It is always a daunting experience turning up to a gig and being greeted by an empty room, but unfortunately with ten minutes to go until the first support took to the stage, that is exactly what lay before me. Much to my relief a steady trickle of fans began to filter through the doors of East Village Arts Club (EVAC) and with moments to spare a respectable gathering had formed.
Almost unannounced, Highfields began their set, a jovial yet impeccably executed roster of original songs, heralding a comically large amount of instruments (kudos to the xylophone, triangle, bongo etc. player). Placing their best foot forward, the LIPA collectives glee-inducing set was received rapturously by the ever increasing crowd who almost unanimously were left wanting more. Cattle and Cane were the next on stage, immediately endearing me due to their Northeast accents. Highfields’ upbeat jive was replaced with warm folky tones and atmospheric crescendos achieved through dual vocals between male and female members. This was indeed another tremendous attempt to steal the show from the headline act, although since watching Highfields, I can’t seem to help but feel most, if not all, music could do with more xylophone.
So now it was time for the headline act, my limbs, had been teased with goosebumps throughout the previous two sets and the expectation for the headline act was tangible. Goldheart Assembly arrived to the loudest applause of the night; on the back of recent summer album release ‘Long Distance Song Effects’. Delving straight into that new album, they opened with “Sunday Morning”, a harmony based haze of delicate guitars and impressively crafted vocals. This theme endured throughout the whole set, every musician playing their part in creating the experimental folk sound that has earned them acclaim over both albums.
There was, unfortunately, something missing. For all their raw ability and stunning vocal work, the repetition of that same formula meant the set suffered a distinct feeling of ‘De Ja Vu’. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy knee-weakening, romanticism-heavy experimental-folk ballads as much as the next guy, but there’s only so much an individual can take before their knees begin to buckle, somewhat. Due to this, the standout moments of the night came through the transitions between melodious organic verse to riff-heavy pop rock bridges, seen in “Hope Hung High” and “So Long St Christopher”.
For the most part the crowd seemed to offer consistent enthusiasm, granting every outro with loud applause until the very end. The five metre gap between the front railing and the first row of people however was never really addressed, or breached. Willing in voice but seemingly paralysed in movement the audience never really connected with the headline performance, possibly due to unfortunate delays as a result of unforeseen technical errors mid-set. Overall, support acts included, the night did have its moments of magic and perhaps I was being a tad harsh in my notes with regard to the headliners. Although they could have done with some more xylophone…