In The Middle’s Hidden Gems- Lauren Rycroft and Cara Hammond @ 360 Club, 06/10/16

As far as undiscovered music goes, finding a truly new talent is as rare as getting struck by lightning. To find two in one night then, is like winning the lottery without buying a ticket. The 360 Club has always been a place for musical discovery, and Cara Hammond and Lauren Rycroft’s double EP launch was no exception to that rule. Two of the finest artists that Leeds College of Music has to offer wowed the crowd with their fresh sound and youthful charm, to provide a night that will last long in the memory of those who were there to witness it.

The young Joseph Jones got the night off to a successful start. His compositions were pleasant, although a little cheesy at times, but it was when you realised that he’s 17 years old and that this was his first live performance that he really stood out as an exciting prospect. Two audience members by the bar commented that “he’s very Ed Sheeran”, and whilst Jones may not appreciate the comparison, it’s a ringing endorsement that he shouldn’t ignore. He set the sociable tone of the night perfectly, before Lynsey Cawthra ramped up the volume with her sweet, infectious blend of folk rock. Singing songs about her life as a mother and the importance of art, it was a treat to see someone really enjoy the experience of performance and give that energy back to the audience.

There was a quiet buzz around the crowd as Lauren Rycroft adorned her guitar. As she unnervingly waltzed into the upbeat ‘Tightrope’, it was easy to see why she was so confident in her own ability, with an experienced sound that still had an exciting level of rawness. The comparisons her music drew with Irish Gaelic folk was a definition she personally disagreed with- preferring her ITunes classification as alternative rock -but her music was so pure and heartfelt that it was impossible not to imagine it reverberating between the valleys of some far off serene hilltops. Her songs sounded like you’d been missing them all your life, and all the while her spellbinding, vibrato falsettos danced above the crowd’s heads. ‘Waters of Life’ was a particular highlight, making her EP Tide of the Mind a must have for those with an interest in up and coming artists.

Cara Hammond closed the show by providing a new dynamic, steering away from folk vibes to indulge the crowd with more soulful tunes. Opening her set with ‘Online Love Advice’, the blatantly gifted talent from Wrexham was radiant. After giving the audience a taste of her more upbeat catalogue, Cara moved into a more stripped back portion of the set- a genius move as ‘Ray’ and ‘Stranger’s Life’ were nothing short of phenomenal. Her EP Ray pales in comparison to the way her band- with a special mention to her splendid backing vocalists -make it sound live. She is a must-see act.

Lauren and Cara were a mixture of emotions during the gig, as nervousness mixed with excitement made way for humble appreciation of what they had achieved. Speaking about the experience of recording and promoting their new EPs, it was clear it had been tiring, but altogether rewarding work for the two singer-songwriters, a real testament to the amount of graft undiscovered artists like them are required to put in every week. Interestingly, the pair also had something to say about the inherent sexist discrimination that still plagues the music industry today, reflecting on how difficult it is for female artists to break through in a male dominated environment, which again is a credit to how hard they have both worked to get their journey’s off the ground.

And if their performances at the 360 Club were anything to go by, their journey’s are just beginning. As long as promoters in Leeds continue to take an interest in the pool of talent on their front doorstep, then these two having nothing to fear. It was a special night, both for the crowd and the stars on stage, who have a more than bright future ahead of them.

Robert Cairns

Image: [George Yonge]

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