Review : Stornoway at The Junction

Tom Bevan 30 April 2015

I’ve always been a closet folk lover. Maybe it’s the earthy vocals, or the stripped back sound but either way, don’t come to mine for a party if you aren’t prepared for some folk-infusion during the evening. Stornoway are an interesting conception. Arguably one of  folk’s best kept secrets, since coming onto the scene in 2009 they have brought a fresh, dynamism to the genre of indie rock; their previous albums simultaneously alluring yet elusive. Needless to say, I was curious to see how the ambiguity of their sound would translate across to a live audience. 

Originating from Oxford, the band have an intimacy to their sound that can only truly be appreciated live and it was well suited to the backdrop of the Junction. The small stage ensconced by avid and loyal fans and what immediately struck me was the age range present; there is surely something special about musicians that are able to bring individuals aging between their early teens and mid-sixties into one space. A sound that appeals to such a broad demographic is definitely one that should be respected.

Playing songs from new album Bonxie, Stornoway are certainly at their most adventurous. Incorporating the cries of twenty birds, the tracks creates a subtle yet ever so natural rhythm. During the performance, the mingling of Brian Brigg’s slightly self-conscious monologue in between songs and the sounds of whales and other creatures shouldn’t have worked, yet it did. It was intimate, personal and unique.  A set list of old mixed in amongst the new is a must for any band, and Stornoway were confident in their transition between new, nature-infused tracks such as ‘Lost Youth’ and the older, melodious ‘Boats and Trains’. There was a buoyancy to the set list, striking a comfortable balance between contemplative and upbeat. Perhaps more confidence in the loyalty of the fans could have encouraged them to promote more of their new material, a serene and harmonious performance of ‘Josephine’ a brief glimpse into what could have been achieved. Similarly, the audience could have stepped out of their comfort zones of polite toe-tapping, their energy clearly lagging in comparison to the boundless enthusiasm of brothers Oli and Rob Steadman.

Yet despite these minor issues, the tender lyrics combined with soft melodies made for a great night of music. Once again, Stornoway live up to their reputation.