Holy mother, what a rollercoaster Melbourne Music Week was! It was almost impossible to keep up with normal life when there were so many sick gigs to attend. I literally had to plan my shoes to accommodate three nights of dancing (it’s a tough life). Special mentions to two of the most awesome parts of the week – Live Music Safari (this shit is every Christmas and birthday ever rolled into one) and Self-Made. And why is Self-Made so awesome you ask? The New Orleans Street Party, that’s fucking why.
I arrived wet and rushed after a much delayed trip through some decent rainfall, yet with my four year old excitement undiminished. As Blue Groove Industries posted on their Facebook in the days leading up to the day, rain doesn’t stop a second line.
Next to my much better dressed friend and with rum cocktail in hand, I settled into the vibe with some sweet contemporary jazz from Yil Lull Ensemble from the VCA doing their best to warm up the rather stark Dodds Street environment.
The next offering from the fantastic VCA cohort was Four (Means 4). Once you got past the wanky brackets in their name, they were actually pretty great. Although they seem a little green and nervous, they did pump out some funky yet smooth tunes, showing they definitely have some chops. One to watch I reckon (as I am now the leading expert on Melbourne jazz bands…yeah right)!
The crowd got bigger and the sun drifted lower, The Lagerphones took to the stage. Their mixture of retro jazz and swing got the dancing die hards going and it was hard to decide whether to watch the stage or the swing dancing couples. What made this set so good was not only its variety, but the band’s rapport on stage as well as Ben Morrison’s banter with the audience. Songs included original “Apartment Block Blues” inspired by Breaking Bad, as well as covers of Paul Kelly’s “Darling It Hurts”, Gangsta with “Lovesick” and The Offsprings’ “Why Don’t You Get A Job.” Throughout such a mix, these Melbourne locals performed with an original flair, tightness and musical prowess of a much more experienced band. The melodies and controlled messiness definitely would not seem out of place on a French Quarter street corner. Thanks for the good times fellas!
The next band on certainly had big shoes to fill but The Furbelows had no issues there. This fantastic six piece are made up of three very different yet equally fierce vocalists, as well as drums, double bass and a mean guitarist. The mix of cajun, bebop and old-time pop was excellent. Even if it wasn’t, this band would have been an absolute delight to watch. The interplay between the three singers in songs such as “Mr Sandman” was some of the best vocal acrobatics I’ve ever had the the privilege of hearing. The absolute highlight of the set was when the most plainly dressed singer threatens, “Come closer because I’m going to stage dive and I will die,” and luckily we did. After one song she promptly dove off the stage and was luckily caught by three people. After more threats to play a ballad so “everyone can grope each other” they finished a rollicking set just as the heavens gave way, leaving everyone flushed from dancing and laughing.
The next band, Adam Rudegeair’s Bayou Tapestry, brought a tone change to the proceedings which seemed perfectly timed with the change in the weather. Adam Rudegeair in a white headdress, sunglasses and mardi gras beads complete with fleur-de-lis brought the Louisiana weirdness and funky bayou rhythms to the lineup. He was joined by Henry Manetta – a mix between a magician, preacher and shaman with a top hat and skull staff. His voice was incredible with ringing high notes as well as scary gravelly low tones. The band was also amazing, in particular The Lagerphones clarinet player Joe Hunt on baritone sax and the trumpet player – talented and good looking (heyyy). Really, this is just a pack of brilliant players whose solos blew me away. After warning of some “de ja voodoo” they did a brilliant cover of Dr John’s “Right Place Wrong Time” which got the people dancing. They next launched into a slow and creepy original blues track with a formidable brass line. As Rudegeair began his incantation style vocals section, the wind began to blow the rain from the top of the stage so that it cascaded off the stage as the Manetta held glass skulls aloft. The final song is a dedication to St John and there was almost a sigh of release afterwards as the crowd took in the spectacle they just witnessed.
The final act for me was one of my favourite live acts from Melbourne right now, The Horns of Leroy. With seven strong on stage and five members on the horns, they launched straight in with a New Orleans classics, “Come On Down To New Orleans” and “Do Watcha Wanna.” Every song in this set was a raucous good time with plenty of brass, fantastic percussion and everyone joining in on vocals. This is the kinda music that feels almost unnatural on a stage rather than on the street. Especially when they started to play covers such as “Africa” and “I’ll Fly Away”. A Ben Harrison original mid-set is mind-blowing and gave the special guest sousaphone player time to show off her skills. Even with the tracks that didn’t seem as tight, these legends brought an incredible energy and dynamism onto the stage that made you want to keep watching, especially Daniel Berry on the snare drum and cymbal. Audience participation was encouraged with, “I can’t hear you motherfuckers!” by the hilarious Travis Woods. During “It Ain’t My Fault” he quips, “It ain’t my fault there are no beers on stage, can we get a slab up here?”. This is a man after my own heart. By the last two songs everyone is grooving and smiling and are not disappointed by a redemption of Snoop Dogg’s “Lodi Dodi” and quickly followed by universal crowd pleaser “Sexual Healing.”
I regrettably depart before The Hoodangers, yet I am smiling so much my face is about to burst and my desire to return to the Crescent City at all new highs. Despite some obvious teething issues with this event and perhaps an underwhelming venue, you cannot fault the incredibly varied lineup always of a very high standard. The vibe from the crowd and bands was phenomenal. Thanks MMW Self-Made – don’t stop the good times.
Stay classy – Rosa.