The Ilfords at the Portland ArmsAnabella Binks (@anabinks.jpg) with permission for Varsity

Going across the river for the first time since my time started here at Cambridge, I arrived at the Portland Arms having been promised a wonderful evening showcasing some of Cambridge’s greatest musical talent ranging from the delightful and sombre melodies of singer JAYNE to the high-octane rock music of the Ilfords and everything in between. I’m very glad to say that the night did not disappoint whatsoever, helped in no small part by Ilford’s drummer Finlay Gerrand who put the night together and kindly invited Varsity along.

“Even if you dislike both jazz and rap, I’m sure listening to Quasar will change your mind”

The first act of the night was singer-songwriter JAYNE who got the night off to a great start with her wistful melodies and silky-smooth vocals, holding the audience captive and in awe of her vocal mastery. JAYNE has recently moved to Cambridge from York where she was strongly praised by the York arm of BBC Music Introducing and it is no wonder why. Her confidence on stage led to a deeply personal performance – it felt as though the audience was linked to the lyrics and emotions emanating through her music. The highlight of her set for me, however, was her cover of Kate Bush’s (and currently TikTok’s favourite) “Running up that hill”: her stripped down solo version along with her alto had me experience the song more viscerally as the original version’s synths were stripped away. JAYNE is definitely one to watch with her debut single “Talking In My Sleep” currently streaming on Spotify.

JAYNE performing at the Portland ArmsAnabella Binks (@anabinks.jpg) with permission for Varsity

Taking the evening in an entirely different direction, the University’s jazz-rap 9-piece conglomerate came on stage. This was my first time seeing Quasar and it’s an experience I will never forget; as the saxophone started playing the head of the jazz standard “In a Sentimental Mood”, I could sense that my mind was about to be blown. Morphing from jazz into jazz-rap, Quasar’s rappers brought the room to another plane of existence as all were focused on their impeccable flow which made it impossible not to move your body. All this hype was heightened by the virtuosic solo breaks taken by the saxophone, piano, and guitar as the audience bopped to one of Cambridge’s best bands. Having now played gigs at numerous balls this May Week, Quasar is certainly an act that you should go out of your way to watch – even if you dislike both jazz and rap, I’m sure listening to them will change your mind.

Three of the nine members of QuasarAnabella Binks (@anabinks.jpg) with permission for Varsity

Continuing the jazz theme, Temor came to the stage to show us why they’re heavyweights in the Cambridge jazz scene. The quartet consisted of bass, drums, piano, and cornet: this tried-and-tested formula really shone, especially with the mellowness of the cornet creating a distinctly different atmosphere than what would have been made should there have been a trumpet. This mellowness especially complemented the set as a trance-like state was induced in the audience as they fixated on the incredible playing of the quartet. To me, one of the biggest merits of Temor’s performance has to be the way that they were able to engage and invigorate the audience, somehow making them hype for jazz (something that seems to be a trend, with similar achievements being made by JazzSoc in making jazz more exciting). Temor’s band leader and bassist also has to get a special mention here as his humour and masterful crowd work was really the cherry on top of the already incredible music.

Temor performing at the Portland ArmsAnabella Binks (@anabinks.jpg) with permission for Varsity


Mountain View

A sensational live performance: Jacob Collier’s Djesse concert review

The headliners of the evening were the indie/alt rock band The Ilfords who, after a long break, have returned to playing with their new single “Something She Said To Me”, which was recently released. The Ilfords started playing together as young teenagers in Newcastle, eventually performing in major venues such as the O2 Academy Newcastle and recently selling out the Camden Assembly as headliners. This experience that The Ilfords have behind them absolutely shines through in their playing as their high energy and fast-paced rock music takes no prisoners as it sweeps absolutely everybody off their feet leaving them no option but to dance. Their songs were laced with self-aware, funny commentary and lyrics while being powered by guitar riffs filling up the sound with glorious distortion, echoing the earlier Arctic Monkeys yet keeping their distinct voice and sound. Their crowd work was also next-level with their frontman interacting with the audience and ending the night with a stage dive at the same time as people at the back of the room were having fun with a cone that had “The Ilfords” tattooed on it. The entire set was pure fun and vigorous from the start to the end as you could tell that each member was so glad to be on stage again and playing in front of such a grateful and receptive audience. The Ilfords’ new single, along with their previous releases, is now streaming on Spotify and they are also playing at a number of other venues across the country as they continue their “New Wave” tour.

Three of the four members of the IlfordsAnabella Binks (@anabinks.jpg) with permission for Varsity

All in all, the night was perhaps one of the best concert experiences I have had, easily comparing to Jacob Collier’s concert I had attended the night before and easily eclipsing it in how great the atmosphere was, making no compromises in passion. It was an eclectic evening of masterful musicianship that I am definitely not going to forget in a hurry.

The night ended with a stage diveAnabella Binks (@anabinks.jpg) with permission for Varsity