Tucked away in one of the grimier corners of Kottbusser Tor is something of a hidden gem – Skalitzer Strasse’s Monarch club, a smoky stomping ground for folk and alternative artists trying to slip unnoticed into Berlin’s indie scene.
It’s unassuming and calm, with cheap drinks to boot. There’s no pretentiousness here – both concertgoers and artists are free to mix and mingle without any of the hostility so common in other venues this reviewer has stumbled into. The utterly unique atmosphere can’t be ignored, and it’s the bar’s delightful grubbiness that gives it its charm. We were here to see Leah Senior, a post-folk singer-songwriter whose pretty and intriguing Buckley-esque back catalogue is something we’ve been listening to on repeat for the past fortnight.
It feels more like a living room than a concert venue. Travelling all the way from Melbourne, Australia to perform on her first ever European tour, she was accompanied by Ned Collette – both of whom, it became immediately apparent, were entirely at home up on stage. His supporting set was pleasant and well-executed, and with a honeyed and raspy voice, his compositions are certainly something we hope to hear more of very soon.
Senior is an artist who is overwhelmingly self-aware, without any of the cockiness or arrogance that comes with it. Whittling off charming renditions of tracks from her two previous albums and latest EP Graves, the setlist complemented the venue perfectly. There was no need for gaudy staging or garish light shows – there’s a meditative quality to her songs which curated a perfectly mellow end to a busy week.
Her inimitable brand of beat poetry is a captivating thing: the ideas she explores through her lyrics are thoughtful and poignant, although sometimes joyful and sometimes sad. Sunday night’s performance created a little sanctuary in fairly unstable times – in addition to this, the singer was more than happy to stay behind after the show to speak and connect with her fans. It’s not often that artists take the time to do this, and her gratefulness and appreciation for those who had made the effort to see her perform on a dreary evening was obvious and authentic.
It would appear that the softly-spoken Senior is at least in part somewhat oblivious to the scale of her talent – her minimal and playful compositional style accompanied by her deliciously delicate vocals is something that, in our opinion, deserves a great deal more attention than it’s currently receiving. It seemed as though all other attendees were in the same headspace – the resonating silence present as she performed was truly palpable. It’s rare that such a quiet artist can bring a noisy central-Berlin venue to a standstill, but Senior managed to achieve that in what seemed to be a wholly effortless recital.
Her music is contagiously lovely, with lyrics that are intelligent and perceptive. There’s a grace with which she and Collette perform – it goes without saying that they’re the perfect pairing for a show of this nature. If you get the chance to see her perform live while she’s still in Europe, we’d strongly encourage you to grab that opportunity with both hands.