Hello and welcome to a (very) late review of another gig I decided to grace with my presence. As you may know, we’ve had some technical difficulties here at TheNettle, myself being one of them. Unfortunately life has a funny habit of bursting into the way and creating a backlog longer than the Brexit negotiations (and only marginally less fruitful). Hey, look at me being topical – who knew a pile of chips could be up to date with current affairs? Not me, that’s for sure. Anyway, enough basking in my own greatness; let’s get down to business.
First, let’s have a wee chat about the venue before we get into the nitty-gritty. Velocity is a cafe and bicycle workshop in the centre of Inverness. Its bright, breezy, packed to the gills with cake, and centres it’s ethos around sustainability and community improvement. As well as all that goodness, they run a number of initiatives such as cycling clubs and bike repair workshops, and have recently been named one of the best bike cafes in Scotland. Being a social enterprise, all of their profits are paid straight back into their workshops and initiatives in order to ensure that anyone interested in participating does not find themselves excluded on the basis of finance. All in all, it’s a wonderful little place and the perfect venue for a wee acoustic gig on a Tuesday night.
Prior to the gig, I must admit I hadn’t heard of Lauren Ray. Generally speaking, I’m terrible at picking up anything past 1999, thanks to Y2K obliterating my motherboard. Nonetheless I’d been told that she was brilliant and I had to make it to the gig, so I obliged. The cafe was set out differently than usual, with a keyboard in the corner surrounded by fairy lights, and the tables shuffled about a bit. I noticed quickly that there was no microphone or amp to be seen – interesting. I quickly realised why however, Lauren didn’t need one. Velocity’s bare walls and high ceilings lent the perfect acoustics to her voice. The venue and artist complimented each other beautifully. I’d overheard Lauren’s conversations with a few of the audience members; some of them had travelled from Newcastle and Glasgow to see her play, and sounded to be die-hard fans of hers. If someone is willing to travel from another country to the arse end of nowhere to see her play, she must be good I thought. Turns out, I wasn’t wrong.
A note in the interests of transparency before I discuss the gig itself- I was (very professionally) using my phone to take notes. Remember I said technology is a problem? Yeah, the app crashed and I lost everything, so I don’t have a complete set list and have used the album I bought (We Will Need Courage, 2016) to jog my memory. It’s only a tenner by the way, you should buy it. ANYWAY.
I will start by saying that Lauren’s voice is incredible. She has been described as having a velvety, effortless voice and I can’t think of better adjectives. Her soft, silky tones filled the room despite there being no amplification – so well in fact that there was banging from the flat upstairs. I don’t know why, I’d have been delighted to have sat at home getting a free gig of this calibre. Her song ‘Be A Man’ highlighted this perfectly. A song about desire, her passionate lyrics and spectacular melisma really showcased her talent and you could feel the excitement and tension of the chase in every word. It’s on her ‘Inside the Silence EP’ from this year by the way.
Another song that stood out to me was ‘Drive’, a song I take to be about taking the next step in a relationship. With lyrics like “to take this leap we’ll need courage” and “you take the gas and I’ll take the wheel” there’s a clear message there: feel the fear and do it anyway. Ray’s delivery of this was once again perfect and beautiful, and having listened to it recorded I have to say, she’s even better live. The album is exceptional, but as with all recordings it doesn’t capture the atmosphere of being captivated by an artist baring their soul so openly and with such humility, and the devotion of the crowd only accentuated that aspect. It’s also worth noting that many of the songs Ray played tonight were recorded on guitar, however only a keyboard was present during the gig. Although I didn’t know that at the time, it tells me that she is not only exceptionally talented but versatile, too. There’s nothing wrong with only knowing one instrument (I mean, I know none…) but knowing two grants a great deal more respect in my book.
The song that stuck out in my mind – without having to inorganically jog my memory – was ‘Come to Me’. Ray prefaced this song by stating that she’d written it for a friend who was trapped in a violent relationship, to tell her that she is always there no matter the time or how long it takes. It’s a poignant display of understanding and the love of friendship. In the song, Ray starts by asking her friend to get up from the bathroom floor, that she knows about the medication her friend thinks is a secret (without passing judgement on her) and tells her to “come to me” when she leaves her abuser. All in all, it’s a truly beautiful song about true friendship, love, understanding and courage, and is worth buying the album for alone.
With the gig finished, I hung about and swithered for far too long as to whether I should buy a t-shirt, or put some cash in the electric meter to get me to payday. Sadly, the leccy won out as I’d already bought the CD. It did mean I got to have a chat with Ray though, and she was truly lovely. It’s refreshing to meet someone who’s musical personality matches up with their true self. It’s beyond me why anyone would drive up to Inverness from London for a gig, but I’m very glad she did. It’s not like me to write such a sickly sweet piece (with minimal swearing, may I add) but I fully enjoyed both the gig and the venue, and can’t wait to experience either again.