Summer Tones @ The Zoo

After a seemingly quiet few weeks, the Summer Tones mini-festival finds itself at The Zoo on a balmy Friday night when Brisbane is enjoying an embarrassment of gig-riches; the Fire & Flood benefit at The Tivoli, featuring Powderfinger, The Grates, Robert Forster, The John Steel Singers, The Boat People and Dan Parsons, Violent Soho’s farewell Brisbane gig before their jaunt overseas at The Step Inn and Sixfthick, Spencer P Jones and The Horrortones at The Troubadour.  In the face of all the competition there’s a reasonable crowd in tonight, but possibly not as large as it might have been or as large as I had anticipated given Dan Deacon’s live reputation.

Ruby Suns start the night off, with a DIY charm that threatens to fall apart at times, but manages to keep it together. They include a cover of Kate Bush‘s ‘Running Up That Hill‘, which makes a change from the seemingly standard Kate Bush cover of ‘Hounds Of Love‘, covered in recent years by Futureheads and also included in Patrick Wolf’s live set (although in founding that link I also found out that he has also covered ‘Running Up That Hill‘ and remembered that Placebo did a version as well). In theory I should despise anyone covering anything by Kate Bush as they are never going to do the song justice, but in practice I enjoy hearing people interpret her songs; possibly because with Kate only having ever toured properly once, back in 1979, it’s always a pleasant surprise to hear one of her songs played live, possibly because it’s refreshing to find like-minded souls with such good taste in music. Ruby Suns’ cover is nice enough but I’m not sure if the song itself really translates that well to being played live.  Even Kate Bush singing it live at the Secret Policeman’s Ball in the mid-1980s with Dave Gilmour and a bassist with the best/worst mullet ever doesn’t match the majestic heights of the studio version.

Looking around the venue tonight, you can tell the out-of-towners, and by that design the people playing in tonight’s bands; they’re the ones wearing shorts that would get you beaten up in the Valley on an average Friday night out. Chief culprit is James Milne aka Lawrence Arabia, who’s shorts are so short they’re off-putting. The band have some nice harmonies going on but sometimes they are so sugary that it veers far to close to being something like The Everly Brothers.

High Places are a real highlight tonight, captivating with their shimmering pop beats and Mary Pearson’s calming vocals. They’re hard to photograph though, hunched over their laptops and instruments as they are, and I seem to spend far too much time camera held up and ready in anticipation of  either of them lifting their head ups so that I can get a decent shot.  Holding a camera  in position for lenghty periods is hard work, and on the rare occasions when they do look up, the combination of hand shake and the slow shutter speeds needed tonight to cope with the Zoo’s darkness means that the photos aren’t very sharp.

Beaches were a huge disappointment at ATP Mt Buller earlier in the year but watching them tonight it’s like watching a completely different band, and a really good one at that. From memory, the couple of songs I saw at Mt Buller, before I got bored and wandered off, were both instrumentals (or at least mostly instrumental) so it’s really surprising to hear an abundance of vocals during the rest of the set. And it’s really fantastic, really enjoyable and nice to be proved wrong from my first, less than flattering impression of the band back in January.

The Dan Deacon live experience is a surreal event; it’s fun and amusing, with a large proportion of the night taken up with Dan talking to the audience and explaining the audience participation that he wants to be done in the next song.  The main trouble is that the “show” so dominates proceedings, afterwards I can’t say what the music sounded like.  It also gives me flashbacks to Music & Movement from primary school; probably not a good thing…  As far as the music goes, I remember some high tempo beats, some cheesy keyboard sounds and some weird squeaky vocals, with Dan using two microphones and putting them through a line of effects pedals, but when it comes to melodies, song structure, memorable lyrics or anything that really grabs you away from the spectacle, it’s a complete blank.  His latest album, ‘Bromst‘, has been well received so there must be something of note in the music as a standalone experience, it just doesn’t stay with you solely from the live show.

Some more photos on flickr.

3 Responses to “Summer Tones @ The Zoo”

  1. This was a memorable show for me. I was up close for Beaches’ dominating performance, and on The Zoo’s stage for the first time as Deacon worked the floor. I think you were up there, too, right Justin?

  2. Justin says:

    Was a good night, a shame there weren’t a few more people there. Moved around a bit to photograph Dan Deacon to try to get some different angles and make use of the being able to be on the stage; is a strange place to be, having been at The Zoo so often but never really seeing it from that viewpoint. Forgot to charge flash so it died after about 5 photos which was a pain as was then largely relying on his desk lamp to provide the light. Beaches were good, but listening to their songs on MySpace it’s mainly those instrumental songs again.

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