Ministry of Folk – Hoop, Jazmine Mary, Being., Looking for Alaska

Acoustic, Folk, folk rock, Live Music

Artists meet sporadically at the Ministry of Folk to deliver intimate live performances in an old church hall. The audience munches on snacks brought from home, enjoying the fairy lights and ambience. The event is hosted by the inimitable Hoop, who make the stage feel like the lounge of a family friend.

Running a little late, we stumbled through the door at 7.35 with a bottle of what we’d just realised was cork wine. Hoop’s talented and kind violinist Emily welcomed me into the kitchen where we found a rustic corkscrew, and their drummer used brute strength to release the stopper. The band was huddled in the kitchen for a pre show chat; it’s clear that they’re a well bonded and comfortable group of musicians.

Hoop opened the stage like the audience were old friends. Based on the Australian bush fires, Devil’s Choice is a stand out track written in 5/4. The violinist imitated an ambulance’s siren, and the band built the atmosphere with a jungle rhythm on the flute. Nick and Al’s voices blended impeccably, allowing for that classic “folk” sound riddled with harmonies. 

This Year was written from the perspective of a family who had battled COVID, cancer and chemotherapy throughout 2020. The song claims 2021 as a new and brighter year – a sentiment the room was holding on to with hope. It was a pleasure to watch Hoop perform again.

Jazmine Mary and Being. are a duo founded on the common ground of the name Jasmine. Both artists appeared comfortable on stage, drawing the audience in with sarcasm and a genuine friendship. The set began with Jazmine Mary’s latest release Dancer. The track is melancholy and features impressive vocal depth from Jazmine Mary. We rediscovered our love for Dolly Parton when the pair delivered a haunting cover of Jolene. 

Being. fronted the second half of the set. Her music was driven by modal shifts and a precise vocal performance. Count Me In was moving, arranged with sliding synths under a soft guitar. Beings.’s lyrics have a poetic quality to them, as she described the feeling of defeat as “dragging around a lifeless body. Truly, the clarity in her voice held the audience captive.

The final set for the evening was performed by the enchanting Looking For Alaska. What defined their time on stage was the mesmerising stories they had to share. Each song was driven by human emotion; frontwoman Amy told the tales of her late little cousin and a Grandmother who used to laugh so hard her teeth fell out. The duo’s trust for each other was tangible. It was a mesmerising set.

It’s difficult to pick any one piece that stood out, as each song boasted a certain ‘X Factor’. Where Have You Gone was a sultry slow jam with tight harmony that built to a phenomenal belted section. Home drew the audience to sing along and Hey You was a display of love coupled with a drinking game. Each song in the set was polished and precise, featuring flawless guitar playing from Aaron and out of this world vocals from Amy. The duo’s voices blended impeccably.

Part way through a song the room erupted into surround sound alert level 3 warnings. Despite the anxiety the sound always entices Looking For Alaska remained comfortable on stage, and soon had the audience yelling for several encores. I’m glad we spent our last night of freedom listening to such an astonishing display of musicality.

Sofar Sounds – Roman Lewis, Becksy Becks, Brudini

Live Music

Three very distinctive artists took the stage on Monday night at the cozy cafe ‘Mouse Tail Coffee Stories’, to wow a captivated audience on a cold wintery evening. Dozens of locals sat on cushions and blankets with wine and snacks as they listened in.

First to take the stage was Roman Lewis, England’s answer to Hozier. Roman Lewis played acoustic guitar and sang of love and loss with a rich deep tone. His more serious tales were put on hold as he invited us to “take a bite outta [him] if you have a taste for stupidity”. He sang a song dedicated to memes, and told the story of a particularly loved panda cup from Washington. Roman finished his set with a favourite from his 2019 EP, ‘Midnight in Paris’ which showed off an impressive vocal range. He casually danced about high falsetto notes with effortless control; a truly spectacular performance.

Second up was a charismatic spoken word poet Becksy Becks who launched into a casual icebreaker with the audience asking about our experience with infidelity. This turned into heavy hitting topics of mental health, and chauvinism mixed in with advice against criticizing a man’s hairline. Without an instrument to add to her voice, Becksy Becks captivated the room as well as any four piece band.

The night was finished with a three piece who set up a miniature drum kit, a double bass, two synthesisers and a guitar. Eerie discordant synths faded in putting the audience on edge, waiting for music to start. Brudini stood at the front of the stage speaking prose of ghosts dropping a sheet of written lyrics to float to the ground. As soon as the paper hit the floor, the synths cut into a jazz groove of snare and double bass with fingerstyle guitar. The music began. We were taken on a journey of sounds taking influence from russian, jewish, flamenco and all varieties of electronic music. This was coupled with Brudini’s haunting singing and occasional prose sounding the end of the world. What an experience.

All round a fantastic evening. If you haven’t been to a sofar sounds before we would highly recommend heading over to their website to see what gigs are happening soon! They can be found in most cities worldwide.

For more information on the acts see Roman Lewis, Becksy Becks, and Brudini. Roman Lewis is releasing his new EP this Friday and performing at the Courtyard Theatre in London. Becksy Becks can be seen performing again next Monday at The Social in London.