Live Review: Anna Calvi and Twin Shadow – Oxford Art Factory (06.02.2012)

Twin Shadow look comfortable on stage together from the start of their set at Oxford Art Factory, opening for one Anna Calvi in their joint Laneway Festival sideshow. Every instrument sounds clear, all members on stage are painfully cool and fashionable-looking and the crowd are clearly enjoying themselves.

Singer George Lewis Jnr’s vocals aren’t loud enough in the first three songs, at times drowned by the bass and drums. However, this is fixed during ‘When We’re Dancing’ and the rest of the set continues without any problems. The stage goes dark between songs but Lewis Jnr calls for “some light in this mother fucker!” to tell us how much he’s enjoyed touring Australia for Laneway Festival.

‘Track Slow’ is anything but and causes groups of people to start dance-offs in front of the stage. The energy continues through to the set’s standout ‘At My Heels’; Lewis Jnr’s happiness is contagious and makes it impossible to stand still. Twin Shadow finish their set with the beautiful ‘Tether Beat’ and leave us without an encore.

Anna Calviand her band arrive on stage and play instrumental album intro ‘Rider to the Sea’. Her passion is evident as soon as she strums her guitar and the sounds she can get from it are overwhelming.

As the set progresses, I can’t help but wonder why her microphone isn’t turned up loud enough. To have had an incredible sounding set from Twin Shadow earlier and then be disappointed by Calvi’s vocals isn’t what I expected. This was no fault of Calvi’s, her passion and effort on stage could be seen at all times but her voice couldn’t be heard clearly enough from under her guitar and the drums.

To her credit, she was professional enough to not mention this between songs, rather just gesture shyly for her microphone to be turned up. Since focusing on her voice wasn’t possible in this set, our attention was pointed toward her guitar playing. The sexy intro to ‘I’ll Be Your Man’ and the extended solo in ‘Love Won’t Be Leaving’ were so good they almost made my jaw hit the ground. It’s impossible to watch someone play with so much passion and skill and not be swept away within it.

Calvi isn’t much for stage banter, giving us only a few quiet “thank you”s and barely a bow when she walks off at the end of the set. New song ‘Jezebel’ is all we get for an encore and when it’s over, she seems to sigh with relief. The problems with her vocals meant there was less crowd-engagement than there should have been and unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one disappointed by that.

Live Review: Active Child, Caitlin Park, and Oliver Tank – Oxford Art Factory (29.01.2012)

The Oxford Art Factory is close to full while first performer of the night, Oliver Tank, plays an interesting but somewhat quiet set. The sound on stage doesn’t fade between songs, so all of them blend together nicely. He finishes the set off with single ‘Up All Night’, which gets a positive reception; it’s just a shame that people’s conversations are carrying and can be heard over his voice.

Caitlin Park is next and her uniqueness is unfortunately lost on a lot of people in the crowd. Again, more are concerned with their own conversations rather than paying attention, which is a shame, because it detracts from the set. Accompanied by Eliza Fawcett, who is performing beat-boxing and hand-clapping duties, Caitlin breezes through the set and urges us to buy one of her CDs. Not only for the music but also for a “film fact” – there’s one in every CD. They tell us Active Child’s sound-check “blew them away,” and leave us waiting in anticipation.

Active Child start their set with ‘You Are All I See’, the title track from their 2011 album. Pat Grossi wastes no time in winning our attention and our hearts with his amazing voice and beautiful harp playing to match.

Well-known single ‘Hanging On’ makes its appearance early, something that surprised me. It’s played perfectly and all are enthralled at the beauty and passion it’s delivered with. Grossi soon moves onto a keyboard and while his harp playing is faultless, he looks more comfortable behind the keyboard.

The sound cannot be criticised, every instrument fits together flawlessly and though the walls are vibrating from the bass, it doesn’t drown Grossi’s voice or his harp at any stage. The set moves through songs from You Are All I See and we’re also treated to ‘Take Shelter’ from older EP Curtis Lane. The band’s mood on stage changes when they play it and more confidence shines through their performance.

Grossi comments it’s “hot as fuck” which prompts the reply “Take your shirt off!” from audience members. Grossi says he’s leaving it on because there would be “too many freckles for one audience.”

Though ‘Hanging On’ was probably the song most were waiting to see, it’s ‘See Thru Eyes’ that’s the stand out of this set. Every instrument on stage vibrates and resonates; Grossi’s voice is the best it’s been all night.

They play an encore to the audience calling for “One more song!” and leave us to reflect on the heartfelt lyrics and deeply moving music we heard.

Live Review: Sons and Daughters, Songs, and The Laurels – Keystone Festival Bar (12.01.2012)

The Keystone Festival Bar provides a festival atmosphere in the middle of the city – but without the long lines and abundance of Southern Cross tattoos. One thing exactly like a festival is the price and type of alcohol they serve, with the exception of being able to buy bottles of wine. The price and selection of alcohol aside, if this were a permanent venue I’d be here all the time.

Sydney band The Laurels are on first and their music is a great way to start the night. They don’t speak to the crowd and leave a loop pedal on between songs, which means everything they play blends together. The band have a couple of problems with sound throughout their set, mainly feedback, and the singers’ voices are sometimes muffled under the guitars.

Having said that, it doesn’t detract a lot from their show, since the guitar solos are long and dreamy; something you can get lost in for a few minutes. They create a great atmosphere and it’s clear the band are comfortable with each other on stage, as they move through each song effortlessly. They keep their “shoegazer” image for the whole set and wander off stage without so much as a goodbye or thank you and leave us to wait for Songs.

Songs arrive on stage without fuss and their opening track is short. They move quickly through their set, and like The Laurels don’t waste time with introductions or banter. Some feedback can be heard early on and it’s hard to hear singer and guitarist Max Doyle’s voice at times. But Ela Stiles’ voice is strong enough to be heard over the band and she sounds amazing.

The only criticism I can give is that they’re concentrating very hard while they play. It’s hard to feel engaged until they play their last song; it’s clearly their favourite to play together. The band have just started to warm up when they stop abruptly and walk off stage. I’m disappointed – I want to see them play more.

Sons and Daughters arrive on stage and lead singer Adele Bethel is energetic from the start. Despite being “fucking delirious with jetlag,” she jumps while she’s not singing or goes and touches guitarist Scott Paterson on the shoulder during the solos. She almost falls over towards the end of the set and jokes: “I’m a bit of a dick, just to warn ya!”

Paterson talks to us about how long it took to get to Australia but Bethel interrupts and says “Whattya doin’, havin’ a moan? Moaning Scottish bastard!” Early on, they face the same problem as the other bands, the vocals are sometimes lost under the guitars, but Bethel’s voice gets stronger as the night goes on. She can be heard a lot more clearly when they play ‘Taste The Last Girl’. The band has a strong stage presence – Paterson and bass player Ailidh Lennon are almost as animated as Bethel – and their enthusiasm is contagious.

Their set is a mix of old and new songs, with ‘Johnny Cash’ and ‘Fight’ from their first album making appearances. Singles from 2011’s Mirror Mirror, ‘Rose Red’ and ‘Breaking Fun’ get a great reception but the highlight is the last song of the night ‘Dance Me In’. Bethel’s voice is perfect while she gets us all to dance and clap. She surprises us by slipping in lyrics from Goldfrapp’s song ‘Ooh La La’ and they fit perfectly at the end of the chorus. The band thank us and wave as they walk off stage to cheers and claps from a satisfied Sydney Festival crowd.