Gig Review by Adrienne Frances with Photography by Lee Allen

Jesca Hoop and Sam Beam

The merch stand had CDs by a band called Heartless Bastards, and a quick google showed me it’s the name of the band Erika Wennerstrom normally performs with. Good name, so I was hopeful for what she had to share.

Erika Wennerstrom

On stage, she had something of the Phoebe Buffay about her – shearling embroidered waistcoat, long floaty skirt, long blonde hair, and guitar. Her sound was nothing like Phoebe, fortunately – the first track reminding me somewhat of Mazzy Star – slow and rhythmic, but much less sweet sounding than them, with her unexpectedly deep voice.

Erika Wennerstrom

The rest of her set followed in a similar vein, but I started to notice lyrics which felt awkwardly cliché (“I’ve been walking round mother nature on the back of Father Time”) and whilst she explained she’d been doing this for 14 years, I couldn’t help but wonder why she was forgetting lyrics and stumbling awkwardly out of tune. Ultimately, not for me.

Erika Wennerstrom

FORTUNATELY I was not disappointed by Beam & Hoop. I’d heard one track of theirs shared by a friend who loved both their solo careers, and I instantly bought the album. I’ve since listened to it incessantly, and LOVE their harmonies, but was largely unfamiliar with them as individuals or as solo artists. Part of me worried there would be an aloof hipster-esque snobbery to them and their performance – standoffish. Nothing could be further from the truth!

Jesca Hoop and Sam Beam

I would like to fall asleep every night listening to Sam Beam reading fairy stories. When he spoke, his warm southern dialect reverberated around the utterly silent venue – and he talked a LOT. The rapport between him and Hoop was endearing and at times hilarious, as they teased one another about small things, whilst speaking with respect and reverence about their respective careers to date. They never took themselves too seriously, but took the music very seriously indeed – their voices blending PERFECTLY, their timing absolutely on point. Beam’s voice ebbed and flowed around Hoop’s, as she twirled and clicked her fingers in time to their deliberate and infectious beat.

Jesca Hoop and Sam Beam

And suddenly I’m reminded of a childhood where I spent every day singing along to my father’s guitar playing – exploring childlike harmonies, and playing with my voice to see what I could make it do. The pure joy of singing, of blending your voice with another voice. And there’s a sense of this experimentation with them – their songs clearly echoing the solo works of both, but together creating something new, something unexpected and unique.

Jesca Hoop and Sam Beam

About ‘The Lamb You Lost’, Beam tells us:

“This song has been described by acquaintances as trying to ride two boats at one time.”

Jesca Hoop and Sam Beam

And that’s maybe what I feel in all of their songs. The tension between rhythm, lyrics, melodies, and their two individual and distinct sounds. Like riding two boats at one time – it’s difficult, but when you get it right it feels amazing. And they get it right.

Jesca Hoop and Sam Beam

Aside from the Hoop and Beam’s own songs, they included two other covers in their 19 song set – ‘Love is a Stranger’ (Eurythmics) which is the B-side to current single ‘Milky Way’, and ‘Islands in the Stream’ (Bee Gees) which I’d not heard before. The preamble to this one was intriguing:

Jesca Hoop and Sam Beam

Hoop: “You’re gonna recognise it… eventually… and we should probably apologise in advance… for taking our liberties with this song – we decided to have a little fun!”

Beam: “Let’s hear it for liberty!”
… “If you liked this song, I’m sorry… cause that part of your life is now over.”

Jesca Hoop and Sam Beam

Look it up on Youtube. It turns out it’s like marmite. I think it’s INCREDIBLE – imaginative and experimental and intriguing. Everyone else in the office today says ‘NO.’ It’s so dark and beguiling compared to the original, I think it’s the perfect song, and they’re the perfect duo to turn such a song completely on its head.

Jesca Hoop and Sam Beam

I felt convinced this was my favourite track of the evening, until ‘Chalk it up to Chi’ which was even more jarring and shouty and fun than on the album – but actually I love the whole set. I think I’m in danger of becoming one of those fans that follows an artist around the country show by show. I realise this is an abrupt end to the review, but ultimately I could just write ‘they were so good. They were so good. They were so good.’ again and again and still not feel like I’d said it enough!

Jesca Hoop and Sam Beam

Setlist:

Kiss me quick
Know the wild that wants you
We too are a moon
Belated promise ring (Iron & Wine cover)
Bright lights and goodbyes
The lamb you lost
One way to pray
City Bird (Jesca Hoop cover)
Valley clouds
Islands in the Stream (Bee Gees cover)
Every songbird says
Milky Way
Midas Tongue
‘Pegasus’(sp? – unreleased Jesca Hoop track)
Chalk it up to Chi
Resurrection ferm (Iron & Wine cover)
Hunting my dress (Jesca Hoop cover)
Sailor to siren

Encore:

Love is a stranger (Eurythmics cover)

Leave a Reply