Review: Gianna Lauren at The Art House (25/09/2014)

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With warm guitar tones and melodic, relaxed vocals, Gianna Lauren is an understated and highly talented musician. Lauren returned to Europe only four months after she left, after appearing at this year’s Great Escape Festival in Brighton during her previous visit. Channeling a delicate, sombre sound, her live performance was both enchanting and completely relaxing.

I had never previously visited The Art House, and was therefore unsure what to expect of the venue. My only prior knowledge was it was a volunteer run art cafe that served organic vegetarian/vegan foods. Despite any preoccupations I may have had, the atmosphere was completely relaxed and I felt comfortable almost immediately. The cafe was quirky and friendly, with the walls covered in local artwork, and the back of the cafe doubling as a clothes shop. It is a hidden gem of Southampton, bringing a sense of community to what I consider to be a unsocial city, without alcohol to fuel those inhibitions. Long live The Art House, I will be back.

Support came from Bright Smoke, a self described ‘psychedelic folk’ singer/songwriter. Her set began with a viewing of a classical performance recorded by Channel 4. Mesmerised, I continued to watch the film, in awe of the talent of the musicians on the screen. It wasn’t until the end that it was made clear that the performers in the band were ex-addicts, stating their name, addition, time lost, and time clean. Bright Smoke was a member of the band, playing flute and singing. She had previously battled alcohol and drug addictions whilst homeless. It was truly moving, I even noticed the sound man wiping away a solitary tear.

Bright Smoke began her set, evidently emotional from re-watching the performance. She was charming and bubbly. The audience was mainly comprised of her family members and friends, who cheered her on as she performed song after song. One of her songs ‘Psychedelic Lover’, had been picked up by BBC Introducing and been played on numerous local BBC radio stations. Her performance was confident and easy to listen to, her music fitted in well with the mood of the cafe, and she appeared comfortable on stage.

Gianna Lauren took to the stage next. She appeared alone, as her band had returned to Canada. Her overall live performance even excelled her recorded music. She was confident, talking to the audience in such a relaxed way that it felt like we were already her friends. She told us about her life in Canada, her work at the community radio centre at home, and her travels around the UK. That day she had been on the 5 hour train journey from Cornwall, and was undoubtedly exhausted. Her performance was delicate and understated, in fitting with her music type, and she repeatedly thanked people for being there. It was perhaps one of the most relaxed concerts I had ever been to, helped out by a large selection of seats and the organic cider on sale in the cafe.

Overall, both musicians seemed as though they existed to perform in such venues. With such a relaxed, friendly atmosphere, anyone would feel at home very quickly. Bright Smoke was unexpected and interesting, allowing us to view the very personal side of her recovery from addiction. Gianna Lauren was calm and delicate, entertaining us with both music and conversation. She was everything I hoped she would be and more. I would advise anyone in need of a little down time to visit both The Art House and have a listen to Gianna Lauren whilst sampling their chocolate cake, you will not be disappointed.

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Head of Events for The Edge magazine. Keen concert goer and angry feminist. Shared recycled oxygen on a 12 hour flight with Foals.

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