Shoot: Lisa Richards Live

On a ridiculously hot evening in January I had the pleasure of photographing Lisa Richards at Smith's Alternative in Canberra City. Lisa was promoting her new album A light from the other side and playing songs from her multitude of other, excellent releases. Astute readers will know that I contributed artwork to this album along with a number of other professional media photos.

Lisa was joined on stage by Matt Nightingale on double and electric bass and Jeannette Bradley on banjo and fiddle. It was a lovely intimate performance and well suited to the Smith's Alternative venue.

Lisa's album (and her other releases) are available from her website.


Shoot: Cell Block 69

Cell Block 69 ... 80's synth-pop masters and mainstays of the Canberra and Sydney music scene are once again gearing up for their annual 'Final Show Ever!' series of 2016 gigs. I had the great privilege of photographing their promo shots for this year. Featuring a Delorean (complete with a functioning Flux Capacitor) and the use of my new studio space. There were two basic outfit changes for this shoot... the first was a future-tech white series.

The second, denim, denim and still more denim ... double denim too. There were the studio shots in a Calvin Klein inspired wall shoot.

And the series featuring the Delorean. That car was hot! Literally hot as the polished stainless steel threatened to peel any bare skin laid upon it. Thank you to Callum for loaning his car for the shoot!

I also did a series of individual portraits of the band members.

 

Some blurb from Moshtix where you can purchase tickets for their end of year shows.

69 is number 1! Let the nine Corey’s of Rock (and to a lesser but not to be undermined extent, synth pop) take you to the year Two Thousand and Nineteen Eighty Sixteen for a performance of hit songs of unfathomable proportion.

Always surfing on the curtails of their latest dazzling Rock (and to a smaller but not to be undermined extent, synth pop) stadium performance extraordinaire, CELL BLOCK 69 return to the recently voted most playable city in the world, Canberry.

Duanne Le Corey-Michaels and his 8 Coreys of Eighties Awesomeness, return direct from generic Europe for their annual "Final Show Ever ". CELL BLOCK 69 are number one and they will show you why.

Read more at http://www.moshtix.com.au/v2/event/cell-block-69/89523#z8B2Mk0ExKBD1Zke.99

 


Shoot: Lisa Richards

The wonderful musician Lisa Richards recently engaged me to create an image for the back cover of her new CD release A Light From The Other Side. Lisa had seen a moody montage I published using a photograph of Marina ... she loved it and wanted something in a similar mood for the cover. I explained that it was a montage and I would be happy to shoot some studio images of her and simply place (I say simply but successful montages are never really ever simple) her into the existing montage. I had to adjust the document to fit in the dimensions provided by the graphic designer but we were very pleased with the result.

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And here's the completed cover.

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Since we were in the studio we took some publicity type pictures as well.

The album is pre-selling now. I really like it. Do yourself a favour* and grab a copy. Do visit Lisa's website too and have a listen to her previous work ... great listening :-)

 

*apologies to Molly Meldrum ;-)


Shoot: The Second Movement show band

Last week I had the opportunity of taking a few pictures for the The Second Movement show band when they got together for their mid-week rehearsal. 

A little history... The Second Movement played in and around Canberra in the late 60’s and early 70’s and were resident band at the Civic Hotel Lounge. The group became resident band at the Deakin Inn when it opened in 1969. The band played at the Deakin Inn up to six nights a week for four years until they retired in 1974.

In 1967 the band signed a recording contract with EMI and recorded two singles, which were released nationally. The singles were produced by Robert Iredale (who was Johnny O’Keefe’s’ record producer at the time). The singles had moderate success and made it into a few top 40 charts.

After a thirty years’ absence the original band (there were some personnel changes in the early seventies) decided to get together for a 30th anniversary party bash at the Southern Cross Club Canberra. Some of the band members hadn’t played in a band since the band retired in 1973. Others no longer lived in Canberra so the logistics of a reunion offered many challenges. However the project went ahead and the night was a huge success. The band enjoyed themselves so much it was decided to continue the band which would make itself available for the occasional booking.

Ostensibly to create a few simple pictures to refresh their website, the session was fun and enjoyable and a lovely bunch of guys the majority of whom have been playing together for more than 40 years! The band member whose house was used as the rehearsal space restores old Jaguar cars ... he had an absolutely gorgeous red E-Type Mk2 that you can see the band posing with in a couple of the photos. 

The band did insist in standing outside in the bright noonday sun which caused a little squinty action but the sunshine and blue sky certainly set off their matching blue stage suits! I did manage to convince them to pose together in the back shed where the featured image was shot ... that one's my favourite from this little shoot.

