[REVIEW] ABBE MAY @ THE TOFF

Photo courtesy of Abbe May

As published in Monash University’s student newspaper ‘Lot’s Wife,’ January 2013

On the eve the Mayans predicted the world would come to an apocalyptic end, Perth’s Abbe May took to the Toff stage for her aptly named Karmageddon national tour. The threatening apocalypse didn’t seem to faze the largest audience I’ve ever seen at The Toff, but loomed in the air with the scent of bourbon, cigarettes and the promise of an Abbe May experience.

After a decent set from Perth electronic rock band Shy Panther, Abbe May and entourage took to the stage. Kitsch images of lightning bolts and May’s head were projected on the backdrops throughout the first synth laden tune ‘Kaboom’. Thankfully the fit-inducing projections were soon replaced by a pink wash was adopted as the band covered The Motels ‘Total Control’: a classic track which Abbe’s dulcet yet commanding rock voice treated well.

I had heard, before the gig, that Abbe May is a sassy, sexual and spirited character with  no qualms about being outlandish, but her stage presence at first didn’t seem to live up to this persona. This side of her character seemed to appear towards the tail end of the show when playing recent tunes, ‘Karmageddon’ and ‘Sex Tourette’s’. She seductively spelt out song titles like ‘Trouble’, and had teasing small talk between songs ‘Sex Tourette’s’ and ‘Kiss my apocalypse’.  The set flourished, albeit a bit too late, especially since there was no encore.

The song as ‘Perth Girls’ was temporarily renamed  ‘Melbourne Boys’ to end tonight’s set, since Melbourne boys apparently look like girls to this Perth native.

[REVIEW] SHARON JONES AND THE DAP KINGS @ THE CORNER HOTEL

20130127-212337.jpg

Sharon Jones and the Dap Tone Kings recently visited Australia for Peats Ridge, and Sydney Festival’s Daptone Soul Review. The soul legends also add some side shows in their hectic scheduled  including tonight’s first of three sold-out gigs at The Corner Hotel,

Supported by fellow Daptone artists The Menahan Street Band and special guest Charles Bradley delivering vocals to rival James Brown. It was clear from the onset that tonight would be a night of pure  American soul music.

The Dap Kings warmed up the crowd with some tight instrumental funk, and then welcomed each member of back up singing duo ‘The Dappettes’. Each showed off their equally powerful voices that were clearly worthy of sharing Jones’s stage.

The long but enjoyable warm up left the audience in adoration of the lady, so when she set foot on stage The Corner crowd went berserk. Jones delivered from the get go, each song was more that solid from her and band, yet she adds that tinge of sass

Yet things weren’t sailing as smoothly as it seems, so when she said a few songs in, “This is really bad, I’m straining here,” to her sound technician side of stage,  it was an uneasing sight.

I had heard Jones really cares about her live sound, which is really a credit to her, because in the moment of a live gig, everything may sound tight, but the live setting allows for some leeway, which isn’t always a good thing.

However her showman ship took over, and she went on with the set. It’s a sign of a band at the top of their game, to not only sell out shows, but to care about the sound, the atmosphere, and deliver an entertaining and memorable show to their audience.

Jones moved on by pulling young, bearded men up on stage to dance in ‘Be easy,’ then again with six women for another song, then danced them each off stage one-by-one. Tacky as it might sound, it was surprisingly entertaining and I (and everyone else I’m sure) secretly wished to be up on stage dancing with Sharon.

‘She ain’t a child no more’ and ‘I learned the hard way’ from their 2010 album I learned the hard way and the title track from 2007’s album 100 days, 100 nights bought the set to a close.

The Dappettes bought the band back on stage for the encore, then Sharon treated us with an elongated encore edition of ‘When I come Home.’ Including a dance break where Sharon taught the crowd the boogaloo, the jerk, the chicken and something called ‘the four corners.’

Australian soul acts really could learn from Sharon Jones and her band. Their fresh approach to audience participation and how they go about delivering their songs, with the sass, attitude and meaning that soul music is all about really set them apart.

[REVIEW] HIATUS KAIYOTE @ 3RRR PERFORMANCE SPACE

20121224-225701.jpg

For those RRR subscribers who braved the sweltering heat for the cool of the Nicholson street performance space last Thursday, were sure treated with a sweet live-to-air show from Melbourne’s Hiatus Kaiyote. Introduced by soul connoisseur Chris Gill, the show kicked off with the shuffling beats of The World it Softly Lulls.

