The Magpie's Nest: Two for Joy Night

at The Old Queen's Head

The Magpie's Nest at the Queen's Head 

By Priscilla Eyles

Tucked away in the cosy and elegantly decorated upstairs room of The Old Queen’s Head in Angel, The Magpie’s Nest’s Two For Joy nights aims to bring you the best in up and coming and more established folk and roots acts, as well as more generally the best new alternative music.

There was a nice variety of acts on tonight with headline acts including funky spoken word act Vibe Machine, contemporary folk singer Kate Stables aka This Is The Kit and trad folk act The Urban Folk Quartet. One of the first acts before the headliners is also worth mentioning, namely singer-songwriter Lorna Rose. She accompanied herself on the acoustic guitar and had an enchanting voice akin to Feist or Emiliana Torrini, and sung a beautiful and moving song, despite being ill.

The first headliner on was Vibe Machine which comprised vocalist/spoke word artist Dave Pepper accompanied by a band consisting of a double-bassist, drummer and keyboardist playing the Fender Rhodes. The band were very together and created a very danceable groove which you couldn't help but at least nod your head to. Pepper, meanwhile, was quite the cockney showman in his bowler hat and seemed like a modern day Ian Dury or Suggs, but with the added political intent, social commentary and rhythmic delivery of fellow spoken word artists like Dizraeli, Scroobius Pip or Polar Bear. He engaged the audience with his quick-witted patter which smoothly lead into his songs. And the actual songs about things like how much overtly religious people try to put others down and divide society (Religionism Boyz) were intelligent and interesting. While a rousing rendition of A Boy Named Sue got the whole crowd going.

This Is The Kit were who I was most looking forward to seeing and Kate Stables and her band- which consisted of Jesse Vernon (of Morning Star) on violin, percussion, backing vocals and guitar and Roz Plain on backing vocals and clarinet-certainly lived up to my high expectations. Songs such as Turnip Turned, Spinney, Birchwood Beaker and Waterproof were in turn gorgeously fragile and wistful and assuredly strident. All offset by Stable's angelic lilting voice which could stir even the most hardened of people, she also moved between banjo and electric guitar with dexterity and was charmingly touched that anyone even knew her songs. A definite contender to Laura Marling's queen of nu-folk crown.

The final act The Urban Folk Quartet really brought the audience to the dance-floor with their raucous, and upbeat world-influenced traditional folk music, which drew comparisons to great folk acts like Pentangle or Bellowhead. The band had extremely talented musicians (all great in their own right), including Frank Moon on oud, guitar and percussion, Tom Chapman on percussion, Joe Broughton on fiddle, guitar and mandolin, and Paloma Trigas on fiddle, while all took vocal duties. What was certain about this band, as Broughton told the audience, was that they were there to have “a good time” and their joy at playing was infectious. Their reels like the Perejil Reel were a genuine delight and you couldn't help but marvel at how fast Boughton and Trigas could play their fiddles and how in time they all were, despite the complexity of the music and the sudden changes in tempo. Broughton was also a highly likeable and witty front man who at one point entertained the crowd by balancing his violin on his chin. An impressive and heart-warming night which I would recommend to anyone, regardless of how well you know folk music.