Ally McCrae in Carlisle - Day 1
Hallo! I'm Ally McCrae, I present BBC Introducing in Scotland on Radio 1. I'm going to be invading this blog for the next few days, because BBC Introducing has hit Carlisle in the build up to Radio 1’s Big Weekend on Saturday and Sunday.
BBC Introducing has its own stage at the festival, showcasing some of the most exciting emerging artists from all over the country, but in the days leading up to it we are taking over some of Carlisle's favourite venues with some of the best unsigned talent from the area.
Now, I had no idea what to expect, having never been to Carlisle, but a queue round the corner before the doors even opened on our first night was an alright way to kick things off!
The plan was to ease into the week gently with a nice wee night of acoustic artists in The Calva Bar in the grounds of the University of Cumbria, but by the end of the the night, the uni's crowd had sweated, danced and drank the (ludicrously cheap) bar dry. Not exactly easing in.
First up, Carlisle’s Laura James and the Lyres took to the stage to give us a set of folk-tinged indie pop. They are based around singer Laura James who has been performing since the tender age of 14. She possesses some really delicate vocals and was a really engaging front women to watch in the Regina Spektor/ Joanna Newsom kind of way.
She and her band are heading out on a tour of the North of England in the summer, at night playing in proper venues but by day they have a flat-bed trailer, which they intend to just ride around town centres playing and causing a nuisance.. Go here to find out more.
After Laura I welcomed to the stage an immensely talented 16-year-old girl called Evie Plumb who, with her opening lines silenced the entire room. She sang and played the keys with a confidence that I definitely lacked when I was 16 (I was to busy hiding behind a fringe and crying into my Papa Roach hoodie).
Her tracks were down the Katie Melua route of pop and the crowd were hooked. The way she captivated and held the attention of the audience was something to be admired - especially when the beer was so cheap.
The cheap bar might go some way to explaining why our lovely BBC Introducing tables were rammed out of the way for the last act of the night, because for the whole of the next set, the same crowd who had been silenced just 30 minutes earlier by Evie went off in a bit of a folk-dance frenzy. I felt like I was back home, at a proper Scottish Ceilidh.
The band causing the kerfuffle were Room Full of Owls, a 6-piece made up of students from Liverpool who all live together (awww) and really looked like they were enjoying every second of playing together. Imagine a folk band losing their drummer and being joined by Dave Grohl (in his QOTSA days) to beat the living daylights out of the kit, plus female vocals, strings and a driving bass and you might get the idea. A special mention has to go to the unassuming violin player, who turned into a demon on the bow upon taking the stage and drew the biggest cheers of the night. I was blown away.
So thank you, Calva Bar in the University of Cumbria - brilliant start to BBC Introducing's time in Carlisle. I now have no idea what to expect tonight at the Brickyard…
Stay tuned for more reports from Carlisle from Ally tomorrow and Friday.
Follow Ally on Twitter @allymccrae
Find out more about our Fringe gigs in Carlisle this week