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Live Gig Video: Alessi’s Ark release performance video of ‘Veins Are Blue’

By on Thursday, 12th September 2013 at 4:00 pm

I wish Alessi Laurent-Marke was more famous; performing under the moniker Alessi’s Ark, she writes some of the most precious yet emotive folk rock on the planet today. In this slightly claustrophobic video, Alessi and band perform ‘Veins Are Blue’ from her current album out on Bella Union, ‘The Still Life’. Gorgeous. Watch it below.



Live Gig Videos: Alessi’s Ark, The Crookes and Lianne La Havas perform acoustic sessions for Tramlines 2013

By on Friday, 26th July 2013 at 4:00 pm

In what’s like a bunker – an acoustically sound bunker – at this year’s Tramlines, the festival hid a couple acts away to record some really lovely acoustic sessions for all of us to savour.

First, Alessi’s Ark, aka London singer/songwriter Alessi Laurent-Marke, performs a stripped back version of ‘The Rain’ from her album released this year on Bella Union, ‘The Still Life’.


Next, we’ve got local boys the Crookes performing ‘American Girls’, one of the singles off their 2012 Fierce Panda album ‘Hold Fast’. The choice of song seems rather appropriate given this Tweet from them yesterday! (Mmm yes indeed. The American half of our writership is very excited about this touring prospect.)


Finally, we have Lianne La Havas (pictured at top performing at Alexandra Palace in 2012) all by her lonesome with her acoustic guitar, playing ‘Tease Me’.



Villagers with Alessi’s Ark and San Fermin – Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington DC – 13th June 2013

By on Monday, 17th June 2013 at 2:00 pm

It was 3 years ago this month when I met Conor J. O’Brien, the songwriting mastermind behind Villagers. He was a short East Coast tour to promote ‘Becoming a Jackal’, his Mercury Prize-nominated debut album, so he had become reasonably well known in Britain but his talent was much less known in America, even with NPR singing his praises. (I still laugh thinking about the moment at DC9 when he asked the 40 or so audience members how they’d heard of him. Most everyone answered, “NPR!” When I answered, “Steve Lamacq!” he wanted to know if I was a spy. Haha. Hardly, unless you count Americans tuning into BBC Radio a punishable offence…

Fast forward to 2013. O’Brien and crew released last year their sophomore effort on Domino Records, ‘{Awayland}’, this past January, and everyone wanted a piece of them. (We tried to get Martin into their Newcastle show in February but were turned away.) The first clue to me that something might not be right was ‘The Waves’, an electrobeat-driven track. What happened? I loved ‘Becoming a Jackal’ and had wanted it to win the Mercury. But it seemed from this taster in summer 2012, their sound had changed forever. Thankfully, once we got the album, there was relief in the form of ‘Nothing Arrived’, which sounded like something from the ‘…Jackal’ era. It should have been obvious just from the band’s support slot with Grizzly Bear that autumn that things had changed for the Dublin folk band, and in a direction that I myself wasn’t pleased with. But when Cheryl alerted me in April before I left for Britain that Villagers – as a full band – would be playing in Washington in June, at first I thought to myself, oh god. This is going to be terrible. How am I ever going to get through this? I loved ‘Becoming a Jackal’, but ‘{Awayland]’ left me cold. And confused. What happened to Conor? He’s probably not going to play anything from the debut album because he wants to ‘distance’ himself from that material. But I’m so glad I went, and I’ll tell you why. First, let me tell you about the support acts.

Alessis Ark Washington 2013

An extremely last minute addition to the show last Thursday was Alessi Laurent-Marke, who performs under the stage name Alessi’s Ark. I say extremely last minute, as I was reading my Facebook newsfeed on Wednesday afternoon and her page’s status update said, “Washington! Alessi’s Ark was JUST added to tomorrow night’s show at the Rock and Roll Hotel with Villagers + San Fermin. We play at 7:15 — hope to see you there!” Unfortunately, I think the late notice affected the turnout for her set, even though the actual start of the show didn’t get pushed back until 8 PM, which even then is very early for Washington gig standards. The only other time she’s played in our town was with Laura Marling 2 years ago, her set framed by then forthcoming release on Bella Union of her second album, the beautiful ‘Time Travel’. That show was at Sixth and I Synagogue, a much larger venue, and I was running round the place taking photos, so I couldn’t really see her perform up close and in a relaxed way.

Admittedly, before I went on my 3-week holiday, I didn’t have time to listen to Laurent-Marke’s new LP ‘The Still Life’ released in April, but it’s more than coincidental that she got to go on tour with O’Brien, as she’s also decided to try something new sound-wise on record. It’s with some relief that songs like ‘Veins Are Blue’ on the new album are more classic Alessi’s Ark, but it’s a bit of a travesty that she had to perform solo, stood alone on the stage with her guitar – like the time before with Marling and just like O’Brien’s first visit to our city- because with a backing band, the set would have been far more compelling with its complex and beguiling arrangements, such as new album opening track ‘Tin Smithing’. Still, songs from ‘Time Travel’ like my personal favourite ‘Wire’ (whose words fall from my lips like second nature)and set closer ‘The Robot’ continue to work well even performed solo. The most haunting song award goes to ‘Woman’, from her 2009 debut ‘Notes from the Treehouse’. As Cheryl knows all too well, I tend to palm off the singer/songwriters off on her, since it’s not my favourite genre but every once in a while, someone like Laurent-Marke, entirely mesmerising to watch, captures my attention.

I’m going to cut and paste the first line of San Fermin‘s bio directly from their Web site, because it has to be read to be believed: ” A pastiche of post-rock, chamber-pop and contemporary classical composition, San Fermin is the work of Brooklyn composer and songwriter Ellis Ludwig-Leone.” Hmm. I think the first thing that kind of blew us away was how many people were crammed onstage for their set. Eight. Not kidding: three singers, one male, two female (one blonde, one brunette), with the brunette playing an instrument (violin); a trumpeter; a saxophonist (how often do we use that word here at TGTF? not very often); a guitarist; a drummer; and then Ludwig-Leone himself on keyboard. (No bassist. How is that possible?) If you’ve ever been to the RNR, you know getting that many people and their gear on that stage is a bit of a challenge. That bit from the biography makes me think that Ludwig-Leone is the only ‘member’ of this act who will stay constant, with the other players to be mixed and matched along the way . It’s definitely a unique take on the traditional way bands get together, I mean, mostly we cover bands that have met in university or were mates back from childhood, right?

Either way, Ludwig-Leone’s tunes, described by the blonde singer as “beautiful work”, has obviously attracted the right kind of attention, as he explained the video for single ‘Sonsick’ would be released the following week and that their (his?) eponymous album would be released in September on Downtown Records, an indie with ties to Universal and who have released albums by White Denim and Lissy Trullie. Several in our friends’ group there to watch Villagers agreed that the male singer sounded like Matt Berninger of the National, so I will go with that (I couldn’t tell you for sure, as I’m not a National fan, nor do I enjoy the male baritone singing style). The most confusing part of San Fermin’s set wasn’t the cacophony on stage: to be honest, the eight-strong band sounded tight, which is much to their credit. No, it was the style of songs being played, which made the set schizophrenic. You have songs where the blonde woman is singing like an opera singer and the arrangement is grand, but then you have songs like ‘Sonsick’ where you’re thinking as a reviewer, err, there’s so much going on here, how the heck am I going to explain this? Either way, you should probably keep the act name San Fermin in mind, as I expect they (he?) will be going places.

Villagers Washington live 2013

So, yes. Villagers. It is always a wonderful thing to be surrounded by delightful foreign to DC accents and the Irish one is no exception. O’Brien began their set with him performing ‘Memoir’, a track on the ‘Nothing Arrived’ single from last year. It was beautifully gentle, with his O’Brien’s gorgeous voice in this sad love song, playing his smaller-scale guitar. From there, it was straight into funky and slightly atonal ‘Passing a Message’, which was a better indication on how this set was going to go. Whoa whoa whoa. While the only time prior to this I’d seen him perform was solo, the transformation from the man who sang ‘Memoir’ to the one wailing on psychedelic ‘The Bell’ wasn’t what I expected at all. I kind of felt like I’d been slapped in the face by Cher like Nicolas Cage in Moonstruck.

And that was when it all clicked. It all made sense now. Loads of artists have said when working on their second albums, “I want to do something different”, “the new album will sound different”, they don’t want to stay in one place. But most of the time, I find the impetus to do something different isn’t authentic, it’s because they’re feeling the peer pressure to do so. I think everyone expected with the critical success of ‘…Jackal’ that the second Villagers album would just be a ‘…Jackal’ part 2. I can tell you for sure that in watching Villagers gig, O’Brien has truly written songs on ‘{Awayland}’ that he believes in and are a direct reflection of who he is a person and a songwriter. There’s nothing false here. Seeing him rip on a song like ‘Judgment Call’ and the aforementioned ‘The Bell’, but then throw himself emotionally and dazzlingly into ‘Becoming a Jackal’ and ‘Ship of Promises’ without missing a beat? It was all a wonderful thing to see.

O’Brien and band playing my favourite track of theirs, ever, the love song all about complete devotion, ‘The Pact’, had me absolutely verklempt. (How very appropriate that when I heard this song for the first time in 2010, even though I was entirely into dance music, I loved it. And now it fits perfectly in the guitar pop genre that I am in love with right now.) Conor J. O’Brien, the man and his songwriting, is all grown up. And that’s not a bad thing at all. It’s brilliant. I can’t wait to see what he has in store for us next.

After the cut: the set list.
Continue reading Villagers with Alessi’s Ark and San Fermin – Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington DC – 13th June 2013


Interview: Alessi’s Ark (Alessi Laurent-Marke)

By on Tuesday, 4th October 2011 at 12:00 pm

The lovely Alessi Laurent-Marke, the woman behind the mystique of Alessi’s Ark, just spent the last 2 weeks with Laura Marling on the road in North America. (Read the DC gig review here.) I was able to send some questions over to the mysterious Ms. Laurent-Marke, and her answers may surprise you. Such as how she responds to what ‘Time Travel’ means to her. Continue on through the interview below…

Hi Alessi, welcome to Washington! Is this your first real tour of the United States? Had you been here before for SXSW or CMJ?
Thank you for the welcome Mary! I’ve had the pleasure of visiting and playing in the United States quite a few times but this this is the first tour that has stopped in Montreal, which was a treat.

You and Laura’s band had the day off Monday – did you get any sightseeing in, or was it a case of catching up on much needed rest?
I don’t sleep so well but I think the others caught up on nap time. We travelled to Philadelphia for the band to perform at the World Cafe Cafe station and arrived in Washington in the evening so we didn’t see very much of the city on this trip. I was lucky to play in Washington in June however and had some time to walk around and learn about the beautiful city with my family. It is steeped in so much history and the architecture is very interesting. I hope to visit again before long.

On this tour, with you supporting Laura Marling, it’s a bill of two strong, female songwriters from London. What’s in been like, going across the country with Laura?
It was an honour and great fun.

You have such a beautiful, unusual name – Alessi. What is the story behind it? (I loved how you started your set last night with “You are beautiful!” Set the tone for the night, really.)

Thank you, I’m glad you like the name! ‘Alessi’ is an Italian name that my Mum had liked for a long time and had always intended on naming a child. We don’t have any Italian connections other than we have a mutual love of their cuisine!

Tell me about your musical childhood, when did you start getting interested in music? And when did you start to write songs?
I started playing the drums at school when I was 11 and joined the school bands playing cover songs. It was good fun and led me to picking up the guitar when I was 14. I also started writing a zine called ‘Brain Bulletin’. Around the same time where I’d write about music and books I was excited about and hoped others would enjoy too. I started putting music to poems and piecing songs together when I was
around 15.

I heard your first instrument was the drums. Is this true? It seems like a difficult first instrument, especially for a girl?

Yes, I started on the drums. They are wonderful to play and always looked very fun to play whenever I went to gigs. My dream was to drum and continue with the zine.

