The CMC presents Fine Young Animals @ The White Eagle Polish Club – 20th September 2013

I arrive late and unannounced. Nigel and Beth inform me I have to pay as they already have a reviewer for the night.  This is a first(!) and there's an awkward moment as it's eventually revealed that the night's allocated reviewer has in fact just left at this, the half-way mark, with 4and a half  acts remaining. I offer to take the reins and you my reader may get not one but two reviews this week…  a part one and a part two if you like. This is Part Two. Beth stamps me gently and I offer to pay my way for half the door charge seeing as I got there late…  late like I do just about every gig anyways … it's a strange introduction to the gig.

There’s a function on in the restaurant and the tables are full and generating happy noises … I grab a Zhiv-ee-yetz and have a quick chat to Ania whose Polish Punk band's album 'Where the Wild Buffalo Roam' I purchased recently.  It's a very tidy EP with some respectably tight tracks and as I’m talking I hope I'm not gushing too much.

I head into the hall. Oh … there's hardly anybody here! I suddenly feel a little guilty for getting in free but that's pretty much all I do about it.  I take a couch, Bacon Cakes are on and I'm back in the 90's with shoe gazing introspection… dressed in slack,  dark street wear with a Mod-roundrel kick drum,  there must be something terribly interesting on the floor because that's all anyone in the band is looking at.  The exception to the drab fashion (I hear someone refer to it as 'understated' but I think she's being terribly kind) is a slight girl dressed in fine black and white polka dot dress with the whole straight fringe thing going on…  She's playing the tambourine with a lazy, melancholy sway which would be fine except the tambourine is to be found nowhere in the mix.

Tonight's house music is by The Doors and while Jim writhes away in spirit Lucy Nelson takes to the stage with a ukulele.  Red floral print dress over bright red tights and black boots, the uke looks at once demure and purposed. Lucy puts it to good use with nicely crafted ballads with 'a beginning, a middle and an end' unlike the DJ she's decrying in the first number.  After lulling us with upbeat, Lucy launches into reflective and here something nasty happens to the tuning.  It's as though I've had a go at tuning the instrument…  it's almost there but noticeably off and a quick call to her friendly professional tuner puts everything to rights again. Lucy's show is quiet but her songs fill the room. A few people come in and sit respectfully down, lifting their chairs so as not to scrape.  I hear the Polo’s air-conditioning for the first time ever…  (It's that quiet!)…  And its gentle white-noise hum serves as a pillowy doona to Lucy's gentle songs.

John Lennon's 'We All Shine On' booms out and Buck plays along on the piano, warming up behind the curtain…  I feel perhaps I was a little unkind to Buck last time I reviewed him (spoiler …  it doesn't last)

The unseen playing works.

Alex Richens, Joel Davey and Nick Churchill come on … three-piece drums, cello, guitar and voice. Southern blues feel with a voice that sounds to me like a call across a wide river – strong, curled and mellowed by the moister air over the water's surface. I rack my brain for the reference. It's just there…  Oh it’s so fluid and watery, only a cello can do that…  that watery swirl…  that suck of life toward an inevitable dark. I have it! It comes to me in a flash…  I'm listening to the love-child of Gomez and Ed Kuepper. There's even Mark Dawson on drums, well not him obviously but someone who sounds a lot like him. Ed Kuepper…  I know who I'll be listening to in the morning 🙂 The trio weave rich landscapes of hope, power and above all… love. Breaking rains and sandstone escarpment lit by the golden storm light that comes with a setting sun. Most enjoyable and I am so taken by the music I take no notice of what the trio are wearing.

Dylan Hekimian takes the stage…  There are lots of acts tonight in keeping with the theme 'Fine Young Animals’ and everyone's playing four or five tracks…  kind of like a degustation…  it’s a lot for a reviewer to take in and I suddenly suspect the first reviewer simply became overwhelmed like I’m suddenly feeling … but I digress.

Dylan… solo… faded red t-shirt, long dreads and acoustic guitar, fresh from the rainforest… well, after a shower perhaps and healthy food. Songs delivered with punch and conviction but the in-between dialogue incongruous and softly spoken as though he lacked the conviction of the beliefs expressed in song. He's young at heart too…  with the expressed beliefs of the young in love… perhaps I'm simply jaded and cynical (I am as it happens rather aware of this)…  Perhaps it's Dylan's song for his girlfriend where he doesn't care what she thinks of him but he wants her to look at him like a hero… I literally say WTF? My friend who has chosen this moment to  pretend to be less cynical and jaded than I challenges me to, for just  a moment, remember what it was like to be so young,  in love and enraptured (and I suppose actively seeking hero-worship) but I find it hard. In fact I find Dylan's well crafted guitar songs and ingenious percussive interludes (methinks for a moment he has swallowed a drummer's soul) lightly mismatched to the person delivering them. I ponder for a moment the nature of artistic delivery… that as artists we temporarily inhabit the person of those we wish to be.

Oh and here’s Buck! I have a flush of doubt. I wonder if my first review of Buck, skewered as it was by his leather half-tights, was perhaps a little judgemental of Buck and his inspired songwriting and piercing observations. He's talented, there’s no doubt. He's impossibly slender and he's lost the leather half-tights tonight and of that I’m glad…  I can focus on the man and his music. Wow, he really is a bitch. What last time I could forgive or pass off as a nervous ironic understatement is demonstrated this week as quite intentional. OK…  I'm wandering along in a funny space of watching someone I've previously reviewed…  I'm wondering whether my review is an accurate portrayal or whether I got it all wrong…  I have this benefit of the doubt thing happening for Buck…  maybe I was a bit harsh?  Buck's got this great Ben Folds thing happening…  piano driven commentary and then Buck says… "I was on Community Radio this morning, it was sooo mediocre"… he lost his audience there. It‘s the wrong thing to say not only because it offends his audience; Not only because it’s rude because well for fuck's sake he was the radio station’s guest. It was rude because it totally lacks any sense of retrospective irony. Perhaps if he’s being self-effacing and labelling himself mediocre as humour … maybe then? I thought, at that precise moment that everything I had written previously was spot-on.  That Buck, uncannily brilliant as he is, lacks the compassion of his audience.

Mixing tonight was someone I didn’t recognise and while he performed splendidly given the variety of acts and changing instrumentation, I thought there were highlights missing from the drum brasswork particularly during the rich soundscapes produced by Alex, Joel & Nick … I could see the complexity but I couldn’t hear it and I really wanted to. The aforementioned tambourine was lost. Regular mixer Dave Howe was mixing it up over at In Canberra at Gorman House which is where, I suspect, many of the CMC’s usual Polo crowd were tonight.

Thanks to Nigel and Beth and the Polo for the opportunity to bring this to you.

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Geoffrey Dunn is a Canberra based photographer specialising in portraiture and event photography.

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