Saturday, March 7, 2015

Gig Review: The Red Bull Sound Select presents: Madcap at Meow, Wellington, Sunday 1 March 2015

It takes a special type of party creature to attend Sunday night gigs. Especially parties that start at 3pm and finish long after dark, or well into the wee small hours. Luckily for Meow Bar and Red Bull, many such creatures exist on Wellington's live circuit, and last Sunday's Red Bull Sound Select showcase curated by Madcap was, by any measure, a success.

But for yours truly, on account of being a bit soft, the night was a little more abbreviated than it perhaps was for many others in attendance. I caught the full sets of Black City Lights and Race Banyon only, missing half of Eastern Bloc, all of Kamandi, and most notably, the entire set featuring overseas headliner Azizi Gibson. But it was Black City Lights and Race Banyon that drew me there in the first place, I timed it to perfection, and those two mid-evening sets were well worth the price of admission alone. I just want to write a little bit about that portion of the night (with apologies to anyone seeking a full review) ...

Black City Lights have long been firm favourites and this was the first occasion I'd managed to catch the act since Calum Robb and Julia Catherine Parr added drummer Caleb Clayton to transform from duo to trio. I was also conscious that this was just as likely to be my last chance to catch them live after last month's revelation that they'll soon be going their separate ways. With just two more live performances scheduled - one at Wellington's Homegrown this weekend and a farewell gig at San Fran later in the month - there was a sense of poignancy throughout the half dozen or so songs performed. It was something Parr noted herself on a couple of occasions. “Don't leave us" was the response of one keen fan.

Not that Black City Lights need a reason or any encouragement to go all dark and dramatic on us - that's long been the way Robb and Parr have rolled; it's a key element to their sound, and it's one of the reasons their loyal fanbase love them so much. Dark, heavy, and slightly foreboding is more or less BCL 101.

I’d like to have enjoyed a longer set and this one felt far too short but we got perennial favourite 'Give It Up', and the pretty special new(ish) Stone Roses cover 'I Wanna Be Adored' near the end. By which time Parr was preaching to the already fully converted.

If Black City Lights are sadly about to be consigned to the past, then the ever-improving wunderkind Race Banyon (aka Eddie Johnston) is very much one for the future. The now 18-year-old Johnston keeps getting better with every outing and on Sunday night we were treated to a solid 40-minute-plus set that immediately enthralled all in attendance with its room-filling layers of lush warm housey vibes.

Race Banyon continues to draw live inspiration from material off of the ‘Whatever Dreams Are Made Of’ EP but the nonchalant way he mixes things up as he goes about his work at least hints at a level of spontaneity not normally associated with live performance. My gig-going companion perhaps summed it up best when she suggested it was a little bit like intruding into his private world; that we were like guests in his room, and he was just digging the vibe regardless of what anybody else thought. But everybody loved it, and a sublime take on Drake’s ‘Hold On We’re Going Home’ was a fitting way to conclude a captivating set.

There is a very real sense that the sky’s the limit for this prodigious talent; whether he reaches for it while wearing his Race Banyon hat, or whether it comes under the guise of his other alter ego Lontalius. Whether it’s as a bedroom production whizz, or as a frontline performer in his own right, Eddie Johnston has it all in front of him.

And so I consumed ludicrous quantities of the sponsor’s product throughout the evening yet never quite felt energised enough to stay on  for the Sunday session climax … but that’s not to say I didn’t leave the venue with my glass more than half full, happy that I’d seen exactly who I went there to see. Another time then, Azizi Gibson, Kamandi, and co …

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