Martha Ffion / Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh | 9th of March

Martha Ffion / Sneaky Pete’s, Edinburgh | 9th of March

On a brisk Friday night in the heart of the Cowgate, Martha Ffion celebrates the release of her debut album Sunday Best with an audience of warm and adoring fans.  A band performing in Sneaky Pete’s sometimes feels like a gig in somebody’s punk house living room. There’s folk pressed against the walls, a Persian rug unfurled under the drum kit and when it’s time for the show to start the musicians push through the crowd, having waited like any other member of the audience. When the band starts playing at Sneaky’s, you’re in for something exceptionally intimate.

Martha Ffion and her band kick off things at a folksy pace reminiscent of the thumping beat of Irish rebel tunes, moving into a clean alternative rock sound by the time they play lead single from the album, Baltimore. Ffion’s voice is serene and the setlist shows off how versatile her songwriting is, shimmering sensations up the spine as melodious choruses feel familiar, yet fresher than the one preceding it.

Martha Ffion by Pete Carson

Glasgow’s love of jangly guitar pop has certainly rubbed off on Ffion, who moved to the city as a teenager. By playing a Teenage Fanclub cover smack dab in the middle of the set, it highlights how well her own material stands up to the artists her music takes influence from. At times you can hear the echoes of indie bands from the nineties and late noughties, and even twangs of fifties soul which resonates with me like the first time I heard the shimmering lead guitars of Belle and Sebastian.

Josh Fuchs supports the night with a charming set of acoustic tunes and a fun backhand of patter catching the still mingling crowd offguard. His shilling of Ffion’s debut album at the merch table is entertaining to the extent that it prompts her to nearly tell him off for embarrassing her. Fuchs’ songs are a quintessential slice of Edinburgh life, dissecting his experiences within the city and the impact it’s had. Even If you heard the introspective tune Worth Losing for a Night thousands of miles away from the capital, there’s no way it could be about any other place with lines like “I was on Dublin street when I needed to die/ I miss the half-days on Fridays at school”.

Martha Ffion by Pete Carson

The air in the room is electric as Martha sheds the acoustic strap and picks up the tambourine for the closing numbers. The band get more energetic, pacing their corner of the stage with frantic energy but Martha maintains a stoic figure throughout almost showing off how cool she is as a frontwoman. When the show’s over, a few drunks in the crowd shout “encore!” but thankfully Ffion knows that what they’ve already accomplished with this set, this new album is beyond enough. It’s a stellar songbook with a dynamic range of instrumentation and impressive kick to it that will have me half mumbling the melodies for years to come. It’s the work of a gifted singer-songwriter that makes you want to revisit why you loved vaguely folkish alterna-rock in the first place.

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