Kicking off the night was Elliot Willaims. Undeniably a strong singer – confident and loud, with an indie-rock style – he got the attention of the room straight away. Although strong, he could use some more variety in his singing and guitar playing – some songs were hard to distinguish from others.
There were some nice switches between strumming, picking and palm muted strums, for instance in his song ‘A long way home’. A good song, which felt like an acoustic Kings of Leon song, with a catchy chorus and convincing build up in the verses – I couldn’t help but think he and his songs would fit a band set-up very well. He finished his act with a faithful cover of ‘Friday I’m in Love’ by the Cure.
Following him was Louis Croft, who we saw perform nearly a month ago. He opened with an original song which instantly reminded me of Green Day’s ‘Good Riddance (Time of your Life)’. His twangy guitar sound paired well with his country-like playstyle – switching from softer strumming to picking riffs and arpeggios. He continued to perform original songs, including a song which felt very indie-rock, which would lend itself very well to the addition of drums and bass – catchy and exciting, nonetheless. His final original was a very Jake Bugg inspired piece, a fun way to end his set. You can clearly see that Louis is on his way to becoming himself through his music.
Next up was Acoustic Rooms regular Luke Irwin, going through his usual setlist but swapping out his harmonica this week to perform a new original song – a softer, toned down song which climaxed with some passionate shouting (which may have made us all jump) and some fun bends on his acoustic guitar.
Then special guest Diving Station, who had travelled from Manchester, went up. Looking over at them, the first thing that you’d notice was the harp standing in the middle of the stage – an unusual instrument to see at an Open Mic. Playing the harp was Anna McLuckie, who you may have seen on the Voice, who stood confidently beside it. Next to her were George Burrage on bass and Sean Rogan on guitar. Behind them sat Barnabas Kimberley at his drum kit, sticks in hand, ready to play.
It was instantly apparent that Diving Station were going to be a fantastic act. McLuckie’s echoey voice hit the mark straightaway, accompanied by Burrage strumming his bass as if playing chords on a guitar, creating deep and rumbling currents of sound which increased and decreased in power throughout the performance. The clean, piercing notes played on McLuckie’s harp and Rogan’s guitar contrasted strikingly with the ambient bass. Alongside all of this was the soft, jazzy beat from the drums, not overpowering anything but providing a backbone for the rest of the complex music.
The dream-pop group did live up to the genre – it was incredibly dreamy and ambient. McLuckie’s voice sounded unique – mixing the soft rockiness of Ellie Rowsell (Wolf Alice), the fun poppiness of Lauren Mayberry (Chrvches) and the strength of Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star). She demonstrated her large vocal range whilst dancing like a jazz singer – swinging side-to-side snapping her fingers. At points Kimberley would join her, providing soft backing vocals (comparable to Gary Lightbody of Snow Patrol) which were warm and full, filling in any gaps in depth that might’ve appeared. The pair switched between strong, clear voices to softer, muted voices at ease, and played with some beautiful harmonies.
As their set continued, we saw Diving Station ease into the mood, and their songs became even more alive and complex. There were tempo changes, shifts in mood mid-way through songs and use of effects pedals and feedback to create some really engaging and entertaining music. Burrage had switched from the rumbling strumming of his bass to a crunchier plucking. Rogan played with effects and volume, also beginning to tremolo strum – very consistently, without dropping a beat, fading in and out by lowering and increasing his volume. McLuckie’s harp playing was excellent too, providing sweet riffs whilst Rogan was creating ambient effects.
As they covered ‘Breakthrough’ the style shifted to a funkier sound – accurate slides on guitar were accompanied by rhythmic thumps and similar slides on the bass and neat, soft drums. The harp provided a steel drum-like sound which completed the whole sound. As they closed with ‘You’re Not Listening’, I was very impressed by their set and will definitely follow them and see how they develop.
After the interlude, a man called Lee came up. He introduced himself as a new guitarist and performed an original song. Definitely reminiscent of ‘House of the Rising Sun’, it was catchy and drew everyone’s attention back into Acoustic Rooms. He then revealed he was a beatboxer and proceeded to perform a few songs. He was clearly good at beatboxing, he had great control over a great range of varying sounds – including clever techniques to mimic record scratches, echoes and synths. He then even explained how he performed his songs, breaking it down into three parts and demonstrating how he could layer different beats on top of each other. An exciting, unorthodox act.
Interview with Beatboxer Lee Tabix
We spoke briefly Lee Tabix after his shocking performance, stunning the audience with his beatboxing after starting with a guitar- he told us about his journey to where he is now. He started beatboxing over seventeen years ago and played Rescue Rooms around seven years ago. He started wanting to play drums at school so either had to borrow the school kit or make his own sounds, and when his teacher overheard him making his own noises, they gave him a CD of a famous beatboxer who then inspired him to work harder and take his skill further.
He’s worked with some big names in the beat boxing community such as Reeps One and Skiller and gets his inspiration from them. It was a pure coincidence that he even performed tonight because he’d just planned on meeting some friends but thought he’d give it a go, and he admitted that his guitar skills aren’t brilliant at the moment but they’re “getting there”.
Recently he’s been DJing around Nottingham and has just got back from Malta as he was out there doing a DJ set too. His advice to people wanting to do the same as him is to get themselves along to the conventions, the ones in Switzerland are especially great. This surprising performance demonstrates further just how varied the Acoustic Rooms can be and so people should definitely get themselves down.
Next up was Hailey Pawlak who performed with Laurie Illingworth on piano. She had a calm, warm voice (albeit slightly shy and nervous) at first, with good stability – there was no shakiness despite her nerves. Performing a cover of Alicia Keys. Her voice shifted to become very loud and powerful at the chorus – providing some extended high notes with no shakiness again. She is clearly very talented and has a naturally strong voice – we hope to see her again!
Following this, a man specializing in covers went up. Beginning with ‘Don’t Forget Me’ by the Red Hot Chilli Peppers, he was of to a good start. He had a clear voice which occasionally growled, much like Christina Aguilera, and well controlled – no fluctuations even when his strumming became more aggressive. Following this song with ‘Smokers Outside the Hospital Doors’ by the Editors, he showed his ability to change the feeling of a song whilst remaining faithful. His cover was undeniably a happier version of the original, which worked well with his playful voice, and he showed true emotion as he amped up the aggression in his voice at parts effortlessly. Finishing his set with ‘Everlong’ by the Foo Fighters, he again showed he could provide a faithful but new version of the song and stuck to the strengths of his own voice.
Closing the night was Laurie as a solo act. He stood behind his keyboard and created some incredible music. He mixed soft rhythms with bursts of violent volume – providing a very atmospheric and progressive feeling to his songs. His words ran into each other, although making it hard to understand the lyrics he was singing, it turned his voice into an instrument – haunting and passionate. This, alongside the occasional yip, really accentuated the keyboard playing and made it easy to feel what he was feeling. His fingers danced delicately over the keys, as he demonstrated a wide range in volume, pitch and voice, utilising his chest, head and whisper voices.
His second song was a richer song, with more resounding and full chords, as his voice was consistently strong and pronounced. His third song was a Sam Fender cover, which he described as ‘poignant as f**k’. The song absolutely became his, as his voice changed the feeling of the song completely. It was an extremely emotional cover, and it was hard not to see how involved with the music he was – eyes clenched shut and he moved, almost trance-like, behind his keys. As the pitch lowered he demonstrated his range (after interjecting to say ‘woah that’s deep’). The crowd was extremely impressed and this week’s Acoustic Room came to an end.