On a cold November day, the prospect of relaxing with a good pizza and good music at the Firehouse got me through the inevitable Sunday boredom. I was not disappointed in the slightest. The opening acoustic performance from Daisy Vaughan, alongside the recommended Cajun chicken pizza, left me with that warm fuzzy feeling you crave in the winter months.
You wouldn’t have guessed it was Vaughan’s ExTunes debut. With simple chords but complex finger picking her unique toned vocals worked wonders with the acoustic set. On closer listening I also found a lyrical charm to her tracks, especially ‘Que Basta’ (which translates as ‘That’s Enough’). Sung entirely Spanish, I still managed to catch the emotions of the track. A sensuous surprise after the predominant folk bluesy style of the rest of her set, but very much enjoyed.
Clearly an old hat of the Firehouse, he exuded confidence, with just enough chest hair showing to keep it interesting.
A pitcher of elderflower cider later and we were treated to Henry Adams, a recently graduated law student who bought witty one liners and some great tracks to the Firehouse stage. He earned immediate praise from his sound check of Neutral Milk Hotel’s ‘In the Aeroplane Over the Sea’. Clearly an old hat of the Firehouse – having fronted Drive In Saturday throughout his years at University – he exuded confidence, with just enough chest hair showing to keep it interesting. With a considerable range of vocal styles the set moved from rocky pop, to alternative to blues without him missing a beat. He played surprisingly well as a single performer, and even aced a few Bowie covers.
An unexpected visit from his old bandmate prompted a comment that “A quiet night of five beers just escalated to ten”. From that point on, the act toed the line of stand up comedy, in the best way possible. Pre-song comments like “I went to Catholic boarding school – make of that what you will” accompanied by a playful wink left the considerable crowd laughing. Even the heartfelt track sung to the sound manager of his first Firehouse gig in 2012 had a playful jab to how he used to play Snow Patrol for hours because, at 18, he “still had feelings and shit”. Finishing on a comedic lyrically improvised song based on a Johnny Cash track about, among other things, The Firehouse and gilets left the crowd smiling and satisfied.
so many tastes can be catered for at once, whether that is a heartfelt acoustic set or a raunchy Fourteenth Century choral ode
It seemed hard to follow such a good, if unique, performance. But the universities acapella group The Madrigals did exactly that. With their readily repeated mantra “sex, death and drinking” their acapella versions of mainly fourteenth ‘filthy’ songs was a new experience to say the least. A far cry from the modern ‘sexy’ song, “hath” was said more times than “twerk”. It was enjoyable to see another, less chart topping, side of the considerable accapella scene in Exeter. In the light of the fairy lights and the choral quality of the music, it was hard not to think of Christmas which only added to the experience. Oh, and their rendition of Happy Birthday for Michael was probably the most tuneful and choral I have ever heard it sung. (I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did, Michael).
Despite the fact that these acts spread across a range of genres, they flowed together perfectly. A night like this just goes to show that so many tastes can be catered for at once, whether that is a heartfelt acoustic set, a nostalgic singalong or a raunchy Fourteenth Century choral ode.
Catch ExTunes tonight at the Old Firehouse featuring George Bell, Catherine Heffner & Alex Donner, Spotlights (Footlights’ Musical Show Choir), and Illuminations. Full event details can be found here.
(Image Credit: Henry Adams en route to Exeter, via. Facebook)