Summer Highlight: OKTOBA
“Write something that has blood running through it.”
These were the words recounted to the audience from Suffolk-based singer songwriter Connor Adams, as he effortlessly chatted away in between songs about the advice that had inspired his latest EP. It ended up being the sentence that tied a whole evening of eclectic artists together- though differing in style, stance and volume, each song from every performer had just that.
There’s something inherently comforting about hidden venues and The Brunswick’s Cellar Bar is no exception. As the crowd filed in to the sound of Father John Misty, taking their seats on old upholstered beer barrels, it was easy to forget the blustering winds outside. There’s no question as to why this venue has fast become a favourite for Folklore Sessions, with just the right amount of space and plenty of corners to cosy away into, the candlelit venue offers a uniquely intimate setting for performers and audience alike. First up is never an easy feat but Connor Adams took it in his stride, letting his narrative-led songs fill the room as if they were being performed on a much bigger stage. Unsurprisingly Connor is often backed by a full band, however hearing his music accompanied by just an electric guitar and backing vocalist really showcased the maturity in his storytelling. The set was filled with beautiful moments but one in particular that left a sold-out crowd speechless was Connor stepping away from the microphone in Breakaway to sing the last few lines unamplified. With a sound reminiscent of the British Indie bands we grew up with (let’s be honest, who doesn’t love a guitar solo?!) and lyrics that draw you in with ease, Connor is the epitome of an open book- one that cast a spell over the whole audience. It was humbling to not only watch such well-written material in such an intimate setting, but to see and be a part of his joy and passion for music.
If Connor’s songs were anthems, Gwinny’s were confessionals. Soft and unassuming and yet utterly remarkable, the singer-songwriter captivated the crowd, who were more than happy to let her honest voice sink into their skin. Gwinny’s songs are for listening to in secluded cabins, sitting next to the fireplace with a glass of wine in hand as you mull over the collective heartbreak of the human condition. Thankfully this was understood, resulting in one of the quietest and appreciative audiences I’ve seen in a long time. With room to breathe, her music often said as much in it’s silences as it did in it’s melodies, proving that sometimes a whisper can be as powerful as a shout. With heart-wrenchingly raw and yet hopeful lyrics such as “That’s not the way it always will be / The light comes eventually” Gwinny displayed sophistication and wisdom beyond her years and is without a doubt one to watch in the near future.
Finally the man who needed no introduction took to the stage. Fresh from having two of his songs synced on Love Island, it was clear Oktoba was on a roll. Humbly pouring his heart out with just his guitar and vocal harmoniser beside him, so expansive was the sound it was easy to forget you were watching a one man show. At the hands of less experienced musician, the use of the vocal pedal could become a gimmick, however Oktoba knows exactly when to hold off and let his voice stand alone, making it all the more powerful when seemingly out of nowhere his harmonies seep in to cushion the melody. With just the right balance of humility and humour in between songs, Oktoba quickly made the whole room feel like a best mate. Having seen him perform multiple times over the last four years, it’s clear that in recent months he’s reached a new level in both performance and writing and is swiftly reaping the well-earned rewards. His set felt like a victory lap from beginning to end- an accomplished songwriter playing to a packed venue in the town he calls home, seamlessly weaving together stories, jokes, songs and bittersweet memories to the appreciative crowd. Though It Must Be Love and Chance are the songs that have recently brought him a legion of new fans, the performance of the night belonged to Constantine- a poignant and powerful tribute to his late Father which resonated in the bones of everyone that’s ever lost someone. Oktoba is truly something special- heartfelt, raw and heartbreakingly sincere- and the sold-out audience at his first ever headline show in Brighton are sure to agree.