 

Links

 


In Review: Mikelangelo sings Cave, Waits, Cohen - National Theatre, Braidwood - 21 June 2014

Saturday night saw Melbourne-based singer-songwriter Mikelangelo performing songs by Nick Cave, Tom Waits and Leonard Cohen in an intimate performance at the National Theatre in Braidwood. Mikelangelo (Michael Simic) brought forth his velvety baritone to create his own versions of tracks by these three masters of song. Singing un-mic'd and accompanied only by acoustic guitar, the small but enthusiastic audience was treated to an intimate and personal show.

The 'stage' was a small are defined by an arc of tea-light candles and two small standing lamps. The atmosphere was at once warm and cozy (even though the temperature wasn't quite what you'd describe as such). Songs included Deanna and The Ship Song (Cave), Black Wings and Pasties and a G-String (At the Two O'Clock Club) (Waits) and Chelsea, Famous Blue Raincoat and Bird On a Wire (Cohen). Of particular stand-out to me was Mikelangelo's cover of Cave's Into My Arms in which I felt I was hearing it for the very time ... thank you for that. Local Rosie Rick (making her on-stage debut!) joined Mikelangelo on stage toward the end of the first set where they sang Henry Lee (Cave & PJ Harvey).

We were also treated to Streets of Melbourne, a new original song of Mikelangelo from his upcoming album.

My friend and I came down from Canberra (about an hour's drive) especially for the show and were very glad we had. We had seen the poster in Braidwood the previous weekend while I was visiting my printer for the upcoming Zoologica show but that's another story... Rain had started falling just as we arrived in Braidwood and it made a lovely sound on the tin roof of the National during the performance. It was the occasion of Winter Solstice and Braidwood didn't disappoint with near zero temperatures and fog beginning to settle after the rain. Ticket price of $25 included a mug of mulled wine (which was magically replenished throughout the evening) and a bowl of deliciously warming vegetarian curry courtesy of Paydirt Eatery. Couldn't ask for more really :-)

Links


Bad Pharmer

From a quick band shoot I did at the end of last year of local Polish punk band Bad Pharmer the afternoon before their final gig in Canberra and they up and moved to greener pastures in Brisbane (the shining lights of Bris-Vegas!)

I purchased a copy of their EP Where The Wild Bison Roam ... it's very tidy and contains some great tracks :-)

How's about lead singer/bassist Ania and that yellow couch!

 

Links

  • Listen to Where The Wild Bison Roam

There will be a little period where my posts here will not necessarily follow chronological order as I find interesting things to post from the period I didn't update the blog at all ... does this really matter? Likely not... I just figured I'd let you know anyway smiley


Thrift Shop - (Workin' The Fields Version)

On Saturday night I played host to the wonderfully talented Jodie O'Regan and Emlyn O'Regan who were in town for their Kitchen Table Tour. As a host I got to make a request and I chose Macklemore's Thrift Shop ... Emlyn and Jodo got to work on an arrangement and this recording is the first live crack. Kids were asleep in an adjacent room hence the hushed kinda approach ;-)

I was aiming for nonchalant dish-hand and I think I pretty well hit the target. I join in toward the end ... it was fun :-)

For anyone who wants to see me deconstructedly animated and vocal ... this is the clip for you ;-)

May I present Thrift Shop - (Workin' The Fields Version)

Jodie and Emlyn arrange Thrift Shop

Links:


In Review - Steve Lane & The Autocrats

In Review - Steve Lane & The Autocrats - The Front, Saturday 28th September 2013

I had a most wonderful experience on Saturday night. I was in the mood for quiet and low key. I wanted some live music but nothing rowdy. I know I'm coming across all fussy and selective like and well, yes I am both those things but sometimes you know you're looking for something but you don't exactly what ... it's just a vibe. I checked a gig guide, saw there was a band playing tonight down at my local, The Front in Lyneham. The Front’s website said Tonight:Steve Lane & The Autocrats and there was a little bio - I’d never heard of them, it sounded perfect.

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Guide said the show started at eight and so I headed down to meet a friend before then. Gosh, there's no one here. OK, that's not entirely true, there's two bar staff including the one with a smile like a ray of sunshine and two tables of three just chatting quietly. The instruments set up against the wall indicate there is actually a band on but there's hardly a soul around. I grab a glass of house red (and return the two glasses I stole the night before ... all nicely washed of course :-) ) and take a seat on one of the leather couches. My friend arrives and adds significantly to the audience size. We're chatting away when Jimmy Williams gets up with an acoustic guitar and begins. He's been doing this a while this guitar performing thing and not because he looks like he has, nor the ease with he performs his clever and observant songs ... I reckon it's the fact that he appears totally comfortable performing to an intimate audience of six.

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There's a cosy lounge room feel to the Front and this gig has that feel to the max. Like all the best lounge rooms, there's an outside space too and we relocate to a couch out there just before the end of Jimmy's set.

