Wednesday, July 23, 2008


A few weeks ago some friends of mine who are in a band asked if I'd MC the launch of their debut EP. I resisted for a couple of days, since it's not the sort of thing I usually do, and while I can generally fudge my way through public speaking with my equanimity intact, I know that if I falter I will lose it completely. However in the end I agreed to do it, for the same reason that I decided to buy my scooter: I can't allow being a complete wuss to stop me doing new things.

So on Friday night I ventured out into a wild thunderstorm that had blacked out several suburbs and lashed the rest of city with driving rain and howling winds, and somehow made it to the Floreat Hotel. Besides my friends' band there were three support acts, and while they differed in style they all somehow complemented each other, and I enjoyed them all so much that I bought every CD on offer.

Anthony Nieves

On stage Anthony reminded me of soulful Irish genius Luka Bloom. On CD he reminded me of Matchbox 20. I really like Luka Bloom and I really don't like Matchbox 20, so I guess we have something of a quandry. Of course a lot of other people who aren't me love Matchbox 20, and the band themselves could buy and sell Luka Bloom's sorry arse a dozen times over, so Anthony is probably moving in the right direction career-wise.

Perhaps a really good producer could bring together the best of both worlds. Anthony's voice shares Luka Bloom's warm depth, and his musicianship is creative and assured, so said really good producer would have a lot to work with.

Syrian Rue

Syrian Rue play what might be described as Geek Rock. In recordings they sound like a bunch of university students who stopped playing Dungeons & Dragons just long enough to form a band and write Songs To Slay Orcs By. In person they are cooler, in ironic ties, vinyl jackets and retro hats, and the music is punkier. It still has a moments of swelling, soundtrack-style grandiosity, but mostly it's guitar rock with an impressive sense of the left-field.

According to their keyboard player, the greatest accolade they ever received was being heard and liked by people who were sober. I liked them and I'd only had two scotch and cokes, so I guess I can be included in that select critical group.

The Jade Diary

The Jade Diary were the stars of the show, launching their debut EP 'Landscape of Dreams'. Their influences include Jewel, Joni Mitchell and Sarah McLaughlan, and it’s easy to hear them. Listening to it calls for red velvet cushions, wrought iron candlesticks and floaty silk scarves, with the ghost of Stevie Nicks twirling around in the background. It's rich and beautiful, with a subtle elegaic quality that pushes it a little deeper into your heart than you'd expect.

On stage lead singer and songwriter Cheryl’s voice is fairly small, but like all the best small things it's perfect: exquisitely pure and clear with an immaculate clarity. As such it works best on the gentler ballads when she’s not having to make herself heard over louder, more aggresssive instruments. Most importantly, it comes into its own in recordings, and as such I don't think I'm being biased when I say that any radio programmer who doesn't play their songs is an idiot.

Phillip Ragan

With a keyboard player and a cellist, Phillip was the last performer of the evening, and in some ways the most interesting. He was almost painfully nervous on stage, his whole body tensed as if he were awaiting attack by music-hating ninjas. He bobbed his head slightly to sing into the microphone, rather than adjusting it to a comfortable height, giving the impression that it required a summoning of all his will every time he approached it. It was the conflict that all performers feel between the need to express oneself and the need to flee the terror of the stage.

That said, I'm very glad his desire to perform triumphed. His words are more like poetry set to music than lyrics, creating a literary effect, and the complex melodies suggest both classical and retro influences. Overall there's a sense of mellow sweetness, with deeper nuances that one might miss the first time around. It's hesitant, quirky and off-centre, and there are any number of reasons why it shouldn't work. And yet it does.

In the end, I was left with three conclusions about the evening:

1) All of the performers were unusually good, and I think that everyone who bought their CDs will have them on high rotation on their iPods, as I do.
2) Being a complete wuss must not be allowed to stop me trying new things, and,
3) There are so many people out there who are way cooler than me.


Blogger an9ie said...

Spot on about the Jade Diary. Cheryl has a wonderful voice, and with training and experience it will only get better.

And if you'd told us you were going to be MC-ing, some of us might have turned up for moral support! Silly Blanders. Glad to hear it went well.

9:35 PM  
Blogger 2BarRiff said...

MC-ing? As in the Yo-Yo muthaf*****s type MC?

Maybe some Blandwagon Beatboxing?

10:26 PM  
Blogger Blandwagon said...

Yes. I am the baddest mo-fo ever to mutilate the Queen's English.

9:47 PM  

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