concert

Little May; live at The Metro

Little May played a truly ethereal live performance at The Metro following the release of their latest album ‘For The Company’. This concert is one of many around Australia on their headline tour of indie rock and folk music.

The Sydney gig was supported by Australia and E^ST, and both acts had exhilarating energy on stage. E^ST, a young musical prodigy from the Central Coast, has been picked up by the likes of Triple J Unearthed and received airplay from Triple J where she was invited to play for Like a Version. She played these tunes at The Metro for us with an infectious energy, reminding us of her raw talent with a cover of ‘Bittersweet Symphony’, as well as hits like ‘The Alley’. Although inherently groovy and relaxed in demeanor,  E^ST has a powerful chest voice that screams passion and power, especially when she hits the higher registers. In tracks like ‘The Alley’, her vocals are haunting and show incredible range, and coupled with her signature vibrato, she seems unstoppable  Even though her layers of electronica would be smoother when studio produced, rather than live, E^ST’s fun excitement is a definite crowd pleaser at live gigs.

Little May graced the stage with golden lights and blue hues, making for a truly beautiful show. This band has a very sophisticated understanding of balance, as each layer was distinctly different from the others.  Each of their songs has a moving bass line and the drums come in and out like crashing waves. Their composition is so clean and tight and their harmonies are elegant and smooth. At times, their music is flavored with country vibes, with electric guitar that sounds inspired by bluegrass, and when they bring out the acoustic guitar, their music is textured with notes of home. Mixtures of tambourine and electric guitars bring a unique twist that brings their sound to life on stage.

As live performers, Little May are sincere and genuine. Their stage banter is sweet and authentic, as the lead singer classified one of her songs as being; “soft angst, I would say”. As a band, it seems their music thrives off dynamic build-ups in tension that lead to a crescendo, for instance in tunes such as “Hide”, which can have controlled majesty through haunting melodies. Little May’s new album shows a maturity that they’ve developed since their earlier music. I’m excited to see what’s next for them.

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The Bearded Gypsy band.

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This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Blue Mountains Blues, Roots and Folk Festival in Katoomba. On the Saturday night, I looked at my watch, marked the darkness cooling the earth and trundled across to the Katoomba RSL to catch the Bearded Gypsy band.

Although amused to find them quite beardless, I was more surprised to discover such a young band had graced the stage, so late in the evening. I hoped they were good, otherwise this rowdy, drunk knee-ed audience in the local pub would clap them off stage.

Boy, did they see my concerns and, raise me one- they were fantastic. What the band lacked in beards, it made up for in sheer talent. They were energetic, a passion that filtered through the willing audience which held long into the night. They were tight, their individual talents on fiddle, acoustic guitar, bass and drums were crisp. They were well polished and their integration of instrumental solos were seamless. The drums and bass held the sound together like how, keeping beat and maintaining tempo, while instruments like the fiddle, ukelele, mandolin and both acoustic and electric guitars took flight.

They were a clever fusion of old melodies, taking inspiration from Celtic blues and gypsy jazz, and creating a new monster that was a little cafe jazz, a little bluegrass. Whatever genre they took notes from, they showed they were versatile and flexible, not only replicating a well loved and recognised vibe, but also creating a soundscape that was uniquely theirs- an eclectic hybrid. While their vocals were good, their instrumentals were electrifying on stage, creating tunes that got most of the crowd up and dancing.

Upon researching more about them, I was pleased to find that their career is already a did one, having supported the Beards and the Cat Empire. At the moment, they’re touring nationally, so I hope to see them around.

Image credit: https://m.facebook.com/BeardedGypsyBand

Metric at the Enmore

Words by Regi Su

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I’m not going to pretend to be an unbiased reviewer for this one, because Metric has been on my playlist for a number of years now. I love the band. What I will try and do, however, is explain the different experience of seeing them live.

Metric is a Canadian band with all the components of success- killer drums, sick guitar, sweet bass and an eclectic female lead vocalist (who can take guitar, synth, tambourines or piano). They’ve been around for 10 years of so, but the band is still fresh. In fact, lead singer Emily explained to the crowd how Metric wrote a particular song (“Police and the Private”) in the Bush Era and how now, she still finds it relevant, finds new meanings and the content remains contemporary. I must say, the “Police and the Private” was my favourite tune from their Live It Out  album, but hearing it live, hearing it acoustic and hearing the tempo slowed right down, with a bit of expression from Emily, I was totally blown away. In essence, I was listening to the song for the first time.

Metric managed to do this with a number of songs, when they performed live. They closed their set with “Gimme Sympathy” and lead guirtarist James Shaw whipped out an acoustic guitar, the first and only time he used it all night. The audience lapped it up, in fact, Emily stopped using the microphone and the band stopped playing their instruments. The audience singing in unison was enough to drive the final song on the final show of their Australian tour.

