The Shadow Electric
One of a number of cavernous rooms within the Abbotsford Convent complex, the Shadow Electric is tucked away near several other noisy affairs. Tonight, a Greek wedding and a disco compete with the sounds of the clanging guitars and squeezed, impassioned vocals in the courtyard outside.
Singer and songwriter Fergus Miller (who essentially IS Bored Nothing) has such an affectingly creaky voice and arresting way with hacking at his guitar that you can almost forget you’ve heard much of it before. His tender, bruised lyrics and piercingly vocal melodies betray a youth spent listening to Big Star, Elliot Smith and Triple J and more recent infatuation with Pitchfork-lauded guitar pop. In many hands this would be a bad thing, but Miller has a fascinatingly unique voice that is beginning to find its own way and with him, it’s wholly arresting. The slacker vibe that infused his 2012 debut album is being honed into something compelling, and his homemade band t-shirts, ironically self-deprecatory banter betrays a smart sensibility. Burst of howling feedback are never uncontrolled, and the other three members of Bored Nothing are excellent players, well attuned to the slovenly mess that comprises his secretly confident songs. Closing with a cover of Weezer’s Undone is done with a compelling finesse and doesn’t come across as the lazy choice it may seem.
Channeling the affectionate sneer of Paul Kelly, Palms’ singer Al Grigg opens the band’s set with the largely solo In the Morning, setting the stage for some raucous Rickenbacker-driven clamour. At times reminiscent of You Am I, with their squalid euphoria, Palms are a fantastically effective live band. While the musicianship is fine, it’s the songs that really show the chops at work here. Tracks like I Wish That You Were Mine, This Summer is Done With Us, Rainbow and the closing This Last Year are gloriously ramshackle and more than worthy of the legacy that Grigg and drummer Tom Wallace blazed in Red Riders, one of Sydney’s most underrated bands of recent years. While Grigg’s Dylanesque chewing of lyrics, softens the otherwise blazingly confident delivery, it’s not enough to undo a pithy set from a great band in an interesting and underused locale.