Maple Syrup, Music and Madness-

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  • Felicity Wilson

Live music and Anna Ash



There’s live music and then there’s Anna Ash. I have loved music for as long as I can remember. However, in the past few years, I had forgotten why I loved going to gigs. I’ve even started asking myself, “Why am I going to see this act live again?” It’s just as easy to stick on a CD (yes, I still use CDs, I like the physicality of them) or pop on a vinyl (even more vintage) and feel encapsulated by the music.

Three artists I have seen live stood out for me this year. I had the pleasure of hearing Emily Barker sing on a rainy summer’s eve with a backdrop of Birnbeck pier. This was an event put on by my local vegan and vegetarian cafe, Loves. This was a magical night, yes, it was raining, torrential, by the end, but one lady and her guitar strummed away the rain and took hold of our ears and imagination.

The second gig which stands out in my mind was RSVP, Britains’ bhangra band, vibrant in colours and sounds. If you want a party, to learn how to dance ‘Bollywood’, these are the guys. It might just be me, but I feel like I’ve been to many gigs where the audience becomes a wall for artists to play against, rather than a canvas to bring to life. If you want to feel alive, which I’m sure many do after the two years we’ve had, RSVP, being bhangra, will revitalise you, your dancing feet and involve the audience in a way you may have never experienced before.

Now, to Anna Ash, who was on at Loves cafe. I produce a Folk Show on Wave Community Radio, called Folk with Flic and was invited as a guest by Loves, who sponsor the show. It was also the first indoor performance they’ve had since Covid hit us. What a woman to kick off this event!

I love seeing people perform and I was so excited to hear Anna Ash sing live. She began by mentioning she didn’t have her band with her and in all honesty I think it made the evening more special. Ash has a voice which sounds sweet and sincere on her recordings, it reminds me of creme brûlée; thick and creamy with a glasslike sugar on top. Hearing her live was better than I could have imagined. This was no musician in a shop window, this was a performer who captured everyone in the room.

I was sat in the seating area on the first floor, able to get a good view of the congregation. Loves has a way of setting a room up for enchantment, perfect lighting and its size means it makes gigs intimate. As the evening went on, young faces sat behind the railings and dangled their feet over the edge. There was barely a hushed whisper as Anna sang. There were times I found myself nodding at moments in the music, they just worked. It’s not easy to solo with an instrument, captivating an audience with it is a skill Anna Ash has. Her songs tell stories and her voice is strong. It’s as natural as it sounds on her recordings, but being live, it’s like feeling a refreshing breeze on your cheeks. If I could describe her singing visually, I would say it’s as clear and strong as a new shoot forcing itself out of the soil. The sincerity of her voice provides the listener with something stable, as if its singing the words for the first time. There was a point where she sang a note which was so poignant it seemed as though the world stopped spinning.

I’ve never heard a voice like that before. I won’t forget it either. In a world where rules are constantly changing and not knowing what things might look like in the next few months, to hear someone sing like that, with conviction and honesty, was a comfort. Thank you for a wonderful evening, Anna Ash and Loves cafe.

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  • Felicity Wilson

I arrived at The Wardrobe Theatre, to be greeted by two silver people. I was slightly confused that I’d somehow arrived late, but in fact I was early and these new silver friends were simply being polite in helping me find my way to the box office. After checking in, I was handed an envelope, with the words ‘fate’, handwritten on it. I found my seat and opened the envelope to read a handwritten note titled ‘Dear Human’. At this point, I knew the evening was going to be an adventure. Stanlæy’s front woman Bethany Stenning, had written hundreds of these letters for her guests to open on arrival which was a wonderful introduction to her album launch.

The warm-up act was Irish trio, Alfi, who have recently launched their own album, Wolves in the Woods. The band from Dublin comprised of Alannah Thornburgh on harp, Fiachra Meek on vocals Uilleann pipes and whistle and Ryan McAuley on banjo. Al fi were a mix of folk and fun featuring Irish trad. and American Old Time, definitely worth a listen.


The intermission involved cake, handed out by our silver friends, which is always a good start. The Wardrobe Theatre gradually became stuffed with people squeezing themselves into seats with ears pinned back in anticipation. The stage performance began when Bethany drew us into her evening with an enchanting taster accompanied only by the harp, where her voice painted the picture for us. I couldn’t help being intrigued by the mix of rock n’ roll and orchestral instruments behind her which all featured in her following songs. The usual Stanlæy ensemble consists of Ben Holyoake (bass), Oliver Cocup (drums/percussion) and Naomi Hill (violin) but on this night we were treated to a full string quartet and guest Alannah Thonrburgh on harp. The ensemble created songs which were artfully orchestrated by the front woman herself, the string quartet for example, harmonised exceptionally well to bring out what was being sung.



Stanlæy performed songs which shaped the sound of fragile ice and others with jagged rhythms from the strings and percussion, to explore edgy mountains. This was crafted music but subtle enough to be enjoyed by the everyday listener. It was refreshing to hear the voice as an instrument with words, rather than singing words accompanied by instruments. Stanlæy incorporated both ethereal vocals and a blend of instruments to bring us a party in sound. At times, there were echos of Joanna Newsome and Florence and the Machine, but these were only flickers in sound as Stanlæy have their own musical recipe, a cacophony of jazz, modern, electrical music with a pinch of folk. In a word, Stanlæy’s ability to mix music with song was extraordinary and they definitely pushed creativity beyond the stage. This was an album launch not to be missed and Stenning is a musician to watch.

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