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Winter of Content – A Review

Julia & the Deep Sea Sirens – The Polo 21st June 2013
by Geoff Dunn

There’s something about venturing out on a frosty Canberra night to see a band. Whether you walk or cycle or drive or, gadzooks(!) catch a bus … you feel the elements. These nights where it’s minus 5 aren’t strolling nights where you think “let’s just wander about and see what we find”. As my friend pointed out … there’s a good chance you’ll die out there if you pass out on the street on the way home or have no shelter … but that’s another story. My point is that one must make an effort to leave whatever cozy snugness you may have and get your arse out and about. When you arrive at a gig on a night like this … everyone who’s there wants to be there … they’ve all made the effort you see. We cycled in to the Polo … did I mention it was cold?

As usual for this reviewer I arrived about 10pm – just before Julia and her Deep Sea Sirens went on stage so I’ve no idea what the supports were like, though other punters who put in the extra effort to actually arrive on time described them variously as funny, musical and entertaining.

After the usual standing at the bar deciding on a tongue-twisting beverage, slapping hello to good folks too-long unseen and hearing the band start up, I wandered inside to watch. JDSS (an acronym I know but I’m too lazy to type out the full name over and over again) are very much a sit-down reflective affair and the audience didn’t disappoint. There were no slinky dancers though upon reflection I would have been (let’s just say pleasantly) surprised to have seen some. There’s something about the way Julia and her Sirens hypnotically perform. Music that in lesser hands would be considered plodding is rendered in lush swells and depth that is at once engaging and sweetly enveloping.

Speaking of lush, what’s more lush than a single cello but two cellos on stage. The resulting mix was rich while retaining a sense of the stripped back and remote… an intriguing mix that encouraged immersion and exploration. There was a banjo in there too (plucky!). Extra cello by Spike Thompson of Ellis Collective fame.

Julia chatted between songs or while tuning. She thanked the audience for their efforts in coming out on such a cold Canberra evening. She let slip that some of the band had come from as far away as Latham.

In amongst the strings, richly rendered by Dave Howe the CMC house mixer, was an analog sounding synth which lent rise, emotion and slow-building rhythmic intensity. Bass, drums, guitar, keys and cello all work together seamlessly, never stepping on one another’s toes. Julia & the Deep Sea Sirens present an almost indulgent melancholia that enriches the listener while never depressing them. It’s a fine balance which Julia and her band deliver without apparent effort.

The song ‘Wounded Soldier’ was a highlight for this reviewer and was nicely finished off with resonant harmonies and a light twang of Julia’s acoustic guitar. There was some talk of Go-Go dancer outfits and hard as I looked … (someone mention slinky dancers?) I couldn’t see any.

More synth introducing the final track(s) – vibrating with light tremolo rhythmic pulse, the band tight and well oiled. It was JDSS’ drummer’s final gig with the band before ploughing pastures further afield. A rolling snare drum solo illustrated a road well-travelled amongst these fine musicians… of times together and experiences shared. It was, like the rest of tonight’s performance, wonderfully understated and underlined the deep relationships within the band.

As Julia, her blonde fringe and long bob veritably shining in the stage lights, brought the show to a close… it really was a Winter of Content and totally worth the effort – thank you. I promise next time I’ll bring my camera. All I had to do then was ride home… did I mention it was cold?

And, as a postscript; to the the snooty audience members who appeared to object to me taking notes for this review on my phone (I was sitting up the very back mind you) I say “up yours” and to the couple kissing down the front whilst pretending to watch the band’s final song … I saw you… :-)

Monnone Alone @ Smiths – A Review

Monnone Alone. Fri, June 7 at Smiths Alternative, supported by Waterford and Mikey Shanahan
Reviewer: Andrew Tatnell

We went along to see Monnone Alone in the seductive atmosphere of Smiths. We mainly went, not because we had heard of the main act, but because we wanted to see Waterford who did not disappoint. More about them later.

If you’re not prepared for the genre, Monnone Alone can take you by surprise, in a ‘love-it’ or a ‘what-epoch-is this-anyway?’ kind of way. To the un-familiar ear (like mine) the songs are tight, upbeat rollercoasters that just start, and then stop, with no warning on the label.

The vocals have precise de-tuned delivery, that is at least endearing, and at best genre-refining. The lyrics are laconic urban stories with a bedroom delivery, accompanied by fun between-song banter.

The guitar work was mostly full at strum in the upbeat songs, casual licks and leads in the slower songs, all with a crunchy Vox-crisp accuracy. The bass player was 51% of the theatre, superbly delivering much of the musical interest through excitingly diverse riffs, intricate runs and odd socks. Drums were equally superb, if a bit challenging for the mix in the intimate venue.

The support acts rounded out the night making it a memorable and pleasure filled evening at a ridiculously low door price!

We were also treated to Mikey Shanahan and his brother. They play dangerous songs about the ‘little’ things that make Canberra special – like the lakes, monuments, suicide, cycling, murder and the perils of Campbell and surrounds.

Despite the urban material, they deliver a country banter that makes you wonder if they are secretly from a small town with a name like ‘Yaouk’. Luckily, they didn’t bring out any banjos. Their heartfelt songs are available on $5 CD.

And then Waterford. Great songs, ever accurate vocals with a perfectly slotted rhythm section that makes you sit back in your seat and just enjoy. Just when you get comfortable, along come the flawlessly melodic lead adventures that put you on the edge of your seat, making the joint rock (back and forth), and unfold its arms to bask in the stylish performance.

With strong and interesting songs, including one that paints a picture of outer Belconnen suburbia as an important part of the actualisation of the human spirit, it leads you to wonder if Canberra could eventually compare with the sacred Musicopolis of Melbourne.

Waterford, definitely underselling themselves, they are worth at least $6.99 of the unsupportive $7 door price.