Ellie Dixon: The Epitome of Indie [Gig Review]
Updated: Dec 7, 2021
Ellie Dixon is someone who can seemingly do it all. Whether it's turning a maths degree into viral pop sensations on the regular, hand making merch or promo, producing her own songs, or even rocking a statement red-hearted suit whilst managing a keyboard, bass guitar and loop station simultaneously with relative ease. Ellie Dixon is building all corners of an indie-pop empire with her very own hands and watching the fruits from her labour pay off in emphatic fashion.
At the launch party for her latest EP ‘Crikey! It’s My Psyche’, at the Camden Assembly, it was much the same. Everywhere you looked there were traces of the inescapable and infectious energy that has come to define her music and artistic delivery. Before the show, for example, to introduce herself Ellie played an audio track of her distorted voice imitating a space-themed public announcement. After the show, to introduce her encore, this played again, this time extending the EP's lore. In a post-show interview, Ellie told us how she’d “put the time into how I want the flow to be, how it will look, venue playlists, merch stands, the lot”.
But let's start with Ellie's support, Claudia Kate. Claudia has to be one of the most impactful show openers we've seen as of late. She performed with an overwhelming sense of realism that had a massive impact, where as an audience you could feel no pretence artistically, and no pretence about her being first on the bill. This was a musician here to play her music, and enjoy herself whilst she's at it. The songs that filled up her set felt intensely representative of the comings and goings of our age: crushes, body image and trying to make sense of all the senseless feelings that seemed to define our teen years.
The song 'Fat' was a particular high-point of the set, where Claudia Kate brought out some intense spoken word. Fusing this into bedroom-ballad pop is striking in itself, but on stage it was carried with so much emotion that you couldn't help but be completely engrossed - partly in wonderful shock, partly in wonderful astonishment.
In a post-show interview, Claudia mentioned that she creates such ‘real’ music because it’s just her talking to herself, often inebriated, because that’s when she’s most pensive. And we all felt that. The only way to describe the applause after this song was that it was necessarily extended. People just didn't stop clapping. It didn't feel right, in that moment, to cease the way in which we were expressing admiration for what had just happened on that stage, because the admiration, in those moments, felt endless. And this was the warm up!
It's rare that a support artist can find such a secure home in an audience of people who were, largely, there to see someone else. It's rare, too, that a support artist and an audience can pretty much instantaneously strike up a good relationship with the crowd, and Claudia did this emphatically as above, but also with all the things a crowd having a good time exhibit. Wooing and clapping at every available opportunity, silence and attentive listening when things got serious, and even joyous laughter at the right parts too. Claudia told us that “I just want my music to make people feel better. That’s the bottom line.” And we can confirm that happiness was in the air.
The point with Claudia Kate is that, when it comes to the ‘usual’ support we see at gigs, she was not that. We had a set given to us that struck up a mostly independent, flourishing relationship with the audience that catalysed a vast array of feelings through the medium of really good sounding music. For all intents and purposes, this part of the show was hers and hers alone. Claiming that she was herself “surprised how comfortable I was” is a testament to the existence of a beautiful symbiotic relationship with the crowd. This was a very skilled musician enjoying herself on stage, with complete audience reciprocation, delivering a very good set.
And so an excellent warm up gets the temperature exactly right for what was about to follow.
There's a purposeful homemade and amateur feel to what Ellie Dixon does. Everyone understands that it isn't actually amateur (far from it), and although it might regularly be homemade, everyone understands that there are levels of talent and musical intellect of the very highest calibre that are woven through this artist. But this is what Ellie Dixon does. This is Ellie Dixon's take on music: unapologetically different, fiercely herself and just, simply, brilliant overall.
The set itself - tonight's main show - was really fun, musically. All the things you'd expect of a good setlist were there. There were junctures that brought the energy up, down, to introspect and into dance - and the transitions between those states as an audience felt well done and really enjoyable. The song selection balanced itself out, where feelings of missing out on the Dixon deep cuts like (some of our personal favourites) 'Take Me Home' or 'Pressure' were met with feelings of excitement with covers of 'Toxic' by Britney Spears (compete with a custom verse) and putting the close of the EP, 'Sucker' right at the top of the show. It felt like there was always something musically exciting or spiritually wholesome going on through the setlist, and as an audience that's a very nice place to be.
