BEBIt’s very colourful walking into The Black Heart this evening with a display of trippy feathered jewellery, masks and old photos on display at the side of the room. It’s still fairly thin on the ground but things have a real air of intimacy as first band Death In Texas prepare to play. This duo is a husband and wife and they set up with just drums and keyboards whilst the rest of us are entertained by Alabama Shakes via the PA. Luckily bodies come in as soon as the duo begin to play and despite lack of guitars and bass there’s plenty of drama and atmosphere conveyed, the music represented by a loungesque and smoky vibe. The more acoustic approach works well and singer Ruth’s vocals come across as suitably sultry and the music mellow, jazzy and a tad avant-garde; there’s almost a touch of trip-hop about it too. At first I am reminded a bit of The Gathering at their most laid back. They play ‘A Body’ and we are invited to watch the video in the comfort of our own homes which is something I have taken them up on. Musically it could be straight out of a David Lynch film, very chilled but conveying the sense of a murderous ballad at its heart. ‘The Shard’ is apparently inspired by that noticeable blot on our landscape and is built up from the ground with drums and vocals becoming much more strident and towering ever upwards. They played a cover that was far removed from my listening habits but was apparently a Radiohead song and as with other covers of the act I have heard I found myself enjoying it more than I would probably have done if done by the band themselves.  This was an interesting encounter although taking me out of my usual comfort zone proved very comfortable. The optics might not agree though and the vocals came close to shattering them as the singer hit the high notes on the last number.

Totally unknown to me is singer songwriter Gabby Young but she has a very colourful presence that looked like she could have easily been part of Rubella Ballet’s ensemble. Apparently she is more known as the singer with ‘Other Animals’ but here was going it alone and acoustic style. A classic balladeer she commanded the stage with her presence and singing style which was at times quite eccentric and scatty with words such as ‘blah, blah, blah’ rolling off her tongue.  Hitting the high notes and dipping into silence at the end of the song the venue rings out with appreciative applause after the first number. Apparently she is flying off to Nice tomorrow and singing at a wedding and no doubt her captivating voice will have them all dancing around. She went and got a ukulele and played the next song ‘Smile’ which was just what it made us do in a burst of colourful sunshine. Honey was next played for all the lovers in the room, it’s flamboyant and whacky and highly enjoyable with the singer coming across as a true troubadour.  As she took to the dance floor to sing it was obvious her vocals needed no such thing as a microphone to project them through the room. A more folky protest vibe took us out on ‘We’re All in This Together’ and if you are intrigued you can watch this one here too.

Theres been some changes in the Birdeatsbaby camp since I last caught them and it’s quickly evident that they are all for the better as far as this seriously underrated band are concerned. To say their last album ‘The Bullet Within’ hit me right between the ears would be a pun too far and a serious understatement and I was keen to hear tracks from it tonight. It’s ‘Hands Of Orlac’ from this that they set out to play and it starts to build when lead singer Mishkin realises her keyboard is not plugged in and band and audience have a right old laugh about it all. Sorted out, the opening sends shivers down the spine as it deliciously swoons in and proceeds to lead us off down a dark carnival etched path. Vocals are spot on and sound great and the bands secret weapon in the form of violinist backing singer Hana Piranha really adds to things. It’s all very stirring and evocative and with drumming battering away and some jagged riffing there’s more than a little headbanging presence to things for the first time tonight. The audience might not be up for that but everyone in the by now much busier venue is clearly enjoying things.  ‘Tenterhooks’ gets its claws in and grooves away with Mishkin dancing away off stage with the audience. This is perfect poppy, kooky, glammy, circus induced rock with a great sense of the theatrical about it and songs like this are indelibly hard to shift which makes me wonder how on earth this band are not a lot bigger than they are. ‘Drinking Alone’ is much more of a solo affair and a heartfelt and evocative number that I am sure most people could identify. It’s beautifully and delicately and comes across as one of the most gorgeous and downbeat ballads I have heard in many a year. Naturally I raised my glass to it and the violin solo was almost enough to have us weeping into our drinks before jagged wrist slitting flamboyance spilled out and had everyone caught up in it. The way the group had moved from profound fragility to stirring passion was second to none.

Tonight is partly to do with another cover song and in this case Muscle Museum by Muse. Again not a band I would normally touch but one that gets a whole new appreciation due to the upbeat catchy version displayed here (and on the video below). Mishkin wanted a mosh pit and quite honestly deserved one and although not getting one tonight who’s not to say they won’t be rewarded with one in the future. In a similar way to the music of greatest love Stream Of Passion who cover Radiohead’s ‘Street Spirit’ complete with violin I am equally stirred by this.  ‘Ghosts’ is another moment of sheer beauty and a song that doesn’t so much as send shivers down the spine but massive frozen icicles. This one does sound like it could be a cover from certain aforementioned bands and quite honestly should see Birdeatsbaby supporting them on tour! An absolutely heart-melting number. Mosh pit earlier denied they do however get a waltz going on now on the dance-floor with ‘Rosary’ taking us to a carnival on the beach circa 1920 Brighton complete with double bass. Things build and the web is cast further to penultimate number ‘Spiders’ which sees Gabby Young joining the band on stage adding extra dimensions to things. The sinuous heady beat of the song spreads and crawls with the chorus lingering in the memory for days to come. It’s a slightly shorter set than I would have liked but in a way it worked as it left me hungering for more, leaving us in ‘Silence’ in more ways than one is a clever trick albeit quite a sombre way to go out. Birdeatsbaby proved themselves exceptional performers with a wide array of great songs tonight, if only people would catch on but for the moment I’m happy to keep them as a bit of a secret before that does inevitably happen.

(Pete Woods)