Vera Sola + Elle Mary & The Bad Men
Castle Hotel, Oldham Street

Anyone who reads this blog religiously (are you mad???) may be getting bored of my story about how I found out about Vera Sola, so I’ll be brief!

Many years ago whilst checking out artists at Summer Sundae Weekender on spotify, a Canadian artist called Dan Mangan jumped out at me and my missus, he did a great set and he was even staying at the same hotel so we had a chat and he was a top bloke.  So when we heard he was coming to Manchester we bought tickets in an instant.

I thought it would be good to get some photos for the blog, so I went through the proper channels and they recommended Laura Gibson to me.  Getting through to Manchester from Liverpool on a school night takes a bit of determination, especially when you have to travel on Northern Rail (the complete opposite of their parent company Deutsche Bahn) but she was so good I couldn’t not go, I mean if she can come all the way from America to play to a room of about 80 people, the least I can do is travel from Liverpool!

It was a superb gig, and I got talking to a guy with impeccable taste, who said if I like Laura Gibson, check out Vera Sola.

This was a 100% pure gold top tip of epic proportions as it turned out!  I can’t wait to check out some of his other tips.

Interestingly I was speaking to another guy who I know via Facebook but we had some debate as to whether we’d actually met in person before or not, but regardless, he had discovered Vera Sola via the Dice app.  He buys tickets then it recommends other artists and he has a listen and if he likes the sound of them he buys a ticket.

That sounds dangerous if you use it after a few pints, that said, you’d be skint but see some great bands!

The gatekeepers have gone, if you’ve seen the Frank Zappa video that does the rounds, the old men with cigars AND the hip young dudes have gone, no more do BBC executives sit down on a Monday morning and dictate what the nation’s youth should and shouldn’t be listening to, selected from the records being promoted by the aforementioned label execs.

It’s a brave new world where we are cut adrift in an ocean of music where we are free to discover music for ourselves – and the great news is that there is an abundance of great artists out there just waiting to be discovered.

Indeed Dan Mangan / Laura Gibson’s publicists also recommended The Coathangers, as did the Dice App, so we’re both going to see them next week, him in Manchester, me at Liverpool Arts Club.

What a time to be alive!

But enough waffle!

To be honest, I’m a bit of a charlatan as a music writer – I’m not a poetic sort who can put feelings into words, nor do I know anything about the technical side of music (e.g. I wasn’t sure whether the big violin-y type instrument was a double-bass or a cello) so I sort of tell stories about the gigs and festivals I attend.  Well I can’t just put the photos up and leave it at that can I!

Most of the time, I get away with it, just about.  But then every so often you see an artist who is so good, who you enjoy so much, that you want to shout it from the rooftops and tell the world, and it frustrates me that I can’t even come close to expressing how good they are.

Vera Sola is a perfect example!

I could tell you how amazing her voice is (Rolling Stone compared her voice to Nancy Sinatra), how great her guitar playing is, the amount of emotion she puts into every song, there were no iMacs or synths here just real instruments played by talented musicians, and she performed, arranged, and produced her entire album my herself.

But it still doesn’t come close to how phenomenal an artist she is or the performance she put on.

Some call her Indie-Folk, others call her Country, and her music is certainly cinematic / tarantinoesque, but do labels even mean anything anymore?

All I can really do is implore you to take a listen to her – with an assurance that you won’t be disappointed!

And if you want more detail about her set, check out this excellent review +photos

You can listen to any of her songs, there are no filler tunes, but for your convenience here are a few to get you started.  Thank me later 🙂

Ok, so these are studio recordings, can she do it live?  YUP!

Incidentally she mentioned she might be coming back later in the year, so keep an eye out for listings!

She mentioned that the last time she was in Manchester she was performing across the road with another band at Gullivers (I was always surprised when I heard about gigs at Gullivers, because I assumed it was the kids theme park in Warrington!) where the crowd were so drunk that they kept requesting the songs that had already been requested!  She said it was a great night!

Once you’ve listened to her album, be sure to look her up on Wikipedia, she has a family connection that you may find interesting, but listen to her music because she is hugely talented, not because of her A-List connection! – I think it’s great that she plays it down as her family name would almost certainly open doors, but instead she chooses to promote herself simply using her talent, and what a talent it is!

With such a great headliner, finding a suitable support act must have been quite a challenge, but it’s a challenge which the promoters pulled off admirably with Manchester’s own Elle Mary & The Bad Men

I hadn’t heard of them previously, but I’d definitely go and see them again when I get the chance.  It’s good to see that they seem to be building up a solid reputation for themselves.

It was funny, walking back to Manchester Victoria, the Take That concert at Manchester Arena was just emptying out.  Now I’m not going to slag off Take That, it’s not really my kind of music, but fair play the people on the train seemed to be buzzing as much as I was (hey, I was one of only 2 blokes in a packed carriage, so was it Gary Barlow or sharing a carriage with us putting a smile on their faces… 😉 oh alright, it was Barlow!) seriously though, it amazes me that artists the caliber and talent of Vera Sola and Elle Mary & The Bad Men are performing in a back room of a traditional boozer to 40 or 50 people!  And for a measly £8.50?  If you avoid small gigs because you assume they won’t be any good, you’re seriously missing out!

Carrying my signed vinyl copy of Vera Sola’s album “Shades” proudly under my arm, people on the train kept trying to look at it, I bet they were trying to figure out which Take That album it was 😉

Incidentally, it was my first time in the Castle Hotel and it’s a great little pub, and the music room at the back has a great reputation for live acts.  I can definitely recommend it, though they could certainly do with better air conditioning – especially when the bands are this hot!