In Decem­ber 2019 I attend­ed the Fire Records Christ­mas gig at Stu­dio 9295 in Hack­ney. It’s the sort of event I’d like to see more of: a selec­tion of artists with 40-ish minute sets, and all in a relaxed and friend­ly atmos­phere. So how for­tu­itous it was to dis­cov­er that the label were dish­ing up a repeat for 2021 called “Heav­en on Fire”: same venue, for a small show­case of their artists. And all acts pre­dom­i­nate­ly female, too.

A quick aside about Stu­dio 9295: it’s a great lit­tle spot and good for those who like an inti­mate and friend­ly venue. The space is wide rather than long, mean­ing short­er gig-goers don’t have too much trou­ble of get­ting a good view of the stage.

I arrived just in time for Mod­ern Stud­ies who I’d seen at the pre­vi­ous event: that set was enough to turn me into an enthu­si­as­tic fan of their sen­si­tive, thought­ful indie folk. They opened with Pho­to­graph from lat­est album The Weight of the Sun. It’s a sun-dap­pled and mys­ti­cal track, redo­lent with mem­o­ries of Pen­tan­gle and back-to-the-woods psy­che­del­ic folk. The vocals, from Emi­ly Scott and Rob St John are sooth­ing, steady and restrained, occu­py­ing a space with­in the songs lay­ers. They fol­lowed this with a new num­ber, plus a beau­ti­ful ver­sion of She.

Mari­na Allen is up next: she is poised and in pos­ses­sion of extra­or­di­nary cool as she steps up to the front of the stage to tune her gui­tar. She plays songs from her new album called Can­dle­pow­er. Her vocal agili­ty is impres­sive, and she can shift from gen­tle and sweet to pow­er­ful in sec­onds. It was not an easy task as an unknown solo singer song­writer slot­ted between three more well-known acts but Mari­na man­aged to hold the crowd.

Van­ish­ing Twin are not only fierce­ly exper­i­men­tal but a visu­al treat; front woman Cathy Lucas moves around the small stage in a spot­ty jump­suit, and spends one song fling­ing a spot­light around, shin­ing it on the face of placid key­boardist Phil MFU. As expect­ed the set con­tains a smat­ter­ing of tracks from their lat­est album Ookii Gekkou which is one of my favourite of the year; the band open with the spacey, mys­ti­cal, jazz inflect­ed Big Moon­light. We go deep­er into Van­ish­ing Twin’s alter­na­tive uni­verse with the swoopy, dreamy Tele­scope.

The final artist for the night, Jane Weaver intro­duces sev­er­al num­bers from her lat­est work Flock – it’s Weaver’s pop record, nev­er­the­less still redo­lent with sig­na­ture spacey, psy­che­del­ic touch­es. Pyra­mid Schemes sets the scene to hope­ful­ly gets every­one danc­ing (result = some of us do). The glo­ri­ous Heart­low fol­lowed with its mys­te­ri­ous ten­sion and euphor­ic wash of vocals. Towards the end I head for the merch stall at the back where I dis­cov­er some Kate Bush-style psy­che­del­ic danc­ing has bro­ken out, espe­cial­ly to the seduc­tive swoops of Mis­sion Desire. Weaver gets a great recep­tion from the crowd. 

While we mud­dle our way through these strange and shift­ing times, being able to see so many artists in one evening felt like a real luxury. 

Fire Records

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