|Eastern Lounge Relaunch|
|Written by lloyd bradford (brad) syke|
|Tuesday, 26 June 2012 18:33|
Left – Luke Escombe
Dave Keogh is the quintessential good bloke. Music industry veteran. Adman. Tennis coach. Charity champion. Man of a thousand disguises. A veritable Dave of all trades and master of most. Eastern Lounge is a regular, eclectic evening of music which used to be hosted at a tennis centre on Eastern Valley Way. Suddenly, council pulled the plug to renovate and Eastern Lounge and its loyal and substantial troupe of followers was homeless. After entertaining a few offers, it was Roseville Memorial Club, of all places, that came to the rescue. A congenial enough place, but of relatively modest means and proportions, in every respect. Then again, if you can make it there (in a tennis centre on the commercial fringe of Chatswood), you can make it anywhere. Likewise, if you can rock Roseville, you can raise the dead.
I said eclectic. You've got no idea how eclectic (though you're about to get one). But let's not call it eclectic, which risks a pejorative euphemism. Let's call it diverse. That a crowd, on Sydney's notoriously conservative and dull north shore particularly, with a tilt towards a more mature demographic (to risk a pejorative euphemism), buys into such diversity is most encouraging.
First up was Addicted Personality, an under-18s competition-winner (the 2012 Northern Composure band-battle) with a leaning towards reggae and ska flavours, despite their collective emergence from jazz and soul backgrounds.
When one thinks of under 18s, one may worry about the level of expertise but, in this case at least, one needn't. On the contrary, these young blokes are already quite seasoned players. An interesting instrumental lineup, too; including six-string electric bass, mandolin, trumpet, trombone and sax. You don't see that every day in an 'underage' band.
I didn't discover the complete personnel lineup until but moments ago, but I did know there are a couple of Morrisons in the group, as I met their proud mum, Judy, immediately prior. Yes, that's right, those Morrisons. That Morrison. James' sons.
Now I know the tall, dark and handsome young man on guitar (responsible for some very tasty and tasteful lead breaks) and sax (he also sings, writes and plays keys) is William Morrison. And that Harry, who, at 14, has played professionally alongside his famous father, also sings and features on bass and 'bone. The dreadlocked Josh Reeves is on drums and the charismatic Jakob Keysell, lead vocals, guitar, mandolin and trumpet.
In his introduction, Dave mentioned influences such as Miles Davis, John Mayer, The Cat Empire and The Bamboos. A little further delving turns up Muse, Motown and Tower Of Power, too. Now, that's diversity. With their white reggae sounds, they also put me in mind of The Police. I reckon it's fair to say all these influences are in play but, at the end of the day, Addicted Personality sounds like Addicted Personality and, already, it's not too hard to imagine a growing legion of fans going the way of their name.
I didn't catch the name of all their tunes (some were unannounced, I think), but it soon becomes clear their often laidback sound is way more sophisticated than a bunch of under-18s has any right to put out. Here and there, things get raunchy. And their lyrics are intriguing. But perhaps most impressive of all, for such young bucks, is their restraint. They aren't about showing off, but playing as a unit: it's collaborative, not competitive. I dare say they could teach some much older musicians I've seen and heard a thing or two, in that respect. And they've already got a party-hard attitude to their music, for which their obvious enthusiasm is completely contagious. There's confidence here, just this side of a good-natured cockiness, which, given their skills, I'm happy to say, isn't at all misplaced. The cynical question, 'yeah, but can you dance to it?' can be answered with a resounding 'yes!'
The first several tunes tap into that reggae vibe, though one interlopes with a shuffling rhythm and another, later on, has an almost punk sensibility, with rampant, raucous wah-wah. Elephant In The Room gets going with a bass riff, while Flying High is textured with a measure of grungy, low-fi distortion. There's a song about pollies, unable to form a sustainable society, which even contained a reference to Edmund Burke: evil prevails when good men do nothing. Good to see a social conscience is cool again.
Even if you're not so much into the reggae influence, there's enough jazz and blues to sustain you. The Mexican-sounding trumpet intro on one of their songs is bolstered by a trumpet part which, throughout, echoes old-time, Louis Armstrong, blow-for-all-your-worth, big notes. Onya, Jakob. Overall, it's drunken Herb Alpert meets Ray Charles joins the Red Hot Chili Peppers, with its Hit The Road Jack-like tempo and feel, sassy vocal, power chords and do-or-die lead break. if menacing can be genial, this is it.
After a big finish with the last, AP launches headlong into the frenetic ska of Puppet Face, featuring big Will on sax. To quote my partner, 'the brass is raw and sexy'. I think she was talking about the brass. Perhaps she's just emerging as a cougar.
