Does no one want to be bad on Good Friday? Perhaps it was the heat, perhaps it was the great Easter exodus to the coast, perhaps Londoners had simply succumbed to sunstroke and delirium. Whatever the excuse, it was a small and intimate crowd that patiently waited for Holly Penfield and Raven Isis to raise temperatures at Cellar Door.A dedicated team of friendly staff were on hand to create a formidable array of cocktails in the compact underground haunt. Cellar Door manages to combine New York dive bar with classic 30s Berlin sass right in the heart of London. The lighting, decadent drinks list and slick staff are all the hallmarks of a sexy, well-kept secret that needs to be shouted from the rooftops.
The venue filled with couples and knots of friends until a larger group of chaps arrived and threatened to drown out the opening numbers. Holly Penfield began a little later than the usual nine o’clock start time and quickly brought the rabble under her very high heel. The singer then proceeded to belt out classics such as I Can’t Give You Anything But Love and The Way You Wear Your Hat, whilst wearing some seriously 60s attire, the monochrome of the outfit completed by a rather fantastic stark white bob.
Holly later told me she’d have liked to include more unusual tracks to the night’s performance, but was playing it safe with vintage standards. The San Franciscan describes herself as ‘an evil Jazz cabaret singer’ and it’s hard to disagree when she’s massaging your inner thigh with the tip of a riding crop, singing I Just Love Him So. Miss Penfield is like a force of nature, if that force were louche, lovely and covered in sequins. She proceeds to tease, please and even lick members of the audience whilst seemingly making up her set list at random.
Holly was accompanied on piano by Alex Hutton, who confidently managed to keep up with the set list’s twists and turns. She later invited the very lovelyAnna Lowe (Soon to be performing at the Night Jar) to step up to the mike and deliver a great rendition of La Vie En Rose. You can’t fail to add a touch of sophistication to a night when a stunning brunette sings in French, and it added a contrasting counterpoint to Holly’s hilarious harassment of the audience.
Finally, Raven Isis appeared and demanded absolute attention of everyone in the room. At five feet ten inches, the alabaster beauty has a commanding presence and shimmied with playful ease to the junkyard percussion of Tom Wait’s Temptation. With seven years experience, the ex-Suicide Girl’s performance is well worth a look. You can catch her on most Saturday’s: Raven is Cellar Door’s resident dancer. Her routine was classic, traditional burlesque, and over much too soon. The audience was certainly left wanting more.
Friday Follies. Cellar Door, London. Fridays, 21:00. Free.www.cellardoor.biz
Photo credits: David Joseph