To a gig last week; a guy named Paul Dunton from Tunbridge Wells has established a series of candlelit soirees featuring local artists. This was the first to be held in Maidstone, upstairs in the local Pizza Express. Most of the musicians came from Tunbridge Wells, and may be familiar to Justme and Completely Alienne
Any showcase for local talent is worthwhile, and this was potentially a good venue. Unfortunately the twin emphases on food and music clashed. It was a distraction having waitresses clattering to and fro with orders, and the restaurant prices for drinks were prohibitive. With beer at £6.50 a pint and entry at £7 per head, a party of four could be £50 out of pocket before they'd sipped the first drink. Order a meal as well, as was clearly expected by the staff (we didn't, and we weren't alone), and you were into serious money. When we'd seen the price list we whipped straight back out to the pub next door and sank a quick pint before the first set, and then nursed an expensive bottle of cheap wine for the remaining three hours.
The evening opened with a 16 year old pianist/singer/songwriter, Annabel Durnford, who performed with grace and maturity. She was followed by the event organiser Paul Dunton and friends. Piano, violins, flute and cello delivered an unusual fusion of pop/rock ballad and chamber music. I'm not sure the room did them justice.
Third act was singer/songwriter Joanne Louise Parker. Her spare guitar technique placed the focus on a voice of bewitching tone and clarity, and she showed an almost celtic ability to sing on pitch without accompaniment (or 'a cappella' as it's poncily known down here). Perhaps there is a Free Church enclave in her native fens. Folk/blues flavoured, she is very good.
Headliners Cyrano came from Tunbridge Wells. They produced a consistently tight, studio-quality sound which belted around the room in a sustained, plangent attack. When I looked at the audience they were tapping and twitching as if they were wired in series, and women were dancing on the steel stairs to the mezzanine floor. Joe Ackerley's voice soars with plaintive purity, Karl B hammered away on lead guitar like an onanistic gnome, and bass and drums were balanced, punchy and harmonious. Cyrano are currently putting together their first album. Watch this band, because I reckon it will become a household name.