The seated crowd were soon forgetting their Monday troubles, drifting along with Pratt.
As the sun went down under a pinkening sky on what may have been the last hazy day of the summer, three artists took to the Colston Hall’s cosy Lantern space to weave their own woozy, dusky magic.
The Balky Mule brought his homespun tales and lo-fi sound to the intimate seated crowd first. Bristol veteran Sam Jones’ shy, quiet demeanour didn’t give away that he’s been performing in this guise for 15 years, but his fragile delivery and light touch meant he came across with a light-hearted likeability.
E B U then brought her bewitching dream-pop to the stage. A new act on the Howling Owl roster, this mysterious performer immediately enchanted the audience. With breathy whispers snaking through effects pedals and gentle lullaby guitar melodies, this was an ethereal experience – calling to mind ripe cornfields and sunset skies, but with a strange, underwater-tinged nostalgia.
She was joined by a full band on keys, clarinet and flute, as well as drums, guitar and bass, with some swapping instruments for certain songs. This easy-going line-up meant no two moments in the set were the same, creating a wandering atmosphere that was at times gently folky, and others seductively shoegazey.
Headliner Jessica Pratt took to the stage soon after. The Californian singer and guitarist is in the UK to perform her second album On Your Own Love Again. And while she wanted conditions just right – the level of the lights, and the sound in her earpiece¬ – there was a slight spikiness in her tone of voice that perhaps gave away more mid-tour fatigue than intended.
But a tumultuous personal life in between now and her 2012 debut album, which brought favourable comparisons with Joan Baez and Joni Mitchell, meant the singer practically locked herself away for months to pour out her sophomore effort, and that intensity showed. With the lights dimmed and the carpeted old ballroom warm, the seated crowd were soon forgetting their Monday troubles, drifting along with Pratt, her delicate picked guitar and voice gliding between sweet high notes and darker, near-gritty tones, making her seem much older than her humble 27 years.
Joined by a guitarist for most of the set, giving an overall richer tone and underlining her leanings away from purely conventional folk, Pratt finished the set alone with Back, Baby. “Sometimes,” she softly crooned, “I pray for the rain.” And somehow, walking that bittersweet tightrope between happy and sad, sunshine and rain, it felt that she was ushering in the autumn for us.
Check Jessica out on KEXP here: