Zach Mo

Underwhere at Kuranda Amphitheatre

The Kuranda Amphitheatre with it’s 3500 people capacity is one of FNQ’s premier large venues, a place where acts like John Butler Trio, Mumford & Sons and Missy Higgins can perform to sell-out audiences. But underneath the stage is a very cool 200 person capacity venue appropriately named The Understage and it’s here that a new showcase of local talent called Underwhere made its debut. Very much in the vein of the (sadly missed) Arthouse’s Mixed Grills and the legendary Underhouse gigs this was a night of multifarious music and performance that included circus, live art, a DJ and some great home cooked tucker.

Opening the night in a subtle but intense way was Dave Cooke who has honed his own imitable style using guitar, ukulele, slide guitar & didge. He’s a master of sonic space and timing as he builds a quiet storm, the music like gathering clouds, his voice like flashes of lightning. His vocals have a power that doesn’t rely on anything aggressive or macho. Even at his most loudest and strident you can hear a vulnerability, a feeling of both sides of the coin, the soft and the hard all mixed up. This is real soul singing. His guitar playing was sublime, at times eerie and hair-raising. The slide guitar crying out like a human voice or dashing out gigantic slurred notes like gods shouting in heaven.
Dave was accompanied by drummer Lunar Sun who was understated but substantial. Light and tight, sometimes four-on-the-floor with nice little funky fills Mr. Sun provided solid bed-rock for the big-sky emotion of the songs.

Next, in total contrast, Faux Mo’s super-couple took us on a series of left hand turns into a absurdist car park all bombed up with bizarre lyrical graffiti It’s a place booming with hip-hop beats, zippy electronics and a splash of acoustica for sanity. Conceptually Faux Mo are seriously strange with whiffs of kinky intellectualism. You get the feeling they don’t just read books but sniff the pages and lick the spines too. A visibly buzzing MC Mozach provided intricate lyrical shocks but always with a nice line of self-deprecating humor. Partner in crime Trish Mo’s calm rich voice and canny guitar and laptop skills provided the perfect foil to the moustachioed MC’s freaky deakyness. Faux Mo have the colour and directness of vaudeville or cabaret but all warped by a strange mirror of their own design

There’s a big cheer for Bosko and Honey, riding high on their great new album, and they deliver a blast of energy, joy, sweetness and laugh-out-loud cheek and satire. They are top-shelf entertainers brimming with exuberance and verve. You wouldn’t be surprised to see them in New York, Paris or Sydney. They have the timing and moves of seasoned actors. Their songs cover a formidable range of moods and musical styles, and each one is a fully realised story performed with gusto and impeccable timing. But it’s the sheer musicality, the level of their playing that astounds. How can 8 strings and two voices conjure up so much? Bosko on lead ukulele plays so fast at times he appears to grow extra fingers! Harmonics pop up in their playing like a third musician. A big doof kick drum just manifests itself out of a ukulele. Bosko and Honey make musical magic and present it with charming zeal and obvious enjoyment. Their set blows up the room most delightfully leaving us all grinning and chattering and needing a refreshing drink.

Then some feminine mystique takes the stage as Secret Tuesdays, in masquerade masks, call us up the mountain, up the high path to hear their grand mix of of gypsy music, shanties, folk, blues and country. They are a trio tonight with banjo, guitar and keyboards and their set mines rich traditions unearthing gold nuggets and sometimes old bones too. Their vocal harmonies are sweet as country sunshine but there’s the smell of blood,sweat and liquor in there. They have up-tempo songs that rollick along like getaway cars filled with drunken gals and slower ballads that reveal that the stuff of life can be bitter-sweet indeed. Secret Tuesdays play as a group,there’s no real lead person and that strengthens the songs. And the songs are stories, mostly true, filled with true emotions and informed by every day life with a cool contrast between the roots music and lyrics referencing the modern world. Secret Tuesdays spiced up the night with their wild but wise women personas and played the hell out of the age-old school.

The last act of the night, Cairn’s based In the Element just tore the roof of the sucka! This very polished five piece got the crowd dancing with an knock-out series of original songs. Causally fantastic without any pomp or ceremony these young dudes just laid some fine playing and killer grooves on us. With zero attitude they let the music make us dig ’em. Each player was excellent in his own right but like any good dance band the main players of the rhythm section were the fine-tuned engine that kept it roaring along. The young bass player and drummer just killed it! There was fine guitar work from both players and some lovely riffs that gave the songs wings. The singer moved easily from genre to genre, giving each style the care it deserved, and all with soulful panache. In the Element have a proper handle on what makes a good song and I expect to start hearing some of their stuff on the radio real soon. There was all kinds of feels in their songs from the Allmans, to Marley, Chilli Peppers and more, with tasty dollops of 70s funk and soul and even some metal riffs to rev things up. Most of all they had real class and an instinctive ‘feel’.These guys are tight and the on-the-money ensemble playing they displayed made the sometimes complex material sound sweet and easy. That kind of sang froid is hard. And it placed them in that wonderful position of playing through their whole set to find to their shocked but happy surprise that a very vocal audience didn’t want them to stop! Very cool indeed.

Gawain Barker

Photo by janice Starck

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