24th November | The Lantern

On a chilly November night, a warm glow spreads through the intimate space of The Lantern. Pictures of Belgrade, the new project from Bristol favourites Something Anorak, which offers intriguingly delicate vocals and a stripped back guitar sound, gets the evening off to a strong start. Their off-kilter lo-fi sound is definitely worth seeing in a live setting.

Next up, Irish duo Saint Sister bring their hauntingly brilliant folk for the modern age to the old stage. The vocal harmonies of Morgan MacIntyre and Gemma Doherty effortlessly melt into each other, and their combination of harp and sparse drum machine works with their lyrics on loneliness, family and relationship breakdowns. My companion and I both wipe away a tear at the same point during the tear-jerker ‘Corpses’, and we aren’t the only ones visibly moved in the hushed crowd.

And soon after (once we’ve recovered with a quick interval drink) headliner Mutual Benefit takes to the stage. The fluid folk-pop project of Jordan Lee, based in Austin, Texas, it’s a lush, warming hug of strings, synths and even flute. Following the great American songwriting tradition, there’s elements of Fleet Foxes and Bon Iver, along with Simon and Garfunkel and Sufjan Stevens. But Lee’s musicianship stands alone, delivering hit after hit of delicate falsetto vocals over hazy sunset loveliness. He is a charming folk pixie of a man, refusing to say out loud his actual roots in light of recent political events in the US, referring instead to himself and his band as being from ‘outer space’.

Most of the set comes from beautiful breakthrough 2016 album, Skip a Sinking Stone. The standout moment is the building crescendo of ‘Skipping Stones’, in which Lee gently bares his soul with lyric “I’m so afraid to fall in love again – I know how it ends.” Cue more tears. But this time, they are accompanied by our smiles, and that’s down to Lee and his fellow performers ability to hit just at the right point, that musical funny bone, allowing their music to connect on a deep personal, emotional level, but offer a sort of salvation too. As we head back out into the cold, we take a little of that warm glow with us.

Check out Mutual Benefit’s recent video for ‘Lost Dreamers’ below.