Did you even go to the Co-op? If you don’t come back singing the pop song that was on?
I had in fact, been to Co-op just hours before attending Bess Atwell’s concert on Friday, to return an ASOS parcel. My normal ban on fast fashion defied momentarily in search of a Halloween outfit. The ill-fitting less than perfect tops had sat on my bedroom floor for the three weeks since, begging to be sent back. The music in Co-op however, never touched my ears, drowned out by Bess Atwell herself.
My friends had bought me a ticket to the gig, suggesting we should have some more ‘chill’ evenings with live music, as opposed to the raves and clubs which had been filling our schedule all too frequently since Freedom Day. I could only agree. Yet it took me until the day of the concert to actually listen to Atwell; whose debut album ‘Already, Always’ came out this September.
She was playing at Headrow House, somewhere I’d only ever attended for one-to-many drinks on the uber cool rooftop bar before. I’ll admit: this was only my second live gig in Leeds. I know, I know. Poor form. But my first year was plagued with the dreaded pandemic and so far my second year had been dominated by the oh-so-loud aforementioned raves. The gig room in Headrow is small and intimate. The stage at one end is barely raised so you feel as if you are standing next to the performer, not watching them from afar.
The room was not packed for Atwell, a little under half full, but this didn’t matter – if anything it added to the romantic atmosphere. As soon as she started to sing, the room lit up, people swaying softly or merely cocking their heads in enjoyment. Everyone was transfixed. I don’t remember the order Atwell played her songs in or which one was the best, or which one sounded different to how it does on Spotify. All these things faded into the background, all that mattered was the music.
When I listened to Atwell earlier that day, what stuck out to me was her lyrics. And these were inescapable in her live performance. They are understated but pertinent. Poetic, but in places, harrowing. They are comedic in one line, heart-breaking in the next:
I’m tired of being like my mother.
I’m never happy with how I’m dressed.
Nobody is meant for me.
Can you mourn somebody breathing?
I’m scared of sleeping and I don’t know why.
These heartfelt words paired with Atwell’s haunting (in the best way) voice meant that the songs flowed seamlessly into one another with not much interlude. Each one caught you off guard, making you feel something you weren’t expecting to.
The gig passed too quickly and before I knew it we were spat back into the cold night air, dreamy beats still flowing through my head. Atwell’s music is steeped in a tenderness that is perfect for this time of year. When the sky turns pink, and you start to see your breath in the air; put Atwell in your headphones and crunch through the autumn leaves towards the new year.
Words by Julia Brookes
Photos: Julia Brookes | http://www.rslblog.com/2019/04/cherry-baby-by-bess-atwell.html