It’s a seam-breaking, packed Wednesday night at Cavern; the crowd is patterned with denim-clad, neatly coiffed punters who are visibly chuffed to be at this sold-out, mega-star-in-the-making’s intimate show (admittedly, me included). There are only a handful of students, who have undoubtedly sought out Garratt as a welcome elixir amidst the gloom of exams. A mysterious bearded silhouette furiously fiddles with the onstage equipment, spurring sporadic howls of excitement from an itching crowd – whether it is Jack at this point is anyone’s guess as there seems to be more collective facial hair onstage than was sociably acceptable five years ago. This would seem like a divine opportunity for indie-bashing but, in my experience, there’s an undeniable positive correlation between the number of ‘hipsters’ in a given postcode and a burgeoning, tasteful music scene and Exeter cannot have enough of them.
The set starts out with Garratt smashing an eclectic drum; its beat is adorned with a pulsating, multi-coloured light – an evident nod to the title of his new EP, Synesthesiac; a real medical condition which allows the subject to ‘see’ sounds in colours. It seems to be the theme tonight, as the show is of an equally visual indulgence as it is sonic one (in truth, the theme runs throughout his music as it seems to be extrasensory, unencumbered by the arbitrary boundaries of genre). After an arresting silence, he grabs his electric guitar and dives into Water. A partly-hummed, partly-fingered beat are the foundations and these are garnished with light guitar lines and warm piano – all played and looped by the man himself. When the ‘wub’-heavy bass hits you, it only selves to compliment the intensity of his vocal delivery and by the time the set-starter winds to an end, you are convinced that Mr. Garratt is the king of textured dynamics, knowing just when to draw everything back and hastily pour it all out again.
One song in and the crowd erupts in exceptional levels of cheers and applause, warranting giddy, unashamedly uncool gratitude from the man. Garratt effortlessly establishes rapport with the crowd with geeky and funny witticisms, an innocence which is shattered by the foreboding, sinister, cult-like hums of club banger, Chemical. The superimposing clap wakes the crowd out of their slumber and prolonged silence teases them before the scabrous two-step chorus. I hear shouts of “wow!” and “what the f*** just happened?” as he reins everything in suddenly with a live, jazz-infused piano coda.
Garrett then apologises for “technical malfunctions” (which no one could have possibly noticed) and then compliments the crowd for being so much fun. I see the girl in front of me turn to her friends and mouth loving sentiments to them with her hand on her chest – this guy’s likability has clearly melted her heart. He then plays a gentle, electric guitar-driven song called Old which begs a certain someone to keep him young and declares “when I grow old I’ll drink and smoke/just long as you stay” in poignant, pitch-perfect falsetto. Most impressive of all is the way he punctuates the song by snapping his fingers to the microphone, mid-guitar. This guy is outrageously talented.
After a spontaneous, affecting speech about the importance of supporting new music and what it means to sell out his first date back on tour, any saccharine left over is blasted into oblivion when Garratt lays a barrages of extra loud guitar licks onto the crowd – he clearly plays a hot-and-cold game, as he follows this with fan-favourite, Worry.
The dance between nasty, explosive basslines and pristine guitar of Remnants ensues, and he teases that he has to leave, to the sound of widespread tantrums: “Last one! This isn’t panto! Okay, two more…” He wraps up with an unconventional one-two punch of delectably warm, unknown ballad, Surprise Yourself, and the sumptuous crowd-pleaser, The Love You’re Given. During the former, I have to admit to never having seen such unfathomable silence and awed respect in a crowd this size, which quite simply speaks volumes of the effect this particular musician has on the ordinary person. Watching him is an exercise in restraint of one’s own excitement, as one cannot believe one man can produce a performance of such musical dexterity and emotive zeal, singlehandedly onstage. As The Love You’re Given ebbs to an end, Garratt smashes his drum stick to the floor as the sample plays on – a fittingly symbolic end to the night, as he’s absolutely smashed it.