LIVE REVIEW: Yellow Fever, Love Connection, Bec Sandridge, Jack Reilly @ Otis Bar
May 1, 2011 Leave a comment
In many ways, Otis Bar’s ability to draw in big crowds for little-known musicians is its crowning glory. The non-descript, hideaway venue on Crown Street has built a reputation for hosting non-mainstream acts, and such is the growing reputation of Otis that people know, when there is a band playing there, it will be a show worth seeing
Friday night was no exception, with Texan duo Yellow Fever and Melbourne’s Love Connection gracing the Otis Bar stage (well, really, ‘floor’ is a more apt description); the two groups, despite admittedly boasting little in terms of mainstream name recognition, drew a crowd that most Wollongong venues would envy.
Two local acoustic artists kicked off the night, with Kiama’s Jack Reilly up first. Showing off a style somewhere between plain acoustic and more passionate and upbeat folk playing, Reilly’s simple ballads and confident stage manner helped ease audiences into the night. A great cover of ‘Bohemian Like You’ by the Dandy Warhols broke up a number of his own, semi-autobiographical numbers; Reilly’s fast chord strumming and strong vocals carried a real flavour of Mumford & Sons or Noah & The Whale. A (firmly tongue-in-cheek) cover of Rebecca Black’s ‘Friday’ ended an enjoyable set.
After a quick changeover, Bec Sandridge took the floor. Recognisable from local folk outfit Mad Polly, Sandridge has recently established herself as a solo performer in her own right. With a style and voice reminiscent of Australian contemporaries such as Julia Stone, Lisa Mitchell or Sarah Blasko, Sandridge’s delicate acoustic-folk worked well in the intimate, cosy Otis. Though less outwardly confident than the bright and bubbly Jack, and at times fighting volume issues, her set did not suffer; cutting between sparse, finger-plucked numbers and fuller-sounding strummed tunes – and switching between six- and twelve-string guitar, and ukulele – Sandridge offered up enough variation to keep a growing crowd sated. A lovely cover of Death Cab For Cutie’s ‘I Will Follow You Into The Dark’ capped a well executed and well received performance.
Melbourne four-piece Love Connection popped out of the crowd and launched into a dense, swirling set of psychedelic-tinged, noisy post-rock. Largely an instrumental group, occasional moaned vocals were distorted and fuzzed, used more to add texture and volume than in any lyrical sense. Love Connection employ an unconventional mix; thick with groovy bass and throbbing synth, the heavily warped and manipulated guitar was mainly used to add rhythm and texture than melody. Though borrowing from 70s psychedelia – fuzzy guitars, distorted and indiscernible vocals, and repeated drum patterns almost hypnotic in nature – and touching on 80s new-wave, a Parades-style post-rock is the overwhelming style of this group. Most tracks began as sparse, slow affairs – a low bassline, a synth part or a tinkling cymbal – before growing, building, and finally opening to a climax of gorgeous landscapes of deeply rhythmic instrumentation. A captivating and compelling sound from this quartet, who deserve to be bigger than they currently are.
Otis Bar was packed as Yellow Fever began their headline set. Despite their lack of members, the Texan duo made up for it in innovation and passion. Producing a kooky, jerky, jangling indie-pop full of nervous energy, the opening songs were oddly restrained; as though they were unsure how audiences would react. However, rousing rounds of applause brought smiles to both member’s faces, leading to a noticeable loosening and relaxing in the music. Yellow Fever’s frontwoman switched between keys and guitar – sometimes in the one song – while the band’s drummer also made use of a synthesiser attached to his minimalist drumkit. Their sound jumped from experimental, noodling indie to brooding, fuzzy pop; distorted and dirty guitar was made to sound like a bass, as looped synth samples from both keyboards bolstered the minimal duo. Dark yet quirky and fun vocals brought Lykke Li or Karen O to mind; even Megan Washington, in more upbeat moments. Time changes and mood shifts played a big part in Yellow Fever’s short headline set, the music continually and unexpectedly switching from down-tuned, slow and throbbing into bright, upbeat choruses. Rare for gigs in Wollongong, the crowd begged for – and got – an encore from the pair, who seemed genuinely excited and surprised by the positive reception. Bidding goodnight, Yellow Fever packed up and walked off stage.
Tonight’s gig was exciting from start to finish, and a none too subtle reminder of Wollongong music’s biggest problem; incredible gigs are everywhere, yet the wider community is unwilling to take a risk and see new or smaller bands. Melbourne and Sydney have a culture where people want to check out new bands; Wollongong locals will pay exorbitant cover charges to get into crowded, sweaty nightclubs to see a DJ press ‘play’ on a CD player, but will not pay a pittance to see such talented artists at work. Hopefully we’ll get there; one day…