Left – The Bamboos
The 2012 Australasian Worldwide Music Expo (AWME) kicked off in fine style on Thursday night with an opening night line-up at the Hi-Fi bar that featured an array of mostly Melbourne soul and funk acts.
I caught the tail end of Electric Empire, a local three piece soul band that had drawn a big crowd into the depths of the Hi-Fi. They worked up to a big finish, leaving the audience on a high at the end of the set.
Melbourne nine piece act Saskwatch (including a four strong horn section) soon followed, introduced as "super-funk" by the MC and definitely playing up to that label. Lead singer Nkechi Anele packs the energy of two performers, and pretty much puts on an act all of her own in front of the mike, making it difficult to focus on the rest of the band. A highlight here was a song break that slid into a quick refrain of Robbie Williams' Kids, inciting an enthusiastic crowd sing-a-long.
It was encouraging to see that AWME ran this gig like a pretty tight ship; downtime between sets was minimal, and the MC primed the audience before each act with some quick and sly introductions.
While the standard was set high by the previous two acts, funk/soul stalwarts The Bamboos proved they were up to the challenge. Formed way back in 2001, they pack a big sound that's filled out by a horn section featuring two saxs, giving it that fat, rich brassy tone that sounds so right.
Each player got their own mini-solo during the performance; the first from the trumpeter early on in the set brought a cheer from the crowd, then band leader Lance Ferguson laid down some very impressive guitar picking in the middle of the currently charting single I Got Burned, which overall sounded solid, too. However, one of the sax players put on the best showcase of the night when he was forced (supposedly as punishment for leaving his own instrument at home) to improvise a "breakdown" solo unaccompanied by the band – he pulled it off, and how. The crowd loved it.
Kylie Auldist and Ella Thompson fronted the band in style with lead and back-up singing duties, and I thought the band sounded best when they slid from song to song without breaking beat, making the whole thing feel like one big jam session. The Bamboos topped what was an impressive and hugely enjoyable night of sould and funk.
The 2012 AWME features a big line-up of local and international roots music acts playing throughout the weekend at a variety of Melbourne venues. It's well worth checking www.awme.com.au to see what's on and grabbing some.
2012 Australasian Worldwide Music Expo Opening Night
The Bamboos, Saskwatch, Electric Empire, Dave Dow + DJs Vince Peach & Zack Rampage
Venue: The HiFi, 125 Swanston Street, Melbourne
Dates: 15 November 2012
Bookings: 1300 843 4434 | www.thehifi.com.au