Best way to find great new music? Follow your cooler friends to a gig that they recommend. Result: Discover today’s answer to the McGarrigle sisters and Simon & Garfunkel mashed into one beautiful sister trio, The Staves.
Sheltered from the miserable, wet night, an impressive following turned out to hear the The Staves perform their first headliner in Cork, following two supporting roles in recent months (with Michael Kiwanuka and James Vincent McMorrow). The ladies seemed genuinely humbled by such numbers and support in Cyprus Avenue Wednesday night, but their delivery of consistently flawless folk ballads from the word go endorsed reasons for such a growing fanbase. Their continuous string of quality folk songs is even more impressive when reminded that, although the singers have been performing together since childhood, their library of songs is relatively young, and thus promises a rich future. Songs such as ‘Mexico’, ‘Icarus’, ‘Motherlode’ and ‘Pay Us No Mind’ from their latest EP, succeeded in grabbing the crowd by the collar with a gentle hand and demanding every ounce of attention that they could muster, for fear of missing something magical.
Whilst Laura Marling is a clear comparison, certainly, these ladies could have been plucked right out of a bar in Greenwich Village or Newport Folk Festival circa 1964, with similar qualities to the pure voices associated with Joan Baez or Joni Mitchell. It wasn’t until I met my pillow last night however, that I made the connection which had been on the tip of my tongue all night. Not taking away from the originality and talent of The Staves, but their soothing melodies and harmonic arrangements point strongly towards a Fleet Foxes feel. Perhaps this calls for an appearance in the Marquee next summer?
The advantage of DNA cannot be overlooked here. The traits of Marling that shine through are elevated by the sheer perfection that exists in a sublime combination of voices and effortless harmonies. Each sister does her best to bring a distinct colour and tone to their performance that makes it all that more special.
It was certainly all about the voices, but simple, yet effective instrumentation on guitar, a touch of ukulele and the addition of two lucky gentlemen on bass and drums helped to fill out the trio’s sound and give a polished quality. It was clear that these are hardworking musicians who have been on the road for a while, perfecting their beloved set. Small details and clever mic technique added to the intimate atmosphere and helped to combine the intricate harmonies flawlessly.
The following has to be said… Put simply. If I were a man, I’d have been down on one knee by the third song (We believe you – Ed.). Not only do The Staves create the perfect equation of penmanship, musicianship and DNA, these three ladies have a charm and beauty that graced the small venue with a hypnotic quality. They command the stage with an ease and comfort that immediately communicates to their awestruck audience. Charming conversational interludes informed us of their Watford upbringing, their love for Ireland and boasted their sultry London accents which occasionally made a welcome appearance in their predominantly American-style repertoire.
The enthusiastic crowd showed their appreciation with generous applause and requests to extend this evening of bliss. The sisters appeared back onto the stage with support act, Christof, and thanked their audience with two more folk numbers that had us hooked to (and slightly jealous of) their stunning talent.
A word with one third of the Stave trio, Emily, at the merch stand post-gig, confirmed my impressions of friendly, hard working musicians who go into the studio after finishing up with their tour of Ireland and the UK in the coming weeks.
Their EP Motherlode, is available on iTunes now. Can’t wait to hear what they come up with next.
Check the rest of Bríd’s knock-out photos of the gig here.