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Broken Stone Showcase

My plans for the night were set a few weeks back. Michaela, the performer I saw at MONA FOMA doing an electrocution quartet called ‘While Rome Burns’ (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=35E60xmxFiQ), was coming to town with one of her bands for a performance. I headed to the Horse Bazaar for a night of… well, I really didn’t know what to expect.

The Horse Bazaar itself is a club I had not heard of before, despite reading the music rags weekly and going to concerts constantly, and for it being 3 blocks from where I’ve been staying. Their website didn’t have information on this show until about a week before, and at that it was only the letter the tour organizer had sent the club, full of references to “see attached” which were no longer there. Not optimistic about the management, I was floored to walk into the place. The venue was clearly put together by someone with an artistic bent, but not annoyingly so. One wall was a topo map of a river reminiscent of Mud Island’s Mississippi River. Behind the stage and wrapping to the side was a blank white wall perfect for visuals from the four projectors. (I have great video illustrating this but connectivity such that I can’t upload more than blog text.) The seating was varied and moveable. Even the selection behind the bar was impressive without being overwhelming (Glenrothes, Ardbeg, Yamazaki, Stone’s Ginger Liqueur, and maraschino liqueur included).

The first band to take the stage, Magnetic Heads, were also the only one I’d heard of before. They were good, and I’d love to write more on them, but without a notepad the first band in the lineup usually gets lost for me.

Following up was Caitlin Park. Caitlin herself sported dark hair pulled back, thick rimmed glasses, a slightly awkward stance, and matching endearing banter. Her voice carried a slightly mournful twang as she sang songs that conveyed the pain of life and love even when the lyrics weren’t clear. The voice was a little Danielle Ate the Sandwich, though the music was a bit more Osh10. Her backup vocalist beatboxed on songs not to add a cheesy rap beat but to replace a mellow synthesizer. They covered the theme from The Fresh Prince of Bel Air with a soulful folk twang that made it seem not out of place juxtaposed with a song about a father leaving a family to fend for themselves. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yxVfYQB9K0g)

The Maple Trail brought an equally mellow and soulful take on music to the stage with songs that started slowly with vocal-centric painting over laid back slide guitar and built into songs that took their cues from great dark folk singers past and Clapton’s extended musical noodling.  This is not the band you go out to get smashed to, these are the guys you want playing on a pleasant afternoon while you sip your favorite summertime cocktail and smoke hookah. Their duet with Caitlin Park was reminiscent of Cooper Temple Clause’s softer songs, a deliberately slow-paced composition that could go on indefinitely without getting old or could build to a cacophonous crescendo just as reasonably.

The final act to take the stage, and the one that brought me to the venue, was Sister Jane. The band was a combination that worked surprisingly well. The frontman donned a cowboy hat, denim shirt, and jeans that looked painted on. The songs featuring his lead rocked a solid country beat and his Jet-like vocals. These were songs you got up and scooted your boots to – solid drum and bass groove keeping the pace through guitar noodling and tambourine. Part alt-country, part classic country-influenced rock. My videos from this portion of the set sway back and forth because I couldn’t stand still. His counterpart, a frontwoman whose name could have been Kittie, had a more 70’s underground feel. Her voice had a sultry tone of a woman who has lived through a lot. On one particular song, her nearly growling screams of “You better keep your head down! You better get out of town!” over a guitar-driven slow-yet-insistent groove seemed specifically designed to be used in a Tarantino grindhouse-style vengeance film for the scene where the protagonist is determinedly driving through the desert on the way to the final showdown in a country town.

This is a label that has chosen its acts well, and one that I hope does well. If they keep touring shows like this, I’m pretty sure they will.

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This entry was posted on February 20, 2012 by in Australia, Concert, Victoria (Melbourne).

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