Arthouse July 14

Cari Cari, The Broken Needles, The Starry Field and more!

Saturday night can throw up its fair share of entertainment options, especially, it seems, at this time of year. An opportunity to see five musical acts for three bucks each, at a friendly, out-of-the-way venue, surrounded by musical enthusiasts, tends to trump a lot of those options though. And so it was with clear conscience that I put a line through a couple of other ideas when I realised that the In/Off club was going to be in session again last Saturday night.

As I mentioned in my last In/Off review (and so I won’t go on too long about it!) the Arthouse is my kind of venue; kinda obscure and off the beaten track, fun sized so the audience is up close and personal with the bands, and generally surrounded and filled with people who’ve similarly come along primarily for the entertainment. The bar is sufficiently stocked and inexpensive, and everything’s homely rather than flashy. Nice. Anyway, on to the review!

The task of easing us into the night fell to singer-songer-storyteller Kate Leopold, her rootsy narratives given plenty of space by her understated acoustic guitar, and complemented by simple melodies from her electric bassist. Kate’s relaxed style at the mic between songs formed an easy connection with the early crowd, and the set felt as intimate as passing the guitar around at a backyard barbeque, albeit passing it to someone with a lot more talent than my average barbeque guest. Kate, I hope you enjoyed your visit to the far North and trust the stinging tree incident has left no ongoing hassles!

After ducking outside for a quick drink, I was summoned back inside via the usual polite bell ring, to see the first part of the night’s Middle East connection (the band, not the region,) namely Jordan Ireland’s project Stolen Violin. The next half hour was a showcase of several tracks from his new album, Temperate Touch, Tropical Tears, with a completely different take on the simple solo voice + 12 string vehicle. Psychedelic, organic, gritty, reverb-steeped guitar underpinned the songs, with droning and looped rhythms, and the vocals layered darkly in. My initial impression was a lo-fi Augie March, in a good way. Four tracks are available for preview on Soundcloud and if you’re a fan of the psychedelic resurgence I’d urge you to visit the site and then pre-order the vinyl. Or for the less romantically inclined, hit up iTunes for the digital version.

Starry FieldsJordan’s former bandmate Mark Myers stepped up the band size and the volume next with his pleasantly country-skewed take on indie-pop, The Starry Field. Every member of Mark’s band is as polished as his songwriting, the musical spectrum covered appropriately quirky and the songs eminently radioworthy: everything from Ben Lee-esque to tunes reminiscent of classic Custard… with a bit of Redgum meets The Drones in between! Although it was great to see The Starry Field in so intimate a venue as the Arthouse, my secret inner pop fan will be keeping an eye out for future appearances on bigger stages. Check out the clip to All Of My Love and try to avoid tapping your foot and you’ll see what I mean.

The Broken Needles Mick

One more refreshment for me during the stage reset, and it was The Broken Needles’ turn to rock the little wooden room. The usual Cairns disdain for anything ever associated with Townsville was quite rightly absent as the boys delivered a great taste of their recently released second long-player Holy Coast, slightly stripped back as you’d expect for a live show. To a certain extent the synths and violin took a backseat to the layered punk guitars and Aussie alternative style vocal delivery, which of course is how I like it. Think The Church with an indie edge and modern production. The guys had that casual but powerful stage presence you see with hardened touring bands, and the punters were obviously engaged. Oh, and they got my choice for bass player of the night. Super cool. Bandcamp has the tunes, check ’em out today so you don’t feel silly when you friends all start telling you how good The Broken Needles are.

After such a dose of Far North (and former Far North) talent it was time to strip back the stage for the international guests. Cari Cari is a duo project, grainy blues style guitar furnished by frontman Alexander Kock, and backed by multi-instumentalist and main vocalist Stephanie Widmer. The vibe was kinda garagey, almost a jam band feel, and following such polished previous acts was probably a little tough for the pair. Being stripped-back does suit the room, and the pair were fun (like a couple of cute talented backpackers) so the crowd was supportive for a couple of holdups: a PA tweak, a guitar change, etc. Stephanie’s use of the kit was minimalist, more as individual percussion actually, and she brought in some didge and at one point a jaw harp. Although for me it didn’t totally gel on the night, their musicality was evident and their folksy/bluesy songs were catchy.

All up the night was once again a maximum delivery of entertainment for a minimum charge, and I’m as always better musically educated having seen all the acts. Thanks as always to Nick for his tireless efforts ensuring we get such great value and diversity in entertainment. If you weren’t there, check out the free tracks online from each band and I know you’ll regret having made alternative plans… and keep an eye out for the next instalment!