Alana Henderson, Hannah McPhillimy, Rosie Carney & LARKS
Thursday 25th May 2017 – Oh Yeah Music Centre, Belfast
It’s the return of Women’s Work and everyone knows it. The Oh Yeah Music Centre is filled with cheery supporters of the cause and tonight’s event, run by Charlotte Dryden, is sold out.
LARKS singer Fiona O’Kane takes to the stage first in a vivid red pant suit. The androgynous style complements her stage presence. A seeming pop star, she stands before her backing band and loses herself in ‘Silences’. Peter J. McAuley from Rams’ Pocket Radio joins her on keyboard. There’s an electronic drum pad and electric guitar. They combine electronica and pop – elements of Tame Impala and female pop artists such as Halsey. There’s an ultra-contemporary production, damp echoes on the beat, a sense of surreality and soft, ’80s-inspired synths. She takes the mic off the stand, and moves with a practiced ease and a visual awareness that’s been developed over many gigs with her other band, Runaway Go. She dedicates recent single ‘Tired Eyes’ to the recent events and victims in Manchester and this emotional ballad does the people justice. She ends her set with the lyrics, “Sooner or later I’ll be gone”.
Next on the night is Rosie Carney, who recently played the Bon Iver tribute night in this same venue. She is young and fresh and seems nervous. She is soft spoken when she talks, but her voice is raw and powerful even in her delicate songs. Visitors to her blog will know that her lyrics reflect issues of personal trauma and mental health. She plays touching songs and delivers a heartfelt and emotive performance tonight.
Hannah McPhillimy begins a cappella style, grabbing the audience’s attention before the instruments join in. The warm cello sounds echo the lyrics, “My heart got caught up with my chest”. The staccato piano and pizzicato strings resonate throughout the room. She plays a new song, saying it’s “about a woman”. Fitting. She talks about the film ‘Selma’ and the civil rights leader Martin Luther King. She became obsessed with his wife who wanted to be a singer before getting swept up in her husband’s movement. The song ‘Walk On’ explores Coretta Scott King’s many conflicting emotions surrounding her dreams and her husband.
Hannah talks about an American trip in March when she toured with her ukulele. A man named Chris showed her around Washington and gave her a present – a ukulele tuner. She reflects on this experience and adds, “That’s not a nice gift at all”, earning laughter from the audience. She adds, “I’ve now lost the tuner so jokes on you, Chris”. The song she plays is called ‘Kindness’ and is “nothing to do with Chris at all”. This is a delicate song about warm feelings. She ends her set with a very poignant song about a friend recovering from an illness. The last lines that travel through the room are, “Do I believe in magic? Of course I do”. This is rewarded with fitting applause.
Alana Henderson opens with distinctive the “Wax and Wane”, alongside her Connor Burnside plays a snare drum and cajon. Next she plays her creation “about the feeling you get when you hear a piece of music and it takes you back in time” in ‘Song about a Song’.
Alana repeats Connor’s observation, that the audience is “so intense”. All eyes are on them in this intimate setting. Her ukulele is tuned like a cello, earning the nickname “chukele”. It makes an appearance for ‘Byzantium Blues’. It is about the conflict between the urge to travel the world but wanting to feel at home some place. She excels in a fairly narrow field and Alana explains how she’s always had to look hard for cellist-singers for inspiration. But she is clearly a fan of Arthur Russell who made experimental music in New York in the Seventies and Eighties. She covers his song, ‘A Little Lost’, enjoying the challenge and the beauty of it.
‘Two Turtle Doves’ is inspired by an old folk melody ‘The Blackest Crow’ and shows off Alana’s technique and skill as a performer. She really is a virtuoso. Giving thanks to the women and people who put the event on, she also adds a thanks to Connor, adding, “He’s not a woman but he’s good at reading my mind”. A new song, ‘The Only One I Don’t Regret’ is seeping with romance.
The night has been full of Kate Bush-y, classically trained voices and shows off the women in the local music scene to their greatest abilities. Warm string sounds and visually powerful stage presences have amounted to a great gig for the second night of Woman’s Work.