The Communion Collaborations sprung out of a desire to continue on with the Communion franchise of home grown, generally London based, musicians. The night which began at the Notting Hill Arts Club in 2006 has been hugely successful in acting as a springboard for local musicians; catapulting the likes of Mumford & Sons and Laura Marling to fame.
For the duration of the week commencing 12th July Camden’s The Flowerpot selected a handful of artists, many of whom have performed at the Communion nights previously, to spend the day collaborating, before performing to an intimate crowd of 150 people in the evening – and all for free, as long as you arrive early enough to get in!
With the whole affair to be documented and filmed; there’s also a guestbook out in the beer garden so the club night-come-record label-come nu-folk loving independent musical movement can have a little collection of our thoughts on the week’s events. And what’s more an album is to be recorded of its highlights.
Monday’s opening night saw James Moss, Watford sisters The Staves, Stateside Lissie and Mt. Desolation all working together over a two hour period allowing them to perform their own tracks, offer a bit of musical assistance to their contemporaries and collaborate as one big happy family – even though for some of these artists the first time they would have met would have been the morning of the performance!
Broken down into two sets James Moss and The Staves opened up proceedings, with the opener seeing them all uttering the downbeat refrain “I’m not afraid of dying” so lusciously we all momentarily forgot the elegiac tone of the vocal driven song which was backed by minimal tambourine shaking, finger clicking and hand clapping. From this point forth, while hugely enjoyable, it seemed The Staves took the lead, performing their own songs with little variation from their original vocal heavy compositions. While their voices lead themselves I was left wondering where Moss’ collaboration was hiding if this is what we were to believe was the occasion? Nonetheless gorgeous voices of the sibling trio started off Communion’s latest project on a high note with outstanding renditions of “Mexico” and EP title track “Facing West”.
American newcomer Lissie, who has been on the tip of everyones’ tongues for weeks now, having performed an instore in Fopp and received a tonne of airplay for latest single When I’m Alone, was clearly the most popular artist on the bill. I’ll admit I was a little hesitant as to just how good this Los Angeles gal would be, given her seemingly mainstream appeal and hype. What a pleasant surprise! Herself and band alike were outstanding; offering up an energetic and powerful performance in contrast to the Staves sombre, campfire folk.
Male vocalist Tim Rice-Oxley of Mt. Desolation offered vocal assistance and with a full band vibe complete with drums and an amp turned way up high they proved themselves accomplished musicians, with no fear of shaking the foundations of the homely setting. Eric Sullivan on guitar channelled an early Rilo Kiley circa Take Offs and Landings with his embellished riffs; matching Lissie’s lyrical delivery which was somewhat reminiscent of Fiona Apple. The Communion Collaborations too reached a new level with the audience joining in on vocals and clapping – I just wonder how many people realise how lucky they were to see Lissie in such a tiny venue?
The evening ended with a meld of both sets one and two; with a hybrid alt-country jaunt; as The Staves joined Mt. Desolation. Staves guitarist Jessica’s vocals were perfectly matched with Rice-Oxley as they performed the former’s track “Winter Trees” allowing the pair to produce some of the most melodic sounds of the evening. Lissie comparatively, was just a little too overpowering vocally on new Mt Desolation track “Dividing Line” – taking verses separately however worked like a charm.
A very interesting evening indeed. Collaborations aside it seemed, this was perhaps a little lacking in places, though I suppose it depends how one defines the term…it seemed to be more of an evening of instrumental assistant than collaboration per se with little change up in the songs original guises perhaps. That said Mt. Desolation’s contribution as backing band for the Staves highlighted just how well these girls could work with a fuller band of drums, guitar and piano.
Closer “Climbing High” was a collaboration with everyone however which saved the day. Regardless of who sang with whom and played such and such instrument for whoever a free evening with a talented bunch of youngsters was a brilliant start to anyone’s Monday, and certainly a great start to the Communion Collaborations.
Can’t wait to see the rest of the week’s results.
Image sourced from Communion website