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Laurel Canyon Music 5th Birthday Celebrations

Venue: The Green Note Basement and The World's End
Town: Camden Town and Finsbury Park, London
Date: 10 & 13-05-2018

The London music scene is fortunate to have several organisations that work tirelessly to promote independent live music across and around the capital. One of the benchmarks is Laurel Canyon Music, headed by Gary Smith, who have gained an enviable reputation for bringing the very best artists to our notice. Laurel Canyon isn't just about live shows, but also showcases performers through regular features on their website and Facebook pages including Song of the Day, Album of the Month, live reviews and annual awards. They recently celebrated their 5th birthday with two shows that highlight the ethos of the organisation.

The Green Note basement is one of the most intimate venues in London, having a maximum capacity of just 24. You would expect, perhaps, a main act and local support but that's not the Laurel Canyon way. We had three artists, all from Cheshire and that's something they also do well. Despite the number of venues in London it can be difficult for artists from outside to get slots and many well known names have struggled. Showcasing these artists, giving them a chance to get exposure and their faces seen is a big part of the package. I'd not seen any of them before, it was the promoter's stamp of approval that persuaded me to go, but came away enthralled and impressed by what I'd heard.

The evening, with it's feel of a house concert, featured Sam Lyon with special guests Megan Dixon Hood & Jon Coley; the artists suited the venue perfectly. All were solo performers who write their own material and played it to perfection. Jon Coley, despite his assertions that he's not as gifted as the rest of his family, turned out to be as good on the piano as he is on guitar. With a soaring voice and lyrics that deal with some of the harder aspects of life his blues inspired modern folk certainly demands attention. Likewise, Megan Dixon Hood also produces beautiful songs that send a shiver up the spine. Accompanying herself on the piano her songs appear at first to have an innocence about them, but in a way that suggests Little Red Riding Hood is about to go into the deep dark forest..

The audience were now relaxed and very content with what they'd seen and so were in the perfect mood for the dynamo that is Sam Lyon, who was on tour to promote her new EP “Comets + Constellations”. The title track of the EP is inspired by her boyfriend, who started studying dentistry before switching to astrophysics and that kind of close observation of very human events is at the heart of her music. It was a delightful set with a well deserved encore and I was perhaps expecting a well known cover. I certainly didn't expect “King of the Swingers” but it was a great end to the night with everyone getting involved and a few attempts at harmonies and scat which were as funny as they were fun.

That was an excellent start to the celebrations but the big event was still to come. The World's End is a well known venue with highly regarded Sunday roasts and a regular programme of music. It also shows football, which meant a slight delay to sound checks getting under way and everyone hoping the game didn't go into extra time. The evening was a mini-festival of five acts, some familiar and other new but all of excellent quality. The artists on the night were all London based, so it became a celebration of the place as well as the organisation. Katie Kittermaster may only be 17 but she commands the stage playing her own material, which may be heartbreak songs but are presented as soul-pop in a way that suggests we will be seeing a lot more of her in the future.

Next up was an artist who seems to have been around for a long time but is only barely out of her teens herself. Kaity Rae is an impressive songwriter, and this will possibly become her forte although I hope she will continue to perform as well. With a growing confidence and maturity in her songs she has the ability and talent to join the very best of the best on the UK and International Country scene. It's easy to imagine her songs featuring in the charts one day as they have that buzz about them.

O&O are a relatively new duo to London although they've been together for some time, touring extensively. American guitarist Obadiah Jones and Israeli vocalist Orian Peled met whilst studying at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and have gone on to write and perform music very much in the Country style which has been receiving a lot of well deserved attention. There's a real joy and pleasure in their performance that an audience responds to.

Hannah White, accompanied by Kieron Marshall, is well known within London independent circles not only for her music but being one of the instigators of the much missed Sound Lounge. One of the biggest cheers of the night came when Hannah told us it still exists in spirit and may one day be re-established. Hannah is somebody who also writes “folk” songs although the sound has influences of Country and even Gospel. They're tightly observed stories of people, well told, that make you listen.

The evening was slipping away and there were a couple of furtive checks on the times of last tube trains but nobody was going to leave before seeing the final act of the night. It's difficult to name them; was it Daisy Chute and Cerian, or two thirds of a collaboration that is so new a name hasn't been settled on yet? The semantics can wait for another day but whatever the outcome the music they're producing is fabulous. Daisy is already known for being part of All Angels and is attracting attention as a solo artist, being Winner of the 2018 London Coffee Music Project. Cerian is a classically trained multi-instrumentalist and vocalist who has worked with some huge names, and also has a reputation for writing beautiful songs. Together they were something special, using each other's songs to weave harmonies and leave the audience spellbound. The collaboration, possibly to be known as HEARD, also including Midori Jaeger is one to make a note of because they are going to be huge.

It was a fitting end to the evening that wasn't just about music but community. I'm always pleased to see performers turning up early and staying to the end to support each other and that's exactly what happened. Gary Smith worked tirelessly throughout; he wasn't just MC but moved around the room making introductions and starting to establish those networks between the musicians and audience that is so vital in independent music as we all rely on each other. You don't need an audience if there's no music but there won't be music, or venues, without an audience. It's to be hoped that Laurel Canyon Music will be part of that process for many years to come.

Words & photos: Tony Birch

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