A festival showcasing the talents of the country’s alt-rock, Americana and ‘folktronica’ took over The Exeter Phoenix on Saturday September 26th. The long-awaited Acoustica Festival took over the venue’s bar, auditorium and Voodoo Lounge, filling it with crowds with drinks in hand as they wandered from room to room to enjoy the varied showcase on offer.
There were over ten acts, each one unique, meaning that at any given moment, the mood of one room could be drastically different to the next. A surreal feeling of drifting through different mini-worlds was created. After their performances, musicians could be spotted in the crowd, and everything had a yellow glow and a 'good-time' atmosphere.
Playing in the bar with her red hair illuminated was Exeter-based Sez Tucker, her gentle voice hypnotizing the audience. Ambient acoustic electronica and slow-paced songs with dark, heavy undertones held her listeners in a haze.
In the auditorium, the Crow Puppets - made of Cara and Em – had the audience laughing with their charisma (one example would be one of them kicking off her high heels and exclaiming “Liberation!”). Flute, acoustic, guitars, the banjo, and one thumping bass drum were used through their set. Their sound was beautifully melodic and ethereal, especially as they evoked images of the moors. In their own words, “It’s like you’re a part of everything, but away from everything at the same time.”
Back in the bar, La Vie En Rose – made of a double bass, two acoustic guitars, a violin and a clarinet – were in full 1930’s, Paris swing, sharply dressed and drawing in a happy crowd. Did they cover ‘La Vie En Rose’ by Edith Piaf? Of course.
Up in the Voodoo Lounge, it was a completely different vibe – and that’s what makes the Acoustica Festival such a trip. The Little Unsaid had the room captured with a sheer out pour of emotion. A string and brass orchestra mixed with powerful lead vocals and electronica to create an awe-inspiring show – and it’s no surprise they've been described as “amazing” by Bob Harris himself. The front man, John Elliot, beckoned the audience to join in on the chorus of their last song, singing the words “It’s still a beautiful world” – and sing they did.
Another of the night’s acts was Rapha Ghetti, who, according to Boomtown, brings ‘a fresh sound to the scene’. The bar was filled with Rapha Ghetti’s blend of acoustic guitar and hip-hop. Soulful vocals sang and rapped thoughtful lyrics, the crowd swaying along.
Also playing during the festival and proving blues is alive and kicking was the roots-based singer-songwriter, Matt Woosey. Having toured Europe, Africa and Australia, Matt now stood before the Phoenix audience, his husky vocals and heartfelt songs making for a head-bobbing time. However, Woosey isn’t just a bluesman. His seventh album, released last year, is called ‘Wildest Dreams’, and showcases his talents for folk rock, described by himself as a “West-Coasty, sun-drenched thing.” His set was a mix of perfectly-crafted lyrics, and unforgettable melodies.
Sadie Horler was also part of the festival, a charming Exeter-based singers-songwriter with a charming voice, gentle guitar playing and peaceful tunes. The Grenaways also performed their unique fusion of folk, their Celtic seaside influences shining through to make a captivating set.
Acoustica Festival is a fantastic experience – and if you missed it, worry not! It’ll be back next year, and promises to be just as moving, fun and awe-inspiring as always.