Moka East Cafe is one of many quirky cafes nestled in the quiet and frantic corners of London. Not many of these businesses however, offer a fantastic 360 view of the London stadium and the ArcelorMittal Orbit tower.
Unfortunately for those frequent customers, it was announced that the small establishment was soon to close its doors but as a final farewell, a handful of local and far field musicians were gathered for one of two send-off performances. Intimate settings like this have the ability to make or break atmospheres for any musician but if there was ever an artist to sit neatly into such a friendly environment, it was definitely American folk sensation Tom Brosseau.
In a small room with a counter of cakes and church benches, a crowd of twenty to thirty people slowly filtered inside to find a seat during the opening performance from Bob Constant (without The Goodbye Horses). Mr Constant played a number of enjoyable cover songs including a strong rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Chelsea Hotel No.2 along with a song sung entirely in French, reminding the listeners what a beautifully sensual language it has long been personified as.
Next to take to the front was Russell And The Wolf Choir, albeit without his entourage of the wolf choir, but both support acts proved that they could both still deliver a gripping collection of songs to entertain and explore. Highlights included This Fall I Think That You’re Riding On, a cover of Linda Ronstadt’s Different Drum and his closing song The Ivy Leaf Agreement, along with the short encounter of how he first met Tom in a crowded venue room, where they spoke little but felt a warm connection and mutual respect of one another’s music.
In amidst the musical smatterings of both men, headliner Tom Brosseau had periodically toggled between observing his fellow musicians and was moving around the room, making conversation with old friends and discovering new connections.
Eventually it was his time to shine (and shine he most certainly did). Fixing his guitar strap and adjusting the microphone stand, it was not long before the humble man found his stride, issuing out early praise to the evenings musical predecessors, even gaining a signed copy of Bob Constant & The Goodbye Horses vinyl to carry home with him.
Writing a staggering amount of folk albums since the beginning of his career (and owning a calm and considerate character), his audience cried out erratic requests after a few subtle but quick witted quips, crawling from crevices of his back catalogue which were graciously accepted by the hard luck boy.
Albums from the past were revisited including Cavalier, Grass Punks and Grand Forks with songs such as Amory, Fork In The Road and Cradle Your Device making a welcomed appearance. Introducing finger plectrums and instrumental pieces, his melodies practically bled an early form of Western country and classic folk, with a butter soft singing voice that mirrored the 30’s era, passing through pockets of time where his lyrics became dissimilar and parallel to those of the period as well.
Mr Brosseau concluded the event in a manner most fitting of his gentle temperament (while also encapsulating many plot-driven cowboy endings). Circling the venue floor, he concluded suspended conversations with new and old associates before wending his way out into the cloud covered night.
Tom BrosseauMoka East Cafe, London - October 14th 2016
Photographer: Nathan Roach - Coal Poet Photography