Friday, 19 June 2009

Quick Review: The Zebras / Je Suis Animal @ Rics Cafe, Brisbane

So I went along to Rics last night to catch The Zebras and Je Suis Animal. A friend of mine, who relocated to Melbourne a few years back, was up in Brisbane for a quick visit. He was also helping out The Zebras with some guitar and percussion work. So little excuse was required for me and a few other associates met up for a quick mid-strength brew and a yarn.

I had been informed by an acquaintance that Rics had ceased the pre-gig, early evening sound check. Rather, all that is offered is a quick sound check of headliner about an hour before they ‘officially’ go on. I’ve been away from Brisbane for some time so I’m not sure if this is simply recent phenomenon or has been going on for more than a year.

Presumably, the venue is trying to save money on employing a sound engineer, which makes some sense particularly in these tough financial times. It is a sign of the times in business nowadays - if anything goes wrong, you can simply blame the GFC.

Unfortunately, sound-checking at this time usually means it done around nine or nine-thirty at night when the bar is half packed. This inevitably gives little time to iron out the any small problems. I have to admit that the sound on this particular night wasn’t really that great at all. Perhaps, in the future Rics may reconsider this policy. I’m not sure, but I hope they do.

Anyway, enough of this boring sound-check policy moaning. To the bands I say!

The Zebras are operating as a three piece tonight – Jeremy, and the two Gregs. Nick Naughtin, the perennial Rics institution, gets up to play some drums for about three to four songs (at break-neck pace, it must be said). It was enjoyable enough – mostly because, as I suspect the band will admit, it wasn’t the most polished performance they’ve ever played. Still, everyone seemed to be all smiles.

The Zebras used to be somewhat of a staple on the Brisbane music scene before they relocated to Melbourne. They write quality pop songs, and no matter how unkempt a performance may be, strong songwriting can always still shine through (presumably that is why people still go to Bob Dylan concerts). We get treated to somewhat minimalist versions of their back catalogue – The Zebras usually have three guitarists strumming away, but tonight it is (mostly) only Jeremy on the six string duties. They complete their set with a rousing rendition of ‘Forces of Light (preloading)’, the opening track from their debut.

Je Suis Animal fair slightly better. These Norwegians play a brand of shoe-gaze ambient pop. I reckon that they sound a bit like Stereolab, or at least a nosier more psychedelic version of Stereolab, but I’m told I’m way off. Still, after seeing them last night, I’m going to stubbornly refuse to change my initial assessment.

Their set is enjoyable enough and those who’ve stuck around despite the sound issues are treated to a good session of pop tunes. Yes, even many of the songs included a discursive and perhaps over-use of the wah-pedal. ‘Secret Place’, ‘The Mystery of Marie Roget’, and ‘Fortune Map’ are performed during what is a solid set. The band finishing with the excellent ‘Hotel Electrique’.

I suppose it was an enjoyable enough night despite the sludgy sound. On the other hand, it was Rics and therefore free, which makes it even more of a bargain. If you’re in other parts of the country and are in the mood for procrastination, I’d recommend checking out Je Suis Animal as they pass through your town.

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