Smoking, Talking and 4am-ing
The frost from my glass was slowly dissipating into a pool on the wooden table. I watched as a ring formed beneath it, circling round until it joined at the end. I lifted the now half empty cider and swirled it, enjoying the way the fizz popped and fell to the bottom.
I heard a muffled thump from just beyond my seat and looked up to find my friend and musician Jake Cooper arranging his acoustic guitar into it’s destined position. His bandmate Bianka Feo toyed with the microphone stand, levelling it to her height and taking a sip from her drink of choice. As Jake took a seat and lay the guitar across his knees, Bianka brushed a loose strand of hair away from her face and tested the microphone.
The bar fell silent. The two men playing pool at the very back took one final jab at the 8 ball before leaning against their cues, ears pricked and ready to listen in. The crowd was small, filled with friends and Sunday night drinkers not wanting to admit tomorrow was Monday: myself included. A couple of cautious strums to his six string, and Coops and the Bird were ready for their set.
Despite having heard generous comments about their musical qualities, part of me was still anxious as to what to expect. They were described as folk/blues, genres I know little about. Would I lose interest? Would I not enjoy it?
Bianka (who I by now was assuming made up the Bird component) kicked off the set after Jake set the tone with a hefty chord progression. I listened intently, having always found more pleasure in the words of acoustic music rather than its melodies. But upon the introduction of the first chorus to Gore and Old Romance my old habit was discarded, and I was soon shaken awake from my cider induced haze.
Her voice reminded me instantly of black and white movies, sort of like when Tarantino ditches the colours in his films and fades to black before the credits role. She was like old Hollywood in a synthetic sweater and I was by now totally blindsided.
To her right sat Coops, expertly making his guitar work its magic on all our senses. The fast paced strumming mixed with delicate and precise picking made the bubble of sound hovering over the two of them seem louder than it probably was. The downstrokes were heavy and bass strings plucked dutifully, so much so that you would swear they had hidden a bassist and drummer somewhere in the floor boards.
Bianka kept a tight hold on her microphone, leaning in gently to croon us all into a blissful oblivion full of old Western sounds and sepia soaked photos sung with moxie, gumption, muster and bravado. One hand on her hip, poised to reach for her drink at any time, she looked at her band mate to make sure they were both in time.
Coops had by now lost his beanie and hunched over his instrument as both feet tapped the rung of the bar stool he was sitting on. He never sang a word, but there was no need. She said everything for the two of them and his melody carried her voice; gently swaying through the bar and mixing with the idle chatter in the back, the perfect vessels to carry one message:
This is all we are. It is all we need.