Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Vuvuzelas, three-piece suits and crunking Irishmen - the return of the MK review after a brief hiatus

MK Round...whatever.

God Rest the Good Doctor (acoustic), Monica Never Comes, and Atticus.

In this industry, my best friends in the world are last-minute ring-ins. The performers from tonight’s lineup all fit that bill. A couple of late-term cancellations left us three bands down, but these guys were ready and raring to go.

With his thin hands grasped tightly around the microphone stand, feet together, and propensity to groove with downcast eyes along to the instrumental parts of his songs, God Rest the Good Doctor front man Sam Clayton epitomised the alternate indie rocker. A green laser light halo emanated from somewhere behind the singer; his silhouette oddly reminiscent of a high-production Kanye film clip.

Instead of the usual four-piece, God Rest chose to present themselves stripped back and acoustic, their set consisting of one guitar which was shared between the three well-versed male vocalists. While Sam Clayton and Jack Reilly’s vocals bounced off each other, Paddington Coat-clad backup singer Jacob provided the steady vocal support that lifted their harmonies beyond the standard of a normal acoustic set. The on- (and off-) stage rapport between the friends was more than evident. This led to a series of jokes, tips, and general tomfoolery - a breeding ground for such deep and existential thought-provokers as, “Does anyone ever just hold their pee in a bit longer just because they like the sensation?”

One song had sprouted from Sam’s alleged infatuation with Twilight – an embarrassing pursuit which his band mates took great pleasure in emphasising. Sam’s defence against the accusation did little to restore his reputation; “I am and always will be an Oblivion nerd before being a Twilight fan”. He did, however, fail to deny the accusation that he believed he was an actual vampire. Ladies, don’t all rush in at once now.

The Twilight-inspired song, I must add, was melancholic, atmospheric, tranquil, and quite beautiful. Jack crouched, hitting the kick drum with his right foot, and the snare behind him with his left hand, while Sam’s clear melodic vocals emanated from his thin frame. Not to be typecast, God Rest then passed the guitar amongst themselves, and switched from the smooth Twilight ballad to an upbeat acoustic toe-tapping pop number, before changing again to a wonderful cover of Block Party’s “I Still Remember”. Their enthusiasm for the music was strong throughout. Half way through the cover, Jack looked up at Sam in appreciation of his guitar work, “I want to give you a high five...but I can see you’re busy”.

After some delay caused by computer troubles, Jack Reilly and Andrew decided to soldier on. Jack had thrown on a grey blazer, taking him from the day of God Rest to the evening that was Monica Never Comes. In his three-piece suit, retro button-up collared short sleeved shirt, leopard print guitar strap, polished red wood guitar, tan leather shoes, and tall, thin stature, Andrew was a presence to behold. On the floor to his right, Jack sat on his knees, smacking the high hats, snare, and floor tom with thin drum sticks and a fervent energy. With a strong violet light bathing their left side, and glace cherry green to the right, Andrew slightly stooped to accommodate for insufficient microphone height, the billowing smoke machine behind them, Monica Never Comes appeared less Wollongong experimental jamfest, and more Rolling Stone Magazine cover shoot. Andrew’s rough, raw voice recited poetic verses, and rose and fell in time with the instrumental leads. Their sound was experimental, but substantiated by solid chords, and that deep, primal, jungle drum sound that reaches into your chest and makes you want to move.

Now all this experimental sound was well and good until Jack produced, in the final song, an instrument that sent a knowing groan around the room. As the music intensified, and Andrew‘s repetition of the one phrase in the song, “I’m such a fucking mess!” became louder and more frantic, everyone prepared themselves as Jack brought the vuvuzela to his lips. Those in the crowd tensed, awaiting the deafening sound that would surely spur forth from the plastic trumpet at the crescendo of the song. Instead, a low, gentle, and inoffensive note emanated from the bright red instrument, (my companion assures me it was a B flat), after which the two musicians took off their coats and embraced warmly. Relived and humoured, we were all claps and smiles.

In a mischievous defiance however, Jack picked up his guitar once more, strummed out the beat of Monica’s now familiar closing song, and blew one final deafening note from the vuvuzela into the mic. This sent a cringe through the audience, the magnitude of which has not been seen since the Socceroos lost to Germany back in June.

As Atticus set up, the heavy bass from the downstairs DJ could be felt vibrating through the floor. A handful of the ‘downstairs crowd’ filtered into MK – a jovial and outspoken trio of Irishmen made their presence felt in a less-than intelligible manner. Atticus kicked off their first song, and as their indie pop ricocheted off the walls, the Irish men pirouetted, crunked, and in one cheer-filled moment even got down on the floor to attempt some break dance moves.

Angus and Julia eat your heart out, Atticus is one family band with talent and variety, consisting of three brothers and their cousin. As their father, who attends all their gigs assured me, “they’re not some sort of Brady Bunch thing”. He was right. After five years of playing covers songs, the boys finally decided to write their original material. Their cover band background has led to a tight and professional sound that can only come about from years of experience supported by some serious musical talent. As the songs progressed, it became evident that the boys’ relationship to one another was for the most part coincidental – their superior musicianship is the foundation on which this band was built. Atticus have it all - heavy funk undertones, Bowie-meets-Dr Who keyboards, a lead singer who cooed through the mic with ultimate charisma, and a shaggy haired, leather jacket, skinny jeans, Oxford lace ups rock n roll silhouette. Their choice of covers – from Very Superstitious, to MGMT’s Electric Feel – served as an apt metaphor for their musical influences. This band was complex medley of styles - elements of 70s guitar and tambourine were stirred in with 90s rock drumming and a unique take on the keys that oscillated between kitsch, powerful, and intricate.

In a tongue-in-cheek coincidence, the lyrics from MGMT’s Kids “control yourself, take only what you need from me” rang out as I was forced to gently dissuade the rowdy Irishmen from singing their own heavily accented versions into the microphone. Meanwhile, as the crowd tapped toes and nodded heads, Jack Reilly could be seen attempting the robot in his red flano, vuvuzela and lumberjack hat.

James Lopes, MK regular and the mind behind Atticus’ film clip, called out from the back of the room for an encore. The song, Jane’s Rowe, was one of those original songs that is so well written and catchy, you’re sure you’ve heard it before. It was a fitting example of the song-writing ability of this former cover band, and a great end to the night.

MK was lonely without Nate Cult there. He was supportive, passionate, unprejudiced, and had a vision for the local music scene that I found incredibly admirable and inspiring. Nate, you touched so many lives, and your memory will live on through your friends, family, band mates, and the Gong’s live music scene.

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