It's a September evening in Canberra and although it's been 20 degrees today it's chilly tonight but warm on the couch. We're out there looking in when Steve Lane & The Autocrats take the stage. A four-piece, drums, bass and two guitars. Steve is joined on vocals by Jimmy and I immediately like the feel. It's part Church and part Lightning Seeds and all their own ... it's music made for driving and I imagine rolling fields of wheat and canola sliding past the window interspersed with the strobe of golden sunlight through trees. I can't make out the lyrics from my outside couch spot but I like the way they're sung with a broad rounded inflection.

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The band clearly get on with each other as they produce rolling tunes without stepping on each other's toes. Steve Lane, in dark shirt, glasses and thick black beard greying stylishly sings about life with a wry and poetic eye. He has a rack of guitars and there's a beautiful semi-acoustic sunburst orange Rickenbacker amongst them. It sounds rich and mellow with just the right spread of spangle. Steve is joined by brother Tim Lane on drums and I dig the gold strip over the deep red of the shells. In a simple black shirt, he plays with craft, attention and an intensity totally appropriate to the space. On electric bass, and looking like the perfect subject for a Roman bust is a young man in a royal blue buttoned up cardigan ... In fact he wouldn't look out place in the band The Cardigans or Fun Boy Three. I mention that he's young because he must significantly lower the average age of the rest of the band and I mean that in the nicest possible way ... with age comes experience and it's precisely that which is making this band and tonight's initiate gig so special. We find out later that his name is Kai Lane-U'Ren and he's Steve's son. Jimmy Williams on electric guitar makes up the on-stage foursome ... Jimmy’s a great guitarist and in a blues-inspired number later in the night he totally shreds the solo. There's a fifth, non-stage member on door bucket who is lucky he's accompanied by someone 18 years and over! From the way he and Kai stand the same way when together I’m guessing he’s related too.

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The songs are evocative and well crafted. There's a poetry to the lyrics that I find captivating and the stories weaved by Steve wander from the plains to the sea to the office water cooler. There's heartfelt and sunshine and there's deep introspection wrapped in joyous guitars pop. There's fun banter between tracks (I mean who can ever remember the names of songs?) and interaction with the audience, which at this end of the room is just my friend and I. I'm suddenly torn between the intimacies of tonight's performance and thinking that Steve Lane & his Autocrats deserved a much bigger crowd. It's a testament to the experience and professionalism of the band that the small audience doesn't seem to faze them. The last four songs see the band really gel it together, not that they were loose before, and really deliver. The power pop chorus of Forgetting Is So Long is fantastically catchy and lingers beautifully. I resolve to buy their album Birds Taking Flight which tonight's gig is touring and when I'm listening to it the following the morning I'm taken right back to the gig ... it's fresh and alive and rich and a great listen.

The gig ends and we're sitting outside watching the band pack up ... I have to admit it's the one part of gigging that I don't miss (well, not as much as I miss some of the other parts) ... And then we finish the night sitting on the outside couches with the band (and for a little time the bar staff too) talking about music and life and the shapes of clouds. I’d go and see this band again without question ... especially now that I've heard of them ;-)

I was also trialling a new camera, the Fujifilm x100s, which I plan to make my gig review camera as it's small, has fantastic lowlight performance and means that I'm not lugging my DSLR in crowded pubs and essentially spending my time worrying about someone stepping on it. This was the first time I had used the camera at a live gig and I have to say I'm very impressed with the results.

Links


In Review - Fine Young Animals (Bacon Cakes, Alex Richens and Joel Davey, Dylan Hekimian, Lucy Nelson, Buck et al)

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.

Links


In Review - Elisha Bones

In Review - Elisha Bones at the White Eagle Polish Club 16th August 2013

With Tully On Tully, Borneo with live art by Houl / Walrus / Micha

Oh Crowds.

It's 10:15 by the time I arrive ... I'm either late ... or arriving at the perfect time ... tonight I'm both ...

It's busy! There's a veritable hipster torrent coming through the door and I work my through the crowd to the front right of the stage to get a look at the band ... it's Tully on Tully up from Melbourne.

... it's toward the end of  their set (I was late) and Blue ... bathed in cyan ... driving forth with passion if not precision  Tully on Tully are powering along in alt.rock anthemic style. They have groove and melody and a gyrating lead who shimmies and struts her way back and forth along the stage and whips at the crowd ... who stand quite impassive. If a rocky headland had actual will to rebuff the incessant wave ... the scene would play like this. Sure, there's a whoop at the end of songs and some polite clapping but they do - not - move! In fact they show nothing to suggest that the band playing (and playing well! Well, OK maybe they need to work on their changes a bit…) not a few meters hence affects them in any way. Quite a few are checking their phones and I feel that while they are present in body their minds are elsewhere ... clouded perhaps?

Sometimes it's not the bands but the crowd that interest me and this one is interesting, exhibiting a coarse granularity expressed in small clusters. There's an interconnectedness ... these folks know each other but I'm thinking not well in real life. A sub-cluster has gathered around a large mural being created by artists Houl, Micha and Walrus ... a man clad in a wolf's pelt is taking form over a snow white mane. I find myself coming over all poetic

Gnarled
As a tree it's twisted roots worked with spirals
He looms above her adorned in fresh slain Canus ... the pelt now working ajar
She was attracted by his dead eyes ... recently Wolf's
their promised abyss
his hands soft as fur with hint of polished claw
now revealed to a hideous protruding boniness that hovers over her chest
A snow white mane overflows and frames
her hammock at once a spiralling hypnosis and cutlass both
arms upstretched in supplication
patterned with clumsy tattoos from a different life
the well-meaning incantations a nursery rhyme now
as the roots below darken to a Mesmer’s curtain

It's a work in progress, Tully has finished and so I head back to the bar

The crowd ... there's a retro-chic op-shop style about them too ... a young Liz Taylor glides past in a faux-Roman pleated blouse, nose-ring shining aboard an aquiline nose,, a waist-coated gent sporting sixties spectacles and neatly trimmed facial growth stands out not at all ... nor do the grey suede buckled and heeled ankle boots ... in fact they're each repeated again and again ... I feel like they've all just watched Thrift Shop and found Vinnies yet they’re all slink but no dance ... I'm thinking a public service grad cohort and I'm feeling poetic again ... it happens;

Standing toward the bar her dark bob sliding into a faded pink tee
Slender with a white swan across her chest
Pleated short skirt
Over black tights,
light olive and cream check
tonight proudly aired
still bearing her cupboard's kiss

I resist the urge to mention the wardrobe-creased skirt to the girl, buy a beer instead and head back inside. The crowd's still there ... for a brief moment I thought them into a dream  ... but no, they're still here as Elisha Bones take the stage. The band is confident and precise. Rolling thunder as before an approaching storm emerging in a fresh rainblast of driving dance-core and throbbing beat ... it's a great opening number but does the crowd move? No it doesn't! Fuck me what does it take to move these people? I dabble in generalisations ... I ponder whether their only experience of live music is a flat screen of youtube coz that's how they're reacting. Again, they whoop between tracks but during they're largely (e)motionless ... the music providing soundtrack to a social media experience. The band, energetic, complex and driving with guts and spirit is reduced to so much blue wallpaper.

Meanwhile the mural, created directly on large sheets of adjacent congruent ply, progresses;

Grain as ectoplasm
a tree peeled - the medium
The Knots
Linear like life itself
Emanate brown from the earth, passing through festy spiralled roots
Dallying awhile in her now arched torso before escaping her belly
and
slipping through the fingers of his searching hand
make their aetheric ascent
Roots become feathers
she is watched over by a discarded hawk
(or a militant finch)
I cannot tell

 

There's a moment in Elisha Bones’ set when they're channelling Jeff Buckley ... fucking Jeff Buckley ... I quite liked them up until then ... but then I grew up in a time when Buckley was a CD that went on at every party ... at least then you could go outside for a smoke or walk up to the stereo and physically remove it ... he doesn't do it for me ... he never has ... I've tried. Buckley aside ... Elisha Bones are a polished and well-grooved music machine who performed wonderfully despite tonight’s less-than-interactive crowd who do give it up for a deserved encore as though their phones have told them 'now is the time'.

I’m still there for the packup and curtain-folding dance and meet the lads from Borneo (Sydney) … the first band who played tonight while I was off elsewhere … I apologise for not being there to review their gig and they give me a copy of their EP ‘Is This A Demo?’ to review instead J

At first listen, it’s rich and jangly and the opening track contains changes that bring a remembered smile to my face for their abruptness and nerve … I’d be interested to see them rip it up on stage … next time boys :-)

A strange night but nonetheless a rich and enjoyable one. Thanks Nigel & Beth and the CMC. Wallpaper wrangled by Dave Howe.

Links:


In Review - The Woohoo Revue

In Review - The Woohoo Revue @ The White Eagle Polish Club
with Nyash! - 2nd August 2013

I know it's going to be a popular gig. The line of parked cars extend up David Street to the park ... this is a good sign. Bicycles are tied to poles everywhere but there's a spot left in the main rack ... the luck is with me. I secure my steed and push my way inside. The place is pumping. In the main hall Nyash! are pushing out Afrobeat and the room throbs with a deep pulsing ... I like it and the effect carries through to the bar which is echoing the beat and adding the raucous crunch of pub-conversations and early and happy inebriation.

There are a lot of people here. There are a lot of people I know. There are also a few of those that I know but have never encountered out before ... this could be interesting ... a bit of the extra spice! 'Ghiv-ee-Yetz please' I say at the bar and yes! I really have done it.* After some of that polite yet awkward conversation with some afore-mentioned out-of-contextors, I take my beer next door. The Polo looks better packed with people. Feels better packed with people.

