Paper Aeroplanes, Georgia Ruth at The Boardwalk, Sheffield
A handwritten history on a scrap of paper on the dressing room wall details the notable talents who have passed through: AC/DC, the Pretenders, the Clash, Patto (mentioned for my friend, Ben, who'll get a kick out of that) - it's quite a list.
The posters at the entrance tell the story of the other end of the spectrum: Mentallica, Limehouse Lizzy and, the night following my visit, Sgt Pepper's Only Dartboard Band. I'm not decrying tribute bands, frequently it's the punters who come in to see these that subsidise a venue's ability to support upcoming, independent talent.
So, I'm here to see Milford Haven's exquisite Paper Aeroplanes and Aberystwyth's Georgia Ruth.
Something within the glittering harp introduction as it fizzed through pathetically inadequate laptop speakers started to shift those clouds aside. But it was the voice that captured me: such sweet vulnerability, so much unaffected soul, a voice that could ensnare a heart.
Much of the music that I receive is people triumphing in the face of a lack of technical, musical ability. That stirs my admiration: the sound of enabled creative freedom, hot minds and fierce souls decking two fingers at musical snobbery and elitism.
But some rare individuals are natural musicians. Their atoms thrum in harmony with their souls. They probably trip over things a little more frequently than those of us who are mundane of talent. But their natural grace when they let that music flow out of them is one of the great wonders of life. Like love. Like beauty. Like the human spirit.
Before I drown in the metaphysical, some facts. This is the first night of Georgia's first tour. She's fresh from the HMV Next Big Thing festival in London last weekend - a triumphant appearance in markedly different circumstances to these. Scratching around a venue like this is, no doubt, a comedown, but she's not too hoity toity for the challenge. And neither is her music. Actually, the tears and blood in Georgia's songs make as much sense in this venue as they do in vaulted halls in front of the reverent and effete.So, despite nerves that'd paralyse a pouncing tiger, and despite a PA that wants to make the harp sound like a comb and paper, Georgia Ruth is magnificent. Her songs ebb like tides, running with the currents of the heart. They're songs that just are. They sound like they've bled out of her. There's no rickety verse/chorus structure, no framework she's hammered a handful of clichés to, to make a song to make her famous. Songs like Anna and Ocean are courageous in their nakedness, thrilling in their refusal to adulterate themselves so that they can be cool and hang out with the in crowd kids.
Given the opportunity, those kids, all of us, would fall on these songs when life bashes us around a bit. There's an undeniable truth and honesty, here. Go to bed with a broken heart and you're not going to seek succour in Dizzee Rascal. You'd find plenty here, though. Oceans full.
She's an utterly unique and beguiling artist. Her début EP is out now and available from her MySpace page. Someone is going to have to rewrite that list on the wall sometime soon.
Paper Aeroplanes are young faces, but old hands at taking their music to the deepest, darkest depths of the country.
Their début album, The Day We Ran Into The Sea - reviewed with heartfelt drool here - is as tuneful, adroit, emotionally charged and crafted as any you will hear this year. And live, despite a lack of rhythm section, or the layered strings and the keyboards on the album, they do not disappoint, quite the opposite.
These are songs so melodically gifted that singer, Sarah, could sing them a cappella and they'd absolutely captivate.
Their assuredness on stage is a marked contrast to Georgia's slight awkwardness. But Paper Aeroplanes, and Halflight before them, have performed hundreds of gigs; Georgia can probably count hers on fingers and toes.
Sarah's voice fills every sticky corner of the venue with the kind of luminosity it can only have experienced rarely, despite its 50-year existence and long list of historic performers.
Freewheel tugs the smattering of people who've been good enough to brave cold Pennine winds and forego the easy fix of footie on the telly in its undertow. Cliché demonstrates why it's made itself onto daytime Radio 2. Lost is the joint song of the night - a couple of minutes of beautiful craft that made the train journey and the Tupperware hotel worth it.
What these people do for our benefit - to bring light into our lives and some sense and empathy to the mysteries that confound our human condition - is marvellous indeed. Helps that you can't help but sing along, too.