Rainbow Rhodes lead into the tight track Nakamara. The harmonies were electric in the small RRR space.The smaller and more active acoustics of the RRR space made magical moments within the set.

Nai Palm and back up singer Laura Christoforidis’s virbrato-rich harmonization on the lyric “sweet” in The World it Softly Lulls is such a epic moment in this track, and tonights rendition was full of pizaz.

Some new unreleased tracks closed up the on air segment to their set. Maybe they’ll be included on a possible album? I’m speculating here but fingers crossed the track Shoalin Monk Motherfunk makes the cut, purely for having a sick-as title.

Also the new track By Fire was promising, with the song working up to a strong mid-section with syncopated beats and Nai’s dexterous vocals.

The set continued off air with Ocelot, a track I missed the name off and, another newby Atari. Simon Mavin on the keys is also worth a mention, dropping the funky chords and swelling smooth runs, so clearly heard in tonights setting.

Hiatus Kaiyote’s debut EP ‘Tawk Tomahawk’ is on their bandcamp page. Its ten bucks; best value in town.

You can listen to Max Headroom’s soul special with Hiatus Kaiyote right here (select November 29th’s show)

 

[REVIEW] JORDIE LANE, THE PEARCH CREEK FAMILY JUG BAND & FLAP! @ THE TOFF IN TOWN

20121119-233850.jpg

The Australasian World Music Expo crew organized a killer lineup for their second last showcase concert. Three Melbourne acts all loosely linked as folk-esque artists under the all encompassing umbrella of world music, hit the stage of The Toff In Town.

The was a slight tinge of tension in the air, with many delegates from AWME in the crowd, bands were keen to impress. Although in regards to the order of the line-up, it must have been Opposite Day because it was the complete reverse of what it should have been.

Luckily I showed up early as FLAP! were on first. It’s the first time I’ve seen the band since they returned from touring Europe, and you can really tell they’ve grown from their travels. They hit the stage running with Tetris, Something More, and Billy Hunt; the song about a Kangaroo costumed convict. Eamon McNelis had the crowd in a frenzy, with his insane trumpet stylings and charmingly witty banter, uniting the room to flip out over FLAP.

Next up was Jordie Lane. His set was strong, well structured and glued together with long  tales of times abroad. At one point he even had the crowd screaming “Oh Jordie!”

Headlining act The Pearch Creek Family Jug Band were on around 9.30, and by now the audience had decreased significantly, with the back bar section practically empty. Their first song was not the best track to open their set, yet song after song the family band grew on me. The family connection is true it seems, except for their bassist maybe, and they well and truly play on this family link. But not in an Angus and Julia Stone way, less subtle and more jovially perhaps. More flapping ponytails, family anecdotes, and tap-dancing solos later their set came to an end and so did another great AWME.

[REVIEW] 24 HOURS IN LAPA @ MELBOURNE RECITAL CENTRE

I purchased tickets to 24 Hours in Lapa mainly for three reasons. One, I can’t get enough of Krystle Warren, secondly it was the most interesting show on the Melbourne Festival program, and thirdly, the name was kinda cool.

I went to the Melbourne Recital Center with a mind like a clean slate, and left feeling quite satisfied with my Melbourne Festival ticket gamble.

The piece began with projected text behind the orchestra, telling the plight of a young man on his thirtieth birthday. As the story goes, he was shot straight in the chest by a police officer for doing nothing illegal and was left to die on the streets of Lapa, Rio De Janeiro.

VCA graduate, co-composer and conductor Tamil Rogeon presented a musical gumbo of styles in the hour long performance. Forging elements of Latin samba rhythms, Western orchestral traditions, rap, electronics and synth vocal by the composer himself.

Featured musicians included vocalists Krystle Warren and Ryan Ritchie, Dan West on electronics, and Australian guitarist Doug de Vries. Warren and Ritchie’s part in this retelling seemed to represent the moral conscience of the characters in this ordeal. Warren’s deep, soulful and constantly flowing vocals were an excellent addition and a nice contrast to the jazzy, rap stylings of Ritchie.

In a way, having an open mind about this piece was a good thing, because even though some of the musical styles didn’t gel together very well, I felt it reflected the crazed hype of the 24 hours in a buzzing Brazilian city quite uniquely.