I see that a golden curtain has been hung above the stage, it resembles an embroidered bedspread my parents owned. It has the neat effect of concentrating the action on stage while creating a sense of theatre ... something the parental golden bedspread perhaps aspired to but never realised in it's time with us.

Nyash! are on and in the final throes of their set ... I'm met with a dirty Coltraney sax solo that resonates in my bones before flying off into a whirlwind of rhythm and worldbeat, deep and rich. The sax is a Bari of course and it sounds rich and raw. I recognise Simon Milman on Bass and Rafael Florez on percussion. There's also a trombone, alto sax, keys, drums and two guitars. Apparently Keys and Bone are new to the band and tonight's their first gig ... they have bright futures. During the break Rafael tells me he thinks one of the guitarists in the band is hot but he doesn't tell me which one ... I think he means their playing but I make to write down the innuendo instead ... things are simply more interesting that way.

I head to the bar ... there's even more people than before ... and more folks are coming in strongly through the door. I make it back into the hall just as the main band take the stage ... The Woohoo Revue.

From the first beat, the first note ... I know I'm in for a treat. Oh it's good. Sleazy beats and noir stabs. The band is well dressed, sombre dark tailorings and red silk ties. Dark curly locked Fiddler is gypsy green satin and white tulle and gorgeous. Bass guitar is wearing a gold sequined dress and the sax player is sporting a peroxide quiff. I can't see the band's footwear but I'm thinking it's universally black and pointy. The crowd dances from the get-go ... seemingly anxious to not waste a precious note of this band. Oh it's tight ... like a well, whatever you consider your metaphor for tightness to be ... I know what mine is ... I'm sure you do too and ... I realise I'm less than 20 bars in to the gig. The music is complex and richly virtuosic ... Klezmer and deep beats intertwine in dizzying spins. The breaks are numerous and choppy, dipping, diving and weaving but this is such an accomplished band that the beat runs through regardless and while lesser hands would lose a crowd, the dancers are right up there in it. Slinky dancers too ... quite a ridiculous number of them and a top hat or two in the crowd ... I think we could use more of them ... hmmmm ... slinky dancers and top hats? Now there’s a thought.

Before I know it I'm in the Middle East with sun-drenched guitars before descending to a swirling market of crowds, silver and spice ... the fiddler ... she is fantastic! I emerge from a quick trip to the bar, which is still packed by the way, into a dark Western, full of menace and potential ultraviolence ... the dancers are in a frenzy and when the break comes, cruel and heartbreaking both it's to launch into what would be a colossal pop bloodbath scene in a Tarantino flick. I'm astounded at the sheer presence of it. I’m standing toward the back and of the hall, feel a bump and, turning around I realise dancing has erupted behind me ... even Dave Howe on the desk has his hands in the air and is dancing! Just when I think the virtuosity of a soloist has peaked there's a seamless transition to another effortlessly as good and on it goes. The fiddler is riding on the shoulders of a dancer and playing the floor. If the world was ending in the morning there’d be parties like this.

The humidity, rising along with the rich scent of an energetic dancing crowd, reaches a critical mass. It’s as though everybody has suddenly remembered they’re Jewish or Romany which I’m pretty (though it has to be said not entirely) sure is not the case. A climactic finale and the crowd is left panting and whooping amongst semi-orgasmic chants of More! More! Woohoo return to the stage and suddenly it’s like they never left as they take us on another colourful flight of furiously enjoyable music.

Sound and lighting were transparent which is good as Dave doesn’t seem to be watching the desk whenever I look over at him ... which admittedly isn’t very often ... my mind really is elsewhere...

Reflecting, I enjoyed what I saw of Nyash! and think they're very fortunate to be supporting this lot ... Nyash! are worth seeing but The Woohoo Revue is in another league entirely ... inspirational.

Overall a top night ... one of the best I’ve seen at the Polo.

Thanks again to Nigel McRae and the Canberra Musicians Club for the opportunity.

 

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*I know I said I'd learn another beer ... there's always next time...

First published in Culturazi Aug 2013


In Review - The Main Guy and the Other Guys, Buck et al, NozL

The Main Guy and the Other Guys @ The White Eagle Polish Club with Buck et al, NozL. 19th July 2013

It’s cold. It’s been raining on and off all day and I’ve spent a good deal of it umming and ahhing about whether to go out tonight ... I’m on a bicycle you see ... turning up sodden and cold to a gig is not my idea of a fun night. But then, about 6pm ... What ho ... the radar’s clear! I’ll go! See, it’s that easy and I wonder briefly what on earth I spent my time looking at before weather radars appeared in my life.

