The PearShaped Annual Launch returned to Cavern after a successful first year. Boasting a line-up from the student collective both proven and experimental, alongside Bristol-based indie outfit Bridges, it was an event entirely deserving of the small queue that rarely forms outside the Cavern’s doors.
An audibly nervous Sam England makes his Cavern debut to a thriving audience. He plays a few songs from his recent release Red Skies EP, before apologising for bad promotion, saying that he’ll stop there for now, foraying into the unknown territories of new songs. England’s signature husky voice holds its own, but he stays too reliant upon it among the expected venue chatter, making the minimalist guitar picking awkward at times. He has already bookmarked and patented his sad sound, apologising again: “I realise that the warm up act is meant to get people going, but my music is not going to do that.”
He plays an instrumental track, which he calls “a pretty hectic thing”, placing the guitar on his lap with an obvious determination on his face, and it’s faultless. A strong ending peaks his set with two songs from the EP, a glorious performance of ‘Dopamine’, and the title track, which he describes to be the happiest song he’s managed to write. He still appears shy walking off the stage, but with more layering and variation on the guitar, with the inclusion of the tone he can achieve on electric (not showcased tonight), England’s growing reputation in Exeter’s music scene is thoroughly deserved.
Next up are Bloom, winners of last year’s Battle of the Bands and seasoned stalwarts of Exeter’s indie scene. Their usual quiet personas on stage – at worst self-indulgent and at best mesmerisingly modest displays of concentration and musicianship – were replaced by a more confident and tellingly psychedelic vibe. Sure enough, the psychedelic rough-around-the-edges sound was played to perfection. ‘Under Your Skin’ taunted time signatures, alongside a new intro for crowd favourite ‘Plans’, both placing drummer Ben Leftley in much deserved limelight. The band around Leftley are tight, Sam Bowen and Rory Mitchell interchange vocals, with Luke Colwell completing the lineup on a bass that reverbs throughout the chamber. Use of synth and pedalboard on soon to be released next single ‘Voices’ make it sound big, alongside their finale on ‘Oceans’, released earlier this year. Time in the Newton Abbot studios has clearly given the collective an intelligent willingness to experiment, which has extended to the live show. A teasing one minute cover of the Pixies anthem ‘Where Is My Mind’ is bold, and a mean feet to pull off.
BRIDGES headline the night, playing to a considerably weaker crowd than what came before them. What they do have, however, they win over within minutes. “This is really cool for a Tuesday night”, the frontman smiles. The smile is contagious throughout the whole set, acting as a double act to the raw harmonisation between himself and the drummer, who after the show reveals himself to be a Semi-Toned alumna. Every part of their musicianship was carried off with the cool experience that comes from having toured the UK “relentlessly”. The guitar tones exist somewhere between R.E.M. and Keaton Henson, the only similarity to Michael Stipe being lack of hair and unnerving eye contact. The crowd was won over, and they run well over schedule.
Delmer Darion close the evening straight from their performance at the Exeposé Music Showcase. Playing as a duo for the first time, Tom Lenton took to the drums while Oliver Jack headed mixing and electronics. Their songs have been getting a dedicated following in Exeter recently, and the production on these tracks was a mood-changer. The grungy indie was out, while a crowd – growing once more – undulated between dance tracks ‘My Happiness’ and ‘Beat 54’ and the touching first single ‘Paris Street’, and re-imagining of Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ heartbreak ‘Maps’. From their most recent album of B-sides and remixes, The Emperor of Ice Cream, came a chilling rendition of ‘Sitting Along The Bed’s Edge’, a line taken from T.S. Eliot’s Preludes, closing with a remix of ‘Anthems For A Seventeen Year Old’ by Broken Social Scene, accompanied by suspect, but soon to be idiosyncratic dance of Delmer Darion. This was one of the most captivating live performances I’ve seen in Exeter. And, as the crowd slowly left the Cavern, words were echoed from earlier. “This is really cool for a Tuesday night.”