A Live Experience with Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird, Alex Lahey and Dhana Bhutan at The Evelyn Hotel, 6th April 2016

jameslondon1_blue_blurWe, The Wandering, have modestly offered the status of tastemakers, but on this occasion we are behind the 8 ball. Cousin Tony’s Brand New Firebird (or to those in the know Cousin Tony’s BNF or CT Brand New Firebird) are well on their way to getting the attention they well deserve so need know real encouragement from us. Tonight, they play the first of a four-week residency at the place that helped showcase their talent, with support from laid back jazz infused duo, Dhana Bhutan, and the clever young Melbourne song-writer, Alex Lahey (who we just weaned, last week)

The Evelyn Hotel is a funny old place, a venue that holds a fair capacity, oddly laid out space of disproportion and a rather austere feeling, its performers are varied and interestingly curated. With all this aside, tonight we were delighted to be invited along by the band’s management to experience a band who may well be on the way to some merited popularity.

First on stage is Dhana Bhutan, a duo that a few searches on google failed to offer much identity. We had intentions to speak to the guys post-show and find out more about them.  The duo combine syncopated drum machine beats, audio samples (many of them lifted from a vocal tribal chant), jazz infused guitar strums delivered by Will and some excellent saxophone playing by Ollie.  It was refreshing to see variety in local artistry, a step away from the ever popular electro sound that is carrying an overflowing bandwagon. Dhana Bhutan offered a nicely paced chilled set, worthy of a Sunday come down or a late night stiff drink.

Dhana Bhutan 1_optWe featured Alex Lahey a few weeks back on our Weaning Lambs post while sifting out new talent from around the world. An artist who caught our attention, like Courtney Barnett, with a knack for writing lyrics of youthful life, the Australian way.  What makes Lahey a great performer is her confidence. Not an inkling of nerves appear to affect her performance, her banter natural, honest and friendly, her music, delivered from the heart and with a good spoonful of attitude.

Her latest single, “You Don’t Think You Like People Like Me”, is polished, catchy and lyrically cheeky. Her guitar playing is simple (and she even claims she isn’t the greatest) but the songs are contagious with an air of Americana college about them.  We are treated to new material tonight, played in the same range as most of her work, but may well secure Lahey as another treat of young female artists who could follow in Ms Barnett’s big R.M. Williams boots.

One of the Triple J DJ’s coined Cousin Tony’s BNF as Australia’s answer to The National, an interesting and lazy comparison to draw in our humble opinion.  Not to say they don’t have the right to be lined with such great bands, the only comparison is their latest fantastic single “Melbourne Bitter”.  Yes, it has qualities of greatness but to judge a band on the sound of one song is what not to do with this band, a band who cover a multitude of genre and styles with very clear path of identity running within. To draw our own comparison, we would liken to say, Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros.

 Lead singer Lachlan Rose, has the vocal range to rival some of the best around and beyond. Their latest single ‘Melbourne Bitter’ sounds just as strong live. Tonight we get a glimpse of Rose’s ability both as a songwriter and a naturally gifted singer.  Barefoot, with a look that he may well be a surfer in his past time, Rose and his friends of equally talents, serenade the fair audience with a set of some truly memorable moments and show us how the humble egg shaker can be a crucial instrument to the rhythm of a song.

With strong lyrics and a solid rhythm foundation, lead guitarist Kieran Christopherson is able to layer some gentle and sometimes soaring atmosphere to each song to take each song to a defining new level.  What sets Cousin’s Tony apart is passion, something that in our unpretentious opinion lacks in much local music, a sense of belief and pride about their music. The harmonies are sung with purity, thanks to Francesca Gonzales who also has some subtle moments to shine.

“Melbourne Bitter” is the favourite tonight, and this isn’t because it is a standout, rather, its popularity attest to familiarity. Not a bad thing at all, simply that the majority of their other songs tonight are just as good, in particular, a new track that they test run this evening, a driving beat that had us drawing a comparison to ‘The War On Drugs with its urgency and power.  If this is what we have to come from this band, well we are damn excited to watch them gain the support they deserve.