15 March 2009

Not yet arboreal

What can you say about the Arboretum? It will be wonderful in 20 years, providing we have enough water in this post-climate-change world to keep the trees alive. I can only hope we do, but fear otherwise. But despite the bare grounds and infrequent plantings, it was a good afternoon with bands on the Open Day. Windy, mainly due to a lack of tree breaks. (But now I am being naughty!). The Lethals were playing as I arrived: Leigh “Lethal” Miller (bass) with Hugh Deacon (drums) and Matt Lustri (guitar). It sounded boomy from a distance, but it stopped by the time I got anywhere near the stage, so nothing to report.

But I was there for Katie Noonan, famed classically trained singer, and front person for george and Paul Grabowski and now a Beatles cover album. Highly trained, able to sing from the highest balcony. This was Katie and she did not disappoint. She was basically singing pop for this incarnation: grooves, a few repeated chords without complex extensions, straight drums holding it together. But the voice was magical in its quality and expressiveness and range; the grooves were strong and of complexity; the guitar was effected and echoed and often clangingly dissonant with chordal solos that decried jazz lines; Stu Hunter’s keyboard bass lines were richly polyrhythmic and almost uncountable at times. Yeah, it was pop, but at such a level of sophistication that I was embraced. This lithe voice (she joked of Kate Bush fantasies) that pirouetted over the often unreadable and always dramatic understory, with lyrics of love and loss and the profundities of the personal. There were tunes from george, and tunes from a new album they are preparing. All originals; all with lust for life and a parallel despair. Apparently Katie is a greenie, recently moving to the bush with her family. More prosaically, Stu is Weston boy, and the band had eaten breakfast locally with Mum and Dad that morning. This was essentially pop, but done with some purpose and profundity that it was a work of art. Lovely, touching music. Perhaps too much boofy bass and volume, but what can you expect of a hired PA?

Katie Noonan (vocals, keyboards) played with Stu Hunter (keyboards, keyboard bass), Captain Cameron Dale (guitar) and Declan Kelly (drums) appearing as the Captains.

I just caught a few tunes from Blamey Street Big Band before I left. This is a local outfit led by Ian McLean. They play the mainstream repertoire of BB tunes: All of me, Boogie woogie bugle boy, Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans, and the like. Rachel Thorne was out front for the tunes I heard, and she was strong and capable. The band itself warmed to the task, and was playing straight but pretty reliably as I left. They are a common sight around town: CSCC, festivals, other gigs. Catch them for a mainstream hoot. A big, traditional big band in the style of Glen Miller and Basie and Ellington. Hard to maintain, but a great local resource.

The Blamey Street Big Band was led by Ian McLean with Rachel Thorne on vocals.

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