Artist: Beth Jeans Houghton
Date: 2nd October
Venue: Duchess, York
Reviewer: Liam Porter
Beth Jeans Houghton, a 21-year-old guitarist and singer-songwriter from Newcastle, played the Duchess early October to a small but appreciative crowd: composed in no small part of friends of Houghton and the support acts though also containing a few clearly rapt BJH devotees.
Houghton appeared on stage, with her band, dressed in leopard tights, a thick cotton beanie and a comically oversized Star Trek: The Next Generation T-shirt, hanging to where a short skirt would terminate. She performed standing largely immobile, feet tightly together, and began the first of her set without a word of preamble, ending each with a terse “thank you”.
Despite her demure, girlish stature, she commanded a strong, almost intimidating stage presence, at one point commanding the sheepish spectators to step up to the stage from their gingerly distant proximity: “we can’t see you”.
Her first album is yet to be released (slated for early 2012) but she’s already shown noticeable musical progression; from twee, traditional folk and country, evident on her Hot Toast Vol. 1 EP, to a dreamy but high-energy, soulful indie sound. Her set was, consequently, a mix of this new sound (the album preview, “Dodecahedron”, being illustrative) and the older, hoedown-y numbers – albeit moulded subtly to her new aesthetic.
At about three quarters through the first track, the lead guitarist retired his Telecaster and produced a trumpet, switching for the remainder of the song: a recurring addition to the set which, alongside their atmospheric joint vocals, much expanded the musical palette of your average bass-drums-guitar arrangement.
Though vocal duties were largely shared, it was naturally Houghton’s clear, ringing soprano that dominated, recalling something between Vashti Bunyan and Grizzly Bear, though comfortingly not a wholesale importing the sound of any contemporary.
She finished her set with a dance-y, punk-y rendition of Madonna’s “Like A Prayer”, in which she broke her immobile stance and invited audience members to dance along on stage with the lure of free merchandise. British manners triumphed, however