Strawberry Guy @ Kings Place - 24/09/23
Having previously seen Strawberry Guy live at The Lexington and The Close Encounter Club, I was eager to catch his set once more, this time with a full string ensemble, on a warm September evening in Kings Cross.
The crowd at previous shows had consisted of people dancing, cheering, and making TikTok’s with his breakthrough song ‘Mrs Magic’, a song that went viral during the pandemic.
As I approached the venue, I noticed that the Welsh artist had gone for something a bit different this time: a more post-modernistic, high-class choice of a venue – Kings Place. I couldn’t help but wonder if he would bring that same cosy energy here that he did the other places. But as he started to play his set, he once again proved that his music is welcome on any stage.
Going from his bedroom in Wales to Kings Place, the impressionist musician has an ability to unite classical music fans and the new Gen Z TikTok crowd in one holy unison. His work is inspired by Debussy, Ravel, and other classical artists of the 1800s. He stands out in modern musical world, and he manages to stay relevant in the indie/pop genre, as well as connecting to classical music fans. He shares a fanbase with Men I Trust, Eyedress, but also classical composers like Chopin and Tchaikovsky. ‘F Song’ and the aforementioned ‘Mrs Magic’ comfort 2 million unique Spotify users each month.
We arrive at our designated seats before being warmly welcomed with opener Louie Miles, an indie/alternative performer. In addition to being the supporting act for the show, he’s also the guitarist for Strawberry Guy.
Miles’ voice feels intimate, yet he delivers his lines with force. His heartfelt and credulous spirit is easy to be smitten by, and songs like wholesome ‘Houseplants’ and ‘Show the World’ stand out as firm favourites from his set. The 23-year-old songwriter has expressed that he seeks the freedom, thrill and challenge he finds in writing songs, and this is evident in his stage presence. The crowd has his full attention, and he looks so raw and angelic there as he sits in front of the piano, just him alone with the spotlight on him.
There’s a brief break before Alex Stephens, AKA Strawberry Guy, enters the stage with an army of string players, guitar, bass, drum, and egg-shaker-playing musicians alongside him, greeted by applause and eager cheering.
He opens by casually asking if everyone’s doing alright, but when he starts playing his deeper side is unveiled. Opener ‘Intro’ is the perfect icebreaker: upbeat, positive: a relief. It ends with a melodramatic keyboard riff that seriously gets us in the feels.
‘Stay In This Moment’ is reassuring, positive but relatable in its delusion. It feels like telling yourself everything is going to be ok when you really know it won’t be. It’s a limbo of reassuring lies and it succeeds in capturing the feeling of struggling to let go. It is all neatly tied in a violin crescendo, dreamy keyboard riffs and tender drums. Most of his songs start off quite calmly before they break through into a dramatic key change, and Stephens has no qualms making us sit patiently and really earn that break.
Stephens introduces ‘Company’ by telling us it’s about the feeling of being addicted to a specific relationship. Something we all can relate to… His ability to get everyone captivated, creates a bubble of wonderful fantasy you don’t want to leave: a safe haven that gets the crowd to forget the struggles and problems of their real life. His classical inspiration is evident in his dramatic key changes and slow crescendos, often accompanied with string instruments to underline the romantic inspiration.
‘Believing’, another standout track is probably the most emotional performance this evening. The harp intro chords highlight his classical and ancient aesthetic. The song tells the story of two lovers that are separated by time, distance, and death itself. The seriousness in it feels bombarding, it feels like we are forced to sit back and reflect about the desolation in the world. Fighting back the tears is a challenge for the audience.
Strawberry Guy makes sure to grab your soul by the very core. His songs feel timeless, yet familiar, like an acquainted friend. However, almost as if from a different planet; he lives on a different frequency than the rest of us. His unique perspective of the world, alongside his distinguishable blend of genres is incredibly refreshing, and we can’t wait to see him again.
Words by Andrea Naess
Folklore Sessions returns on the 17th October at The Folklore Rooms for the monthly showcase.
Doors: 19h30 Free Entry