I hear a band from out in the street as I ride up ... at least I’m not early this time ... a couple of smokers outside, the bike rack’s empty ... I head inside. There’s a band playing, pumping away but that’s about all ... I count 6 patrons in the bar and the three smiling bar staff make a total of nine. I fail in my beer pronunciations again. I practice with the staff and get smiles and a little cheer when I get it right but as soon as I’ve walked away with my beer I realise I’ve forgotten again.

There’s a tall thin lad sitting on the door, he’s sporting a lazy silver mop of hair and wearing a tailored grey waistcoat over a long sleeve shirt with a faint check and fluorescent orange earplugs ... he regards me with a look I’m sure he reserves for the many idiots he encounters and says that he can hear me fine but I’m not convinced he’s the one with the hearing issue ... turns out this is Buck from Buck et al ... more on Buck later.

In the hall the crowd’s a little thin ... I grab one of the couches up the back and settle in. NozL are up, be-robed and be-Fezzed and not just you’re average street Fez but tall, statement Fez adorned with strange curling insignia sitting well with the priestly mutterings of keyboardist-lead Tom Harwood.

They love their aural wipeouts this lot... crescendos and intensity building mashups with the odd jazz chord and, in the midst of a particularly disorienting one, I swear I’m immersed in an ode to Joy Division. NozL dip and dive in their ferociously musical way, at once punk, ska and smoothly transitioned intervals lulling me into false calm before well-positioned rantings and swirl of wipeout. I find myself besmirking an enormous grin at the sheer nerve of their outpourings and energy. People are trickling in and I sincerely feel they deserve a bigger crowd ... a way bigger crowd.

Back to the bar, it’s quietly humming now I’m in a conversation with bar staff and friends about flu vaccine efficacy and mosquitoes as disease vectors (in particular Aedes albopictus, commonly known as the Asian Tiger Mosquito and chikungunya ... nasty ... go look it up)

Buck et al take the stage and I see the frontman is the lad from the door ... though now he’s standing on seemingly impossibly thin legs. An effect not helped (or perhaps greatly helped) by the front-panelled black leather tights he’s wearing ... perhaps they’re pants ... ok tight pants then. They strike me as deeply wrong these pants/tights/whatever. If they were all leather? Yeah. All black tights? Yeah ... but the combo? Mmm ... not really. His acoustic guitar, slung a little high causing his tackle to catch the stagelights in a fashion unflattering ... let’s just say the pants distracted me and not in a wholly good way which is a shame because I enjoyed the music. Speaking of costume, the drummer was wearing a plush nylon tiger suit. I’ve done my time as a drummer and I reckon the plush nylon and percussion combo to be a recipe for steroid creams. At least they made an effort. The songs were well-crafted and well-executed. The band swap instruments and are equally fluent in each. I enjoy Buck’s turns on the keyboard (perhaps because he sitting down again) and more than once I find myself thinking ‘did he really just say that?’ the outbursts polite company would ignore but onstage became this seemingly high-maintenance Morrissey. I had problems balancing Buck’s desire to shock with his desire to be taken seriously.

The Main Guy and the Other Guys, down from Newcastle, take the stage. There is an air of professionalism about the Guys. Matching grey/blue collared shirts, black trousers and pointy boots. They set the tone perfectly, opening with a three-part harmony leading down a twisted corridor into a tight room of dark, Cavey ballad. I’m reminded how much I like a band that opens well and this lot are no exception. Fronted by ‘The Duke’ this crunchy four-piece take us on a musical journey to pretty much everywhere. The lyrics are clever without being smart and the performances tight and delivered with energy and craft. The room is filling and the space before the stage disappears. As The Duke fires up a KORG Microstation and a beautifully rounded square wave oscillates it’s way across a boppy disco power shuffle with added jangly guitar, the dancers appear! They can’t help themselves! The guy in the paisley shirt and his curvy red companion rip up the dance floor and set the groove. It’s a frenzy ... well ok not quite a frenzy ... but there are dancers and some them are slinky. Have I ever mentioned I like slinky? It’s followed by their new single ‘Partyhard’ and it deserves to go big places ... catchy with a melody, speedy pulse and chorus that stick like a sweet glue. 80’s inspired Casio boppiness maintains the dancer’s momentum. A stripped back multi-vocal track over lush guitar appears that is easily the best mixed track of the night.

At times the Guys’ set leans toward the unpleasantly loud and my companion, who is knowledgeable in these things, yells into my ear reckoning the on-stage bass rig is set too high, dragging everything else up with it. That’s likely a minor quibble though and the gig is solidly mixed and lit by house mixer Dave Howe ... in fact when I take a pew up near the sound desk it sounds rather nice.

