January 25th | The Well
Photos: Luke Macpherson
The Well is certainly one of the smallest venues in the city and quite possibly the only one with six washing machines in. However, what it lacks in size it makes up for in character and atmosphere. With all its vintage wooden panels and china wear, it boasts an impressive sound set-up and the crowds are some of the best intentioned and friendly you’re likely to find.
It is always worth catching the warm-up act in Bristol as they’re often of a high quality. In the case of Jemima Coulter, we were not disappointed. With her bare, reverb-coated electric guitar sound, akin to that of Courtney Barnett or Cat Power, she was totally immersed in her songs. Although it felt like she was still feeling out her own unique sound, she was thoroughly genuine and in possession of a voice easily rivalling the headliner. She was focused from start to finish, bravely soldiering on through a set beset with issues with her guitar lead.
There is a certain something about the phrasing and artistic inflections within some America folk artists when you hear them singing. It’s a bit like reading the phonetic spellings in Trainspotting or the invented slang in A Clockwork Orange. There seem to be these vowel-heavy extra syllables at the ends of words which can potentially prove a little too impenetrable to enjoy the music.
Inflections are very pronounced with Daughter of Swords, however seeing these songs performed live really makes a difference. Although she indulged in these flutters of diction, often it had the intended effect of further beautifying the music. Coupled with her light-touch guitar work, which swooped with the momentum of songs, people connected gleefully with her poetically written lyrics and stories.
The warmth and freshness of her performance felt like it surpassed the recordings on her Dawnbreaker album. Alexandra Sauser-Monning’s performance this night at The Well, stripped of the recording’s drum machine, and at times resorting to acapella was one of command over her songs and lyrics. The gentle shifts in her voice and the pure delight and passion in her face were almost universally mesmerising.
Her interaction with the room was also disarmingly charming. Asking what was worth seeing in the city someone called out, “Leigh Woods, they have deer,” to which she replied “I hate deers, they’re assholes.” Apparently they keep eating her perennial plants which she was assured they wouldn’t take to due to the smell. This was amusingly apt as the following song romantically referenced her home in North Carolina with the beautiful trees and deer. Realising the coincidence, she couldn’t help but laugh.
There was a mixture of depth and escapism in the music with songs like ‘human’, which reflects on people struggling with long term illness and others such as ‘the shining woman’. This being about a woman who rides her bike around capturing people’s attention with her shiny gold leggings. She then closed the night with a staggeringly powerful acapella rendition of an old hymn, which was unexpected but incredibly well executed and left the crowd breathtaken.
See the video for ‘Dawnbreaker’ here: