Down the stairs into Manchester’s best basement venue, it’s just hit half 7 and the dark room is packed out with punters. It’s a reasonably unusual affair to see Soup Kitchen’s downstairs this busy, THIS early. I’ve witnessed venue attendees be late to headline slots at 10:30pm, so a hustling and bustling atmosphere as the first support is an impressive feat.
Who has caused this abnormal event? The answer: Holly Phelps aka IORA. The upcoming musician tonight supports The Seshen at the start of their UK tour. The stage is quite bare, a microphone stand and a table draped in a beautiful cloth play host to a selection of electronic equipment, all essential for what is to be a stunning performance.
Beginning by looping her own harmonised vocals, ‘Ghost Boy’ is an honest statement of intent from the artist “I’m in love with a ghost boy, but he don’t come round here no more”. Beginning as what could have been a simple folk singer-songwriter track, the additions of trip-hop beats change up the atmosphere immediately and certainly for the better. An extraordinary and inventive display of musical ambition for such a young artist.
Half-way through the set, Phelps brings out an acoustic guitar, a refreshing and intriguing element after the expected electronic influences presented so far. A more calm and collected track than those previous, it is simply IORA’s intensely unique vocal, her guitar and a simple produced tambourine/snare beat to back her up “so stop in your tracks come in and just relax, this world will beat you down, it’ll beat you to the ground”. IORA’s vocal is impossible to describe in mere mortal words, it’s smooth and sultry with an awareness and mature understanding of herself.
‘Thieves Den’ is the song to finish off this impressive set, the intricate rhythms in the powerful beat holding the track together are almost childlike. A merry-go-round of pioneering electro-pop and mystical harmonies to top it off. The cheers and whistles from the crowd are nothing less than tumultuous, her reception has been incredible. The entire room tonight is walking away knowing that they have just witnessed an artist with a LOT of potential, and with the determination and attitude she has portrayed tonight, will undoubtedly fulfil it.