Speaking of the audience, I was truly horrified with the auditorium. There weren’t nearly as many people as I thought there would be, making the Enmore seem a more little half empty, than half full. On the other hand, however, this helped make Metric the most personal concert I have ever been to. They had none of this hoity-toity rock-band business. Yes, they’ve been in the industry for a decade, but they treated this audience like royalty. With the microphone all night, Emily told us (relatively short) stories between every couple of songs, told us what she was singing, bade us sing with her.

Genre-wise, they’re an indie-rock band, but they do blur between alternative and techno at times; only enough to give each particular song a little bit of dynamicism. A good example of this is the song Metric opened with- “Nothing But Time”. The beauty of seeing it live is the electric atmosphere, the sparks in the crowd and the building up of tension as we play putty in the hands of the band. “Nothing But Time” is a tune with a release that was just incredibly phenomenal when live. This band has such range, just on their latest album Synthetica– there’s generic pop-rock with “Speed The Collapse”, alternative electronic in “The Void”, then calmer, slow tunes like “Clone”. They pandered to the audience and everyone, from grandmas to tweens had a great time.

Having a song feature in the film Scott Pilgrim vs The World definitely aided their fame. If you’re new to the band and you like rock, catch the “Black Sheep”, for entrée.

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Foals at The Enmore

Foals at The Enmore

Foals, supported by Alpine, performed at The Enmore over the weekend on 28th-29th of October. I’ve been an enthusiastic fan of Foals since some of their earlier albums, like “Antidotes”, so to see them live was totally incredible. Not only that, but Alpine is such a great Melbourne band who have risen to great heights with their unique synth-pop. I’m a huge fan of theirs too and on stage they were so much better that I had ever expected.

Alpine, the support, is a totally unique band. Their sound is electric, alternative and synthetic, but so very alluring. For those new to the band, I’d suggest ‘Seeing Red’ or ‘Gasoline’ for starters. When you listen to their music through headphones or a sound system, you hear all the elements of the song create a holistic, polished piece, were the sound is like a jigsaw puzzle and each part of the band forms the whole sound. Live in concert, however, with the usual concert antics like unbalanced levels and maybe a bass that’s too loud, maybe the vocals are drowned a bit, I must say, Alpine’s energy and enthusiasm totally surpassed any level problem. They were so fantastic on stage. As cliché as this sounds, they performed like no-one was watching and the leading ladies were like wind-up dolls, just going nuts to their own beat. Even though the sound-recordings have perfect synthesis, this band is like a live cracker in concert. Their songs aren’t heavy with lyrics, but they are lyrically heavy. That’s when you get lyrics, however, because the majority of their songs are alternative and experimental without sounds, voices and harmonies. It’s this vocal emporium that creates their ethereal ambience, especially when the lighting has bathed the stage and audience in a deep purple. Their balanced songs build to a climax and peak with rocking guitar and a solid drum beat. Alpine live is where it’s at.

The opening of the Foals set began with electro synth sounds and strobe lights that went for just long enough for me to wonder if I was in a spaceship or something. It’s a wonder there wasn’t an epilepsy warning on the concert ticket. The difference between a studio recording and a live concert is beyond comparison. The final, professional product on the album doesn’t factor in atmosphere and the band’s creative process. Live however, the opening, which was ‘Prelude’ from “Holy Fires” had each member, each instrument of the band come out separately, playing their part and it was from this and thereafter, that I noticed the careful layering of each song. Dynamically, all of their songs run to the same formula, they layer two types of guitar and bass with vocals, over a solid drum beat. These layers remain separate until they regroup in the chorus, then raise the energy levels and intensify the layers until they build to a climax, then they explode everywhere, like mentos and coke. For the layering, try Triple J hit ‘My Number’ and to feel the dynamic peak try ‘Milk and Black Spiders’- both tunes off their most recent album “Holy Fire”.

They appeased the crowd by performing some of their signature songs from all their CDs, setting the mood with “Total Life Forever” and “Blue Blood”. By “Spanish Sahara” (one of their more sombre songs which I highly recommend by the way,) the audience, bathed in blue lighting, was totally at the mercy of Foals and their command of the stage. In crazy upbeat tunes like “Inhaler” and “Providence”, the uninhibited mosh pit felt no need to restrain themselves. I sat up in the balcony, acknowledging that this was as close as I was going to get with the band, until the last song, “Two Steps Twice”, where lead Yannis Philippakis snuck off the stage, up the stairs, around the balcony and leapt off into the mosh… that was totally unexpected!

Foals performed one of the best live shows I have ever seen and that’s not just because of their unruly antics. Their set list was definitive, but they changed up the timing and tempo in their vocals, they pandered to the audience with their between-song guitar-drum collaboration and with great production techniques, lighting and all, the audience became part of a collective transcendental moment. Both Alpine and Foals are fantastic bands, but live, they lift the roof.

