And it's all done under the influence of too many cigarettes. And way too much pide.
And there's such empathy, between the players.
Diminutive Elana, in her knee-high boots, stomping her way through many a tune. Some are penned by her. These are her very own, in every way. Challenging time signatures; unpredictable structures; haunting melodies; ambitious rhymes, which hit the highwater mark.
Some are George Michael's (of all people) or The Beatles (would you believe, Helter Skelter, of all songs, and a rampaging verzh, complete with crowd-surfing; yes, crowd-surfing, on a quiet Wednesday night, in Marrickville).
I didn't know what to expect from this band, billed, variously, as jazz, experimental and indie. Fact is, it's all of those. And more.
In the beginning, there were almost pure, crystalline tones and elaborate melodic flirtations and filigrees reminiscent of, say, Joni. But then Janis came out! Unexpurgated; uncensored; loud; proud; razor-edged. In two pseudo-schizoid sets, Elana showed, by turns, her Joni & Janis sides: an unusual, if not downright odd combo, but a visceral, enthralling one.
Of course, as the name implies, The Elana Stone Band isn't just Elana. There's Aaron Flower, for all his personal reticence, very upfront, sweetly teasing out about the tastiest and most tasteful guitar licks imaginable; a far cry from the overblown slobber sometimes revered. And, strangely enough, it's the jazz sensibility which enables the kind of less-is-more aesthetic restraint, when called for, that makes for such distinctive rock axemanship.
Zoe Hauptmann, like Flower, might be known to you from King Curly, or, say, her own band, Zoe & The Buttercups. And did I mention Wanderlust? Along with Aaron's gigs with Vince Jones, these facts alone should prove a reasonably reliable guide to calibre. Anyway, Hauptmann is an efficacious, unobtrusive bassperson and a lovely backup singer, to boot.
Evan Manell, for my money, is one of the most inventive drummers and percussionists on the planet, who can't be faulted for technique, or feel. He also pops up in King Curly and The Alcohotlicks, with the Flower power.
'lana can be found in other contexts, too. Anyone heard of Jackson Jackson, or Cat Empire?
It's hard to edit highlights, but, without being totally arbitrary, Pirate Song was, and is, decidedly, one. Lonely; sad; fragile; beautiful. Stone keeps the piano relatively simple, but devastatingly effective. The opening chords, for this tune, set-up the mood deftly and eloquently. Cue the lyric: 'you mean more to me than all the starlight in the world'. It's almost a complete statement of love and devotion, even to that point; but wait, there's more!
Contrast that modern jazz ballad with, say, Bobilee, which falls, comfortably, happily, unselfconsciously, somewhere between Supertramp, The Whitlams & Amy Winehouse.
The Elana Stone Band is an unashamedly genre-bending quartet of brilliant, youthful artists who've got the whole, wide musical world in their hands. First chance you get, join 'em, in their garden of wild things; for me, a veritable Eden!
The Elana Stone Band
Venue: The Factory | 105 Victoria Road, Marrickville, Sydney
Date/Time: 2 Jul 2008, 8:00pm
Cost: $25 Adult, $15 concession, students, Jazzgroove Association members
Bookings: www.factorytheatre.com.au | (02) 9550 3666