Friday, 2 May 2008

Quiet Nights @ ICA with Fanfarlo, Orphans and Vandals and Serafina Steer

When you live in a city, it's always difficult to find quiet hideaways of tranquillity. However, amongst the rush hour and startled tourists, the ICA provided the perfect pocket of silence. Suitably titled Quiet Nights, Friday evenings saw you walk up a spiral staircase leading to the Nash Room. A tiny, high ceiling room that was adorned with rugs, fairy lights and a selection of instruments in the corner. It was like being in your front room while your friends are scattered around talking in hushed murmurs and climbing through the huge bay windows to have a smoke on the balcony. This was the setting every Friday for various acts to perform acoustic sets that eased you into your weekend. My chosen Friday was the ever delicious Fanfarlo accompanied by Orphans and Vandals and Serafina Steer.

To begin the competition of who can play the most instruments, a tall, blonde girl under the name Serafina Steer, placed herself amongst the array of percussion and picked up her modest harp. She plucked her way dreamily through several songs including a cover of Morrissey’s Persuaded with velvety vocals and cascading harp strings. Lullabies that told stories of love, dawn and horses. Once finished, she packed her harp away and disappeared into the crowd with a satisfying smile on her face.

Vandals and Orphans were to follow consisting of 3 ladies adorned in flowing gowns that could easily be placed in a F Scott Fitzgerald novel and 2 gentlemen in well fitted shirts and messy hair. Between them, they worked through a harmonica, glockenspiel, harmonium and even a musical saw to provide a skin tingling eeriness to songs like Christopher and Strays. Whilst sitting at his toy piano, lead singer Al emitted a Pete Doherty persona through mumbled, cockney vocals and poetic lyrics (rolling, glazed eyes included). With creeping bass lines and haunting violins, Vandals and Orphans acoustic set was the perfect back drop for the closing darkness of London.

Of course, the evening was not going to end dark and miserable as the happiest and most up beat of bands was still to come. Even more percussion came out of the woodwork including mandolins, trumpets, accordions, fanfarlophone (whatever that is) and the popular musical saw. Drummer Amos opted for the chair less route to coordinate one foot on bass drum and the other on top hat and multi-instrumentalist Cathy skipped around the stage to jump from one musical contraption to another. According to lead singer Simon, this was Fanfarlo's first acoustic performance but that didn't seem to faze them. Actually, they seemed quite relaxed as they watched the seated crowd sway to Sand & Ice, The Outsiders and a sing-a-long finale assisted by hand out lyrics. For tonight at least, if there was an award for 'Band Who Can Play The Most Instruments' I would gladly hand it to Fanfarlo.

More photos at Amplify This

Fanfarlo Site / Myspace

Orphans & Vandals Myspace

Serafina Steer Myspace

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