The Paper Kites at the Metro

THE PAPER KITES

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Last night, The Metro hosted the Paper Kites on their national tour States. I am a die-hard Paper Kites fan, that I’ll admit. However, this concert was more than I expected. The Metro hosted an absolutely sold-out crowd and it’s no wonder the small indie-folk band has risen from small roots to the breezy heights of international stardom. After this national tour, the Paper Kites then go overseas to support City and Colour and afterwards, they’ll embark on their own headline tour in North America and Canada.

The first support of the night was Robbie Miller. I hadn’t heard of Robbie before the concert and was I impressed! This talent from Brisbane has seen him win the National Indigenous Music Awards through Triple J and it’s no surprise. At times, his music is perfect background music, something to soothe the palate, something calm the crowd. At other times, his guitar and vocals demand attention with powerful whispers and careful control. His music is heartfelt and his acoustic guitar is so smooth, have a listen to “Sunday”. His vocals are deep and effortless and he is a stunning solo act.

The second support, Georgia Fair, was a treat. To have such a successful Australian act supporting a national tour, will only boost their fame. The duo work perfectly in harmony, perfectly in unison. They played their beloved “Picture Frames” to please the crowd, then played a number of new tracks from their upcoming album Trapped Flame to be released in October, 2013. At times, these tunes had a twang of country, but this was no matter. Extremely versatile in genre and instrument, they showed that acoustic guitar and smooth harmonies sound great with either electric guitar or even clarinet. Their sound reminds me of a wooden house on a hill, with its ups and downs, its gusty winds and its summer zephyrs. They can be raw and gritty, full of earth and full of mirth, but they can also be mellow in their sweet ballads.

States is the first full-length album from the Paper Kites, following EPs Woodland and Young North. There is a natural progression in their sound. An earlier release from 2011- “Featherstone”, stands as a testament to the timeless nature of this band. I played a few of their tunes to my dad who sat up and said; “The lead guy has a voice like the Bee Gees, but they’re a bit like a cross-between the Kingston Trio and Seals and Croft. The Paper Kites have the perfect balance in instruments; banjo, lap steel, harmonica, keyboard, guitar and percussion. Their earlier tunes were mellow and like liquid amber. For new listeners, I highly recommend “Bloom” and “Sink In”, for feel good breezy melodies and heart-warming lyrics. In fact, when they played “Bloom” at the concert, the crowd went bezerk and Sam, the lead vocal, had to stop the song on account of his inability to hear his own band for the starting cue. He followed with; “you can all sing along though, we’d love that.” We loved it more. They’re beautiful.

Their studio mixes show all the components of their band and sound, but their live performance is unbeatable. With the lighting of blue hues and the light banter, their atmosphere can borderline rave-party, then flip 180 to be ethereal and transport the listener to a meadow of long golden grass.

The Paper Kites opened with “Maker of My Time” and played a number of new tunes from their States album. In my opinion, their sound has developed and matured, like a good wine. I feel they rely less on their harmonies and husky woodland vibe. Their earlier songs are perfect, but comfortable and safe. However, their new album shows a depth of sound which can only come from experimentation- they’ve tested the boundaries of their abilities. Vocals are the same, instruments are the same, but there’s something different and that’s possibly the explosion of percussion and beat upheld by the bass. It’s difficult to explain. I implore you to compare earlier songs like “Halcyon” and “Willow Tree March” with “Young” and “St Clarity”. Regardless, this band deserves its success.

 

 

The Rubens in concert

THE RUBENS WITH WALK THE MOON AND BLOODS.

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It was a chilly May evening when I found myself meandering down the streets of Newtown and Enmore toward the Enmore Theatre. This weekend’s treat- The Rubens with Walk The Moon and other Triple J artists as support. What a fantastic night of music it was! The Enmore was the perfect palace for an event such as this, accommodating to all ages with a sold out floor for the last night of their tour. In the mosh pit, the crowd goes nuts and jumps to the same beat, moves to the same felt rhythm, so even if you didn’t feel like dancing, the floorboards shifted under you and you were consumed by the monster that is concert moshing. This concert’s only difference- everyone was getting in the mood, there was no reluctance here.

The first support act Bloods bathed the restless crowd in straight rock/ indie-punk to start the night- a local band with so much potential and raucous power, they definitely have a grand future ahead of them. Following Bloods came Walk The Moon-

Walk The Moon supported The Rubens as a fantastic band to gear up the crowd. They were interactive and engaging, explaining their origins as being from Ohio, USA and this made them all the more interesting. The band donned war paint before marching on stage and presented their sounds to us with such energy, enthusiasms and vigor- the audience went wild. Sounding slightly less electronic than Two Door Cinema Club, the band filled the pop-Rock genre with tunes you’re guaranteed to have heard from television advertisements. A great band with energy taking the world by storm, both the real world and the virtual world with their recent hits like ‘Tightrope’ and ‘Anna Sun’ becoming YouTube famous.

