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459 Fitzgerald Street
North Perth, WA, 6006
Australia

Dear Ella. Erasers, Doctopus, Holy Lotus, The Prom, Leure, Hunting Huxley, Spacemanantics, Laurel Fixation etc, Feb 14-16 2014

The Amber Fresh Chronicles

Dear Ella. Erasers, Doctopus, Holy Lotus, The Prom, Leure, Hunting Huxley, Spacemanantics, Laurel Fixation etc, Feb 14-16 2014

Andrew Ryan

Dear Ella,

Thank you for another sweet email. This weekend was one of the most wonderful in Perth music-wise for me for a long time, so I’m going to give you a very brief run down of what happened for my overdue article.

Valentines Day – Swedes + Pumpkin Coloured Slippers
Friday night was Valentine’s Day and for once I had a date but I totally forgot. It was also the night my friend Leonie was to play at the Bird with her band Holy Lotus, so suddenly, like Cinderella I had two places to be at once.

For this story, the Bird will be cast as the cindery fireplace, and this thing called “The Prom”, a show on the rooftop of a carpark in the city, will be cast as The Ball.

So I blow-dried my hair and headed out into the night.

Because of recent sadnesses, I’ve been reminded to put friends before romance, so I went straight to the Bird. Many nice people were there, but the best thing was sitting outside and gradually realising the music had changed but not knowing yet that it was my friends Rupert and Rebecca playing inside. As I was listening I was telling everyone around me how much I was enjoying it, but yes, suddenly I understood that it was actually them.

When I went inside to watch them, the feelings intensified. I’ve seen them play many times before as Erasers, but this time I felt something different. It felt like the actual meaning of Valentines Day was being poured out through their music. I felt like a blanket of love was covering over me and I talked to The Big and The Big talked back.

Then it was time to head out into the street, taken by my pumpkin-colour tipped shoes, all the way along James St weaving happily through drunk Valentiners as they tipped over one another leaning and learning all the way. Then up into the silver carriage of an elevator, stuffed with girls in variously sincere and ironic ball dresses and out into the night 6 stories higher, with astro turf all around and my friends as the band ‘Usurper of Modern Medicine’ just starting to play.

I found my date, the beautiful Swede Felix. I mentioned romance before, but in fact this was a friendship date anyway. The most wonderful thing about Felix is that he is kind to people on the street, but in the most sincere and honest and friendly way, so that in fact it’s not kindness it’s just Felix being a human to another human. Most people are somehow changed in their interactions if the person in front of them is covered with a layer of grime and street smell and particular street eccentricities, but Felix is not changed. He approaches everyone with the same way – open, loving, cheeky, trusting… So, the perfect person to have as a date to any prom for me. We tried to dance a bit, but mainly it was just nice to look at my friends on the stage, Steve the singer and guitarist moving side to side meditatively, Cam dressed as a nerdy but dapper teenager… whoever was drumming tonight (was it Cam?) was out of sight to me, so I can’t tell you anything about what they looked like, but I’m making a film clip for them soon and I’ll send you some of their music :)

Then, it was time for Cinderella to leave the ball for the first time. Felix told me to make sure I come back! And that we have to get a photo, not because we are beautiful but because “This is going to be the greatest night of our lives!” If you can imagine those words from the mouth of a beautiful Swede with the best of hearts, you’ll understand how much it’s making me smile.

Back at the Bird Doctopus were about to play. I’ve told you about them before, but again, they’re one of my favourites. They are the tightest of loose units, but the best thing is that even though most of the songs are simply worded, about pools and being cool etc, the writing is so perfect. There’s a line “If I could draw baby, I’d draw you” which fits for you as an artist, and is just a perfect line for love. These days if I see a man I feel in love with, that’s one of the first things that goes through my head. Oh, love. Well, they were great as usual, and there were new people dancing to their songs as well as the usual flailers. They got me up to sing one song with them ‘Hot Date’, which I wrote but they do a better version, and most of the song I just held the microphone and danced, but in the singing bits Steve and I sung together and for the bridge we put our sweating foreheads against one another’s and grin-sung our way through it. It was a great moment even though I didn’t know if my mic was on and I can’t sing properly if it’s raucous.

Then Holy Lotus were up. Leonie is one of my greatest friends who’s moved to Melbourne. On her own she plays romantic heartbreaky folk with a magpie in the morning voice, which means mellifluous and true. But in this band she sings repetitive things, plays the drums with lots and lots of hi-hat and another girl sings and plays synths and another friend Greg plays bass and very occasionally sings. This first night I heard them I only really loved it because I love my friends, but the next night I saw them at a warehouse party up the road, in a concrete room with lasers going on the walls and everyone dancing and THEN it all made sense and was great. Sometimes it’s like this. Takes a few goes to understand what the music is doing.

And of course, it was time to go back to The Prom. Felix had messaged me saying “We have to be King and Queen of the Prom!” but of course, we were not King and Queen, we didn’t get a photo, but it was one of the greatest nights of our lives because everyone in our city was free, up to the prisons and the detention centres. I always think about that, don’t you? We can enjoy things, but only when everyone’s free will we be able to truly enjoy things… We danced very wildly and loosely all around the astro turf, with other dancers bunched up more towards the bands and DJs, I talked to some beautiful friends, and then I left, without leaving either slipper because I’m pretty low on shoes.

