Review: The Smallest Jazz Club in Europe presents…Wildeflower, Ampers&nd, Tawny and Blues-Jam

Crosslands is actually a surprisingly atmospheric venue for a gig; its moody red lighting creates a rather cosy setting for an evening of music, drinks and light-conversation in-between sets. It was all the more cosy because the place was rammed with people – some there just for the music, some there for a preamble to a night at the SU, others just stumbled in – whatever the motivation, seats were sparse.

First up was Blues-Jam. The opening act usually has the most challenging slot of the evening, but Blues-Jam nailed it providing a polished set with some songs crooned with a soulful sincerity, others were belted out by the singer backed by a six-piece band including a trumpeter and saxophonist. In amongst the up-beat Santana-esque set was a soulful version of ‘Stormy Weather’ whilst half the band nipped off for a drink.

John Whiles/

Admittedly, it was always going to be hard to follow such an energetic opener, but it would have been great if Tawny had at least tried. The performance was lacklustre with the pair of singer-songwriters choosing to sit down for the entirety of the acoustic set. At best the acoustics in Crosslands are horrendous; I’m no expert on these things, but I do know that the layout of the venue isn’t exactly a sound technicians dream. And with a quiet act performing it was nigh on impossible to catch their songs. Honestly, if you weren’t next to the band, you risked missing out on all their music and ending up hearing some random girls discussing the benefits of tampons (an odd conversation that I reluctantly overheard whilst Tawny was on).

With me left hoping for better things, Ampers&nd were up next. They’re a four-piece band and their music is, well, it’s beautiful. It’s got a laidback, feel-good sound with a folk influence and reminiscent of Stephen Fretwell (who did the theme song to BBC’s Gavin & Stacey series). Handing out various percussion instruments to the audience, the band promised that as slow as their final song started, it would soon pick-up to what was ultimately a percussion-led extravaganza. It certainly was in a more spirited vein than the rest of their set, but no less charming and finished their set off a treat.

John Whiles/

The headliners were Wildeflower. The last time I saw this band was at an improv-set they did last year for a Love To Make Noise event, and I was a little dubious when I saw they were headliners tonight. However, listening to them again I can completely understand why they were chosen and quite deservedly so. Their performance was the only one of the night to get the crowd standing-up and rushing to the make-shift staging area to catch a better glimpse of the band. Alas, the set was interrupted by the Founders fire alarm, but this gave way to an acoustic performance outside whilst everyone waited for re-admittance. Rather aptly, Electric Six’s “Don’t you want to know why we keep starting fires?” (‘Danger! High Voltage’) greeted us upon our return to Crosslands before Wildeflower once again took to the stage for their final few songs.

All in all, the evening had a great atmosphere and each act bought something a bit different to the event; it certainly showed that there is a crowd on campus for this kind of evening musical entertainment, which is particularly significant in light of poor turnouts to some SU-organised live music events so far this term. Definitely watch out for The Smallest Jazz Club’s future live music events in and around campus.

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