Phoenix Bootleg Sessions

Bored on a Monday night? Go to a Bootleg Session at Phoenix Bar at 8pm for a night of surprises and, if you’re lucky, a great concert. Phoenix isn’t on the usual club trail so it may not be the most familiar haunt. Enter to find a dive complete with scrubbed tables, ripped upholstery, hessian-covered benches and a decent bar. As a venue, it probably suits small bands and acoustic acts with a relaxed feel.

On the night when this reviewer was there, Melissa Eileen kicked off in fine fashion with a nice, if slightly repetitive, mixture of originals and covers. Accompanying herself on guitar, she showed off a frankly gorgeous voice which was, refreshingly, consistently in tune. As usual with these kinds of things, the microphones on the guitar and the voice were unbalanced and too loud. She would probably better off using just a small vocal amp rather than the inappropriately large bass speakers Phoenix insist on using in fairly limited space. A little more variety in the song choice would also have been good but overall it was a really strong performance from a young musician we should hear more from, particularly if she adds some jazz standards next time.

Another singer/guitarist, Paryce, followed and immediately made the mistake of saying ‘It’s quite loud …. but I like it loud.’ The audience didn’t. The high volume levels, forceful guitar, slightly harsh vocals and confined space combined in an unfortunate way and the set was moderately unpleasant at times. The excessive ornamentation and slightly haphazard approach to high notes didn’t help either. Her originals were, however, well written and engaging and her confidence on stage is certainly arresting.

Both performances were, however, impaired slightly by the fact that some moron had left the snare switched on the drum kit. This meant that whenever the two performers got slightly loud – which was frequently – the vibrations caused the snare to rattle and buzz underneath. Partially marked by excessively loud miking arrangements, the result was nevertheless unpleasant.

Even if it’s not the best night for music, Phoenix itself is a great, if deliberately dilapidated, place to hang with one’s more hipster friends. The important thing is just to get there early enough you can grab a seat rather than a milk crate and settle in before it starts to get crowded. Like Phoenix, informal live music is always slightly unpredictable. There are, however, far worse uses for one of the less lively days of the week.