Gender Blender Ball

Gender Blender Ball, Turner Bowlo, Fri 23rd May, 2014
by L Beau

A night of fun and ambiguities that almost hit the mark. It wasn’t clear why Prom put on a cross-dressing concert but they did, and it was a refreshing and adventurous splash on the CMC calendar. It was an interesting and relaxing exercise to look around the room and not be sure who was what gender. It made for a feeling of candid fun in the crowd. I only wish the bands had connected with the audience as well as we connected with each other. Here they are in reverse order…

Danny Wild closed the night with a DJ set full of pumping danceable tunes. Great song selection and tight mixing, but he looked like he didn’t enjoy being on stage. It’s possible the small crowd wasn’t enough fuel to get him fired up, but it still would’ve been nice to see him enjoy himself.

Prom is made up of some of Canberra’s best musicians. Each individually respected and ridiculously talented. And the music they make together is tight, punchy and passionate. But there was something missing. And that was a connection between the lead singer (Nick Delatovic) and the audience. He spent most of the time staring intensely into the distance and striking thought-out poses, instead of looking at us and sharing himself and the music. It felt like there was some intention to the music that we weren’t getting. A through-story or premise that went over our heads. Maybe if we listened to every lyric we could decode it, but if that’s a necessity then you’ve lost most of your audience. Delatovic is a jaw-droopingly good lyricist, but his considered cleverness can get in the way of catchiness and connection.

Pocket Fox are adorable. And over the last couple of years they’ve added to their adorable-ness a big heaping of musical excellent-ness. Their sweet music has become more complex and varied, and in this set their new slick licks wafted over us with feeling and fidelity. But sadly with no connection. They’ve been doing this long enough now to get over any shyness, so there’s no excuse to not be engaging with their audiences. Rarely did they look excited and connected to the music they were playing, and at times they even looked bored on stage.

Chris Endrey was the opposite. He is the king of audience connection. So much so that sometimes you want to say “Okay enough! Switch the wit off and get on with it!”. But when he and the audience are on the same page it’s magic. This particular evening gave us a little bit of both. Always one to risk trying new things on stage, he used his time not only to make music but also to try to make people think about gender. Kudos.

This night would have been perfectly pitched if Endrey had given us a touch more music and less connection. And if the others had done the opposite. (Dear Chris, please run Audience Engagement workshops for musicians.) But it was a fun night that deserved bigger crowds, and I’d go see all those bands again. I just hope next time they see us too.

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