Friday Night didn’t exactly go to plan but I did catch some excellent music in the heart of the City. Both at the 2XX, In The Can promo show at In Blue and also “Slim Pickens and Round John Virgin” at the Phoenix.
I got to the Phoenix just after six having managed to get some dinner before heading out. I’ve been wanting to see “Slim Pickens and Round John Virgin” for ages but their erratic schedule, and the way they tend to play early evening sets at the Phoenix had, to this time, conspired against me.
Cultural anthropologists tell me (and I have little reason to disbelieve them) that in the days before broadcast media people would start impromptu performances on their verandahs, and friends and neighbours would gather, bringing instruments of their own, until a fine night of wine and song was had by all. The dire uniformity of broadcast culture killed this practice off in most parts of the world. Easier to blast out a stereo than spend years learning to play an instrument.
“Slim Pickens and Round John Virgin” harken back to this lost age. Both in choice of music (think the soundtrack of “Oh Brother Where Art Thou”, perhaps by no coincidence emblematic of that last flowering of music indigenous to western culture), and also in the way they don’t play on the stage, but rather around a table in the middle of the bar. People come in, sit down and join in, others drift off to the bar.
It creates a great atmosphere in the Phoenix. If you’ve never experienced anything like it, but think you might then make an effort to check it out. (They do, sometimes, post a note in our DIY Wotz On Guides.)
The show over, Ssanta, Nik The Pig, and I made our way to the downstairs bar at In Blue, to await the start of the show we were out to see.
At an indeterminate point I put my pint on the bar and asked to two of them to mind it for me as I made a visit to the facilities.
“Mind it for you? What does that mean?” Queried Ssanta.
“Umm, No dicks or drugs?” I replied.
I saw a pointed look go between the pair of them and wondered to myself what I would actually come back to find in my beer.
Major cudos to the In Blue bar staff. When I returned I found a frustrated Ssanta at the bar.
“John, please ask the nice bar-man for a shot of tequila”
“And pay for it with this” A $20 was dropped on the bar.
The tequila was served, and with no subtlety at all went into my pint.
It’s nice to see such dedication to purpose, even if the original goal was lost sight of along the way.
On the other hand a pint of lager with a shot of tequila in it has almost no virtues to speak of at all.
I was still struggling manfully with my foul pint when Matty Ellis’ distinctive chords filtered down from upstairs. We took our drinks with us and parked our arses on one of the pillars near the stage.
Once again for these shows, the sound was top notch. I’ll admit I apply the low standard of “Can I hear the words”. You wouldn’t think that’s too much to ask, but it’s nice when you get it, and at In Blue they seem to be pulling it off.
Matty’s got a great set (and we captured a bit of it in podcast 16) and seems to be getting stronger with every outing. If Missy Higgins was an enourmously bemuscled bloke with a bushy beard and a shaved head she’d be stoked if she sounded half as good as Matty Ellis does.
Conversely, if you like thoughtful evocative songs of loss and redemption, you’ll probably like Matty’s sets quite a lot. He keeps a list of forthcoming shows on his website.
Next up was the new Konrad Lenz vehicle, Spirits of the Dead. Basically the Leonard Cohen’esque rock poetry we’ve come to know and love from Konrad Lenz, but now accompanied by Tom Woodward (ex of the HenchPeople) in full rock-god mode on guitar, a drummer unknown to me, and the unusual intrumentation of Emma from One Night Jam and Sky who plays flute.
The gestalt is probably unlike anything you’ve heard, so if you don’t like new things then this might not be for you. Jaded aesthetes on the other hand will love it.
In Blue were not inflicting plastic glasses on the sizable audience this time around, but I had strayed to the dark side of tequila and so by the end of the Spirits of the Dead set I was feeling a pressing need to stumble away and fall down somewhere.
I was beating myself up for being such a softy until I heard Nik The Pig had spent the following morning doing his infamous “Lion’s roar into porcelain” act for several hours. In a way it’s a shame because I’d been wanting to have a chat with the Spirits people, but at least that fine band were spared my drunken ramblings.
Anyone who saw the rest of the show is welcome to share their impressions in the comments.