Updated: Sep 6, 2022
Opinion: when exploring an art form, it is important to embrace the entire spectrum within which said art form could possibly manifest. Perhaps harbouring this belief led to me, on a Sunday afternoon, listening to a man making uncannily convincing bird noises, while another artist sporting a leather corset and spidery Alice Cooper eyeliner hollered into their mic indistinctly; both were supported by the primal thrum of a loop-pedal driven bassist.
Things got a bit transcendental when the bird-man started throat singing.
The “bird-man” is Sydney music scene stalwart Josh Shipton, the mastermind behind a monthly series of experimental improvisation afternoon shows known as EVIL TWIN (named after a monthly series of experimental improvisation night time shows known as EVIL). Sunday’s show, held at Newtown’s Garden Lounge Creative Space, was the latest in the EVIL TWIN gig series.
To describe this show to you, I’m simply going to quote the EVIL TWIN Facebook event itself. It was “weird”. And, hey, weird isn’t a bad thing. Its opposite is merely what you’d normally expect. And EVIL TWIN definitely isn’t your standard gig.
From the moment we perched ourselves on the squashy armchairs of the Garden Lounge, we were thrust straight into the world of the first act, a soloist called No Name To Remember. Grinding guitars, screeching synths and heavy percussion burst from the speakers as the red haired, leather clad performer growled and screamed into the mic, sometimes ending up on the floor and sometimes banging on the nearby (and quite removed from their setup) piano whenever the will struck. Most songs ended abruptly, rendering the singer breathless and the bunch of us quite astonished.
“This next one is quite challenging to sing, very challenging,” No Name To Remember said, after a generous swig of water.
“Don’t worry, you’re doing great,” someone called out.
No Name To Remember did in fact do great, with their utter lack of inhibition, impressive screamed vocals and original production - there was a pleasing variety of beats and a fascinating combination of textures in their tracks.
Josh came back to the mic for a brief public service announcement (“If you do not sign in using the [Service NSW] QR code, you will be pushed into a stream. And not given a towel”) and to introduce the next artist, Simeon Bartholomew, who would be performing a bass solo.
I’ve never seen a bassist perform a whole set solo, and Simeon didn’t disappoint. He began by showing us some fancy fingerwork, but things got serious when he started with his loop pedal. Simeon literally had a suitcase full of effects pedals (which I eagerly took a look at after the show), and he didn’t hold back when using them. Combining delay and shimmer, he created an eerie undulating sound that rippled through his performance, sending us all into a trance, and he heaped on the fuzz and overdrive for extra intensity.
After an unidentifiable span of time spent under bass-y hypnosis, Simeon stopped and pointed at me.
“Give me a number between one and ten,” he said.
“Uh, nine?” I said.
“I hate you already.” He pointed at someone else. “A letter between A and G?”
Four letters later, Simeon had come up with a time signature (heh) and a chord progression, and started thrumming away. Then things got really interesting.
Suddenly, Josh was at the mic again, but he wasn’t playing the part of the eccentric host. To our utter amazement a flurry of bird sounds began to emanate from his throat, circling back bars later with the use of a long delay effect; by then he’d be well into the next sound, resulting in a whole forest of bird calls. Chips, warbles, hoots, caws - he did it all. Then he gently segued into throat singing. Fucking throat singing.
As if this wasn’t enough, No Name To Remember suddenly sat on the other side of Simeon and began mixing their production and vocals into this improvised finale.
At this point I have to stop, because words fail and all I can say is that you had to be there to really understand the true magic of the show.
Really though, that goes for any live show, and restrictions are gone again, dancing is back - so get out there and discover some magic of your own.
That’s it for this week folks!
Acknowledging Dr. Robot
I wanted to add a small note that I’d initially been drawn to the show to see a long time dream live act, the strange and elusive Dr. Robot of the Blue Mountains. He was on the lineup but never showed up. This is why: “Dr. Robot has conjunctivitis.”
I was shown a picture. It did not look good.
Get well soon futuristic friend!
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