Too soon the gig’s all over. My companion and I pool our remaining coins and go sort of halves in a copy of the Guys’ EP ... he’s suddenly gone all shy so I ask The Duke to sign it for him. It’s very good and as I listen to it on repeat on Saturday morning (I got to take the EP home you see) ... the songs still sound as good as they did the night before. It’s Just A Roll Of Toilet Paper (feat Kira Puru) is another stand out track but they’re all very good and faithfully produced.

I glad I came out tonight ... it’s always worth the effort.

 

Some other notes ...

Ania the barmaid is the lead singer in a Polish Punk outfit called Bad Pharmer ... my companion and I make notes ... she’s suddenly become even cooler.

‘Zhiv-eee-yetz!’ Fuck I’ve done it! I even write the phonetics in my notebook ... next time I’m going to learn a different beer ;-)

 

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In Review - Andrea Kirwin and the Neo

Neo with Andrea Kirwin - The Polish Club 5th July 2013

I arrived early for this gig review(!) and by early I don't mean early for me (though it was that too) I mean early full stop. I think there may have been six other people in the hall when I entered. I thought the gig started at eight ... oh well, plenty of time to get a beer in the bar next door. The stage was set and the music playing pre-gig was superb ... I enquired and found it was by a Brisbane outfit called Kooii ... I made a mental note to check them out.

Neo took the stage first and in what I thought was a nice piece of gig-craft played their first set. By creating a Neo sandwich they effectively supported themselves. With a gentle warm up they launched into some sultry bluesy reggae. Sliding in like warmed honey, a harmonica made a welcome appearance over a pendulously pumping groove. The next track saw a low-slung groove accompanied by tasteful slow wah guitar and a dash of calypso flute before an effortless transition to SKA beat with bass recalling pointing fingers.

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You know what I wasn't thinking just the other day? That synchronised whistling is really unrepresented on today's stage and, after hearing some tuneful whistling harmonies by Neo on Friday, I've come to think that was rather remiss of me. The room's slowly filling and the addition of horns (did I hear someone mention they were Party Gravy horns? ... they certainly looked and sounded familiar) filled out the sound nicely with accent and stab. I did find myself contemplating the baritone sax player as he appeared barely taller than his instrument. Had I been blindfolded this wouldn't have mattered at all. Hitting the blues again and I'm in the bayou thanks to a silty brown bass solo underpinned by a blue beat with real ‘tock’.

Quite suddenly I find myself transported. It's early evening and I'm sitting in a little bar by a tropical ocean, sunkiss'd and salty tanged. There's cold beer, fresh-caught fish and I imagine the warm and gentle sea breeze is Neo playing in a corner. It's not at all an unpleasant little trip. I'm reminded that I like that kind of thing.

There's a set break to bring me back from the sea and I wander next door to score a beer. I find that my well-meaning attempts at an acceptable pronunciation of Zywiec are falling miserably short. At least I didn't need to resort to pointing this time. The bar’s not crowded. There’s a party going on in the function room and a young man standing at the urinal, head pressed against the wall, his eyes closed, not doing very much. I think he was alive … he wasn’t there when I went back later.

I wander back in, beer in hand and grab a seat up on the stage overlooking the room. It's commanding up here and it's then I notice the diminutive yet striking scarlet figure on stage. The stage looms large around her yet somehow she holds to herself. She's dressed in a tailored scarlet coat over gold and in black boots. It’s a great look ... a loose fro with a lock of white that falls as a swept fringe over clear dark eyes. I'm suddenly glad I brought my camera tonight. I look up rom scribbling my notes to see she's lost her coat and is now all spangly ... I'm a fan of spangle from way back. Andrea Kirwin is on stage. This solo introduction to her set is a mellow jazz-inspired groove and mild scat. It is eminently listenable. I move down onto the floor.

Andrea Kirwin takes the stage

Andrea's band takes the stage. The mark of an excellent backing band is that they serve to complement and enhance the stage created by the lead. Andrea's band does this beautifully, creating spaces and moods that a single acoustic guitar simply cannot. Distinct yet togetherly coherent in enviable understatement, they make a lovely, lovely sound together. The openers with the band are gentle and coaxing affairs and by the time 'Mary Go-Round' appears the band is well into their stride. With a street-smart sass and city strut ... the track is a winner and, along with 'Shadow Man' that followed it demonstrated the understanding the musicians had with one another while allowing their virtuosity to shine. In short, they were everything a backing band should be and more.

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Andrea Kirwin

The band were joined on stage by a baritone sax (Nick, a little taller than the earlier player) and trombone (Sophie). I do like the deep throat of a live bari and wish there was more of it about ... along with the bone they together introduced some stabby goodness to the mix and helped pave the way for the promised funk of Neo's second set. There's a glorious moment in the jam of ‘Yellow Brick Road' when Andrea puts down her guitar and grooves along with the band while the horns whip it up. You forget the power and presence of live horns until faced with them again. Loved that saxy sound.

