Photo by Anika Mottershaw
Friday night at The Borderline saw three female-fronted folk bands,Blue Roses, Alessi's Ark and Peggy Sue on the same bill, put on by Platforms:Live - who, according to their flyers, have also managed to book folk-luminaries Kimya Dawson and Diane Cluck for upcoming gigs.
First up were Blue Roses, the trading name for Yorkshire lass Laura Groves, whose voice and songs lend much to Kate Bush and Joni Mitchell. However, it's the instrumentation that really impresses here. Starting with just a violin and keyboards to back up Laura's sweet voice they nevertheless generate a layered, rich sound - and much instrument switching and new players only adds to the depth throughout the set (despite looking like a logistical nightmare).
Alessi Laurent-Marke from Alessi's Ark has no such logistical problems, boasting a full backing band of men with moustaches. She treads a more alt-country line than Blue Roses and certainly must have one of the more eccentric vocal-styles out there, sucking and swirling the words around her mouth, so that it almost sounds like she's singing the lyrics backwards. She seems to lose a little momentum half-way through, mainly down to apparent nervousness, but soon makes up for it with the beautiful Over The Hill.
Headliners Peggy Sue are just back from recording their debut album in New York and it's fair to say there's a certain amount of expectation around the, now packed, Borderline. However there's no suggestion of nervousness as Rosa and Katy along with drummer Olly burst into opening song Once We Were Strangers bristling with verve. They quickly follow with new single Lover Gone, a wistful two-minutes lamenting an ended relationship. After the comparative sedateness of the opening acts Peggy Sue's set is powerful and lusty and using their most powerful instrument, Rosa and Katy's voices, demand the crowd's attention. They match Regina Spektor in quirky vocal gymnastics and even channel CocoRosie as their voices interweave and dance around each other. The set ends with smiles all round and their voices echoing around the room "The sea, the sea flows for me" - Peggy Sue have set sail and on this evidence they're going to good places.