This article originally appeared on the peerless (yet now sadly defunct) Gobshout.com. It's owners are now Suburban Tarts, who should be visited post-haste...
I am coming before you to extol the virtues of London’s best folk venue. If you have not yet had the pleasure of Green Note, I have only one word for you: go. The restaurant out front leads you through to a little venue at the back, littered with candle-lit tables and flanked by bare brick walls. It’s what my mind thinks the cafés in 1960s Greenwich Village were like. A tiny stage at one end is lit just enough to create atmosphere, and a bar at the other end serves a good selection of just about everything. The food is out of this world and everyone is friendly beyond description.
Tonight is a monthly night put on by Unstable Promotions and features three acts from in and around London. Before we start though, credit and massive props to Jonny Berliner, who comperes and warms the crowd up with a couple of folk songs about science. His calypso tribute to the marvels of DNA has to be heard to be believed.
First up tonight is Oka Vanga , last heard of on this site in 2009. Before the set, I talk to Angie about why they seem to have an aversion to eating before they go on stage. “Well,” she deadpans “If you were being chased by a bear, you wouldn’t stop to have a pitta, would you?”
That said, there’s no sign of any nerves at all in their performance tonight. The eighteen months since their last review have seen the duo record an album and play a number of folk festivals across the country. Their performance has grown and changed, and the synergy of their playing styles is as stunning as ever. It would be impossible to attribute them to any one genre (unless frantic-vocal-free-speed-metal-folk is a genre in the MySpace generation) but their performance is as intoxicating and breathtaking as ever. The introduction of some slide guitar adds a new dimension to what remains one of the most watchable and compelling live acts you’ll see this year.
Following them is a change down a gear for solo singer-songwriter (no, it’s not a dirty word, it used to mean something) Pepe Belmonte . Pepe is Irish by birth and has been on the scene in various guises for some time now. Tonight his collection of songs are touching and beautifully constructed, and his voice is breathy and perfect for the tracks. His songs are reflective and full of intriguing characters, and his charm and banter have the audience eating from the palm of his hand. I am convinced that we will not be the only ones charmed by his songs and persona in 2011, particularly not with the release of his debut album just around the corner.
Finally, there’s Matthew Neel , who is clearly an old hand at this. Well known to many of the crowd, he appears tonight with a band, who win their first accolade by somehow defying the laws of physics to all fit on the stage without falling over each other. Once there, they proceed to entertain the massed ranks with a clutch of songs penned by Neel and which can, on occasion, conjure up the softer moments of Ryan Adams or Jeff Tweedy. The band give extra oomph to the songs and when the electric guitar comes out (to the predictable yet hil-ari-ous cries of “Judas”), the set starts to swing as Clapton-style licks give the songs a kick. That being so, standout track We Will Be Dreaming is performed solo as the set closer after the happy crowd request an encore.
So in summary then, see these bands and attend this venue. You won’t regret either of these decisions.