Thursday 14 March 2019

LIVE: Christof van der Ven at The Waiting Room (11/3/19)

I ventured back to London on Monday for my sixth (I think...) gig of the year, a Communion Music show with Christof van der Ven headlining, and Benedict Benjamin and Emma Gatrill in support. The trio had been on a co-headline tour for the week, taking in shows in Leeds, Stroud and Brighton before heading for the capital. It was genuinely so stunning that I can almost forgive the mildly stressful journey I had to make to a new area of London, and the stress of searching out the venue, The Waiting Room, which is the basement of a pub in Stoke Newington.

Once I'd found the venue and settled down (it has a bench stretching along the length of the room - bonus!) Emma Gatrill took to the stage to open the show. Delivering vocals, harp and keys (through a pedal board, confusingly) she was joined by Marcus Hamblett (producer and live member of Bear's Den alongside Christof) on guitar.  I know of Emma through her work with Matthew and the Atlas, but her solo work is new to me, and was utterly spellbinding. I particularly enjoyed the track Skin which is taken from her 2017 album Cocoon.

Up next was Benedict Benjamin. I saw Ben playing live a couple of times when I was living in Oxford, both times at Sofar Sounds shows where he was playing solo, so it was great to see him play again, and with a band this time around. During his set, I remembered the trivial fact that I was the first person to buy a physical copy of his debut album Night Songs (which I adore and which quickly became a soundtrack for my essay procrastination) back in 2016 at one of the Sofar shows. Claim to fame?! Monday's set delivered a mix of tracks old and new, including the amusingly titled Motherfucker (which is, in the sweetest way possible, about his baby daughter). I'm really looking forward to his new record Truant, which is due for release on May 3rd and features the single Ain't Easy which you can listen to below.

Next up, Christof van der Ven took to the stage. Similarly to Ben, I've seen Christof performing solo a couple of times in the past, last year (opening for Adam Barnes) and a few years back at a Bear's Den show. This time around he was joined by a band, a sort of folk supergroup made up of members of Bear's Den and Matthew & The Atlas. And they were glorious. Very happy to hear that album two, which I believe features this live band, is currently being mixed in Berlin!

What Christof lacks in on-stage banter while distracted by the task of tuning his various guitars, he makes up for in some gorgeous songwriting. The set combined tracks from his 2018 record Empty Handed (which made it into my gigs of the year list) and his recent EP Beneath The Ordinary Load. I've been listening to the EP a lot since the show and have found myself really connecting with the "emotional weight" that Christof himself describes the tracks as carrying. I really appreciate the honesty and integrity in the writing.

Opening track Town To Town reflects on the "personal struggle of not having a home and being on tour all the time. Not being grounded [...] Not having a place to come back to that is mine". Second track The Spell (which you can listen to in a lovely acoustic session below) touches on his own broken heart, and lead single Cut The Ribbon is written for a close friend, of whom Christof explains: "my dear friend Martijn had an operation on his heart last year and struggled mentally for a while. This one is for him." Final track Big Men At Heart is a track written about mental health, and the importance of speaking up. Christof said of the track that "last year the singer Scott Hutchinson took his own life. I never met him but we have mutual friends. It hit home. It was devastating [...] This is one for Scott and for speaking out about mental health." 

Follow Emma Gatrill - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.
Follow Benedict Benjamin - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.
Follow Christof van der Ven - Facebook | Twitter | Instagram.

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