As you make your way from Shepherd’s Bush tube station to Bush Hall, endless temptation assails you: fruit smoothie stalls and Arab coffee shops with trays of pistachio-sprinkled pastries.
Nestled among the food emporia is miniature Bush Hall, with its rich red velvet drapes, majestic chandeliers and VIP-size upstairs bar with viewing gallery. Such swagger for such a tiny place. This Sunday eve is Mixellaneous Melodies, and true to its name, it’s a very random mix of artists who play to a relaxed weekend crowd. Ozzie band Will Udall get into its stride with a nicely rocking set and this, combined with Will’s easy-going, chatty personality, give them an edge over the other early acts. Then came a moment where the evening suddenly shifted onto different plane as Phildel started her set.
I’m glad I didn’t know much about Phildel before this gig, I had just read the bare bones of her backstory – a dark time during her childhood, during which for ten years she was forbidden to play music by her religious stepfather. This painful time has, naturally, proved a driving force for her music.
It’s wonderful when you get the experience to see an artist who you are unfamiliar with, and be totally blown away by their performance. Phildel – half Irish and half Hong-Kong Chinese – possesses a voice both emotive and mesmerising, with an incredible warmth and great range. It would be difficult to pick favourite tracks, especially on first hearing, but I was entranced by Beside You and Storm Song from her new album The Disappearance of the Girl.
Creating a strong visual narrative is of equal importance to the music and Phildel weaves a poetic, dreamy layer of magic and symbolism, redolent with natural imagery. Even for her short set tonight there are visual clues dotted here and there: an owl in the tangle of branches on the piano and a dramatic image of a wolf’s head on her dress.
She has a tour in the planning stages, but before that, she’s putting on an exciting-sounding show of her own at St Pancras Old Church in April, with music and visual elements.
To close the evening, it’s the second headliner of the night, Ali Warren Band. I’ve had their CD with the single, What We Say on repeat, and it’s a real treat to see them again – the last time as part of Sofar Sounds last summer. The band have expanded to a five-piece and this includes a cellist – their fuller and more layered sound reminds me a little of Arcade Fire. Despite moments when the nuances of Ali’s voice appeared to get a bit lost under the weight of more instrumentation, they have some great folky material and I’m hoping they are going to be signing up for some festivals this summer.