2nd October | Fiddlers
During her show at Fiddlers, Jesca Hoop at times appears as though she’s from another world. Almost as if she’s a character that has stepped out of a storybook.
It comes through not only in her music, a mesmerising blend of finger-picked guitar and roaring vocals, but through the stories she tells throughout the show. Such as the time she lived under a tree for a year in the Arizona wilderness, or when she traipsed around California, knocking on doors and asking if she could sleep in people’s barns. There’s no one else quite like her.
She’s joined on stage by a three-piece band featuring Chloe Foy, the support for the show. Foy has quickly become a rising star in the folk music scene and, watching her perform, it’s not hard to see why. Her set is short and stripped-back but more than grabs the audience’s attention.
Hoop’s set is similarly minimalist. Despite the two drum kits on stage, the show relies primarily on finger-picked guitars and lush vocal harmonies. While Hoop’s vocals are dramatic enough on their own, the choral backing vocals from her band add extra weight when it’s needed. Set opener, the harrowing ‘Death Row’ is able to shift from intimate to massive in an instant when they join in.
The stripped-back feel of the performance places emphasis on the quality of the songs being sung. Every one she plays feels like it was crafted with the utmost attention to detail.
The show focuses heavily on Hoop’s stunning new album, Stonechild. It’s a gorgeous meditation on gender roles and technology: ‘Old Fear of Father’ touches on the idea of inherited misogyny, from mother to daughter, while ‘Outside of Eden’ explores digital relationships. Despite having lived in the UK for over a decade, this is the first album she’s recorded in the country, and as she points out during the show, in Bristol, no less. “One thing I noticed about your city is that there are a lot of people living in vans,” she observes.
Many of the songs from the album are minimalist, built around soaring vocal harmonies and poetic lyrics. The guitars are often at the front, occasionally accompanied by the ominous hum of a synth or a steady bass guitar. “I hope you’ve been paying attention,” says Hoop, part way through the set, and the reverent silence shows that everyone very much has been.
There are a handful of louder moments throughout the performance, such as ‘Red White and Black’, with the song’s percussive backing giving it an added sense of momentum. The chugging kick drum lends it an underlying sense of tension.
Amongst the new songs, Hoop also sprinkles in a handful of older tracks, including highlights from her excellent 2017 album Memories Are Now. ‘Pegasi’ has a gorgeous fable-like quality to it, perfectly showing off the timeless feel that Hoop’s best songs are able to boast.
At the end of the show, the band exit the stage, leaving Hoop to deliver the last song by herself. Her acapella rendition of ‘Storms Make Grey The Sea’ is delightfully intimate, acting as a powerful final showcase of her abilities as a songwriter and a performer. Even with all the instrumentation stripped away, she’s a singular talent.
See the video for ‘Red White and Black’ here: