Eras of Style. It's a converted station that's been transformed into an antiques warehouse, with its own rather splendid cafe, with Art Deco sofas and excellent coffee. We tend to pop in whenever we're over that way, although we've never actually bought anything other than refreshments.
A few weekends back, we took my sister and her family there and the four year old was entranced by a room full of old fairground bits and bobs, including some walzter carriages that had been converted into sofas (I know, I would have if we had the room). While we were there I noticed some posters for a couple of upcoming gigs in the cafe, and made a note to check them out. I knew I recognised the name Diane Cluck from somewhere, and although I couldn't find her on Spotify (usually a good sign), I realised I'd first heard her music on a Green Man Festival sampler from 2007, and more recently on Freakzone. Both good signs.
Thursday night events in Sussex are always a bit tricky, as Ant has to make it back from London, but I booked tickets anyway, feeling optimistic. The night rolled around and public transport was not kind to my date. He missed two excellent support acts and the chance to claim one of the vintage armchairs that had been arranged as seating, but thankfully he arrived just in time for the headliner.
Accompanied only by her own guitar, and talented young cellist Isabel Castellvi, Diane Cluck filled the intimate space with charm and warmth, and no small amount of musical accomplishment. Her poetic, heartfelt lyrics weaving effortlessly through complex time signatures and quirky cadences, she kept the audience spellbound. It made such a refreshing change to be at a gig where everyone was completely silent and respectful during the performance - not something you experience very often in Brighton, except perhaps at St George's.
Although her style is very much her own, we found certain pleasant similarities with Laura Veirs, Jesca Hoop and Natalie Merchant - all much loved artists in this household. I was particularly captivated by a song about Saint Sara, who Cluck apparently discovered and become fascinated with on a trip to France. The magic felt by the artist carried contagiously through her singing, and a haunting chorus of "Sara-Kali-Ereshkigal-Sara" sent shivers down my spine. She writes more about the story behind the song here.
At one point, the cellist put down her instrument to come and sing in unaccompanied harmony with Cluck, revealing a talent for more than just strings. Their perfectly intertwined voices in that cosy setting was a truly lovely experience, and as I felt him relax into the evening, I hoped that Ant's stressful journey had been worth it. If you get the chance, I highly recommend seeing Diane Cluck live; she's one of those people to whom the recorded form doesn't do full justice.
Eras of Style proved an unexpected delight of a venue - it felt like a private performance in an eccentrically decorated living room, complete with wonky standard lamps in place of stage lighting. In a few weeks I'll be back for Liz Green, for which you can still buy tickets here. These charming events are being put on by Music's Not Dead, a little independent music shop in Bexhill that you should definitely visit, too.