LIVE REVIEW: Ferris & Sylvester at Cavern, Exeter

I came across Ferris & Sylvester back in December. I took my first ever trip to the Cavern to see Jade Bird. She was mega, but I knew that she would be. I didn’t expect the support act to be just as good. The day after, I checked out their social media. They’d just announced a national tour in two months’ time. I knew I’d be there.

I was surprised how eclectic the audience was. Students, young couples, old geezers, working professionals. You could tell that people weren’t just there to fit in. They weren’t there just to say they’d seen the band before they got famous. Everyone was there because they loved the music, regardless of what clique they were a part of. I could tell it would be a good show.

Issy and Archie came on, just the two of them. A couple of weeks before, they’d done a set at Maida Vale for BBC Radio 2. They had a band with them that time, and I was surprised they weren’t invited on tour. Nevertheless, the lack of backing made for an intimate show, which was the right call when I think back on it.

They opened with ‘Save Yourself.’ They couldn’t have chosen a softer opening number. It felt like a statement of intent. This wasn’t just about the hits, but the soul that went into all of their songs. Everyone was listening intently from the first note. You could almost hear the silence. It was fantastic.

After a spiritual start, they jump into ‘Better in Yellow.’ Everyone there knew it, and everyone loved it. The recorded version has more production, but live had more character. Archie pounded on the kick drum and Issy sang her heart out, and they were having the time of their life. Issy took a moment afterwards to tell us: “This is very surreal.” No, it was very cool.

The thing about Ferris & Sylvester is that they played a show, not a set-list. What I mean is that they built a mood instead of just playing the songs like some acts do. They asked for “Viking-rage claps” when they played ‘Burning River.’ And everyone joined in. There was a fantastic atmosphere that pulsed with each clap, and Archie and Issy carried it all the way through.

Sometimes’ was a personal favourite. It’s an exercise in how to keep a song simple. “Sometimes I forget where I am when I’m with you.” I loved that line the first time I heard it, and I found myself singing it proudly when I heard them play it right in front of me. A great moment.

The show was decorated with a couple of covers. A stand-out moment was a lively version of Johnny Cash’s ‘Jackson.’ I didn’t recognise it straight away, but plenty of others did. The crowd joined in wildly and loudly, like everyone was letting out their frustrations. It was just what a gig should be, and it was fantastic to witness.

I can’t say a lot more than what I have already, because the atmosphere just kept getting better all night long. Hands and voices joined in for ‘Sickness.’ Issy took the chorus, Archie took the solo. And while it wasn’t the most technical or elegant guitar-playing I’ve heard, it was some of the most soulful playing. It was great to see another guitarist just go for it momentarily, and the crowd loved it too.

After an interlude that lasted about ten seconds, they came straight back for the encore. Archie had an acoustic, Issy had her voice, and they played ‘Flying Visit.’ They haven’t released it yet, but it’s one of those songs that you feel you’ve always known. It felt familiar. They played some other songs that they haven’t released yet during the set, but that told me there is plenty more to come out of the F&S production line. And I’m looking forward to hearing them on record.

The night finished with ‘London’s Blues.’ If you haven’t listened to it, do yourself a favour and put it on repeat. It’s a 21st century hoedown. Everyone was clapping along and shouting their lungs out. A great way to end a great night.

Issy and Archie quickly dived off stage and headed towards the merch stand to say hello to everyone. I’d interviewed them before the gig (coming soon), so I headed home after an awesome gig. The next day, I checked their Twitter, where they announced they were heading to SXSW with BBC Introducing. Make no mistake, you’ll be seeing them around soon. I guarantee it.

Ferris & Sylvester’s new single ‘Sickness’ is out now – available to Stream/Purchase here.

Photo Credit: Daniel Alexander Harris

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