Review and photos by Huw Williams
SOAK brought their blend of indie folk and dream pop to Oporto Bar in Leeds tonight, in support of Independent Venues Week. It shows the importance of these kinds of venues. A few dozen people crammed into an intimate venue like this really is what live music is all about.
It’s been a busy few years for the Northern Irish singer-songwriter from Derry, culminating in their new album “If I Never Know You Like This Again”, due for release on May 20 (via Rough Trade Records). This will be their third album following up 2019s “Grim Town”, written in collaboration with Tommy McLaughlin (who also joined SOAK on stage tonight on guitar and occasional vocals).
SOAK, aka Bridie Monds-Watson kick off the set with a couple of new tracks, “Purgatory” and the latest single “Last July”. From an album that SOAK describes as “the most accurate picture of me”, these songs draw heavily on personal experiences, and there’s a real desire to use these songs to “process my past” through unpacking their memories.
“Last July” deals with the contradiction of euphoria in love, alongside the fear of the end of a relationship. It begs to freeze time to hold on to the positive feelings and avoid the potential heartbreak up ahead.
The stripped back set delivered a captivating atmosphere in the intimate venue, just guitar and sweet vocals, which at times belie the power of the lyrics beneath. Even with the mellow vibe, the songs land with drive and energy, borne from the very personal nature of the tracks.
More new music follows – “Bleach” and “Baby, You’re Full of Shit” draw on the singer’s time living in Manchester’s Fallowfield area and describing 2 very different relationships – one with a partner who left for Japan, and another with the annoying gig-mate, who just can’t stop talking throughout the show.
We’re taken back to SOAK’s earliest releases mid-set, with the popular appearance of “B a noBody” and “Sea Creatures” (the latter one of their first songs, crafted out of the only 5 chords they knew at the time!), both from the debut album, 2015’s “Before We Forgot How to Dream”. The quality of the writing of these songs, and indeed that first album, landed SOAK a Mercury Prize nod. This incisiveness and occasional humour is present in the new material too.
In “Red Eye”, SOAK tells us the story of Cafe Gratitude in LA, which has no menu, just food ordered based on emotion, something they’re not entirely on board with! This story is just one of the ways they engage easily with the audience, in spite of a self deprecating comment about their own awkwardness. There’s a warmth in the way they tell stories about Sunday night in Leeds, the beauty of the shopping centres and the aesthetic value of Leeds United shirts.
“Everybody Loves You” gets the biggest reaction of the night, before a final new offering, “Swear Jar”, in the same mellow vein as the rest of the set, but with a disorienting counter rhythm delivered by McLaughlin’s guitar
A 60 minute set, delivered to an enthusiastic Monday night crowd shows why this kind of week matters. Independent venues are the lifeblood of the music industry, bringing people out, even at the start of the working week to experience exquisite performances like this one. SOAK’s tour continues through the week, taking in York, Hebden Bridge, Glasgow, Belfast and wrapping up in their hometown of Derry. Tickets available here
Get Well Soon
Baby You’re Full Of Shit
B A noBody
Everybody Loves You