristol 090417 Eleanor VS. Estelle Hartley and Everton
(Left to right) Eleanor VS., Estelle and Everton cover India.Arie’s “Get It Together”

Thank you to Lauren Powell for photographing the event.

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EXHIBITION: “Don’t Trust These Walls” at 123space

You never know what to expect when you walk onto Stokes Croft any night of the week. There are dozens of cafes and bars always packed with brooding or buzzing punters socializing their sorrows away, music is always pulsating through the walls of these same establishments, and there is certainly an ever-present people-driven spirit that supports and welcomes art of pretty much any format. Last Wednesday, siblings Beulah Davina, ThisisDA and Eric Sings picked the rustic and minimalistic 123space to host an exhibition displaying their art and music.

Creative talent obviously runs strong in the blood and it’s really nice to see a sister and her two brothers collaborating this way. It was a successful night with many of their friends in attendance, as well as several curious passers-by who wandered in to take a look (even a white cat snuck in to see what the fuss was about). I brought my friend Salma along and after making the rounds we pondered the overall vibe. To both of us we perceived pain, juxtaposed with peace and self-identity, and of course strength of familial bonds. At the end of the night ThisisDA got up on stage and gave us a few verses. Take a look:

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LIVE REVIEW: Julia Turner “Fifteen Times the Moon” Album Launch

Last Friday I attended an important gig for a good musician friend of mine. Jazz, blues singer-songwriter Julia Turner, whose new album Fifteen Times the Moon is set for release this year, hosted a pre-release album launch at the Bristol Folk House.

The show took place downstairs past the cafe in the medium-sized hall, which had a surprisingly really intimate feel. People sat in groups around tables or on a line of chairs off to the side of the stage. Lighting was dim (obviously, that would be pretty harsh to make people eat and drink in the dark now, wouldn’t it), which added to the cosiness – I felt as though I were in a living room. A big one, of course.

I got there just in time to catch the beginning of the opening special guest’s first poem. Vanessa Kisuule: award-winning poet from Bristol. I had read her book of poems Joyriding the Storm and so it was a special treat to hear the words brought to life by the lips of their author. Onstage she has a warm persona, very inviting and familiar. She performed “Strawberries”, a really funny, beautiful and nostalgic account of young love… or the appearance of it, and succeeded at vividly juxtaposing two living legends of opposing musical genres in the minds of the audience, recounting an argument she and her then boyfriend had once had over which one was the best. Kisuule’s delivery sounds like she’s reliving each detail, an HD video in the front of her mind. Very natural and unforced. She ended with “A Personal Malleable Manifesto” and, introducing it, told us the importance as a performer of not selling a perfect person, and, simple and pertinent, the messages of accepting responsibility for one’s own life and having the courage to share what one believes is right were aptly exemplified in the poem.

Shortly after, Isolde, Lauren Bradford and Julia, collectively known as The Eko Trio, made their way to the stage. Each of them artists in their own right, the a cappella group sang a number of covers and most of their songs were short and sweet. This was my first time hearing them live and I was impressed at how their voices blended so well. All three have great and clear vocal technique and it was equally clear in their demeanour and ease of interaction that they were an established outfit. It was great to see a group of women up there, owning the stage and performing such a polished set.

The audience was very attentive; it seemed like they all felt spoiled. All were genuinely happy to be there, laughed at all the right places and didn’t make the performers feel uncomfortable or awkward – nor myself for that matter, who sat on the backmost chair of the seating to the side and received a smile from almost every person who got up to retrieve a yummy snack or another cheeky cup of tea from the upstairs cafe during the interval.

And then came the main act: Julia Turner. If you ever have the pleasure of meeting Julia, you will instantly discover her genuineness and how friendly she is. That night she was exactly the same and especially self-effacing (as to be expected, really – was unlikely she’d had a lobotomy since the last time I saw her). Several times she thanked the audience for attending and for their support, a lot of whom had helped raise the funds for Turner and her band to record her follow-up album to 2012’s City Synchronicity.

Influenced by and having studied jazz and blues, her voice has one of the smoothest tones – it’s so warm and clear. I instantly noticed that, impressively, Turner’s voice remained strong despite her advanced pregnancy, a sign of proper vocal technique – a feat often not so easily accomplished by heavily pregnant vocalists. The stand-out song of the night for me was the title track, Turner’s own interpretation of the true account of two men who went out fishing and ended up missing for 15 months. It was true storytelling and masterful direction of live instrumentation (can’t wait to hear the studio version!). Violin and double bass both added texture and pace to the story she carved out with her acoustic guitar – proof that simpler chord progressions under weighty words and skilled production can still hit hard.

While I’ve mentioned them, I may as well introduce the band. Impressive multi-instrumentalist Annalise Lam alternated between violin and clarinet. Her solos, especially on violin, are very inspired, soulful and exciting – you really don’t know what she’s going to do next. Her style showcases her classical training as well as her love of gypsy jazz. On double bass was Pasquale Votino, and he’s a pretty laid-back performer but that’s not to say he isn’t into it. Each note is purposeful and proves its importance. The drummer, Roberto Nappi, is excellent. His timing is spot on – literally, he never misses a beat or lags. Like Votino, he’s also very relaxed – they make it look easy. Completing the line-up was Julia’s sweet-voiced Eko bandmate, Lauren, who appeared as guest backing vocalist.

The album’s subjects vary from the state of the earth and the consciousness of its inhabitants, to emotional baggage passed down from generation to generation. On a couple of songs Turner even wrapped her jazzy melodies around Indian tongues. She also revealed that while studying, it had once been communicated to her that “[her] playing was a joke” and that her “licks weren’t jazz”. This became the inspiration for the song “Fear of Music”, expressing how at times one can become so paralyzed by wanting to do justice to something held so dear.

Overall, it was a pleasure to be present at Julia Turner’s album launch, not only as a friend, but as another average spectator. The hard work and dedication over the years shows. After four years she has managed to complete the dreaded sophomore album. She and her band sound solid and neat, and they have a great chemistry. There was a truly blissful, cheerful and familial spirit, every person in the room silently communicating their support for the musician and her forthcoming album. Welcome, Fifteen Times the Moon, to the world — well, almost welcome. See you in perhaps a couple of months.

See juliaturner.co.uk for more details on the album’s release.

You can find Julia on:

facebook.com/juliaturnermusic
juliaturner.bandcamp.com
twitter.com/jtvocals

Photo credit: Dorothy Smith