Joe Echo, Pixie Saytar
Pixie Saytar seems apprehensive. Usually the diminutive New Yorker performs within the loving embrace of a full band. Tonight it's just her and a sole guitarist for company. The vulnerability is almost tangible, 'Interlude' thrums with feeling, the voice quietly pleading, the delicate guitar creating a feel of reverence. It is real lay-it-on-the-line stuff, no hiding place given, no hiding place sought. 'Bitter Sweet', full of searing intimacy and plucky hope, embodies Saytar's brave musicianship, a song to hug the soul.
A frayed sticker hangs high on one of the room's wooden columns. Strain your eyes and you'll make out the word 'Leya'. It's a poignant reminder of what once was. Soul rebels with the heavens scraping sound, for seven years Leya was home to Ciaran Gribbin. They deserved more, but sometimes things just don't work out how they ought to and, in early 2007, Leya disbanded. Running solo, Gribbin adopted the name Joe Echo and determined to find his own path. On tonight's showing he's ploughing a fertile furrow indeed.
Idiosyncratic, diverse, and all brought together with the application of some super-strength, melodic binding agent, Joe Echo switches genre and guise with minimal effort. There a few technical glitches, but nothing to hamper the joie de vivre of the music. The set displays Joe Echo's buccaneering spirit; fragile acoustic songs bristling brilliantly alongside intelligent dance. Recalling the lowdown, slacker cool of Beck circa Mutations, 'Who Am I', asks us to consider who we are, what we want to do with our lives. Themes Gribbin himself has recently had cause to ponder.
There's a rendition of Leya's 'Let's Pretend', Gribbin's voice, let off the leash, is extraordinary, soaring and dipping on eddies of emotion. Other tracks, including debut single, 'Personal Alcatraz', utilise an arsenal of pedals and echo boxes, Gribbin stacking guitar lines and human beatbox one on top of the other, whipping them into a frothy honeycomb of sound until the whole magical cacophony is spewed back.
More than just a distinct voice, with Joe Echo, Ciaran Gribbin has proven he is the possessor of a fearsome, restless musical imagination. And he even included Creamola Foam in a lyric. Ain't that sweet.
Photos by Graham Smith