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Review: Ava Hincks @ Exchange

The Bristol-based rising artist shone with fearless riot grrrl energy, for a gig that left heartbreak face-first in the dust.

By Benji ChapmanCo-Deputy Music Editor

One glimpse at Ava's Instagram tells you everything you need to know about her style. She boasts a signature shade of red, a "sexy and insufferable" personality and fearless 0.5 photoshoots: Ava's strong sense of personality and confidence permeates an online presence. An in-person performance was just as full of character and movingly earnest in its vulnerability.

Ava Hincks has been making music since 2019 and debuted with her single 'Lavender' the same year. Her initial approach to lofi production and bedroom indie made use of gentle production techniques, which tell recognisable stories of unrequited love.

Returning in 2023 with the 'No Use Crying' EP however, it was clear in her extended release that Ava is an artist with some fire in her belly too. The lovesick themes from before had been sharpened with aggression while maintaining a signature, pining lyricism that muddles the line between obsessive longing of what once was and a bitter remembrance of romantic toxicity.

These lyrics increasingly capture the fleeting moments of young love with cutting detail. The spacy atmosphere on 'No Use Crying' also felt more expansive than 'Lavender' and used a greater spread of instruments; from soft guitar run through spacious reverb to tender keys, which respond to the confessional lyrics.

Once she was spotted by ONE2 1TWO for her single 'Hurt By You' in the same year, a more upbeat, romantically themed hit was scored. If you've ever had an evil ex, Ava's is the kind that makes you blast her music to during tearful reminisces in the shower, kitchen and garden shed. Wherever else you need to cry to let the entire world know just how evil they are. 

And which way would be better to put these cursed memories to rights than at a performance among a buzzing crowd singing along to the wicked words. Ava's show at Exchange saw her working through her discography and teasing unreleased ballads yet to come, each tune differing in sound but as cathartic as the last.

One such track that featured as an anthem to "petty revenge plans" directed towards an ex was her most recent tune 'PATHETIC'. The single was promoted with stickers proudly reading "your ex is PATHETIC" that dotted Bristol's streets, and in a live setting the track shone with venomous gusto.

Ava Hincks @ Exchange | Benji Chapman

A four piece containing Bristol University alumni brought the more menacing aspects of her music to the fore. Shrill distorted guitar clashed with a pounding drumkit and bass guitar in the rhythm section, although the intensity of this sound was nuanced by a caring attitude from Ava who was checking throughout the show that people weren't faint, or overheating in the Exchange basement.

Her interactions with the crowd were, like her music, entirely honest and unguarded. Sharing that she was dissociating at the start of the performance was a touchstone that connected the audience to Ava who stood behind the basement's stage barrier; performing clearly elevated both her mood as well as the audience's when she announced, "only one more sad song, because I was sad but now I'm happy!"

Rattling through her discography Ava complimented original material with covers from her influences like Lily Allen, much to the joy of the Musical Theatre Bristol members in the crowd. If anyone in the room was looking to get over an ex it would have been a choice opportunity to speedrun the grieving process.

Ava Hincks @ Exchange | Benji Chapman

Ava's caring approach onstage was refreshing, unique and striking. Checking the crowd's condition continually is a rare sight in live music and occasionally forgotten entirely: such are the benefits of catching rising artists. They are often the most thoughtful and genuine in the scene. I can confirm Ava is no exception to this rule.

I thankfully didn’t have a need to mourn a breakup at the show, though I would warmly and somewhat cautiously recommend catching Ava at her next show if the need to do so arises. I say cautiously only to look out for the romantic interests of her fans. Watch your back, and don't make a misstep, or you might just end up as the subject of Ava's next single when she gets word of it.

Featured Image: Benji Chapman

Who do you listen to during a heartbreak?