[REVIEW] JEN KNIGHT AND THE CAVALIERS @ THE JOHN CURTAIN HOTEL

Jen Knight & The Cavaliers

Sunday nights are notoriously ‘family roast nights’ in my house, but as the only vegetarian in the family, its always utterly disappointing. Last Sunday I wanted something fresh and new. So I grabbed a buddy and headed out for a dinner and a show. A bottle of cheap wine and 20 mushroom and vegetable steamed dumplings later, my friend and I headed north to the John Curtain Hotel.

Singer, songwriter and ukulele player Al Parkinson opened the evening. I was actually so bummed that I missed her set; dumplings took way longer than expected. We did however, arrive just in time to see The Teskey Brothers grace the stage.The long haired, skinny jean clad band of four have an pretty cool sound. Its kinda folk/blues one minute, then all out rock then next. Featuring killer electric guitar solos from Sam Teskey, jungle drum interludes, and lead singer, Josh Teskey’s mellow voice, its a winning combination.

The tunes they pumped out tonight were all quite lengthy, yet they weren’t tiring or repetitive. You sort of get caught up in their sound and become immersed in the song. Although it was challenge to actually hear the lyrics over their dominant instrumentation, I did buy their self titled album. Recorded back in 2010, it has clearer lyrics, and the band seems to have a more folk, blues inspired sound.

Front and center for headliners Jen Knight and the Cavaliers, was an energetic and beaming Jen Knight and her two harmonious backup singers. The girls three part harmonies, were tight most of the time, and when backed by the solid foundations of the Cavaliers, they present a high energy rock/soul set, full of fun, comedic banter and songs to dance too.

Their track ‘Sticks,’ which has been getting some love on triple j unearthed, was even more captivating live. Jen’s ability to deliver the emotional intensity of a song to her audience is ace, and it seems infectious amongst those who share her stage. Even branching out into some rap in ‘When the Music Stops,’ then pulling out the bluegrass-esque track, ‘Be With You’ didn’t diminish Jen Knight’s abilities.

I couldn’t think of a better way to spent my Sunday evening. An intimate little gig, good food, great company and a whole lotta good tunes. I think I’ve found my new Sunday tradition.

Get Jen Knight & The Cavaliers EP ‘Hunger’ here and make sure you check out Al Parkinson and The Teskey Brothers facebook pages while your at it.

 

[REVIEW] KRYSTLE WARREN @ NORTHCOTE SOCIAL CLUB

Krystle Warren

Sprawled across the sticky carpet of the Northcote Social Club, the audience basked in the unbelievable sound of Daniel Champagne and his gaffer-taped guitar.

Daniel’s percussive, blues/folk style has a tinge of an ‘Aussie’ sound. Utilizing every bit of his instrument and body, Champagne taps, stomps and alters strings tuning to produce his unique sound.

His take on Willie Dixon’s, ‘Spoonful’ began the set. Leaving Champagne newbies (such as my companion for the evening) speechless. Lyrically his songs (penned by the man himself) are sweetly poetic (The Nightingale), nostalgic (Losing Home) and down to earth without being to ‘indie’.

If your familial with American Cellist Ben Sollee’s style, and match this with John Butler, you might being to get an idea of Champagnes sound. Better yet, buy his CD’s or witness him for yourself.Following Daniel’s four song set, Krystle Warren graced the stage. Dressed in a dam fine knitted vest, shirt and pants, Krystle seemed a little taken back by her reception in Melbourne town.

Technical difficulties are annoying for performer and punter. Yet can be made comedic banter, uniting the audience with each other and the performer. ‘Andy’ (aka the tech guy from NSC) probably received more attention at this gig than any before. That put aside, Krystle Warren proceeded her set completely un-miked until ‘this shit [was] sorted out.’

Playing through songs from her latest delivery, ‘Love Songs – A time you may embrace,’ and generally keeping us entertained with pub jokes and Andy related banter, it was just one big ol’ night of sharing the love really. The audience was lovin’ it, Krystle was lovin’ it, and deep down I’m sure Andy was feeling the love too.

Warren has the most inventive way to plug merch I’ve ever witnessed. A mystery envelope is given to an audience member (perhaps on entry). Then towards the end of the show, she asks them to come on stage, open up the letter, and read it line by line. Written as if it was a letter from them to her, asking do you have CD’s to sell, generally doting on her in general and ending with ‘the lion king is the shit’. Epically funny, avoids that annoying merch seg-way, and probably lifts sales too….bands take note.