Review by Jo Whitby
Cat On The Wall has been on the back burner for quite a few months now, there’s several interviews that still need transcribing which in all honesty will probably remain on the dictaphone for many more months to come. It’s a shame but I’ve got other projects to prioritise as much as it pains me. So it has to be something rather special for me to prize myself away from my work.
I must warn you this is a rather personal account as I think I can quite unashamedly say I’m a huge fan of Rachel since our first meeting so expect lots of gushing. She has an infectious bright personality that brings light into the gloomiest corners – I’m actually convinced she’s magic.
It was a drizzly Cardiff evening in Feburary this year when I first encountered Rachel Sermanni. I had the pleasure of supporting her as Laurence Made Me Cry, the music project that is taking up the majority of my time at the moment. I remember Rachel stomping over to me across the venue in her worn out brown boots during the soundcheck, energetically shaking my hand and introducing herself. Instantly she made me feel at ease and I was pleasantly surprised by her humbleness and humour.
Her performance that night blew me away. I’d only seen the video for ‘The Fog’ prior to the gig and was totally unaware of how fantastic she was live. We chatted throughout the evening, swapped EPs and agreed to keep in touch. It was an optimistic agreement as I knew her career was taking off but it was a nice way to end the night and I went home feeling happy and inspired.
As luck would have it Rachel’s PR got in touch with me out of the blue and asked if the zine would like to interview her. Of course we said yes the results of which you can read here: http://catonthewall.net/?p=1390
Forward to October and Rachel is playing Cardiff again. I’d already booked my tickets in advance and I was fortunate enough to receive a review copy of Rachel’s stunning debut album ‘Under Mountains’ a few months previously so knew the audience would be in for something very special.
It’s really strange when you’re a musician and also a fan because you start to worry what’s acceptable behaviour in front of someone who you consider a friend on a professional level. Something I can’t help doing is giving gifts to people who I like and respect. I do this with friends anyway (and it has freaked some people out – there really is no hidden agenda, I just like being generous) so came prepared with some postcards I designed.
Rachel tapped me on the shoulder just as I was sitting down for a bite to eat at the venue before the gig. After an impromptu hug and a catch up chat we both went back to our tables to make the difficult decision of choosing what to eat. Oh and the postcards were a hit too which was a relief!
I regularly write an album diary for IAreYeti.com and I mentioned a track that I could hear someone else singing. The track is called ‘Houses’ and the voice I can hear is, you’ve guessed it, Rachel. I haven’t told her yet as it’s quite an odd thing to just bring up in conversation. It was in my head but I thought after giving her the postcards that was probably enough fan-girly stuff for one evening. So yes, Rachel, if you do read this review I have written a song that I hear you singing every time I play it.
10 Feet Tall is one of my favourite venues in Cardiff and it was at this venue that Rachel played earlier in the year. I’ve always found audiences to be really attentive and quiet there and this night was no exception. The only difference was a distinct increase in audience members since the last show resulting in a reasonable amount of heat by the time Rachel hit the stage. The support acts Sam Barnes and Greta Issac were a perfect choice and their beautiful folk tinted sounds set the mood for the rest of the evening.
A quick adjustment of the blinding stage spot-lights and it was time for Sermanni to do what she does best. Dressed in what I can only describe as farm yard overalls, a cardigan and the brown boots I remember from all those months ago she began the set with a song about some seriously trippy coco called ‘Ever Since The Chocolate’. I doubt myself now, I hadn’t intended on reviewing the night so didn’t think to make a note of the set list – usually a sign that I’ve really enjoyed myself when the evening turns into one blissful smile.
What I do know is the majority of ‘Under Mountains’ was performed, superbly striped down to simply vocal and acoustic guitar – a scenario that Sermanni seems to excel in. Stand out tracks included ‘Breathe Easy’, ‘Sea Oh See’ (which Rachel kindly explained in the form of hand actions) and of course ‘The Fog’. She also played several songs not on the record, the ‘Burger Van Song’ being one of my favourites (I can totally relate having had my fair share of troublesome customers) and an eerie track about nightmares – whoever ‘She’ is I don’t want her in my dreams thank you very much.
I’ve got this far through the review and I’ve not mentioned her amazing voice yet. What can I say? She has a stunning vocal range managing to effortlessly reach for the highs then dropping to velvet lows that literally make you melt. She seems to pull her voice from a place that us mere mortals can only dream of accessing thus my conclusion that she can only be made of magic.
On stage Rachel is a master at her art. She is confident, funny and connects with the audience meaning that when she goes on a journey you’re all there in the boat with her. To watch her perform is a joyous and memorable experience which I would gladly pay to see again and again.
To finish off the night the audience were treated to an unplugged intimate performance with Sermanni stepping down from the stage to a sea of hushed whispers – all ears quietly listening intently to the final song. Afterwards Rachel received a rapturous round of applause which continued as she placed her guitar back on the stand and moved over to the merch table (the merch lovingly presented in vintage suitcases no less).
I worry that some of the evil infidels out there might try to gobble up her sparkle once they discover her super powers. Well, they’ll have to fend off us fans first and we’re growing in number every minute. Rachel deserves every success and if you haven’t witnessed her live or heard her album yet then you know what to do.