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Swimming Together/Together In the Sea

December 16, 2008

sunset

A couple of Saturdays ago I went to see Ruby Suns at the Northcote Social Club. Despite spending the day at my work Christmas party running around, getting shot at playing paintball and then smashing a few hours of free drinks I arrived not too late, awake and even sort of coherent. I managed to catch the last couple of songs of opening act Slo-Mo Speedboat, a brand new solo thing by one of Architecture In Helsinki’s many instrument swapping members. It was mostly oh so current tropical synths and chunky beats, with bearded dude playing around with some effects and occasionally singing into a little mic. Apart from the static performance and the vox being up more than a little too loud it was a nice intro to the evening, with the small crowd, predominantly a typical Northcote crossbreed of hipster and love child, sitting on the floor, gazing pretty.

I had no idea what to expect of the next act, Melbourne locals Aleks And The Ramps, and was definitely surprised. Flashing Christmas lights on banjos, glitter stockings for the boys, tambourines as headbands, recorder breakdowns, synchronized dance moves, running through the crowd and extended spazz/prog/quirk jams all getting the crowd off the floor and bopping around. They have some thing on their myspace claiming a voodoo curse is in place for anyone using the word “quirky” to describe their music. Does quirk officially count? If you write a song and the vocals are all meows (for the first bit) are you really allowed to complain? Anyway, pretty good fun.

Meanwhile, despite being very impressed by this year’s Sea Lion, I was preparing to be disappointed by the Ruby Suns live show. I had heard a few less than positive reports claiming that it was boring, glorified karaoke or that the band had simply not worked out how to perform after shrinking to a two-piece. They are definitely an interesting case in Pitchfork’s ongoing legacy of hype. Has any band awarded their “best new music” tag in the last few years, in particular an indie rock band with such a current, fashionable sound, failed to catch on to the extent that the Ruby Suns have? I would put it down to several factors, one: the album is definitely a grower, something that people are not going to bother much with anymore, two: that they chose the wrong singles, “Oh Mojave” and “Tane Mahutna” are both great, catchy songs and feature that tropical and/or african sound that has been huge this year but they were probably a little too acoustic guitar/not obviously laptop enough to interest your average curious blogger/music geek. And three: everyone got kicked out of the band at some stage, presumably losing a lot of the energy on show in this Auckland Library performance and forcing the remaining two to work out what the hell they were going to do. Compared to Cut Copy who, despite producing very different music, are another antipodean band who received high praise for their (weaker) album in the states, but definitely chose sure-fire indie hits for their singles, went over there with a well received live show and ended up having a triumphant year, the Ruby Suns have all but disappeared (apart from featuring on a Windows Vista commercial apparently).

However, as the two remaining Suns took the stage, started up their chiming samples and sang “Ole Rinka”‘s extended intro it was obvious they were going to get a more sympathetic response from the small, enthusiastic crowd than the half-interested festival goers waiting for another band/expecting to be wowed that they have probably been playing to. Ryan McPhun pulled off his vocals and all their strange turns well live and this drawn out beginning was the perfect showcase. And as the song kicked in, with both members thrashing away at their stand-up drum-kits, the band’s bright, atmospheric charm was on full display, translating easily. The set mostly consisted of Sea Lion’s more epic, dreamy moments, standouts being the already mentioned “Ole Rinka”, “Kenya Dig It” and “There Are Birds” as well as their awesome cover of El Guincho’s “Palmito’s Park”. “Oh Mojave”, suffered from trading actual guitars in for a sampled electric blur but most songs benefited from the focus on percussion as well as Amee Robinson’s bass lines, highlighting the strong grooves that underpin the songs.

With a small group of dedicated dancers up the front, a couple of impromptu conga lines running around the venue and the flashing Christmas lights for necklaces and hanging off the electronics it was all very homespun, intimate and warm, an argument for the band to be at this level of success and in this current formation, as they delivered an accomplished representation of their album’s atmosphere and charms for actual fans. With friends like these (and with Microsoft paying your tab) who needs internet hype?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Sackinton permalink
    January 6, 2009 2:41 pm

    you just jumped the shark.

  2. Sackinton permalink
    January 6, 2009 2:41 pm

    things are fast paced these days. i’m sorry.

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