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Thursday 24th July 2014, 15:39 BST | Cambridge,UK

Songs in the Dark

Clowns Cafe; 4th March

For those who don't know, Songs in the Dark happens once a fortnight, and is one of the loveliest events in Cambridge. It involves a (large) crowd crammed upstairs in (small) Clowns Café, and it is as compact and charming as a musical box.

Pretentious enthusiasm aside, the line-up included two-sevenths of Hamfatter, who were laid-back but still got the crowd singing to their happy-go-lucky, intelligent pop plus another Songs in the Dark favourite, Frank Paul, combining Russian folk music with surreal, strangely poignant humour. Imagine a less raucous Eugene Hutz singing poetry by Ivor Cutler. With a balalaika. If you can't do that, I can't help you. There was also a stunning performance from Laura Hocking, whose witty, imaginative lyrics (‘my heart's an obsidian elephant, it creaks like a hinge') and voice like cut glass brought the crowd to awed silence.

Other highlights included an enthusiastic rendition of Marvin Gaye's "Let's Get it On" from Brett Scott, Matt Lloyd and Fongphu Tran and brooding ballads from Michael Trafford, which were vaguely reminiscent of Nick Cave. Aside from this burgeoning creativity, it's gentle intimacy here that forms much of Songs in the Dark's appeal. An excellent way to procrastinate on a Sunday evening.

Becky Varley-Winter

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