In a time of immense uncertainty for small music venues, it feels fitting for Biig Piig to make her virtual debut from London’s Moth Club. The Hackney venue is renowned for providing a platform to the most up-and-coming acts, its shimmering gold walls having borne witness to many an unforgettable gig – from riotous indie garage band Hinds’ taste-making 2015 appearance to a secret show from Lady Gaga in 2016. This evening, it’s time for Irish singer-songwriter Biig Piig (aka 22-year-old Jess Smyth) to shine – albeit in slightly different circumstances.
Organised to raise money for Refuge and Trans Women of Color Survival Fund, Biig Piig’s mini-festival firmly puts the spotlight on female voices. Fellow member of London’s NiNE 8 Collective NAYANA IZ kicks off proceedings with enchanting vocals and Indian-inspired beats from her latest EP ‘SMOKE & FLY’. Next up is newcomer Enny, whose frank, wise flow echoes that of Lauryn Hill as she recounts tales of London life and unrequited love.
And then the boom-bap hip-hop makes way for a pared-back, acoustic set from Smyth. It’s a rough-around-the-edges, intimate affair; at one point, noises from the tech crew accidentally interrupt Biig Piig as she shyly introduces her blues-tinged melodies. Initial awkwardness fades away as Smyth loses herself in the melancholy of ‘Perdida’, rapping in Spanish with visceral emotion. “You just don’t know how to act” she mourns over saxophone on ‘Vete’, transporting you to some moody, low-lit jazz bar in Madrid.
A soulful cover of Louis Armstrong’s ‘What A Wonderful World’ sees Biig Piig hope for the “dream world that we’ll return to again”. In the silence between songs, the camera lingers on an ironic ‘Applause Please’ sign, a haunting reminder of the club’s emptiness. But before the emotion gets too much, Biig Piig switches it up. Suddenly the band are standing in warm lighting and Smyth is singing about the honeymoon stage of a relationship on ‘24K’. “It’s golden”, she smiles as the venue’s famed glittery backdrop is cleverly revealed.
Biig Piig’s performance continues to build in style and confidence. Rhythm guitar and romance peak on ‘Roses & Gold’ and latest single ‘Don’t Turn Around’, as Smyth fully leans into her soulful voice and actually starts to dance. “Gah – I hate fucking intros!” are the last words we hear from the still-retiring musician. She might not be convinced, but Biig Piig definitely brought the glow back to Moth Club.
Biig Piig played:
‘Lie To Me’
‘What a Wonderful World’ (Louis Armstrong Cover)
‘Dinners Gettin’ Cold’
‘Roses & Gold’
‘Don’t Turn Around’
‘Dance Like You’ (Okay Kaya cover)