9.30pm session Friday 28 March, The Street Theatre.
by Shelley

Self-described eclectic, electric string quartet, Fourplay, was set up in the smaller studio (Street 2) of The Street Theatre to deliver the third (and final) combined performance/recording session for their new album, entitled Fourthcoming.

Fourplay @ The Street Theatre

With beers in hand, we were faced with three long rows of tiered seating and chose to sit in the middle near the mixing desk. Soon it was a full house, the lights dimmed and the sound check began.

Fourplay”s band members are Lara Goodridge on violin and vocals, Shenton Gregory AKA Shenzo Gregorio on viola and vocals, Peter Hollo on cello and vocals and Tim Hollo on viola and vocals. These four have played with the most incredible range of musicians. According to their website, they have individually or collectively been up close and personal with the likes of Natalie Cole, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Smokey Dawson, Deborah Conway, Paul Mac, Paul McDermott, The Whitlams, The Corrs, Savage Garden, The Screaming Jets, george, Gerling, the Stiff Gins, Skunkhour, Josh Abrahams, Josh Pyke, James Blundell, Karma County, Jimmy Little, Youssou N’Dour, Art Garfunkel, Leo Kottke and Luka Bloom, in live concert, or as support act or session musos.

Behind them was a plain black curtain backdrop, in front of them effects pedals littered the floor. All were casually dressed in T-shirts and jeans, and footwear ranged from just socks to sneakers through to industrial boots and Lara”s beautiful stitched cowboy boots. The audience was equally casual, drinking in the studio and ducking off to the toilet between songs. Hmm. Perhaps there”s a connection there.

Fourplay @ The Street Theatre

The session started with the instrumental soundscape Venice Underwater, which introduced a few of the variety of sounds we would experience during the rest of the evening. There were drumming percussive effects, plucked string beats, flamenco guitar-style strumming, and the more usual bow on strings notes.”Welcome to the third and last album recording performance.” “Feel free to whoop and dance.”

Next offering was the Sufjan Stevens cover, The Predatory Wasp of the Palisades Is Out To Get Us!, with its many changes in mood ” from sweet strings to dramatic drum effects and realistic wasp noises in places. This was contemporary music being conjured with traditional classical instruments. After that, the original instrumental A Grain of Truth (dedicated to the Australian Wheat Board) had a distinct country music feel with its hoedown fiddling, Shenzo treating us to viola played like a guitar and Peter strumming his cello.

Next, Lara sang her own song, But a Girl, which was something of a torch song with a definite cabaret feel. And it was followed by Where the Sun don”t Shine, inspired by the ridiculous pre-election debate re climate change when John Howard was busy trashing solar power and talking up nuclear energy. It made a strident start with its mechanical, industrial undertones. There was plucked viola over drummed cello and percussive viola, lyrical bowed breaks and a non-melodic section building momentum. Then towards the end of this fascinatingly discordant tune the instruments were tormented down to a final fade out.

Rudd-a-dub-dub was written on the day Rudd rose to the position of Leader of the Opposition. With wa-wa effect violin over strummed and knocked cello beats and viola being hit with bow, this number made the most of the instruments in generally non-traditional ways.

Everything was going fine will be the oldest piece to appear on the album. Written by Peter, and accompanied by powerful red and yellow lights, it has a strong melody and a wild rhythm, coming from both the beats and the bowing, which builds up and up until coming to a dead stop. And as with all of the night”s numbers, it is met with generous applause.

Fourplay @ The Street Theatre

On to some more covers, this time the Cocteau Twins Seekers who are Lovers displays lots of beautiful bowing, the viola especially gorgeous over deep cello notes. Then Tim took a turn at singing with a good version of Leonard Cohen”s Famous Blue Raincoat, often singing with little accompaniment. Lara provided backing vocals, while Peter and Shenzo amazed the audience by playing their instruments as if they were guitars, or even a ukulele in the case of the viola. Lara”s voice on the following song, Loverman by Billie Holiday, captured the tone of the great jazz standard, while Shenzo performed a wonderful viola break. That guy is truly “a star”. A version of Jimi Hendrix”s Spanish Castle Magic was put together for last December”s Adelaide International Guitar Festival”s Kiss the Sky Tribute to the music of Jimi Hendrix. “Fourplay were an obvious choice.” Lara bowed, Shenzo mostly strummed, Peter drummed and bowed and Tim bowed with all of them coming to a single abrupt end. Rage against the Machine”s Killing in the Name Of will be the album”s last track. “We hope you like it.” Dramatic lights matched the dramatic sound. Lara tried to stop the others early in the piece but they played on unawares so she restarted with a grin. Between Shenzo”s squeaking viola and Peter”s two-handed drumming and plucking on his cello, I was hearing something I had never expected – loud, heavy metal, thrash classical strings. All four instruments contributed to a rising crescendo of strumming and bowing, which turned into a fabulously frenzied finish. After which Lara declared she loved her borrowed rock pedal. Really?

Encores were Radiohead”s 2+2=5 and the Strokes” Reptilia. The audience were keen for more but it was clear the band were done when the lights went up and we found we were all back from wherever it was we had been taken. What an incredible experience and what an incredibly talented band. Do not miss them. Oh, and check out their new album.

Pic: Fred

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