Monday, June 28, 2010
The importance of musical ability in composition, and as a part of putting on a decent show, is thrown into the spotlight tonight at the Wesley Anne. It’s not as clear cut as one band has it and one doesn’t, but the role it plays in The Gallant Trees (as secondary to songwriting and the act of a performance), compared to Earl Grey Policy (it’s all we’ve got), makes for an interesting contrast.
The Gallant Trees, brainchild of singer-songwriter Joel Stibbard, are one of the most underappreciated bands on the Melbourne scene. Playing his 107th gig since last May, Stibbard plainly has a huge affection for his songs, the audience and performance, and they combine to make a wonderful show. Backed by Chris Chinchilla on drums and Tim Woods on bass, songs primarily concern the loves of the songwriter, namely birds and social observations. While Pigeons are the Best Headbangers has been steadily growing as a cult hit, Birds With Fangs and Visit Me Pelican also allow the band to shine while Stibbard’s earthy banter takes in an open discussion about social anxiety, hallucinations, operatic vocal solos and a frank disclosure about glasses and nose sweat. This band is clearly unlike any other and utterly of their place and time in a way so few are. Bring on the album.
In stark contrast, Earl Grey Policy are about as exciting as you’d expect a band with the word ‘policy’ in their name to be. Playing a blues-funk-reggae fusion, with a lot of competent solos and no dynamics, this is the musical equivalent of watching someone park a sports car for an hour.
EGP may be suited to an early afternoon slot at a summer festival where the vibes flow a little more loosely, but this is a Sunday night in winter in inner Melbourne and if you’re going to show off, you’d better be charismatic. Unfortunately, bandleader Andrew Ferguson calling for another meandering piano solo, cracking an in-joke or taking another wailing guitar solo over some offbeat reggae chops does not suffice. Watching talented musicians play and work with each other to create something unique can be compelling, but EGP come across as a lunchtime jam at the VCA with songs comprising verses that bookend the extended displays of musicianship.
Still, the freedom and passion earlier exhibited by The Gallant Trees more than makes up for later uninspired rambling. Tonight’s lessons: don’t treat a gig as a jam, and pigeons are the best headbangers.