Acoustic Rooms Weekly 19/11/18

This week Rescue Rooms held another packed night of Acoustic Rooms, with the exciting addition of special guest Alexandr Misko – an amazing guitarist that impressed the whole room.

Kicking off the night were the returning duo Stella and Chris with their jazzy rendition of ‘Ace of Spades’ by Motörhead. It’s clear that the duo has a lot of fun performing – their happiness fills the room through Stella’s powerful voice and big smile. Chris then performed a solo cover of ‘Space Oddity’ by David Bowie, a crowd-pleasing classic. It was a convincing performance; the song obviously holds significance to him.

The next performance was by a guy who opened with a cover of ‘All These Things That I’ve Done’ by the Killers. His vocals instantly caught the rooms attention – powerful, aggressive and raspy – and his powerful guitar style matched the vocals. After introducing himself as a ‘bitter irish-folk’ singer, he then performed two original folk songs. It was hard not to see reflections of Shane McGowan’s gravelly voice coming through. Ending his set with a cover of ‘The House of the Rising Sun’, he went out with a bang – an angry, passionate cover of a beloved song.

Following him was a brief performance from a girl who appeared both confident and reserved as she began playing ‘Zombie’ by the Cranberries. A strong cover, paying homage to the original but also keeping to her own voice. It was clear that she had great control over her voice as she shifted her power between the verses and choruses.

Finally it was time for the special act of the night- Alexandr Misko- and what a performance this man gave. He spent around 15 minutes preparing all of his pedals, tuning his guitar (his self-proclaimed ‘favourite hobby’) and working to get the sound just right – and it certainly paid off. He introduced himself to the audience, standing there with his calm demeanour, swept back hair and unusual guitar – fanned frets, dual pickups and a bar of foam along the back to angle the guitar more openly. Before playing his first song, the excitement in the room was palpable. And then began an amazing display of percussive and experimental guitar playing – he mixed complex tapping with meaningful strumming. Every time he touched his guitar there was purpose and feeling behind it. Using loop and effect pedals, Alexandr, with just one guitar, achieved sounds that felt orchestral, deep and rich and full of emotion – despite it being an instrumental act, there was no denying Alexandr’s guitar was painting images and feelings in the audience.

Even though his playing was so advanced and intricate, Alexandr had complete control over every aspect of his performance. His face ranged emotions, literally feeling the notes and sounds he was making, and he moved around, swinging and walking, without ever dropping a note or a beat. His hands also moved around – walking up and down the neck easily with his right hand, performing those complex riffs and chord shapes, whilst also jumping around with his left hand, switching between strumming, percussive hits all over the body of the guitar and harmonic notes. This was showcased beautifully in his song ‘Thunderstorm’, which really did capture the power and beauty of thunder and the soft calm of raindrops. As he played the song, it felt like his hands were competing to out-play each other, yet also co-operating to produce this one beautiful composition. There were soft arpeggios that suddenly switched to hard slaps and aggressive plucking, all the while accompanied by a steady but intricate rhythm.

As if Alexandr hadn’t impressed enough, he then played an unreleased song using a chopstick. It was as if a violin had suddenly joined the fray, along with the guitar and drum. The song was full of emotion – it seemed somewhere between a shanty and a sonata. After a roaring applause, Alexandr then played one of his favourite songs, ‘Smooth Criminal’ by Michael Jackson. You could definitely feel his love for the song, the advanced fingerpicking arrangement was incredible to witness. He had a lot of fun with his one, getting the crowd to clap along with his amazing percussive solo which was filling the room with undeniable energy. To close his set, Alexandr played ‘Smells like Teen Spirit’ by Nirvana. A completely fresh take on the song – the power of the original was there but there was a new spin on it – it was his own version, albeit with some of the idiosyncrasies of the original. He was an act to remember.

We got the chance to speak to Alexandr after his performance:

Alex studied the art of classical guitar for over three years and admitted he learned thousands of songs during that time, his passion was clear from the start of the conversation. He was incredibly humble about his talent though, stressing multiple times that he just likes to make music so that is all he is doing.

His talent is undeniable though and his use of techniques such as using chopsticks to play and his ability to incorporate percussion into his arrangements are things that he has spent ages perfecting. Although, Alex explained that these are not new ideas and he is using tactical stealing of techniques- not quite as easy as he was making it out to be.

The covers Alex performed were also not your standard cover songs, he managed to make already iconic songs into his own and did everything you could imagine making them somehow more impressive and more ‘Alex’ than the original whilst still not losing the original completely. Again, being humble, Alex said that covers are easy to do and are usually very simple chords with “jibberish lyrics” so are not difficult to perform. He wants to focus more on his own songs as these are the ones that take years to create and perfect and these are what he wants to showcase.

Alex is really enjoying his first UK tour and said that it was mainly to test the water and to see what he would like to do next. He said he doesn’t really have any dreams that keep him awake at night, it’s more that he wants to perform and make music so will keep doing so and see where it takes him. His sets have been expertly chosen to fit the venues that he is playing on this tour so if he came back his shows would be completely different as he explained they would be focused on him and not trying to please the audience (which I am sure would happen anyway).

He has been really surprised at how nice and kind people have been to him at his shows and is happy that people are actually listening to him and coming specifically to see him. It is difficult to understand how he can be surprised when he posses such talent, for me it is obvious as to why people are travelling so far to catch his limited UK performances. He is now off to Chester, Morcambe and then finally Manchester to end the UK tour before heading back home again. Let’s hope that Alexandr Misko decides to return to share his music with more people around the UK in the near future. If you haven’t managed to catch him this time, definitely have a look at some of his videos here.

Alexandr Misko- Photographer unknown

After a 20-minute intermission, Acoustic Rooms was back. Luke Irwin was up next with his guitar and harmonica, playing the same set as last week.

Another returning face followed – Omari Marsalis – with more of his beautiful hip-hop tracks. He performed some new songs, which were just as neatly arranged as his previous ones and were powerful in their lyrical content, reflecting on his life and experiences. I hope to see more of his spoken word-esque style in future.

Jake Scrimshaw then performed some covers – starting with Jamie T. This was a fun, energetic performance – and it was clear to see his love for Jamie T, the Arctic Monkeys, Jake Bugg and New Order coming through in his performance. People were getting up and dancing as he began playing ‘Mardy Bum’ by the Arctic Monkeys – a faithful cover, with a slightly more upbeat tone. To finish his set, he performed a cover of a Courteeners song, which showed a different play-style to before. There was more conviction and he demonstrated a wider range in his vocal power.

Next, Shannon May went up with an electric guitar and a calm stage presence. Her soft, haunting and relaxing vocals paired well with the clean sounds of the electric guitar, playing soft and atmospheric chords which amplified the contrast between her powerful voice. After a long evening of fast, exciting songs, it was refreshing to have such a calming performance. Her melancholy style definitely reminded me of Daughter – reflective topics in the form of rainy-day songs. A great act overall.

And last to go up was Timmy Pickford with his cover of ‘Let Her Go’ by Passenger. It was a stripped-down cover, with a very intimate feeling about it. There was a striking contrast between the light guitar part and the very full-bodied singing, which proved a very interesting combination to listen to. He then moved to two original songs. ‘Why so far?’ was a heartfelt, Jason Mraz style song about depression, using an upbeat melody to contrast the sad lyrics of the song. He followed this with an original arrangement of a Billy Talent song ‘White Sparrows’ – a neatly arranged fingerpicked version of the song that captured the beauty and essence of the original. Finishing the night with a bit more energy, he showcased his ability to control his voice’s volume and power along with some interesting chord progressions and a neat little riff.

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