30th August | Louisiana
Words also by Lucy Gilbert
Photos: Ash Holdsworth
It is one of those age-old gripes of the long-standing music fan: why don’t the bands we love get the appreciation they deserve? Every mediocre ‘song of the summer’ is met with the thought – “my mate’s band is better than this” or (depending on the generation of the griper) “the music from my era was proper music.” This should be taken with a pinch of salt, as every era has had successful stinkers: Cliff Richard’s ‘Millennium Prayer’ in the 90s; Full Metal Jacket’s ‘Me So Horny’ in the 80s, etc. But one frustratingly consistent achiever in this musical generation has been the many heavy-handed attempts to replicate the unexpected success of Adele’s 21 with lachrymose melodrama.
While this style couldn’t be further from the introspections of Tiny Ruins, the Kiwi four-piece’s support act – the monomynous Agata – could easily drift in that direction. She cut an impressive figure dressed in all white, and opened with a few solo songs accompanied only by the plaintive plinking of her keyboard. Though her voice was often beautiful, and certainly earnest and expressive enough to explain her choice as opening act, the songs felt a little underdeveloped.
And while there is certainly a crowd who would clamour for her lovely vocal tone, it didn’t seem to be this one, with people growing visibly impatient during her uber-slow solo rendition of ‘I Wanna Dance With Somebody.’ The introduction of her band was a welcome one, fleshing out her sound and giving glimpses of her potentially very successful career trajectory. If her capable and powerful voice were to be offered a similar production and songwriting approach to other beautiful mononymous singers like Lorde or Laurel, there is no reason why Agata shouldn’t flourish.
Tiny Ruins’ lead singer, Holly Fullbrook, had the composed quietness of an introvert who has grown accustomed to performing, and something in the way she immersed herself within her songs gave the impression that there may be a hit-or-miss nature to her live show: she wasn’t going to try and woo you; you had to come to her. She and the rest of Tiny Ruins opened with arguably her most successful song, ‘Me at The Museum, And You In The Wintergardens.’ Like many of Fullbrook’s carefully-constructed narratives, it is understated and sensitive, and in the darkened intimacy of The Louisiana, the vignette was charming in its clarity.
The show was packed out, and true to form, the Louisiana was packed without feeling overcrowded. The band went on to play a new song, ‘School of Design’, which was markedly more adventurous than the consistent and beautiful album, Brightly Painted One. ‘School of Design’ acted as a sort of mournful blueprint of a building, and Fullbrook was quick to point out the similarity of singing about museums and schools of design. But she didn’t go on to give any insight to either of these complex, almost literary songs; these frosted-glass windows into peoples’ worlds, leaving the listener to figure out why they stir up such a mysterious amount of emotion.
Tiny Ruins closed with a string of new songs, most notably ‘Holograms,’ which they have only played twice. Before playing, Fullbrook described how she crashed off a scooter and had an almost heavily-concussed and semi-spiritual interaction with her Darth Vader novelty helmet. After a lush and dreamy introduction, the song kicked into action, grooving more than a lot of her old material.
Its bite places Tiny Ruins closer to the Marika Hackman side of the singer/songwriter spectrum, soft-voiced but with a bit of attitude. This brand new track was more vocally adventurous, and more direct than we’ve seen her before. It’s another indication of the more radio-friendly path that Tiny Ruins may be taking, and if Holograms is anything to go by, this is certainly nothing to be sniffed at.