It’s a hot, dry summer evening and The Talking Heads is alive with primarily English students milling around, drinking rosé and playing board games. Exams are over for most of us so the atmosphere is one that you’d expect from a bunch of musically-inclined students, willing to support a friend at a local music venue. The gentle, yet excitable humming of the mob is quelled when we are moved into the back room.
Dan Tovey takes the stage with his acoustic guitar and harmonica holder sturdily in place around his neck. He begins his set with bluesy ‘All the Time’. The seemingly effortless harmonies fill the room as he sings: “I don’t know where you came from / I’ve been waiting the whole time”. A prime example of ‘less is more’: simple it may be, simplistic it is not. ‘Getting Over You’ was another stand-out for me. The crowd seemed truly hypnotised by Tovey’s stage presence and sentimental nature when he claimed: “this next song is about when my ex-girlfriend split up with me”. From the audience a foreseeable ‘awww’ ensued. But possibly my favourite track of his whole set was ‘Babysteps’. Tovey’s voice is beautifully accompanied by a tender riff that plays throughout the song while the lyrics ‘Oh but remember / take baby steps / when I’m gone’ tug at your heartstrings, as the inevitable melting into sentimentalism is seen on every audience member’s face. “I should’ve warned you before… there will be no happy songs in my set tonight”, he says. Women of Southampton beware: if you love Ed Sheeran, you will love Dan Tovey even more. His stage presence is confident, yet an air of shyness gives him a certain modesty that is not often seen. His talent is exceptional and with such a beautiful voice, what more could you want? If I had a pound for every time I heard ‘Don’t you just want to go and give him a hug?!’…
New band Native Skies were up next with a completely different style of music ‘alternative psychedelic rock’. In contrast to Dan Tovey’s acoustic pop/folk, Native Skies were reminiscent of bands such as The Libertines and Arctic Monkeys, so it is easy to understand why they drew in such a crowd. The atmosphere they created was fun, innocent and jovial and it was impressive to see such raw talent so early on in their musical progression. Their cover of The Vaccines’ ‘Post Break-up Sex’ was an instantly recognisable crowd-pleaser, and despite them not having much original material, it didn’t affect their performance, but we need to hear a few more original tracks before we judge their style. With a few tweets here and there, this unknown band could go far.
Last but not least, ‘funk/punk/alternative’ band, Red Havana, took to the stage. Front man Jonathan Sketchley, looked at home clad in an alternative black, red and yellow striped blazer as he owned the stage. The only female musician to be on stage that evening, Nastassia Somikava, looked effortlessly cool as she drummed to her heart’s content as she represented all female musicians in the rock ‘n’ roll world. Red Havana’s set combination of original material and covers worked well as the band both showcased their ability to write, and presented their skill to redefine famous tracks. They opened their set with ‘Disappear/Re-Appear’ – an opening track which instantly defined the band’s musical style. But the favourite of the night was their closing track, a cover of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ ‘The Adventures of Rain Dance Maggie’. Red Havana’s passion for their music seemed ingrained in their performance, but occasionally they appeared to be less like a five piece band, and more like five individuals doing their own thing.