In due time, The Rubens graced the stage. The audience nearly melted into a puddle of  their own tears as by now, the crowd were getting restless and were occasionally being teased with random cameos by the band members during set-up. Even without strobe lights, the tension was enough to slice the air. Finally, The Rubens opened with ‘The Day You Went Away’ and their signature drum beat and electric guitars and keyboards appeased the crowd. A solid pop-rock band, these guys came out of the Western Suburbs rising to fame through Triple J and so on their home ground, the crowd couldn’t get enough. The played through their self titled album, an album that ran #1 in the iTunes albums and #3 on the ARIA album chart. They then performes two songs not from this album as well as treating us to a new track- ‘Cut Me Loose’ (which did not disappoint) from their upcoming album. For new listeners, The Rubens sound like a soft version of The Black Keys, creating a nice fusion of 60’s Rock and contemporary pop-rock. They have a distinctive sound that is solid, comfortable and successful, as well as tapping into a variety of moods and atmospheres by playing with the limits of tempo and traditional instruments. For new listeners, I recommend ‘The Best We’ve Got’ for a good representation of their sound, otherwise go straight for the tune which pushed them headfirst into the spotlight- ‘Lay It Down’. The night ended with ‘My Gun’, a crowd favourite and we were left satisfied, although not completely fulfilled by the night’s experience; there’s always room for more good music.

Mark Wilkinson

One Sunday, I found myself strolling down the main street of The Rocks Street Fair where lo and behold, I found myself tapping my foot to the tunes of busker Mark Wilkinson. Months later, I’m sitting in the audience of one of his Sydney gigs as he kicks off the promotional tour for his upcoming album. The night was a sell-out, to devoted fans of mixed ages, from university students to middle aged couples.

The atmosphere is one of ease, there are about half a dozen couches and there’s a red glow about the place, the tea light candles just add that extra touch. Glebe Cafe Church was an interesting venue to choose, but it didn’t disappoint. Church by day- community space by night, the high ceilings and intimate space allowed room for him to breathe, and to glorify his music. For the past few years, Wilkinson has been busking in places like The Rocks to raise funds for his new album and now he’s in the later end of production, he’s giving fans a taste of the surprises he has for us ahead. In his repertoire, he played a number of times from his new album, mostly songs never before experienced, so he made the audience feel privy, even smug at the idea of listening to something before its been released, sings like Chasing Rainbows. As well as this, he gave each crowd member an EP, a short selection of songs from the new album, just making the audience hungry for more.

Wilkinson knows how to command a room, his music has a current in an ocean, that is calm at times, then crashes in a wave, a crescendo. As a one-man band, the spotlight sat on him and his acoustic guitar and he lost track of time, playing new tracks and appearing the audience with accepting requests from old songs. His guitar work is exceptional and all his songs are original works, songs proving that he is a great singer/songwriter. Granted, his songs have mostly the same sound, but when aimed at the right audience, aimed this established artist takes flight. He fits nicely within the genre of soft pop, not really experimenting with sound, not really bashing it out on the drums, just standing on stage with a guitar, playing all the soft harmonies himself, crooning feel good songs of love and love lost. Wilkinson sound like a blend of Don Mclean, James Blunt and Tracey Chapman and vocally, he is rather talented. For a bit of context, he perfumes a superb rendition of Tracey Chapman’s Fast Car.

His songs were comfortable, smooth and suave, softly old fashioned and gentlemanly in approach, possible even retro in ambience. The tunes are the kind of soundtrack to a road trip  at dusk beside fields of long, faded wheat. It was nostalgic, if anything. In a sense, his voice isn’t aft all powerful, but it’s strong and confident and commands the audience by controlling tempo and volume, very professional. In this respect, Wilkinson is a true performer. While only busking to raise funds, he’s still a performer and artists like these need to be experienced live. The sound recordings don’t display the atmosphere and mood that a crowded room holds, so a gig like this is registrant worthwhile. For example, Coldplay can transfer their energy and enthusiasm from concert to CD, (obviously your home experience probably doesn’t include confetti, but their sound translates). Performers and buskers don’t seem to be able to make the glorified leap to audio, because there’s an intuitive synergy with the spectator and spectacle.

Wilkinson has two more performances at the Glebe Cafe Church, from the 10th-11th of May, then travels to Wollongong on the 17th of May, then finally leaves for a tour of Germany, Ireland and the UK.
For more information, place visit-
http://www.markwilkinsonmusic.com

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