ExTunes never struggles to put on a good line-up. With their aim to unite as many genres of music, and societies performing music within the University, a night of old and new awaited, against the perfect backdrop of blackboards listing three thousand different types of cider and the best pizza the city has to its name. It can never be said enough.
Kathy Giddins was first to take the lamp-lit stage, ukulele in hand. Her set fluctuated a little, singing songs about how she was a creepy roommate, while staring out her roommate who didn’t look so delighted at being introduced to the whole crowd. Every other song she sang was called “normal” before interspersed with one she warned would be “weird”. On the whole it was very enjoyable, and her voice was faultless, cracking at times not dissimilarly to Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries. The highlight was a public shaming of a man she caught on a night out in Exeter, with the simple refrain “pissing against the wall is not that cool”. Giddins ended with a cover of Bon Jovi’s seminal hit ‘You Give Love a Bad Name’, played a little too fast for her ukulele to keep up with, but thoroughly enjoyed by everyone, wishing only that she’d played a few more covers.
A short break then introduced Exeter alumna David Johnson, coming onto the stage looking like Raven had been caught in a severe, but brilliant, wave of naughties rock. Again, he went through his own material, here with such confidence in spite of a slightly awkward persona. The Tim Booth influence was as obvious as the James t-shirt he was wearing, but also with a voice that echoed the Manchester rock icon. His own songwriting was extremely self-assured in songs such as ‘Glorious’, alongside a clever set list selection, covering Matchbox Twenty’s ‘3am’ to perfection, and Crowded House with ease. Ending with an ode to Ali Board, in charge of ExTunes’ booking, Johnson pulled off a very humble and impressive set.
Great atmosphere at the Firehouse for ExTunes Freshers’ welcome. Keep tuned every Sunday for more great local acts. pic.twitter.com/jG1IGZ53W2
— Exeposé Music (@ExeposeMusic) September 14, 2015
Splitsville came next. An emo/ grunge outfit making more and more waves in the Exeter puddle, they branded this evening as an acoustic set to be played by Jordan White (vocals/ guitar) and Jim Atherton (bass). An acoustic set means 15 Beatles covers. The crowd was at its peak, and couldn’t be shifted, as the whole ground floor of the Firehouse sang along ‘Hey Jude’ and the Ferris Bueller tribute ‘Twist & Shout’. Adorning heavy sunglasses, White played the frontman as comically as he did musically, and it was a combination held by a backdrop of tight musicianship and classic riffs being picked on the acoustic guitars as if they were the band themselves. The first and only words muttered in their whole set came right before the last song: “We’ve got one song left for you… it’s by The Beatles.”
The night closed with all-female a cappella group the Sweet Nothings, performing as headliners after a successful stint at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, going through arrangements from their show and debut album Unwrapped. They performed takes of Usher’s ‘Yeah’, Vance Joy’s ‘Riptide’ and the universally hated ‘Call Me Maybe’. It wasn’t the tightest performance they’ve ever done, but viewing it alongside the preface that they were in the middle of hiring new members and had a significantly smaller number than usual made the set very impressive. Audience participation ended the music, when someone was chosen to rap the Fresh Prince introduction. And then to close the night, I had a pizza.
ExTunes continues this evening, with performances from Sam England, Frankie Gough, Lilo’s Wall and Jonny Harrisson. Full event details can be found here.