Hope Hall is an interesting gig venue. An art centre by day, it reminded me where I used to do scouts as a kid. This was the definition of a “small, intimate gig,” a sit down affair with tea and coffee at the side to help yourself to; I was a little out of my usual sweaty indie-rock comfort zone. However, with the reality that I was in fact a third-year kicking in, a quiet gig was exactly what I needed.
Tobias Ben Jacob, who is based locally and is well-known in Exeter, played host for the night and was also support for Sharkey and Beattie. Ben Jacob has an astonishingly clear sounding voice which complements his fingerpicking beautifully. His style is perhaps best described as alt-folk, but I found it a little hard to think of anyone in particular that he reminded me of. He recently crowdfunded for production of a new album, which was previewed last Saturday at Hope Hall, where he played alongside experimental folk act The Little Unsaid, and touring partner Lukas Drinkwater, who he released an EP with in 2015. Despite there only being him and a guitar, Ben Jacob’s songs were distinct and original. ‘Polyphonic Life’, which makes interesting use of harmonics, was a personal favourite.
Brooke Sharkey was up next. Fresh off the launch of her new album Wandering Heart in London the previous day she was probably a little tired, but she didn’t give that away with her performance. The contrast with Tobias Ben Jacob was noticeable, her voice being whispery and quiet. Another distinction was that a good portion of her songs were sung in French. The slower songs drew in the audience as her breathy singing forced you to listen in, but Sharkey can switch up the gear and break into clean sounding vocals with ease. There is a definite bluesy feel to some of her songs, such as ‘Home’, and the appropriately named ‘Bottletop Blues’; there is a juxtaposition in style with the more bluesy tracks and the more withdrawn, and more traditionally folky songs.
Adam Beattie rounded off the night. He had already played with Sharkey for a few songs, supplying backing vocals and an extra guitar. He was particularly distinctive, with a tall bearded frame and a gentle Scottish accent. Beattie’s style was further away from the previous two acts; the blues aspect was less of an undercurrent, as it was with Sharkey in a few songs, and more heavily dominated. Beattie played an electric guitar, as opposed to Ben Jacob and Sharkey, and occasionally made use of his looper pedal. Lyrically, there was an almost mournful reminiscing about past experiences; ‘Catch the Biggest Fish and Let It Go’ was described by Beattie as about the various women in his life. I found Beattie’s songs to plod along most of the time, and not really go anywhere in particular. Many followed a similar blues structure, predictability perhaps being their biggest downfall; however, this is my opinion and was not shared by some of my friends who came along with me. Beattie had a fantastic voice, and is altogether an excellent musician; however, his brand of slow nostalgia may be polarising. After Beattie finished his set the artists and audience chatted as we put away the chairs and tidied up, rounding off an enjoyable night.