Attending a Jesca Hoop gig is akin to finding yourself trapped between the pages of Grimms’ fairytales or Alice In Wonderland.
The set is full of twisted lyrical narratives about children breaking their arms to attract their parents’ attention, polydactyly witchery, and snakes being locked outside of houses.
It’s a lyrical oddness that’s matched by her true life story: she was raised as a Mormon in California, was employed as Tom Waits’ child-minder, and moved to Manchester at the advice of Elbow’s Guy Garvey. Despite this, there’s something deeply rooted about her stage presence.
Performing solo with just a dry electric guitar for accompaniment, her songs are frequently self interrupted when she forgets lyrics, loses track of her place (“I just wanted to say ‘breast’ again,” she jokes on ‘Murder Of Birds’), or remembers an anecdote about a particular line.
In other hands this disorganised quirkiness would be infuriating but Hoop has such charm that it simply adds to the experience of her 14-song set.
It undoubtedly helps that her magpie sensibility for genre is ably matched by a supple voice that can deliver a truly singular interpretation to twisted pop (‘Hospital (Win Your Love)’), cod-reggae (‘Four Dreams’), rolling vintage blues (‘Hunting My Dress’), or evocative power-folk (‘The House That Jack Built’).
It’s possible to hear virtual band arrangements on some of these tracks but the rawness of the pared down set suits her well, giving her eclectic styles more room to breathe than on record. It also highlights her voice’s multi-faceted moods; its timbre capable of keeping the room pin-drop quiet.
With an imminent tour with Shearwater, for which she’ll be playing piano, it’s surely only a matter of time before Hoop gains wider recognition as a true cult hero.
Gig date: April 10