Olivia Awbrey, Shelley From Finance, Umbilica: Dubrek – live review

Friday night gigs at Dubrek are becoming quite the rendezvous point for those in the know at the moment, for the last few months there have been a series of gigs that have featured a variety of acts, often from out of town including tonight’s from Olivia Awbrey.


There isn’t exactly fierce competition between events happening in the arts and culture sector in Derby, what with being a Friday night, the gigs may occassionally clash with a Satori Screen or Fright Night film showing at the Quad but other than that, it is genuinely very difficult to think what else may also be happening in Derby on such an evening other than a large conglomoration of police vans hovering outside Revolution and picking up pieces from the habitual brawls and self destructive drinking efforts made by the weekend warriors and students who have been thrown into the world of academia like lambs to slaughter blissfully ignorant of the debt defining existence they just signed up to in cocky spirits of post-YOLO (#4eva YOLO #R.I.PYOLO) and the their utter right to fame themselves out of any situation like backstreet abortions of X Factor. Noisy, inane and determined in all the wrong ways, they’d have been better off taking jobs in a warehouse if they’re too stupid to simply to outright revolt and honestly think they’re going to get ahead by conforming to Tory Britain and maybe designing an app or something. Good luck, godspeed and I look forward to reading about the tragedy of your carcass being cleared from Costa Coffee’s factory line in the liberal press.

Tangent aside, last week’s musical efforts saw two local acts featured alongside headliner Olivia Awbrey who is currently touring the UK from hipster haven, Portland, Oregon. First up was Josephine Lewis in the guise of Umbilica. She sets the tone for the night with a handful of perfectly composed electric-folk songs, that are infused with inspiration from her personal life amidst a couple that offer leftist political commentary.

The songs are seamless and masterful whilst Lewis’ expression bares no expectation of credit, applause or approval, not that she appears deadpan but that she omits a certain modesty of which her playing truly rises above. Her’s is a natural style, it is simple in its accessability, in way that makes her fit almost too easily into a canon, should Umbilica be played on 6Music, listerers would probably assume she has been on the circuit for twenty years and that they most likely already own an album by her. If Lewis had been born the genetic daughter of Bob Dylan she would, without a doubt, have amassed a platinum record by now.

For readers who are unfamiliar with former Mancunian, now Derby-based local celebrity/money expert Shelley Jane Newman, she may appear a little eccentric. Hauling an array of children’s musical toys and a ukele in tow with her husband/technical assistant for her performance as Shelley From Finance (other guises include another solo project in the form of lo-fi, fuzz, rock act Sex Jokes and pop-indie trio Mighty Kids) it’s really just another day at the office for Shelley.

Never one to be precious about her shows she laments to me earlier in conversation how her dress has a stain on it and assures me that the one glass of red she had earlier in the afternoon doesn’t count towards a lack of soberness, whereas the one glass of red she consumed just before the show does but that’s only one glass after all. Always close to having dairy produce on the brain, I suggest that a grilled cheese sandwich could be a good idea (Dubrek are serving food now) and she retorts that bread won’t help her. She’s right of course, no-one wants a bread-belly before they’re about to announce themselves in public but cheese might. If only more of us (or just any of us) carried around pocket cheeses – you know the mini ones that are clearly designed to be put in pockets – then perhaps people would find that they feel somewhat suprisingly more prepared for public events than not.

This evening’s performance fluctuates between comedic and self-deprecatory on-stage patter and bursts of short, emotionally powered DIY indie-pop/punk that is aided by a temperamental looper effects pedal. The use of the children’s keyboards reminds me Coco Rosie. I dare you not to like it.

Last to the floor is Olivia Awbrey, accompanied by her violinist and a rather good looking electric Epiphone which she dons round her neck when taking to the centre. There is an ease and warmth to the set she performs that makes you feel as though it’s actually ok to be enjoying a fair trade, hot chocolate in a cafe, you can’t really afford to drink in but actually do kind of deserve because there really isn’t much more that you can cut out of your disposable income and you just kind of want to
live in civilisation. Perhaps that’s the Portland influence echoing, not irrational, not excessive, just…well…ideal.

Awbrey’s new single set to be released is entilted Don’t be Alarmed, it is the highlight of the set, a catchy as heck soft-punk rock effort that is as radio ready as a Courtney Barnett hit, Awbrey is a talent that will do well to be nurtured. Unfalteringly flawless throughout the performance, her only mistake was to pronouce Derby “Durh-bey”. Numbers for the night were a little low, it would have been nice if more people had turned out, especially with Awbrey having travelled from the US but that didn’t appear to dampen anybodies spirit.

Find Dubrek – including their upcoming gig guide:

Find Olivia Awbrey:

Find Shelley From Finance:

Find Umbilica:

Images by James Birtwhistle (Indiehorse).

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