Review / SN#6: Chicken Picnic, Drug Store Romeos, Zebrafi & Jemima Coulter

Ellie Fernyhough reviews Spinny Nights Ltd's sixth night. Featuring a mix of student artists and those from further afield, Spinny Nights brought some of the best rising talent to the Crofters Rights stage.

On a May Wednesday night, the live space at the Crofters Rights in Stokes Croft—frequently filled by events from alternative music, comedy to storytelling—played host to the sixth instalment of Spinny Nights. The student-hosted music evenings have had a successful run of three events in two weeks (likely a welcome break from revision for attendees) and in bringing in university bands alongside local artists, as well as those from further afield, they’ve cultivated a consistent following.

Spinny Nights have a definitive style—sparkly décor with confetti covering the table they’re using as a box office giving a flavour of the dazzling interior complete with disco ball. This vibe is fitting for the line-up; opening with heartfelt singer-songwriter (and Bristol student) Jemima Coulter. Live, Coulter’s music is stripped back and delicate, with a Courtney Barnett feel to the lyrics reflecting on love, pain, and Bristol, name-dropping Temple Meads on one occasion.

She’s followed by another student band, Zebrafi, who’ve been involved in SN from the start. Theirs is the most raucous set of the night, a brand of esoteric grungey indie rock who have pretty much become regulars at Crofters Rights and another Spinny Nights haunt, The Old England, in recent months.

Third on the four-act line-up was the Bristol debut of London-based but Hampshire-bred trio Drug Store Romeos. SN has in its short lifespan hosted plenty of debuts; last week’s raucous Park Motive single release gig packed out the Love Inn, whilst tonight also hosted Bristol music student band Chicken Picnic’s first (ticketed) headline show. Drug Store Romeos are self-described ‘melancholic mood music’ touting influences from Velvet Underground through nineties alternative rock to textured shoegaze such as Slowdive. What comes from this eclectic range of inspirations is ethereal dreamy music—which on occasion could be called indie pop but genre-hops with ease, vocalist Sarah’s lyrics floating over fuzzy riffs or stylised keys, with a beat and structure clean enough that already, Drug Store Romeos wouldn’t sound out of place on a 6 Music show.

@drugstoreromeosband at SN#6 much love for these guys 💕 Photo: Guy Woods

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Chicken Picnic’s headline slot is their second appearance at SN; the five-piece bring glittery, soothing neo-soul sounds with more than a hint of easy jazz that brightens up the room. Since the group began playing live at the start of this academic year, they haven’t played a huge number of shows, but the five-piece fit together with ease—probably aided by their being course friends. I’m always impressed by the maturity and talent of music created by my peers at university; Chicken Picnic are no exception. Paula Rüßmann’s vocals have the same rich, soulful air to them as artists like Jorja Smith, whilst their original music echoes modern jazz, BadBadNotGood or Tom Misch.
Spinny Nights is an exciting new venture for the student music scene; putting on shows at non-university venues around the city embeds them within Bristol culture. The hope is that now they will be able to expand.

Chicken Picnic at SN#6 Photo: Guy Woods

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Currently, audiences comprise mostly of students, but the creators have commented that more locals have begun to arrive—moving beyond being a niche university project and rather, being a channel for local and national alternative music in Bristol would be a real achievement. Already planning ahead for more events next year locally and further afield, and now on the second issue of a neatly-designed zine, Spinny Nights’ unique evenings look to become a staple. No further nights are currently on the cards until after the summer, but the momentum gained is unlikely to go away.

Featured image: Facebook / Spinny Nights Ltd.

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