Traditionally, Bristolians boarding a ship at the harbourside might have landed at Africa, The West Indies or America. Rozi Plain’s ‘Friends‘ album launch aboard Thekla, a cargo ship moored in the Mud Dock area of Bristol’s Floating Harbour, was not a departure but a welcome homecoming. Bristol was Rozi Plain’s home while she started up the Cleaner Records collective and worked painting ferries. Now based in London, Plain was visibly delighted to be back in Bristol and welcomed by a warm, friendly crowd packing the hull to see her return and the launch of her new album. The enthusiastic reception given to the three bands with diverse musical styles is testament to the open-minded nature of Bristol’s music scene.
The evening began with the gentle Somerset instrumental duo The Hand. This collaboration between Rachael Dadd and Will Newsom was an appropriate start to the evening and was well-received by the entering crowd.
Having been lulled by The Hand’s sensitive melodies the audience was quickly brought to attention by the arrival of Glaswegian four-piece, Babe. With their barber-shop haircuts and freshly laundered sportswear, Babe toyed with their boyish appearance with a playful mixture of disco, hip hop, dubstep and dramatic pop vocals.
Having left the stage after an energetic performance, Babe returned to take up a new role as backing band for Rozi Plain. The set opened with Actually the opening track and first single. The performance of Actually added an extra force to this pretty, mesmeric song. This was followed by Best in Team, a drifting wistful song of remembrance.
The theme of memory continues with Quarry which pairs laidback Americana with lyrics about coming to terms with the past. The lines “Pushed from darkness by their lightness/ kept from darkness by their light/ they were in each others’ lightness/ for a while, for sometime,” paint a picture of two people whose lives briefly crossed in the past. The repetition of “Leave it outside/ Understand that it’s fine,” show a willingness to accept that past.
Catch Up continues with a similar theme. A repeated gentle guitar line is accompanied by the lyrics. “I’ve been thinking about you/ sometimes talking about you/ We are joined, sometimes unjoined and loose.” In other hands these might make for a melancholy dejected song but Plain’s vocals infuse these lines with hope and positivity.
The highlight of the night, though, was the energetic performance of Humans. Backed by some enthusiastic backing dancing from her band, Plain delights the crowd with her song about what it is to be human.
The evening as a whole was a delight. The good-natured jokes shared between the audience and the bands along with the clear pleasure being taken in performance made for a special homecoming for Plain.
Review by: Alfred Archer