Support Bands: Pablo's Finest Hour, Sea of Bees

The basement venue was filling up nicely as the first of tonight's acts, Pablo's Finest Hour, took to the stage. They made their way from the crowd and onto the stage, with little announcement or superiority and proceeded to put forth a sound that was mellow and passionate in equal measure. A rather charming boy-girl combo of violin and guitar, they encapsulated the true spirit of their acoustic-indie-folk genre, performing with the bare bones of their soles and an unadulterated sound. Beautiful and inspiring.

The crowd were certainly warmed up, in the best way as can be at a mellow indie show, by the first support band, leaving them ready for more of the same. And the next act certainly did not disappoint. Again, rather modestly, a duo took to the stage with shy smiles. This time, it was the wonderful Sea of Bees. Now, usually she works as a one woman outfit, but that is somewhat hard to do at a live show (think of the harmonies!), so she is joined by another singer/guitarist to create that wonderfully full Sea of Bees sound. Julie Baenziger herself, during her audience interaction, came across as rather childlike and innocent, discussing pain and pleasure with open honesty. It almost made the songs seem that much more poignant, when she named 'Wizbot' as a song about unrequited love, the lyrics penetrated the emotions that bit further. Her pleasure in performing these songs, apparent with each timid smile when completed a song, was juxtaposed with the immense pain and emotion portrayed through lyrical content and facial expression during each tune. She really knows how to showcase her voice, how to play with sound in a room to full effect. The live performance truly made each song come alive, like a 2D character made real. If you want to see a band that have true emotion and passion on every lyric and note, then Sea of Bees are definitely the ones to watch.

With such high quality acts gone before, this night was certainly one of high expectations. Lights dimmed, and a rather dark five piece appeared on stage, complete with violin and three guitars. It becomes apparent, later however, that the band that appeared before us, Smoke Fairies is actually another female duo appearing with the additions of their live band. They started with ethereal, almost medieval, vocal harmonies, much reminiscent of traditional Celtic folk. It certainly had dark undertones to it, though the band to profess that they are 'quite cheerful' offstage, but put forward a rather moody and mournful sound. They certainly play with intensity, of lyrical and musical content, and with serious expressions strapped to their faces through each song. That is not to distract from their talent, however, as vocal harmonies are placed with precision and guitar chords and sliding is done with the expertise of a seasoned pro. The overwhelming feeling that washed over me, however, was when would I listen to this music? It is so intense, so dark, so encompassing that it does take some effort and energy. Upon reflection, I did enjoy their musical offerings, as did the audience, evident in woops and cheers at the end of each track. Yet it did not feel new. It did not feel groundbreaking. Maybe the slight shift in musical tone from the first two acts, to a more guitar/beat led sound than stripped back acoustic, altered my perceptions and expectations of the band.

I must admit that I was unaware of the line up for this gig. I expected Sea of Bees to have a headline spot for this show, which would be very much deserving. However, that didn't spoil a rather good evening. Each act displayed their talent in their own way, and showcased their sound to the beautiful room. But, for me, it was Sea of Bees that stood out, with the unique sound and emotional output. It was almost like a cleansing of the mind, for both performer and audience. Truly beautiful.