Will Varley triumphantly returned to Rescue Rooms to play a sold-out show as his second ever with his new band. Moments after the doors had opened at 7:30pm the venue was already packed, which played into the hand of Southampton based Singer Songwriter Sean McGowan.
It’s evident that the contemporary folk-pop scene dominated by Xtra Mile records has built an incredibly diverse and committed fanbase, as all gigs under this banner are filled early on in the night, with a distinctly small proportion of latecomers. This isn’t to say that the crowd were infallible, however, more on that later. McGowan’s songs seemed to resonate well with the busy crowd, and No Show in particular stood out as a highlight of his relatively short set.
After a short break, Ida Mae took to the stage nonchalantly, seemingly unaware that they were about to steal the show. Sonically, there are very few bands that can display such raw talent as Ida Mae did in this set. Sitting firmly on the livelier side of the sound that bands like the Civil Wars innovated, this Folk and Country duo treated those in attendance to a display of sheer musical excellence.
“Ida Mae were completely untouchable”
The stage show was your standard affair, and the interactions with the crowd were nice enough, but when it comes to the music, Ida Mae were completely untouchable. The greatest tragedy of this, is that they only have one song online, and while ‘Feel Them Getting Closer’ is a very well-crafted song, their set was full of hidden gems, that as of right now are completely irretrievable outside of the live arena. Here’s hoping that changes very soon for the former Kill It Kid.
The crowd were very ready for Will Varley by the time the headline set came around, and opening with ‘As for My Soul’, immediately started a crowd wide singalong. It was evident that the crowd were prepared to be noisy, though more unfortunate that some parts of the crowd didn’t seem to understand when it was appropriate to do so, and when it wasn’t.
“Some people seemed more interested in the night out, rather than the music”
This has happened before at Will Varley gigs, and last time I was quite willing to chalk it up to the fact that it was a Saturday night gig, and some people seemed more interested in the night out, rather than the music. This time that trend popped up again, with two gig goers leaving early (and making quite the fuss while doing so) after getting into a rather heated argument with a woman who had asked them to stop talking so loudly through every song, and regularly turning around to take selfies of themselves in front of the stage.
It’s odd to see this occur again at a Will Varley show, not least because he’s clearly a genuinely nice person with a love and respect for music. It is in no way his fault that this keeps happening, but it is certainly unfortunate. He does well to manage the crowd though, playing over the issues rather unfazed, and quickly getting the crowd back on his side with this witticisms and skilfully placed audience banter.
“The set itself was fantastic”
with the new band producing a wide array of soundscapes to fully complete the Will Varley experience. It was obvious that all of the musicians involved were incredibly talented, and when things did become a little rough around the edges, the band and Will were able to quickly recover with ease.
Having a miniature solo set with just Will and his guitar two-thirds of the way through the show changed the tone at just the right time to keep the audience on their toes, and keep the show feeling wonderfully fresh and exciting. The two-song encore, and its immediate predecessor produced magnificent singalongs that brought the room together and allowed Varley to control the place like the true showman he is.
As well as this, the setlist excelled at displaying the eclectic catalogue of songs Will has under his belt, each outshining the previous. Overall it was a fun show, with a raucous crowd, and three fantastic performances.
Images Courtesy of Liam Fleming