‘I’m no big deal’. This is the tagline for singer-songwriter Julie Ann Baenziger’s Sea of Bees blog, last updated in 2010. Though honest, such self-effacement is discouraging – particularly when facing near two hours attention to Baenziger’s music. The crowd in the womb-walled Night and Day Café is sparse, though there is a little line of devotees to the right of the stage who tell me they’ve followed Jules Bee, as she’s otherwise known, around the UK to see her play.
Still, muted cheers rise when the band arrive, unannounced. The flat planes of Baenziger’s face emerge from an eighties hair halo as her mouth makes its way around the big notes of ‘Skinnybone’. With two albums under her belt, Baenziger’s voice has an obvious agility, hooking the top notes like whisky from a high self, but her words become smudged by the stoner’s slur of her Californian accent. It is a strange, eccentric sound from someone who presents themselves so plainly: Baenziger wears a jarring red check-shirt and sludge-coloured trouser combo. The set list is a discordant compilation of songs from Baenziger’s two albums, Songs for the Ravens and, most recently, Orangefarben, the willfully cryptic title meaning ‘orange-coloured’ in German.
Baenziger alternates between the wild, unexpected melodies of songs like ‘Gnomes’, and the more straightforward pulses of ‘Broke’ or ‘Girl’. Two thirds through, a lady in baby blue weaves into the space before the stage and begins to wiggle to the music, wagging one sassy finger. Beneath fairy lights that go nuts at steady intervals, experimental folk is being danced to disastrously badly. The effect is terrible and comic in the worst way. Watched over by and absurd and ancient moose head, Sea of Bees slides into its only predictable end: oblivion.