To start with, Oslo in Hackney is a great gig venue. One message I got from my MA in Creative Entrepreneurship was that food is very important — I agreed — and downstairs in this venue is a restaurant, where you can get your pre-gig meal. I went for a burger and chips, and my friend had a much healthier mushroom medley. Upstairs is a black-box room, complete with a small stage, bar area, and disco ball.
Support came first from O Karmina, which surprised me; I hadn’t expected to hear my name. The singer-pianist thanked us for listening throughout her set, heavily implying she wasn’t used to an attentive crowd. She had us hooked from her first syllable, and we were completely captivated the whole way through. Plus, I’m a sucker for a loop-pedal, her voice overlapping like a choral shoreline.
This Carmina writing now was very envious of her, having always wanted to play the piano and sing. As her voice ranged from sultry-lows to drawn-out highs, it was clear that this was going to be a good night. Next up were DEMS, a three-piece band mixing soulful vocals, with garage drum-machine beats and electric guitar. They built up the energy of the crowd with their mix of lovelorn lyrics and dance-infused backdrops.
Front-woman Emma-Lee Moss first took to the stage via projector, before joining live, with mirroring hand movements. It was clear throughout the show that she was keen on bringing back dance routines from the 90s, adding motion to new tracks with an ironic touch. She was relaxed and natural on stage, joking with her band-mates and laughing when things went wrong. They played mostly new songs for the main part, other than exceptions such as Paper Forest and City Song. Their ease on stage meant they put on a great show, artfully crafted until the encore. They opened up the floor for requests and the audience enjoyed favourites Trellick Tower, Edward is Deadwood and We Almost Had a Baby.
Emmy’s voice was clear and crisp as poetry, and it was as wonderful to hear new material as it was to sing along to old songs. When playing Swimming Pool, and other songs from the latest release, there was either the projection of Emmy, or else an animation, which she called her ‘bedroom’.
There was a great buzz in the room, as the crowd stood, attentive and wide-eyed as we learnt the shape of new lyrics like those reflecting on being aged seventeen: “we thought weight loss was survival. We thought Vogue was French for Bible.”
Songs from her latest EP, such as Social Halo had simple choruses that were easy to sing along to, yet it contains added complexities to the lyrics, for example the implicit racism when her love interest’s friends “called me Yoko”. The tracks are often infused with a dance rhythm, which contrast with Emmy’s soft voice, and the ranging influences are epitomized in Solar Panels.
Emmy The Great made me think ‘this is how it’s done’ — every member of the audience left with a smile on their face, eager to listen to the new songs over and over again.
Emmy the Great’s EP ‘S’ is out now on MP3 download and vinyl.