Spacemanantics and the Warehouse – Saturday Night
Saturday night I had a show and it was going to be the first one playing with Tristan who used to play cello with me, and Jake. We had one practice all together on Friday and it mainly felt good, but I was a little bit fragile. But I got to the show and good things started happening. First, a woman called Ash Hendricks who plays as Leure was on. She is just so good, and every time I see her every song she plays I think to myself “If this song went for the whole half hour I would be happy.” She makes morphiney electronic bases for her slow guitar and her smokey voice to move through. All the sounds are perfectly constructed. Her guitar tone is always something I notice. She is so confident and poised and always seems like she’s enjoying playing but without any kind of ego. This night was one of my favourite times watching her play. I needed to be buoyed by something and wasn’t really expecting it to be music, but like Erasers the night before it was someone who I’d seen many many times but made me feel covered in love.

Sometimes I kind of talk myself into liking music, but this was pure.

Then we played and it was a very good experience. Just the three of us. At first I missed the drums terribly – Sam my drummer for the past ages has just gone away across the world – for friendship and drums there’s a big space left to be filled. But after half a song I settled in to the other two and I think we did something good. One song was special, about boys in prison, played on the piano simply by me and played on cello and guitar expertly by Tristen and Jake.

Oh wow, and then Hunting Huxley. There are a few people in our city who’s guitar playing is legendary in my mind. One is Ben Witt, another is Steve Macchiavera who plays in Huxley. He, Ben McDonald on bass and Dave Taylor on drums (we call him Dirty Dave), with a guy Jamie Canny joining them for a couple of songs, just really blew my mind. It’s rock music, but just goes all over the place and back again. Watching them was that kind of time where you just stand there and alternate between smiling, letting your jaw drop, and adjusting your ear plugs to balance wanting to hear all the tones as they’re intended with protecting your ears so you can continue to listen to this music for the rest of your life. I LOVED it. You will love it if one day you get to watch them play. Throw in that they’re all fascinating men and… Well!

So, next up were the band who’s show it was, Spacemanantics. I had seen them all around a bit and heard a few of them jam a few times at the house of a love, but it wasn’t till I did an interview with two of the guys, George and Broderick, that I fell in love with them. They’re such sweethearts and are just making music totally for fun, but pouring their energy into it. And, once more, theme for the weekend, this was my favourite show I’d seen of theirs. Other times I had been distracted by many things, or just thought it was fine but didn’t make me stay and listen, but this time I was squished up against these two nice guys who I’d been talking to about making music, and the stage, and took it all in. And it was amazing! They were all having fun, yes, but what they were making was not just fun for them, but good for everyone. People were singing along to songs, everyone was going nuts on the wooden floor in front of the stage, and in my mind I started casting each member of the band as characters. Jack was a blonde Greek boy in a toga, wandering round with a bunch of grapes and having his portrait painted; Nicholas was a tall elven man in the fields with heaps of fraggles and fairies at his feet, afraid of him but without reason cos he’s gently hearted; Blake was working on an Australian sheep station in the early 1900s, coming up to the big verandah for a cup of tea, not talking much but smiling at the other workers; George… I can’t remember what I saw for him, but now I’ll make him basejump like a rascal off a big rock face with a go-pro pointed at him and his buddy to capture their cheeky grins… and Jamie, of course, funk dancing in a club, with his moves making him look to the left and the right but only really having eyes for the music.

Anyway! They were great!

Then there was a warehouse party with heaps of good music, including Holy Lotus. I sat on a couch between David Craft (you will love his voice) and Ben Snaith (a musician from Melbourne who I’ll explain in a moment). David and I played thumb wars. Ben Snaith and I talked about drums. And then it was home time.

Ruthlesses Backyard Show – Sunday
The show at my friend Matt Saville’s house on Sunday afternoon was one of the best shows I’ve been to. There’s this young guy in Brisbane who sometimes writes to me (like you :)) and he said he had a friend coming to Perth and could I recommend a show for her. Well, being still 16 or something, this was the only one she could attend. Her parents dropped her off, which was super charming, and lucky for her this was one of the most special gigs I’ve experienced.

There were just a few people to start with, David Craft and a photographer called Tahlia, who also writes for here who I went there with after getting coffees and a few others. Matt’s son was there and he and I played trains and various games in the lounge room. But gradually a few more and more people came until it was a lovely group out in the backyard. As I looked across everyone lined up on the limestone, yes, my heart went out towards each of them.

The first music that happened happened because we all started hassling Mei Saraswati to sing and Matt said “Should we have a jam?”. So Mei took the microphone, Matt played drums, and Ben Snaith picked up a bass. Mei is truly one of the greatest musicians in our city. She and Kucka are the best women, in my opinion, both making beats and singing. But Mei’s voice is the best of everyone. She has a special gift – even when they just messed around for a few songs, Mei freestyling over bass and drums, I got goosebumps.

Then Maddison – Laurel Fixation – played. Goosebumps again. Her voice is so unexpected and good, she is bringing some element of slow grunge into the mix of people who are playing these days, and every time I see her play someone new tells me it was the first time they saw her and how blown away they were by her.

Oh man… This is waaaay too long and I’m not even half way through this show… I think I’m just going to summarise that many many special things happened at this house, with music in the backyard, the lounge room, the front wooden room, with nothing in it except a chair and people sitting against the walls listening to just one or two people at a time singing a set of heartbreaking songs, with the sound reverberating just enough off each of the walls, the ceiling, the floor, our bodies, everyone pouring their true feelings out through song, and being heard, and it felt like I was there for days and days rather than the six hours that actually happened. Bluff Knoll, Melbin, Orlando Furious, Rabbit Island, Crotch – all these people played too, but I don’t have the energy to keep going.

Anyway, lots of love to you :)

Your friend,

Amber