Most of your songs are very short. Are they conceived this way, or is this how they end up when you write?
I’m not sure why my songs are so short, it’s an interesting question that I can’t really answer. I guess I don’t wish to outstay my welcome.

So the mythology is that you signed your first record deal at the age of 17. Not what other 17-year olds are doing at that point in their lives! Tell me what that was like. Did you feel a lot of pressure, especially since by that point you had quit school against your parents’ wishes?
y parents are very supportive of my sister and I and we’re very lucky to understand each other as a family. They never objected to my leaving school and the pressure I feel is the pressure I put on myself
(which is quite a lot, I suppose). I started playing gigs in and around London when I was 16 and didn’t rush into signing with EMI – I was very taken aback and a bit frightened that the music had caught their
attention so early into my playing.

So yesterday (27 September) was the American release date for ‘Time Travel’, finally. I really like it and I feel like it shows a more mature Alessi. Do you agree?

Oh I’m glad you like it, that’s great to hear. ‘Time Travel’ was recorded three years after my first album ‘Notes from the Treehouse’ and so there has been inevitable growth and experience in that space
of time. I hope it keeps others good company!

My two favourite songs on the album are ‘The Wire’ and ‘On the Plains’. In ‘The Wire’, it sounds like you are continuing a theme explored in the earlier ‘Soul Proprietor’ EP (review here), and I’m really intrigued with the song. First, there is the American vs. British English usage in “dollar bill” rhyming with “rusty till”.
The ‘Wire’ was written with a shop in mind that I used to visit during my time recording the first album in Omaha so there really were dollar bills in the rusted till!

Second, the woman that you sing about in the song sounds very powerful. Does she represent someone in your real life?
She is a strong, beautiful woman who is apart from the person she loves.

There’s a nice, upbeat change of pace in ‘On the Plains’, and it even has a happy flute in the background. It has a line that goes, “it’s hard to say what kept me going / ‘cos I don’t what kept you gone”, which I find utterly heartbreaking. The happy feeling of the song goes against what the song is saying to me, it’s actually a sad love song. What can you tell me about it?
I love the sound of the flute, it’s such a pretty instrument. The song was written in two parts and covers different ground and experiences.

‘Stalemate’ also has a very powerful line, which I found even more powerful live last night: “the only thing I’ve learnt is I like singing / all the lessons that the guitar is bringing.” In the process of being a songwriter, have you “learnt” a lot? Anything you care to share with us fans?
My songs are snippets of everyday life that I hope others can relate to. In my song ‘Woman’ there is a line, “some things are better sung than said”, and I keep finding that the sentence is true, at least for

The longest song, at barely 4 minutes, is the title track ‘Time Travel’. “I can time travel / just lying in bed” – what does this line mean to you? Is this a prevailing theme throughout the album?

You can be transported by memories and dreams, which is something so beautiful. All you need to do is close your eyes. It’s free and you can go anywhere. Music for me is a means of time travel and always has been. Putting on an album can be be amazing escapism to wherever you’d like to go.

You also have a cover on the album, ‘Maybe I Know’ by an artist most young people are not familiar with, ‘60s star Lesley Gore, who famously sang ‘It’s My Party’. How did you come to choose this song to cover?
Two summers ago, a friend dreamt that I performed the song at a school party and he sent a link to footage of Lesley performing the song. I was blown away by the lyrics but it wasn’t till I’d finished
recording ‘Time Travel’ that I decided to have a go despite how in awe I was of the song. I didn’t even play with the full ‘Ark’ on the recording; I sang and played drums, Jamie swapped from his usual
electric to acoustic guitar and the lovely engineer, David played vibes, bass and piano. We finished off with hand claps!

There are so many young people coming up now that want to be a position like yours, being a singer/songwriter with few restrictions on your artistic direction. What advice would you have for them?
The support and encouragement of family and friends has been invaluable to me: I’d say keep a security blanket around your soul and stay true to you.

Alessi’s Ark’s second album, ‘Time Travel’, is available now from Bella Union. Many thanks to Elliot for setting this interview up for us.


