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Hannah Brown, Bryony Williams and Watermark, The Sunflower Lounge, Birmingham - review

By Leigh Sanders | Birmingham | Music | Published:

Local musical talent was oozing through this favourite haunt on one wet and blustery midweek night.

Hannah Brown

Half the 40-or-so hardy souls who braved the elements for some midweek jams probably swam here. As they deflated their armbands and pocketed their goggles they were treated to a mix of influences that ranged from the aggy to the heartbroken across three local bright lights.

Also present were the campaign group NOTNORMALNOTOK, promoting the safe gig experiences for women part of their message to gig goers in attendance.

Kicking off were Watermark, a young and agitated Wolverhampton four-piece who lifted a lot of what they’re about from that iconic Spike Island gig in 1990.

Their indie rock punctuated with shouty vocals took so much from the Madchester movement, including parts which didn’t quite hit their mark. But when it worked, it worked. The funky bass flowing through closer Sailing called back everything you remember from that period.

In fact, they even threw in a cover of Stone Roses’ Waterfall for good measure.

Things were slowed right down and softened when another Wulfrunian act – Codsall singer-songwriter Bryony Williams – stumbled in, just back from a busy few days in the capital.

Without her backing band, her solo set with echoed vocals really allowed her thick, honeyed voice to take centre stage. And despite being diminutive in stature she demands attention, her deep, swirling guitar style wallowing in and out of your conscious and trapping you like a helpless animal in a snare.

“When I’m with my band they sound less depressing,” she joked of her music, but there’s something undeniably haunting about the likes of Whirlpool, regardless of accompaniment or setting.

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On Narrative Form, when the guitar really opened up for the instrumentals, there’s more than a hint of grunge in there snarling away between the heartache.

Bryony Williams

Perhaps most memorable for tonight’s crowd is when she forgot the words to new single Little Trees. She asked the crowd for a word for inspiration, and back came “cheese”. She ran with it, successfully, and then she really perked up the final moments with a rousing rendition of Hypnosis that has a deliciously aggy outro.

Headlining was her good friend Hannah Brown – originally from Nottingham but now relocated to Birmingham.

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Mixed into her backing band’s diesel-tinged melodies is her deceptively high voice that sounds more than a little like Royksopp’s Karin Dreijer.

Much like Welsh songstress Bryde she feeds you titbits through a slow burning verse before hitting you with emotive choruses designed to get you nodding and singing along.

Opener Better For This did so to almost ballad-like perfection, and the added tinge of anger to the guitars in So Should You built nicely on that.

Her between-song patter made her so likeable you felt like you were buying in to the music on a more personal level.

See It Now, sounding a lot to begin with like Hot Chip’s Boy From School, continued the trend with its booming chorus percussion. And while her overly loud guitar monitor blocked out her voice in parts, the slowed down, stripped back nature of Stay meant we could really tune in and listen to her.

She finished the set with some upbeat numbers – bringing it all to a close with her one-song ‘encore’ What Have We Done?, full of summertime vibes well at odds with tonight’s histrionics outside.

It was worth getting drenched for. The intimacy of The Sunflower Lounge once again bringing us all together as one local music scene-loving family.

Leigh Sanders

By Leigh Sanders
@LSanders_Star

Senior sub editor for the MNA portfolio and entertainments writer leaning towards features and reviews. Get releases to me at leigh.sanders@expressandstar.co.uk

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