Just the same, though, as when it sticks in your mind as an audience member that the artist you're seeing isn't enjoying themselves, it sticks in your mind when an artist really is. There were few moments where Ellie, inside and outside of song, didn't have a massive smile on her face or a light hearted commentary to give. This leaked into the delivery of her music too, literally in the sense that you could sometimes hear inflections in voice at the end of lyrics because she had laughed or smiled. But figuratively too, in the sense that joy, comfort and the want to have a good time echoed and reverberated around the room. We couldn't help but love the set just the same as Ellie couldn't help but love to play it.
People in the crowd were passionately shouting back Ellie's lyrics with near to zero inhibition, and the salience here is that some of these lyrics had only been released a matter of months ago. This chorus of no inhibition was complemented by an almost constant accompanying energy of audience input between songs, slowly edging into the realms of a conversation between those in the audience and those on stage. To this end, Ellie described that “the connection and genuine love I felt from the audience was nothing like I have ever felt”.
It felt like these impromptu conversations were made possible by either very clever and strategic or very polite and accommodating breaks in Ellie’s set- but knowing the artistry of Ellie Dixon, it was probably a bit of both.
What's important about this, though, is not only that Ellie had sufficiently loosened up the crowd even before the first song had finished, but that these conversations between her and us, were based almost solely on Ellie's wider discography and memes. Two such were that of repeated and varied calls based around broccoli (in reference to Ellie's breakout hit 'Green Grass') and 'Crikey' (in reference to her appropriately humorously titled, part-eponymous, EP).
These play into what we think Ellie has done so well, and a large part of why we think Ellie will continue to do so. She has built a world that people want to be in, and brought this all to life live, where people can physically be in that world too. It didn't feel to us like it was a live promotional launch to supplement a new release. It didn't feel to us like it was a commercial set piece in collaboration with a body as big as Live Nation. And yet, even though it was both of these things, it felt more like an extra large living room, filled with a group of people you've known for ages, all listening to some friends who happen to have instruments with them. It was intimate, not in the 'dimly-lit, quiet sounds' type of way, but more in that the set up of this gig was nothing more than two party's coalescing: Ellie Dixon, and people who loved Ellie Dixon. Modestly dismissive, Ellie mentioned “I do what I do because I can’t not. I’ve had an inescapable drive to create ever since I can remember”, adding that “I want to have a net positive impact on the world around me”. It’s no surprise that people feel this love, and feel a want to give this love back.
People were willing to feel all of these things solely because of how she carries herself and her work, and in this lay an audience trait and brand identity that we think most artists aspire to - even more so, this early in their careers. Almost universally, we saw an audience that carried a single word (as random as ‘broccoli’), from a single lyric through the whole show. Just think about what that means for brand identity and integration, and how often you see that happen in the world of music.
There were a couple of minute musical points throughout the set that sounded like the type a few more hours in the rehearsal studio could've fixed, but this was her first show back and we were told after that the weeks leading up to the headline had been particularly busy for Ellie and her team. “It was a pretty crazy run-up because I was out of the country until a week beforehand so everything from hand-making all the signs and merch to rehearsals (and writing the second half of one of the songs) all happened in a week”, she told us. But these moments didn't get in the way of allowing the show to be what it was meant to be: homely, genuine and sincere, all lathered in a quirky realism that speaks to something innately relatable within all of us. Even though what we saw was still a demonstration of immense talent, vocal supremacy and distinguished sounds straight out of the top drawer, a completely polished set would've been outside of the driving effort of the show that was successfully injected into every other aspect that we came across: the infectious and impressive homemade feel that has invited the high regard of millions (TikToker's have been included in this figure's calculations).
What was demanded of this show, and all of what the show gave, point to 'Ellie Dixon' not being just a name on a self-drawn EP cover art, but a force musically and commercially that seems rather unstoppable. She has captured the hearts and minds of a fiercely loyal and supportive fan base that spans demographic, and has modelled herself as a blueprint for her corner of music done right. The next station of Ellie’s interplanetary ride to the top remains elusive, but she has confirmed to us that she “can’t WAIT to curate more shows with more madness” and that the next thing due to knock socks off will be “in the same world of fun, humour and stuffed with a whole load of groove”.
Her EP launch party at the Camden Assembly showed that she is a bedroom-pop success story, on her journey to be an indie-pop superstar, and people are only just beginning to pick up the book.