The night’s evening of music was hosted in Salford’s premier local, The Eagle Inn. Hidden in the small pocket of back-streets located between Manchester’s hustle and bustle of Deansgate and the glory of its 18,000 capacity arena, the quirks and charms of the venue-slash-boozer easily outweigh the rush that its counterparts provide. Working as the official launch party for the newly-launched project from the group of Manchester-based musicians, South Island Son bring not only their excellent talent and impressive hosting duties, but also the sounds of two equally fabulous songwriters from the local area.
Opening was Caoilfhionn Rose, backed by the illustrious virtuoso talent of Rich Williams on guitar. Both compliment each others nuance and create an evocative space for an organic sound to breed. The music of Rose is both ethereal and softly strong, her voice weaves a careful path amongst her very personal lyrics. Songs such as Amy (a track about rekindling a relationship with a life-long friend), Wild Anemones (written from the perspective of her grandmother) and Slip Away (a walk through memory) tells of an artist that seeks to uncover more than just artificial observations, but one that focuses on real human interaction and is driven to dig deep into the mind, combing through the fog and examining the pertinent beauty of life itself. Watching Rose play is a joy, she feels the music and this is reflected in how we as an audience react, her music sweeps and haunts, in both minor key melancholy and wistful cherishing of the experiences she is singing about.
I’m not going to lie, I’m an avid fan of Miss Rose and have witnessed many of her previous performances but tonight was different, she has grown with confidence (although admitting herself she hates finding the words to say between songs, but we understand that, it’s a very public platform), interchanging from piano and electric guitar throughout, she’s dabbling with new instruments and expanding her repertoire (here she unveils another new song titled Awaken – a real winner). Although, the restraints of the support slot are visible, only allowing both limited access for development within the live construct, some songs suffer because of this; more colour and breath of sound would be beneficial. Though this is only a small qualm in a set full of positives.
Wedged in the middle slot was a diamond in the rough – Edwin Miles – whom was more than ready to invite us in for a “purging of the musical bowels.” Joined by his musical companion, Andy Patterson, a menace on the double bass, a man that certainly showed his mastery of the instrument. He plays articulately and playfully, as an observer, we are mesmerised as we watch him mould himself around the curves of the double bass, and play so eloquently and uniquely. The pair are close, really close, they don’t need to spot each other to know where to lead, each knowingly weaves around the other. It’s a partnership. Although, the two have just come out of a straight block of studio time, so understandably they will be feeling ready to attack the live show with a passion.
Miles wields an expressive timbre, in a way not dissimilar to Fiona Apple – contorting and howling in a restless disposition between his mid register and something that was more of a jugular woop. Here, he released a gale force of guttural potency: soulful and visceral, raw and content. His intent was furious – broken by interludes of comedic refuge which soon is thrown back to his serious game face. This made for a thrilling contradiction, hanging somewhere between spectacle and the raw human beneath the performance facade. Miles’ songwriting is equally as attention-grabbing: “You’re so skinny I could hide you underneath my cupboard, but you’ve got those lumps” he rolls out. A peculiar choice of words, but one that indeed packs a powerful slap of intensity. Shades of Punch Brothers peak through at times, noting their use of experimental poly-rhythms and patient building soundscapes.
When it came time for headliners South Island Son to arrive on-stage, the atmosphere was palpably energised. Fronted by the ever-impressive Jonny Woodhead, the newly-formed collective already has the support of some eager first-responders, looking out across the packed room it’s easy to confirm this statement. “Thanks for coming down, it’s nice to see some friendly faces…” Woodhead exclaims, before continuing: “Well if I could see you, it’s quite bright.” This sums up the evening well, a warm jovial spirit that was both relaxed and light-hearted.
Marrying a mix of americana and tropical rock, their sound falls somewhere between the consuming storytelling of Milky Chance, the uplifting spirit of Vance Joy and the Island grooves of Jack Johnson. Woodhead looks more than comfortable centre-stage, he’s positively beaming for the most part, so much so he forgets to plug in his guitar after a quick change. Each member, though, is given their own moment to shine. Guitarist Tom Rothery provides colourful flair, his slide guitar is really sublime. Bassist Ben Wiltshire leads a deep steady groove with flashes of inspiration, and Dan Weibe holds a steadfast rhythm that ties the whole thing together. It all feels very natural, never forced or coerced.
This wasn’t your regular music night-out, when these artists come together, it is a gathering. It’s a merging of friendship groups and music lovers who join in a wonderful partnership to celebrate their local scene. Everyone feels welcome. And isn’t that what music’s all about?