If you headed to the famously intimate Black Bear Lodge last Friday you would have been treated to a veritable platter of deliciously unique sounds. The fellas from Winterbourne delivered the intoxicating shot of neo-folk that fans were promised and more, while funk posse Graham Moes and electro-pop angel Azura gushed out stellar tunes.
Azura materialised on stage while the crowd was still in the bar, but her combination of dirty bass loops (the filthier the better) and angelic vocals (think early Broods/Airling) quickly attracted an audience. The ethereal vocals and lush dream beats tied perfectly into an aptly chosen cover of Tame Impala’s The less I Know The Better. Following this highlight, Azura put away her heavier loops to risk an acoustic guitar, something that probably would have sounded more affable in a studio, but became a tad drowned out in the live setting.
After the electro-pop musings of Azura the crowd were thirsting for some solid dance numbers. It was time for Graham Moes. The perplexed look on punter’s faces at the sound of a trumpet and saxophone rehearsing some jazz club croons was, at that point, not unwarranted. Boy were they in for a pleasant surprise.
Within a minute of their first song I was using the word “mojo” in every second sentence, and had sudden urges to grow a ‘fro and start a band called the Funk Brothers. Graham Moes were a blend of funk meets soul with smatterings of all the good things about rock. From song to song it was an infectious mix of offbeat riffs, tight rhythms, and smooth as heck vocals that transformed Graham Moes from a Stevie Wonder backup band to Sticky Fingers/early Maroon5 golden boys. Throwing in an explosive cover of Adele’s Someone Like You, the crowd had bolstered by at least ten-fold. Bare-foot and at home on the stage, the relatively new 6-piece band delivered a genuinely cohesive act that got the crowd groovin’.
The venue was packed when Winterbourne took to the stage. Opening with Shape from their new EP ‘Pendulum’, the duo simply nailed their new rock infused folk sound, with the addition of two supporting members on drums and guitar. As the crowd was well and truly heating up vocalist James Draper commented goofily “it’s warm, warm is good”, and despite their name that’s exactly what the Winterbourne sound is all about, warmth! Even between songs, the jokes, the stories, and the banter filled the room with such a comforting vibe.
Revealing a new song Who’s Got The Time from their Pitt Street busking days a punter endearingly responded 10:20 prompting hearty laughter all-round. The duo then opened the floor to requests to ensure fans were treated to the song they wanted to hear which, hilariously resulted in Wonderwall soundly ruled out. Hitting the audience with their jamboree track The Boy Prince and some killer mandolin solos, the duo really demonstrated that folk can pack a punch.
They serenaded the audience with crowd favourite Steady My Bones, with foot stomping ballads and perfectly blended harmonies that tapped into every positive emotion. If you haven’t yet, listen to this song! The crowd was up and dancing, and there was no invite needed to sing along as everyone in sight was blissfully belting out the words. Even while regaling the crowd with a story about losing their PlayStation on tour or pretending to start an encore there’s such an intimate chemistry between them and the fans that altogether dissolves the idea of stage and audience.
Nearing the end, James and Jordan asked the band offstage for an acoustic portion, where they became utterly absorbed into the music. With their guitars conversing, they created the spitting image of a stylish looking Simon and Garfunkel. There was an indescribable feeling, that could only be akin to listening to your favourite song with no one else in the room but knowing a hundred other people are sharing the same experience.
Although the addition of a band definitely got the crowd going, the elements and little melodies that made their folk tunes great became somewhat submerged beneath the new rock sheen. For some fans there was certainly an itch that was left unscratched, something perhaps a new keyboardist could mend? The gig came to a close with new track But I Do, showcasing their highly marketable sound, and a rare performance of the captivating track Cold (a personal favourite).
It’s been two years since the the two gents from NSW’s Central Coast released their debut EP and their latest proved, unsurprisingly, a massive hit. If you’ve seen these guys on tour before you’ll know that their “friendship is based on making music”, and the eight years they’ve dedicated to live music really shine. Everything from their made-for-folk voices, endearing personalities, and incredible stage presence screams a genuine connection with fans and with their music. Fans can get excited as during their set they hinted at another headline tour, very soon…