Paper Dress Vintage is one of the more interesting venues on the London circuit. Located opposite Hackney Central Station this retro clothes boutique by day transforms into a cool and bijou live music venue by night. The intimate venue itself is upstairs and the small room has just a few tables doted about so I took up a position at the small rear bar to check out the evening’s entertainment. I was immediately struck by the rather imposing mixing desk which seemed a little incongruous in such a small venue but it did bless us with excellent sound on the night.
Santa Fe based singer-songwriter David Berkeley was is town and as I was hugely impressed by his recent ‘Cardboard Boat’ album I was looking forward to how the tracks would work at a solo show. Berkeley took to the stage and began by reading a passage from his novella ‘The Free Brontosaurus’ which he released to accompany the album. This turned out to be a masterstroke as, although not essential as both the album and book can stand alone, it really did reinforce the connection between the two. He would repeat this two or three more times during the evening and each time bought greater understanding, and a real feeling of place, to the song the passage related to. I had the album but now really needed the book.
The set for this tour was based around ‘Cardboard Boat’ and his previous album ‘Fire In My Head’ but the engagingly relaxed Berkeley was more than willing to throw in the odd audience request with ‘Hurricane’ from his 2008 release ‘Strange Light’ sounding especially impressive. Berkeley also admitted that he hadn’t always been keen on audience participation but the gentle interaction between artist and audience worked beautifully on the lovely, if melancholy ‘Wishing Well’ and the stirring ‘Last Round’ where the chap standing next to me at the bar turned out to be a very good singer…could he be a ringer. The set concluded as David invited Ben Parker his musical partner in the duo Son Of Town Hall to get up for a couple of songs and yes it was indeed the chap at the bar. The duo performed both sides of their new single totally acoustically (no mics / unplugged guitars) to bring a great night to a fitting close.
Opening the show Welsh singer-songwriter Jack Harris littered his impressive set with some enjoyable culture references to Twin Peaks (the venue has very fetching red velvet curtains as a backdrop) and his ability, or lack of, on an Xbox (old school games and I’ll kick your…). Harris was in fine voice and his fingerstyle guitar playing impressed. He also has the songs to back up his ability as a raconteur switching from the gentle melodies of ‘Vanished Birds’ to ‘Molly Bloom’ which has a lyrical twist that would grace a Carry On film. He concluded his set with a tribute to the late Dave Swarbrick (Fairport Convention) by performing a wonderfully laidback and touching version of ‘The Weight’ (Swarbrick had told Harris that Robbie Robertson and co were his favourite band).
Tonight was a great night with both artists performing fine sets that emphasized the beauty of seeing an artist in a small venue. The up close and personal nature of this type of performance is what live music is all about and, as this was my first visit to Paper Dress Vintage, I’m sure I’ll be back again very soon.
Gig Date: Thursday June 9th 2016.