The Lobby, Cork, July 8th, 2001
If Gemma Hayes ever makes it into one of those pop encyclopedia things, she will probably get a mention in the 'Female Acoustic Singer Songwriters' section along with Tracy Chapman and Suzanne Vega. But Ms. Hayes is not just the next name in a long list; she has her own style and the songs she played in The Lobby had enough surprises to already make me look forward to more.
It was busy, hot and smoky in The Lobby. Opening actKeith Moss threatened to strip off and kept the crowd entertained with his witty songs and chat. After he forgot his own lyrics he encouraged the crowd to ask for their money back (but with the proviso that they demand the Lobby-manageress books him again!)
Shortly after he had finished, I detected a cloud of sweet perfume between the smell of sweat and cigarettes. I turned around and it was Gemma Hayes making her way to the stage. She had brought a drummer, a bass player and a guy whose task it was to permanently tune her guitars. ,"I still can't tune myself," she explained.
It is clear that Hayes is influenced by Joni Mitchell -her open guitar tunings give it away as does the fact that she opens her heart in her lyrics and can sing 'I can't find love' without sounding pathetic. But just when I thought I had figured her out there, all of a sudden, was some distorted guitar as hard as a brick wall. Everyone was wondering where the guitar player that had just joined was, but the distortion came from Gemma's acoustic, with the help of some pedal. It was a trick she repeated twice.
Hayes is justifiably proud of her new EP, a taster of her upcoming album. "I'm gonna be saying this all night, but this song can also be found on my album,'' she kept saying. The things that inspire her to write songs vary from her love life to a documentary on Discovery Channel about a bird that pretends to be dead (in 'The Lucky One'). She sang sensitive ballads, but also catchy up-tempo songs, such as 'The Back of my Hand' and 'Can't Stop the Wheel from Turning'.
What was a great gig ended with the Stones' classic 'You Can't Always Get what
you Want'. The night that preceded was such that I could forgive her for changing
the words and leaving out not just the intro, but two verses and the song's end.
With Gemma it's not a haze. See for yourself.
Stan van Haasterener