How did we get this far into November without a trip to the Baltic Triangle? Luxury apartments and fashionable drinking holes burrow into the old industrial structures with varying degrees of modesty. It is cold outside and the wind is a furore, but even now some of the newer developments – matte walls, an extra £2000 for exposed brickwork – aren’t looking particularly inviting, or fitting. The old guard whose work built the Triangle’s reputation soon restore my faith in the area. Intentionally taking a massive loop round the immediate peripheries, a warmth of conversation spills out of The Baltic Social, something thumping pulsates from within Camp and Furnace, and at prolonged last I arrive at the most inconspicuous and modest venue of them all: The Lantern Theatre.
Inside there is an atmosphere already swelling with the kind of amicability usually found at family gatherings. The immediate impression is one of everyone knowing each other, but in actual fact it is Emilio who has joined us together. His fanbase can now be described as one of steady growth, but with a staunchly enthusiastic core; most of whom appear to have turned out tonight. Emilio himself embodies this close knit community. Musically, his Trying Man EP is a cooperative effort between friends, fellow musicians and fans, all recorded over the space of a night in his living room earlier this year. This concreteness is all but re-asserted by a beaming Emilio himself, selling cassettes and greeting everyone at the door of his own EP launch.
Before long, we are being ushered into the performance area of The Lantern Theatre. With tiers of seating, dim lights and black walls, the Theatre demands focus on the artist. This however, was never really going to be an issue with supporting duo, Katie and I. Like any good duo, they are both deserving lead singers in their own right. What is rare though, with artists at this stage of their development, is the standard of songwriting. Their melancholy inflected folk is often punctuated by torn harmonies, rising falling, ebbing flowing – a delicate balance with which narrative is shared between performer and audience.
Jokingly, the pair say they are trying to write happier songs, but the one’s we’ll get tonight aren’t exactly brimming with joy. They are however, hugely emotionally affective. Tracks like Bones and Quicksand afford unblinking reactions from an audience utterly fixated. The high peaks whereupon the harmonies summit are particularly memorable. A set so completely surprising in the quality of musicianship, that many will be eagerly anticipating new releases and further shows of their own.
But tonight belongs to headliner Emilio Pinchi, and after a short break for drinks, we are directed back to our seats. Emilio, with an endearing narrow-shouldered introspection, thanks everyone for coming, and prompts the start of a short documentary peice about the recording of his Trying Man EP. It seems peculiar to be given insight into the physical workings of Emilio’s music. The recordings themselves offer the listener a plaintive, almost journalistic, reporting of emotions. Everything feels like it is already on show, which contributes to his fascinatingly raw artistic identity. The documentary therefore only emphasises the DIY workings of a musician whose self is given with every track – and for that reason it is well worth the watch in itself.
After this the set begins with typically casual ease. Emilio, as he was last time I saw him live, is accompanied by three other musicians, offering electric guitar, keys and strings to his own acoustic guitar and vocal. This does not detract from the isolated experiences which Emilio’s music wears so well. In fact, in the setting of the Lantern Theatre, the extra musicians provide the soft textured back drop for the glassy-eyed character of songs like Sober At The Party and Weekend to really express themselves.
There were surprises as well. New track Cordite grabbed the attention, and the temporally appropriate Fireworks – given that it’s a day before Bonfire Night – is adorned with a new arrangement from the band which improves what was already a great track. For me though, the highlight comes near the close of the set. The concluding three songs Lament, Naps and Trying Man (the latter couple both featuring on the new EP) are all tracks I have heard Emilio perform before. They stand out though through their locality in experience. The reason I find Emilio’s music so compelling is through the inversion of priorities. Suddenly it is all about the emotion and the self, coming above ticking boxes or perfect execution.
Whether it is the temporary absence of the band, or the concrete solidity of the venue itself, the final tracks brim with honest contemplation. I have reviewed Emilio in the past, and perhaps I was a little false in that I didn’t include my own feelings for the music. The reality is, the fourth wall never really exists at one of Emilio’s gigs. The audience is implicated in everything he says, performs and does. And for that reason I found myself coming away feeling I hadn’t just watched something of high quality, but had felt every cadence and experienced every lyric, too.
Such was the quality, and such a quality is very rare indeed.