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The Monsters of Acoustic folk-rock – Live at the Phoenix 04-JUN-05 – A review of sorts.

By johnboy - 5 June 2005 3

Jonathan Fisher, Matty Ellis, and Jim Boots presented a compelling triple bill at the Phoenix last night. So I tore myself away from the playstation, said a quick thank you to the fashion gods that have made floppy unkempt hair “in” for the moment and walked in to Civic around 9ish.

IMPORTANT NOTE TO SELF: DO NOT DRINK LAGER IN PINTS – DRINK ALE IN PINTS AND LAGER IN SCHOONER GLASSES.

The story ends with me still drunk the following afternoon giving my neighbour money to repair the damage to her bicycle.

But in the meantime it’s 9pm and I’m standing in the Phoenix on my own wondering if there is going to be any music.

I could have asked. But I decided to have a couple of pints and head home if no music had appeared by the bottom of the second glass

My faith was rewarded when, at 9.30 Jonathan Fisher strode onto the stage. A tall, strapping man dressed in dark colours, with patrician features and a sweeping mane of floppy hair.

His appearance prompted an exodus from the tables around the stage. I took advantage of this to snare a good spot. As it happened the Jonathan Fisher fan club and I ended up on the same table.

He started with a very nasal whine-rock number which filled me with dread.

Thankfully the rest of the set was pitched a bit deeper and as acoustic singer-songwriting goes was extremely pleasant. Nothing that really grabbed me by the throat, or to get people up and dancing. But good honest songs and singing.

Matty Ellis was incognito. Pop over to his website and you’ll fast form an impression of what he looks like. It’s dominated by that great grinning melon. Put him in a beanie and it’s like Clark Kent taking off his glasses.

After 200 years people are starting to figure out how to sing with an Australian accent and not sound like a country song.

Missy Higgins is probably the most notable exponent of the style and the Cashews Alison Proctor springs to my mind. Canberra’s Fred Smith is another pioneer on the male side of the fence. Matty Ellis is certainly a fine practitioner of the form.

When it’s done well (as it was last night) it can just lift you up and take you away.

Matty had a bevy of very pretty young women in tow.

He steals chord progressions shamelessly. But when playing originals in this day and age it really doesn’t hurt to give people some familiarity to hang on to. Also a familiar chord can inject a whole layer of meaning into the song. A bit like the use of a couple of words in a poem can insert the whole meaning of the quoted text.

Around half way through the set Jim Boots and his entourage arrived and invited me to their table. I ended up at the “girls end” and learned a lot of things about hair care I’d previously been unaware of.

While this was certainly a distraction (and beer was beginning to play a part) I think Matty might want to vary his set up a little. While each song was wonderful I did find myself drifting out a bit in patches.

Jim Boots was up last (Disclosure: I run a podcast with Jim).

Jim has played to countless rooms full of drunks and has more variation within single songs than is necessarily wise. His efforts and getting the audience to join in had a mixed response and he cheated on the advertised promise of “all originals” by throwing in a couple of Billy Bragg covers.

But that’s OK, I like Billy Bragg covers.

I’ve written about Jim Boots in the past and I love his storytelling through song and his swooping vocals.

Things get hazy after that. But I seem to recall talking to a guy who claimed to be one of Roslyn Dundas’ past conquests and then stumbling down Northbourne Avenue occasionally stopping to leave behind some beer (one way or another).

A great fun night of free, original, music.

I’m looking forward to getting Matty and Jonathan into future podcasts.

What’s Your opinion?


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3 Responses to
The Monsters of Acoustic folk-rock – Live at the Phoenix 04-JUN-05 – A review of sorts.
johnboy 7:26 pm 06 Jun 05

To Have and to Have Not
New England

I think it was just the two.

simto 9:23 am 06 Jun 05

Out of interest – what were the Billy Bragg covers?

He’s currently getting regular rotation in my car…

blossy 5:05 pm 05 Jun 05

sounds like you had an interesting one jb!

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