As the week four slump set in, a trip to the Old Firehouse for an ExTunes live event was exactly what the doctor ordered. Having not yet ventured to the Firehouse, although having heard virtually everyone I’d met at university rave about it, I was not disappointed; humongous pizza and gorgeous cider meant this place lived up to my high expectations.
Having finished a delightful vegan pizza (and when I say finished, I mean eaten three slices and thought I was going to die) I made my way down to the stage. This session’s set started with George Bell. The audience started to gather with some obviously eager fans making their way to the front. George’s repartee with the audience came very naturally and made his set all that more engaging. With a mixture of original songs and covers such as Neutral Milk Hotel’s ‘In The Aeroplane Over the Sea’ George provides an excellent start to the night. The tone of his voice is a mixture of Ben Howard and Keaton Henson and is the perfectly chilled start to a night of music. Apart from a few slips of memory on lyrics, and a voice crack that was immensely well covered, George’s set is a lovely start to the night.
As the week four slump set in, a trip to the old firehouse was exactly what the doctor ordered
The audience continues to grow as the next act begins to set up, and after a few level adjustments, Arbor take to the stage. With a set up consisting of Daisy Perkins, Holly May, Charis Edgley, an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar and a cajón, I have a great feeling about this set already. Again, the set consists of originals and covers and the theme is a given from the offset: tight three part harmony from three beautifully soulful voices. A slight issue, exemplified especially in their cover of ‘Work Song’ by Hosier, was the gorgeous harmonies could often overpower the melody, although o doubt this would be partially a tech problem. The three girls show off their musicality by interchanging their instruments and places throughout, and no one could question their vocal talent; a Lianne La Havas/Bon Iver vibe really captured the audience’s attention throughout.
It then came the time for the long awaited final act of the night. Firehouse began to pack out within 0.3 seconds once everyone realised Exeter’s renowned all male a cappella were going to take to the stage. Having already performed a charity gig at the Northcott theatre, the boys were warmed up and ready to take to the stage. At first I was resentful over the fact that they were entering onto stage over half an hour late, however, as soon as the set started I knew it could be forgiven. Semi-Toned opened with classic old numbers, featuring former members of the group 2015-2016. The set started off slow and had a feel good factor that the audience couldn’t help but enjoy, even if they were squashed together like sardines. Things took a turn when they whipped out their version of ‘Take on Me’ by A-ha. The audience immediately went into carnage, consisting of screams, ‘whoops’ and meticulous bobbing, and you couldn’t help but be amazed by the high notes from the soloist. The boy’s choreography was slick as ever; no one could fault the group for the fun they were having on stage. There was a real sense of unity within Semi-Toned and the aura they gave off to this packed audience really gave this Sunday night the lift it needed.
No one could fault the group for the fun they were having onstage
Around half way through their set it was their opportunity to introduce the new members of their group for 2016, consisting of Alfie Davies, Ludo Graham, Greg Munday, Jacob Storey and Robert Akerele-Miles. In classic Semi-Toned style they’re introduced onto stage with tongue in cheek puns, and are greeted with overwhelming support from the audience. They proceeded to whip out their classic mash up of ‘Low’ by Flo-Rida and ‘Uptown Funk’ by Bruno Mars. The new members are obviously very well integrated into the group and this is made evident by the amount of fun they had getting down to ‘Low’. Throughout the next few numbers all of the ‘fresh’ members had their opportunity to show off their voices, with notable solos from Robert Akerele-Miles during ‘Get Back’ and Jacob Storey doing ‘Son of a Preacher Man’.
The set carried on incorporating a bit of Bublé in the form of ‘Everything’, a feel good classic that you could feel the warmth from. Although the boys were sweating like no tomorrow on a tiny stage with a packed audience, the energy they had during their performance was unquestionably. They even managed to summon the energy for their exceptional version of the ‘Macarena’, with dance moves to match and wonderful characterisation from the soloists during the flamboyant and effeminate verses. The lively set was then rounded off with a tight and precise version of ‘The Chain’ by Fleetwood Mac, which the audience, again, went crazy for.
Overall, the evening built beautifully and Semi-Toned provided a perfect remedy to the week 4 slump we all felt setting in. This being my first venture to an Ex-Tunes Live night, I can safely say I’ll be returning again, especially to sample the pizza again; I can safely say I will definitely be sharing next time!