Effigy Entertainment pres. Synthesis

Column: Gig Reviews   |   Date Published: Tuesday, 22 May 12   |   Author: Greta Kite-Gilmour   |   5 years, 1 month ago

At Transit Bar, Saturday April 28

Upon hearing that Effigy were presenting an evening of poetry slam followed by music spanning acoustic to acid-electronic my reaction was as sundry as the line-up. What was the motive behind this anomalous collection of acts? As I was soon to discover this was a night which showcased the impressive diversity of local creative talent like no other I’ve witnessed.

I’m ashamed to admit that before that night I’d never attended a poetry slam. I can’t think of a better way to be introduced to this potent hybrid art-form of lyrical expression and emotive performance. My lack of prior exposure might have hindered my acuity but all seven artists enlightened me to the undefinable uniqueness that is the essence and beauty of performance poetry.

The silence within the appropriately dim-lit bar was shattered as Jason Andrews spat the words of American artist Saul Williams to a captivated crowd. His energy-filled hip hop style was driven by such a fiery, candid passion that I found myself continuously resisting the urge to cry out in solidarity.

The atmosphere was dramatically altered as Brian O’Biri Asare recited his original material, of which both the story-like content and style were efficaciously visual and deeply moving. His subtle body language and verbal nuances were all that were necessary to maximise the impact of his poetry, which at some points was literally spine-tingling. VJ Caitlin Welch’s original short films were effective here, providing a visual representation of themes exploring human vulnerability and the delicacy of life.

First-time slammer Ellie Malbon’s emotionally charged theatrical enactment flowed as organically as her euphonious words, instantly charming us all. Seasoned poet Andrew Galan delivered a set of priceless crowd-pleasers riddled with satire heightened by his deadpan expression. Anna Potter led the crowd into the musical realm with sweet, soulful melodies carried on heavenly guitar chords. Her lyrics echoed the passion and poetry of the performers preceding and were sung with an angelic yet undeniably strong voice consistently belying her youth.

A smooth transition from acoustic to electronic came in the form of Gabriel Gilmour and the Gojiberry Jam, where bouncy basslines and dubby beats were accompanied by blissful electronic guitar and soaring violin. Anyone who was lucky enough to catch these guys warming up for Opiuo will agree they are among the most talented and conceptually interesting groups to enjoy.

What we were treated to next transcends the available diction required to accurately and justly describe it in terms of musical style, quality and entertainment value. Listening to Electrocado was like giving my brain a therapeutic massage and my whole body an ephemeral vacation to a sensory paradise. An extensive range of genres were seamlessly interwoven into a colourful, sonic tapestry, which amply satiated musical appetites of every variety. A flawless balance of psy, electro, glitch and prog was speckled with video game bleeps and cosmic sound bites to create a perfect high-energy fusion. The room became a blur of arms and feet and one continuous grin seemed to stretch across the face of the dancing mass.

If there’s one prevailing feeling I left with that evening (besides the ache of my severely abused feet), it was an overwhelming sense of pride and affection for every one of the performing individuals and the local creative community they represented. And also a resolution to never, ever again question a line-up organised by Canberra’s finest entertainment pioneers. Great work as usual, guys.

Groovin the Moo:

University of Canberra, Sunday May 13

For the third year triple j regional festival GROOVIN THE MOO invaded the lawns of the University of Canberra. It didn’t sell out but that made for a comfortable crowd, a short wait for drinks and not too much jumping up and down in the toilet queue. And for the third year, Canberra freakishly snap-froze and the festival day was colder than the contents of Tony Abbott’s budgy smugglers.

But did that stop teenage girls from busting out the denim undies and side-boob-revealing racer backs, or their male counterparts from sporting the lids-off summer look? Ha! Their stubborn nature is stronger than the icy wind itself! They can’t be blamed, but I hope you all got a flu shot.

First up at San Cisco’s set the small, early crowd was uplifting with everyone around me singing along to Awkward and looking whimsically happy. Leaving half of my ‘reliable’ group to report on Big Scary (“They were fucking awesome!”) I found my way into the ‘drinking area’—some kind of simulated free-range habitat separate from the rest of the public—to catch Victorian five-piece Gold Fields from the edge of the Moolin Rouge tent. Frontman Mark announced that they were “having technical difficulties and will be back in five minutes.” Mhmmm. This not-so-good start was voided by a live instrumental rendition of Underworld’s Born Slippy. Holy Obscure Cover, Batman, I’ve never heard anything like it! Followed by a guitar-heavy version of Moves, it felt like the beginning of an incredible day of music.

