Secret Meeting score: 80
by Joseph Purcell
In the basement of Manchester’s Soup Kitchen, Portland songstress, Haley Heynderickx, brought her album I Need to Start a Garden to life on a blustery Friday night in the Northern Quarter – opening for the Nova Scotia slacker pop band, Nap Eyes. After releasing one of the best debuts so far this year, intrigue had built for how its beautifully evocative musical moments would be recreated in the live arena, but Heynderickx more than delivered.
Taking to the stage with an charming shyness, Heynderickx with only her guitar and beautiful voice for company, delivered thirty minutes of sauntering, whimsical songs – along with endearing explanations of the funny, heartfelt tales behind them.
Unititled God Song – one of I Need to Start a Garden’s many highlights – began the evening, with its wonderful, delicate guitar which allowed space for Heynderickx’s voice to captivate all those in attendance. But it was with second song, Big Ol’ Miyazaki Tears, that her voice really began to take off, and encapsulated perfectly her powerful fragility – with the howling delivery that is a trademark of her debut record.
Touching on her inspirations, her struggle with writing, and the simplicity of that which inspired them, she made a touching tribute to the tragic news of Frightened Rabbit singer Scott Hutchison’s untimely death. Heynderickx spoke eloquently about the struggle for mental health recognition and dedicated a cover of Townes Van Zandt’s Rex’s Blues – a song about a man who struggles with the blues – to all those battling with mental health.
The nervous Heynderickx then spoke touchingly about the inspiration for Ayon’s Kitchen. Discussing, with the by now packed crowd, that she had wanted her room mate to like her, instead of approaching her, she would play songs in the kitchen until her room mate would say she liked it. The air of vulnerability that permeates her LP is accentuated by her live performance, but this is of no detriment to Heynderickx; it quite simply adds to her authenticity. Songwriting is about creating connections, and it’s not difficult to feel an affinity with her raw musical talent.
Drinking Song – introduced by Heynderickx as a song ‘about drinking, but we are all going to die so that’s ok’ – provided yet another moment for her clean, crisp voice to cut through the damp, musty surroundings of the venue, before an interlude regarding her attempts to understand Britain’s quaint cultures and a discussion of ‘crumpets, podcasts and tea’.
Before her final two numbers of the night, Heynderickx encouraged everyone to introduce themselves to someone they had never met before, then closed her set with the fantastic Bug Collector and a song she’d been inspired to write by working in an Oregon Centre with children who struggled to write – Oom Sha La La – which, as the the most immediate song from her debut album, closed the evening with a sing-a-long finale.
This may only have been Heynderickx’s second time in Manchester, and incidentally both times have been as a support act. But on this showing, she’s welcome back any time, and she proved she’s more than ready to be a headline act.