Sunday, September 8, 2013

And The Staves Played On

I found Alex, my oldest friend, on the beach building a fire.  It was his job to organise this whole thing and as the sun dropped people were starting to trickle onto Porthcurnick beach from the coast path and the small lane that runs down onto the sand.  Over the past year he's organised a series of small, intimate, performances by rising stars of the music scene at unique venues for mobile phone company Nokia.  The theme of the Nokia Lumia Live Sessions has been undiscovered artists in undiscovered locations and he's put on gigs such as Kodaline in an old tannery in Dublin, Fenech Soler in a fight cage in Leeds and Lianne La Havas in a skate park in Liverpool, to name but a few.  This was due to be the last Lumia Live Session and was to feature British folk sisters The Staves performing fireside on a small beach in Cornwall to an invited crowd.  

Of all of the Lumia Live Sessions that he's had to organise, this one was perhaps the most unpredictable due to the vagaries of the British Summertime weather.  It had been a lovely, sunny, August day and there was a fair crowd on the grass and benches around The Hidden Hut cafe above the sand.  There were paper cups of wine and seven enormous paella pans were being tended to by a team of chefs and the brightly coloured food looked, and tasted, incredible.  Around 150 people had been invited (plus some of the cafe's regulars and passers by) and as is so often the way at events like this in this little county, most of the crowd knew each other.

The Staves made their way up from the water's edge just after 8pm and the three sisters arranged themselves on the rocks and piles of logs beside the small fire.  They were performing accoustically, with French film makers La Blogotheque recording the performance and they'd placed their microphone right next to me.  The crowd was absolutely silent, listening intently to the sister's familial harmonies and the gentle guitar over the sound of the outgoing tide, until a few bars into the second song the rain began to drip...and then drum.  It was a summer downpour of biblical proportions, the heavy black cloud like a bruise appearing over the hillside and emptying onto the beach within minutes.  People ran for cover under the low cliffs, umbrellas appeared over the three heads of the Staveley Taylor sisters, and the French film crew hurriedly covered their expensive equipment in whatever jackets they could find.  Many people left as the rain set in, but the performance was simply being relocated to the Hidden Hut cafe just behind the grass.

Two large gazebos had appeared, tables were cleared and The Staves reappeared a short time later in the serving hatch.  Periodically the rainwater would build up on one of the gazebos and overflow, crashing down onto the already soaked-to-the-skin spectators.  But the band played on, and ended their performance with an encore in the midst of the small, steaming, crowd.

This was one of those events where it seemed that every other person present had a big, fancy, camera so I'm really proud that Nokia have used a load of the images that I shot for their website banner images and other post-event publicity.  I'm certainly really grateful for the opportunity to attend such a unique gig; if you get the chance then spend some time watching the La Blogotheque films of the other five Lumia Live Sessions and checking out The Staves beautiful music.

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