Wednesday, January 24, 2007
Coming into the Spoon Cafe, one is allowed to imagine what it must have been like visiting venues on Brunswick Street or Smith Street in the 1980s. Totally unpretentious, cheap food and beer, no stage and the thrill of not knowing what you were about to see, the potential for surprise still intact. Tonight Spoon had been taken over by that one-man-army of indie pop Dan Lewis (AKA Switchblade Sisters Touring), who threw together this dynamite lineup of gentle warmth and quiet intensity.
Setting the scene with meandering, hypnotic piano and snapshot narratives, comes Jessica Says. "I haven't played a gig in ages...my hands are still shaky" she confesses into the piano keyboard. And shame on her for leaving such a gap between shows. At three songs and half an hour in length, Jessica Says never flirts with boredom, her voice floating like a bee, gaining confidence and nourishment from one bright destination to the next. So Gladly and All The Day were particular high points.
Light Music Club, who are tonight, a club of one, are disarming in the extreme. Zoe Jackson took a firm grasp of the mood; switching on a low light and as eyes became accustomed to dusk, so too did ears to her Doris Day-sings-Kurt Weill languid eyelash-flutter of a sound. From opener The Midas Touch to sparse yet decidedly up In And Out My Head, by way of aptly titled Music For The Tiny Hours, LMC renders attempts at doing anything other than ordering a gin and tonic or Frangelico and lime futile.
In their first (and sadly near last) Melbourne gig, The Motifs enthrall with their sub-minute songs coming across more like haikus of intimate pop. The audience almost perceptibly lean forward to listen, as if at a keyhole, to hear some whispered secret. Alexis has expanded her one-woman show to form a wonderfully complimentary band featuring members of Low Rise Estate and The Crayon Fields. The sight of diminutive keyboardist May, leaning over her mini-Casio to play a tiny melody on a tiny keyboard with tiny fingers, followed by an upward glance almost had me on the floor in stitches while simultaneously pointing and shouting: "did you see that Guinness Book Of Records? Tiniest. Melody. Ever!". Scatted harmonies and hand-claps link most songs, and the upbeat and catchy as hell Backwards closes the set and ensures that their imminent move to Japan is our loss.
Finally, with all the fanfare of a well-scrubbed backpacker at an open-mic night, arrives the international star of the evening, Bridget Martin. Before her pure and piercing voice fills the room, she had already won most over with stories of trying to blend in in Melbourne by shopping at Target, and a great joke about cheese, this was a woman at ease. Opening with a song you've written that day would be a brave move in most performers' book, but with a shy laugh she does it. The Christmas Song and Mandy are wonderful examples of her confessional writing style, and the Dan Lewis-dedicated Frozen Heart seals the deal that Montana has given us a lot more than backgrounds to old cigarette ads. Her swooning closer The Dreamers Of Lost Causes sends all back into the night, richer for this glimpse into American folk - a timely reminder that there is a lot beautiful about that country too. Acoustic singer/songwriters may be a dime-a-dozen, but this one has something special.