Is Luke Escombe a comedian, singer, songwriter, guitarist, stirrer, or what? Well, the truth is, something like the precocious talent discussed above, he's all these things. Anyone that touts himself as a poster-boy for chronic bowel disorders (he has Chrohn's disease) is, clearly, inclined to look on the brighter side of life. He's been around a few years now, first getting attention with his debut, Golden Ages, in 2008. He's been scene ip and down the east coast, is something of a veteran of the festival circuit, as well as having enjoyed numerous Sydney residencies. Since the critically-acclaimed Golden Ages which, you better believe it, is still getting national and international airplay, there've been two EPs and now, a brand-spanking album, Mantown.
As a musician and writer, he can now be spoken of in the same reverent tones as Paul Kelly, or John Butler. After all, he's sat right next to them, as it were, on a Homegrown Roots compilation. Live, he's shared the same stage as Xavier Rudd and Gotye. If you ask him, he's liable to lay claim to 'funky, literate pop', or 'flip-flop', his own brand of 'flippant hip-hop'.
He's already been compared to Nick Cave and exposure to his vocal stylings make that almost as inevitable as the suggestion of Tim Minchin, not merely because he's every bit as comedically clever, but because underlying his acerbity are some deep, global concerns. This side of him has taken him to comedy and fringe festivals here and overseas, including the holy grail, Edinburgh.
All in all, he's played everything from veritable shearing-sheds to the sheltered workshop that is Parliament House, Canberra. And, along the way, his baritone has been voted 'Sydney's seciest man-voice' in a radio station poll. 'Why does it have to be just the voice?', he complains.
Escombe and his hot-as-Hades band, The Corporation (Escombe, on guitar, keys and vocals; Aaron Flower, guitar; Kevin Hailey, bass; Jame Cameron, drums), kicked off with Rock and Roll (Changed The World For Good), finding its muddy feet in delta blues and twinkle toes in rockabilly. It's as catchy and danceable as all get-up and is a veritable ode to the genre to which the title refers, from its crunchy Bo Diddley intro, it swings like Tarzan, reminding us 'how those teenage girls used to scream, when Elvis shook his hips; centuries of sexual repression, coming out of their lips'. Yep, rock 'n' roll surely did change the world for good. Hallelujah!
Love The World, Before It's Gone, which followed, is one, perhaps, for climate change skeptics and mining-cum-media magnates. Too Old To Take Any Drugs extols the virtues of old-school substance abuse, in the form of alcohol, versus designer just say no-nos. It's Hard To Be A Pimp is all about 'making ends meet, as an independent business operative'.
Put A Cap In That Ass showcases r 'n' g (r 'n' b meets gansta rap), while Golden Retriever Breeder and I Got An App For That are two more that make you laugh out loud. Jerk Your Cock speaks for itself. You Don't Need A Gun, You Just Need Confidence holds a timely message for paid-up members of The Shooters' Party: 'you don't need a gun to shoot the breeze'.
Escombe won't be to everyone's taste, I s'pose, but not everyone s likely to be to his, either. That, no doubt, gives him plenty to write about, with wit and perspicacity.
Does anyone remember the bicentennial year? That was when Bridie King began to get the attention she deserved, thanks, in no small measure, to a track called Piano Frenzy, on The Hippos' album, Hippocracy. It piqued critical interest and became institutionalised, as part of the soundtrack to the 1990 Commonwealth Games. Since, there's been television, radio and recording galore and supports for the likes of Robert Cray. But Bridie's attracted celebrity too, seducing the likes of rock and funk drummer, Buddy Miles (you remember, from Band Of Gypsys), blues-rock axeman Jimmy Vaughan (Stevie Ray's big bro'), Johnnie Johnson, the odd member of Dire Straits and yet others to play with her. Ratbags Of Rhythm & The Boogie Kings, which had a nine-year residency at The bridge Hotel, Rozelle, might ring a few bells, too. It's quite a resume.
Her piano-playing is still frenzied; blistering blues which, as a foremost exponent, she also teaches, at the Con. It's wall-to-wall boogie, boogie-woogie and boogaloo, which had the otherwise slightly reluctant audience crowding the dancefloor, showing off smooth and not-so-smooth moves, but having a ball, either way. There was Bitchy, a little something from legendary jazz pianist Henry Butler (who Dr John, no less, dubbed 'the pride of New Orleans'), a taste of zydeco, a lick of gospel, a whole new way of looking at Donovan's Mellow Yellow, a five-noter (to accommodate King's self-confessed modest vocal range), a Jackson 5 interpolation and a few saucy songs written and sung by Belinda Holland, whose sense of mischievous humour isn't a million miles from Escombe's, given titles like Healthy Appetite and Hot Water Bottle Man.
Eastern Lounge is like a giant defibrillator for the north shore, reanimating a musical life on the mild side of the bridge. And there's another one in just a few weeks. Same time. Same 'channel'.
Get down there, lizards.
Eastern Lounge Relaunch
Venue: The Roseville Club | 64 Pacific Hwy, Roseville
Date: 22 June 2012
Tickets: $18 – $15
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