Matt Corby was expectedly magnificent and dreamy, even though he looked like a homeless man, and The Maccabees played some perfectly tempered lunch-time rock. Next was Andrew WK who disappointingly made a ridiculous scene onstage. It was like someone pointing their finger and sticking their tongue out at my 16-year-old self. Proclaiming into the microphone, “I’m not a musician, I’m just a partier!” Andrew WK proceeding to head-bang on a keyboard and scream along to a backing track… it was some seriously stupid shit.

360 had one of the largest crowds of the day at the Moolin Rouge tent and definitely delivered musically but had a battle going on with people in the front trying to fight each other. Boy, does he like to drop the C-bomb. Beni had acrobatic dancers wearing pleather onesies and played a set suited to 4am in Kings Cross instead of the gorgeous house tunes on his latest album. And while Wavves brought the sun down with happy surfy tunes in the tent, Public Enemy kinda brought the darkness. It was disappointing to hear them sounding jumpy, devoid of rhythm and just ‘off’. At least the ten minutes of preaching at the end about racism was sort of nostalgic.

Kimbra’s bright, multi-coloured dress, songbird voice and lovely performance attitude was a welcoming change-up. But the two of highpoints of the whole day really capped it off. The Swedish electro-house newcomer Adrian Lux played beautifully, sticking with his original tunes and remixes that we’ve all come to love recently, finishing with a long remix of Teenage Crime.

Then, where Adrian kept the crowd upbeat with the softer side of electro-house, Digitalism closed with a deep, heavy, laser-filled version. They were so professional, so experienced, so… German. It was the best possible ending to the biggest mix ‘n’ match of music, outfits and ages – just what makes Groovin the Moo such a funny day. You’re never disappointed if you’re always laughing!

The Darkness:

Fun Machine at ANU Bar, Thursday May 10

When cocaine-fuelled wrong headedness first robbed us of The Darkness in 2006, the world undoubtedly became a poorer place.

Despite the fact that the various warring parties (bassist Frankie Poullain aside) went to work on other infinitely lesser projects (probably not even worthy of mention here), this was scant reward for the possibility that we would no longer be able to hear the team that brought us such sonic delights as Dinnerlady Arms ever again.

Money talks, of course, (or at the very least it focuses otherwise preoccupied minds), and so six years after the great schism the brothers Hawkins find themselves reconciled and ready to rock us like the proverbial hurricane. They take the ANU stage on a mild Thursday evening in May, every inch the reconquering heroes despite the fact the band has never trod Canberran boards before and proceed to deliver a blindingly entertaining set drawing from both their pre-split LPs as well as a smattering of new material. Despite obviously suffering from a lack of familiarity the band do enough to suggest that the third Darkness album, which will apparently rejoice in the title Hot Cakes when it eventually emerges, will be a worthy successor to Permission to Land and One Way Ticket to Hell… and Back.

But we’re not worried about that tonight – we band of happy rockers assembled in front of the ANU stage come show time. No, we are here to see whether Justin Hawkins’ voice is as good live as we’ve heard and whether they are as entertaining a band as legend decrees. The answer to both questions is an unreserved ‘yes’, as the band crashes through high octane renditions of classics like Friday Night, Growing on Me, Love is Only a Feeling and Giving Up in suitably exuberant style, rolling back the years to the early noughties with a fire and passion found surely lacking in many of today’s contemporary ‘rock’ outfits. Justin Hawkins’ voice defies belief throughout – that storied, piercing falsetto hitting the target time and again. The pipes work in concert with a superior guitar technique that peels off solo after jaw-dropping solo with an ease and grace that will have any viewing axe exponents feeling sorely inadequate. Justin’s brother Dan is no slacker in this department either, though he keeps mainly to locking in the rhythmic punch with amusing four-stringer Poullain and the oft-unsung rhythm machine that is drummer Ed Graham.

Hawkins seems a little reticent at first in his role as frontman, ignoring the crowd as the stage is plunged into darkness between songs. After a couple of selections this shyness, real or perceived, dissipates and he strikes an easy rapport with the crowd that continues throughout the rest of the evening.

Effortlessly charming, he leads both band and audience through a celebration of all things eighties and hard rock, without ever slipping into the sort of hipster-pleasing post-modern irony that retro acts such as his always flirt with. This is no Steel Panther-style comedy turn. The Darkness are a serious hard rock act that happens to possess a wicked sense of humour, and there’s a gulf of difference between the two. Whatever. Such philosophizing is rendered pointless when the band launches into a suitably crushing take on Love on the Rocks With No Ice to round out proceedings tonight, the band exiting the stage under cover of (natch) darkness in triumph and leaving the sweaty, slavering crowd baying for more. An unqualified triumph.



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