Live Review: Laura Marling with Alessi’s Ark at Sixth and I Synagogue, Washington, DC – 27th September 2011

By on Friday, 30th September 2011 at 2:00 pm

I’ve had the distinct pleasure of seeing three sold out shows (so far) in the historic synagogue in DC – the xx in March 2009, the Airborne Toxic Event in September 2009, and just a couple nights ago, Laura Marling. The synagogue is often described as a sanctuary, which is completely appropriate for an evening with Laura Marling and her opener on this tour, Alessi’s Ark. Both acts take the words ‘singer/songwriter’ and prove that even though they are young and female, they have more talent in a finger that plucks a guitar string than most top 40 artists.

Alessi Laurent-Marke, the woman behind Alessi’s Ark, started her set with the words “you are beautiful”. We could have said the same about her music. Although I’d never seen her perform, I had an idea that she would be quite bashful, like the Laura Marling I’d seen last year. She might have been stumbling over her stage patter from nerves, but once she started singing, she showed what she sings in ‘Stalemate’ is true: “the only thing I’ve learnt is I like singing / all the lessons that the guitar is bringing.” Good for us that she has turned her attention to writing songs, with grace (‘Time Travel’) and demonstration that you can cope with the pain of losing a love (‘On the Plains’). In a true act of democracy, she let the crowd choose the final song – it was to be either ‘Hummingbird’ from her 2009 album ‘Notes from the Treehouse’ or ‘The Robot’ from her current album, ‘Time Travel’. ‘The Robot’ won out, with Laurent-Marke standing there, looking overwhelmed by the positive response from the audience.

One thing that Laurent-Marke said during her set: “are you ready for Laura and her gang? They’re gonna melt your faces off!” It was funny hearing such a precious young woman say that to us, but it turned out to be true. When I saw Laura Marling last year at Iota, I was struck by how quiet and shy she was. This time around, she was still a bit shy, but she told jokes that made us laugh (like how she would be singing some lies during the show and wanted to be aboveboard: “the first line of the song ‘Salinas’ is ‘I am from Salinas’, and I am not!”), which indicated to me that she was a lot more comfortable being a ‘rock star’. She should get used to this though, since her cathedral tour of the UK in October is sold out. Wearing a denim shirt and jeans, she looked very laid back and dressed appropriately for her folky, jazzy new album ‘A Creature I Don’t Know’ (review here).

The set covered all three of Marling’s albums, and it was startling to hear the heavy darkness of set opener ‘Rambling Man’, the simple beauty of ‘Alas I Cannot Swim’ and the breezy folkiness of ‘The Muse’. I nearly cried hearing her play a solo version of ‘Goodbye England’ as she explained it didn’t matter at what time it was, whenever she was away from England she missed it terribly. ‘Sophia’, as the official video indicated, is fabulous-sounding live in a house of worship, her backing band on point. I will say this: if you have a ticket to the cathedral tour in October, feel lucky. Because below is a taste of what you will experience.


After the cut: set list and more photos.

Alessi’s Ark Set List:
On the Plains
Time Travel
The Horse
The Robot

Alessi’s Ark Photos:

Laura Marling Set List:
Rambling Man
Alpha Shallows
Alas I Cannot Swim
The Card
The Muse
Hope in the Air
Don’t Ask Me Why
Goodbye England (solo)
new song (solo)
Night After Night (solo)
Blackberry Stone
What He Wrote
I Speak Because I Can
All My Rage

Laura Marling Photos:


MP3 of the Day (and more!) #404: Alessi’s Ark

By on Tuesday, 20th September 2011 at 10:00 am

Alessi-Laurent Marke, the woman behind Alessi’s Ark, released her album ‘Time Travel’ in April on Bella Union. We’re just catching up here on this side of the Atlantic, where the album will be released next week (on 27 September). In case you need some convincing that this album is worth your money (if you haven’t bought it already, of course), the track ‘Maybe I Know’ (a cover of the ’60s classic by Lesley Gore) is up for grabs today. Listen to it and download it below. Also below is the promo video for the song. (Some of us already knew this but maybe not everyone is aware how cute as a button Laurent-Marke is.)

MP3: Alessi’s Ark – Maybe I Know (Lesley Gore cover)




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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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