Brave New Broken Hearts Club at St Johns, Devizes

by Helen Edwards

Picking our way around the back of St John’s church in the dark, unsure where the gig was being held, I was reminded about how I’d walked down that long aisle years earlier. About my children’s christening there and the more recent funeral of my father-in-law. So, as we entered the grand church’s side door, despite my quip about having ‘the blood of Christ’ as my BYO drink, I was feeling deeply reflective. I was open to what was to come.

After making ourselves comfortable in the pew, pouring our drinks and looking around at the congregation, faces lit by trails of fairy lights, the music began.

First, came the singer/songwriter, Pearl Fish. Now that I write that name I wonder if this is her given name or a performance muse [Editor’s note; yes, she told me it was her real name!] Either way it is very apt. Pearl exudes a coy, bouncy, and ever-so-slightly ethereal energy.  She shines but in a subtle and gentle way. When introducing her songs, she seems to have an intriguing mix of shyness and self-assuredness. And when she sang these qualities, showing vulnerability with an undercurrent of solid confidence filled the church. Her words, many of which escape me now, reflected this feeling and as an initial doubter (to explain; I gravitate towards a more rock-ier vibe) I was converted. Pearl’s voice is floaty and soft and helped take you away to reveries within yourself. I especially liked one song which changed tempo and sang like a cross between a folksy ancient tale with a sea-shanty beat.  I will be downloading Pearl’s album and feel delighted that my open mind allowed my heart to consume Pearl’s creative output.  I do think the church ambience helped with that.

A little more unholy wine later and Neil of Brave New Broken Hearts Club (I so want to write ‘Band’ at the end of that!) took the space of Pearl and the vicar’s usual spot.  The church was growing colder in the February night but Neil’s warmth, his fun and gentle manner and his evident kindness filled the atmosphere.  His conversational chat between songs bought smiles to all of us watching and gave an insight into this seemingly self-deprecating but obviously deep thinking and amusing guy. I bet he’s a great crack to sit and have a drink with.  Anyway, on to the music….

Neil is an accomplished songwriter.  He tells a story with each of his tunes and touches a chord in his audience with themes that we can all relate to.  I spoke to him afterwards to say it was lovely to hear the personal journey he is on, that he showed through his songs. As with Pearl and one of Neil’s favourite thinkers, Brene Brown, he has exposed his vulnerability and in doing so has produced some magnificent music.  His tunes are catchy, melodic, and chilled and his voice is awesome; clear and engaging with (my favourite bit) a heart-warming London accent.

An unexpected night and one of unearthed pearls (sorry bad pun) and catchy thoughtful songs.  Who knew the power of the-gig-in-the-church.  I will be part of their secret promoting crew when they are next in town by persuading my friends to join me.


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