The Phoenix – Saturday 22 November
by Andrew Galan
The Phoenix and The Lass O’Gowrie Hotel continue their passively collaborative ways; The Lass fostering bands, those bands then arriving at the Phoenix to wow us. This Saturday night it was courtesy of Canberra’s The Ellis Collective. Twice now I have seen the Ellis Collective perform alongside amazing bands from Newcastle – earlier in the year with Mojo Juju & the Snake Oil Merchants, now with The Understudy and A Disappointing Fireworks Display.
Canberra’s temperature had dropped substantially over the nights preceding the Phoenix shindig – it felt cold enough to snow as a small rugged up crowd warmed to the thunder of strings and the beer tuned voice of Matty Ellis. Outside the air made you feel bare-boned. Inside the Ellis Collective shifted you somewhere else in time to cry. Storytelling is the focus of the band, and Matty Ellis conveyed that you had better be listening. Then it was over too soon, the crowd returned to the cold with the strong smell of spilled beer and disinfectant lingering in the air.
Marching in after came the Understudy with some cold hard songs of dislocation and exploration of an alien world. Amusingly bitter and twisted views of all that is nice and good flowed from Pegs as the Understudy took the audience for a ride through melodramatic catharsis with a beautiful pop sensibility. A hymn for nice weather after the Ellis Collective, the Understudy gave up some of the splendour that Newcastle holds.
A Disappointing Fireworks Display with their amazing vocalist Georgie-Rose delivered tight drum driven music courtesy of Alex. Imagine Broken Social Scene shrunk and blended with the Brunettes. To quote one aural witness “It is intense”…Blink… The Phoenix crowd certainly didn’t, fixed intently on ADFD. The crowd was entranced by the lead singer as the band played their way through an eclectic and experimental mix of music. Highlights included Architecture and Monster Theme. Talking with the band members revealed the drummer Alex as the creative force behind the band’s music. Having ascended from a successful band collapse, he described them as the anti-thesis of their last heavy incarnation. ADFD cite the Cocteau Twins, Kate Bush, Nick Cave and Bronski Beat as inspiring their musical persuasion. For me, Kate Bush is most definitely there, but listening to their sampler give away I can hear an echo of more distant heritage – Talking Heads and the evolution of the Clash.
Newcastle keeps spawning these interesting and powerful bands – may they always find their way to Canberra and the Phoenix. The Understudy and A Disappointing Fireworks Display continue their east coast tour taking in the Espy and the Wesley-Ann in Melbourne, The Hopetoun in Sydney, the Troubadour in Brisbane, and The Lass and the View Factory in Newcastle.