Too soon it’s all over and Andrea and band depart the stage and I relocate to the bar to fumble with the names of Polish beers … I have this theory that drinking them helps with that kind of thing…

Neo’s second set … the promised Orange Party of Pioneering Funk Research was a little disappointing for this reviewer. There were a few slinky dancers and the two women dancing directly in front of me were very distracting. The bass took to the floor and grooved along with the crowd … dancing bass players do tend to need a fair bit of room and maybe this was why the crowd never really reached the front of the stage. Compared to the whooping frenzy of Zoopagoo & Party Gravy a couple of weeks ago … things seemed a little flat. There was a distinct move toward sweaty Australian Pub Rock. Now I loves me a good dose of crunchy Oz Pub Rock but I was expecting funk and as I pondered my flat state I realised I had been spoiled by Andrea Kirwin’s set. If it had ended after that it would have been perfect. I did like the Neo guitarist’s floral pants and made a point of complimenting him on them.

Neo play their second set

Tonight: Andrea Kirwin - with guests the Neo … is how I saw it.

Sound and lighting were solid and nicely balanced thanks to Dave Howe on the desk. Thanks to Nigel and the CMC for the opportunity to pen this for you.

You can visit Andrea Kirwin at www.andreakirwin.com

Also published in Culturazi 10 July 2013


In Review: Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens 'Winter of Content'

Julia and the Deep Sea Sirens - The Polish Club - 21st June 2013

There’s something about venturing out on a frosty Canberra night to see a band. Whether you walk or cycle or drive or, gadzooks(!) catch a bus ... you feel the elements. These nights where it’s minus 5 aren’t strolling nights where you think “let’s just wander about and see what we find”. As my friend pointed out ... there’s a good chance you’ll die out there if you pass out on the street on the way home or have no shelter ... but that's another story. My point is that one must make an effort to leave whatever cozy snugness you may have and get your arse out and about. When you arrive at a gig on a night like this ... everyone who’s there wants to be there ... they’ve all made the effort you see. We cycled in to the Polo* ... did I mention it was cold?

As usual for this reviewer I arrived about 10pm - just before Julia and her Deep Sea Sirens went on stage so I’ve no idea what the support were like though other punters who put in the extra effort to actually arrive on time described them variously as funny, musical and entertaining.

After the usual standing at the bar deciding on a tongue-twisting beverage, slapping hello to good folks too-long unseen and hearing the band start up, I wandered inside to watch. JDSS (an acronym I know but I’m too lazy to type out the full name over and over again) are very much a sit-down reflective affair and the audience didn’t disappoint. There were no slinky dancers though upon reflection I would have been (let's just say pleasantly) surprised to have seen some. There’s something about the way Julia and her Sirens hypnotically perform. Music that in lesser hands would be considered plodding is rendered in lush swells and depth that is at once engaging and sweetly enveloping.

Speaking of lush, what’s more lush than a single cello but two cellos on stage. The resulting mix was rich while retaining a sense of the stripped back and remote ... an intriguing mix that encouraged immersion and exploration. There was a banjo in there too (plucky!). Extra cello by Spike Thompson of Ellis Collective fame.

Julia chatted between songs or while tuning. She thanked the audience for their efforts in coming out on such a cold Canberra evening. She let slip that some of the band had come from as far away as Latham.

In amongst the strings, richly rendered by Dave Howe the CMC house mixer, was an analog sounding synth which lent rise, emotion and slow-building rhythmic intensity. Bass, drums, guitar, keys and cello all work together seamlessly, never stepping on one another’s toes. Julia & the Deep Sea Sirens present an almost indulgent melancholia that enriches the listener while never depressing them. It’s a fine balance which Julia and her band deliver without apparent effort.

The song Wounded Soldier was a highlight for this reviewer and was nicely finished off with resonant harmonies and a light twang of Julia’s acoustic guitar. There was some talk of Go-Go dancer outfits and hard as I looked ... (someone mention slinky dancers?) I couldn’t see any.

More synth introducing the final track(s) - vibrating with light tremolo rhythmic pulse, the band tight and well oiled. It was JDSS' drummer's final gig with the band before ploughing pastures further afield. A rolling snare drum solo illustrated a road well-travelled amongst these fine musicians ... of times together and experiences shared. It was, like the rest of tonight's performance, wonderfully understated and underlined the deep relationships within the band.

As Julia, her blonde fringe and long bob veritably shining in the stage lights, brought the show to a close ... it really was a Winter of Content and totally worth the effort - thank you. I promise next time I'll bring my camera. All I had to do then was ride home... did I mention it was cold?

And, as a postscript; to the the snooty audience members who appeared to object to me taking notes for this review on my phone (I was sitting up the very back mind you) I say "up yours" and to the couple kissing down the front whilst pretending to watch the band's final song ... I saw you... :-)

*The Polish Club

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