The Spiegeltent was stuffy with the heat at 2pm in the afternoon. No one should be envious of the seven members of Mad Warrior; Violent Leader (MW;VL) as they sweated it out on the small stage. Nonetheless, their gentle ambient folk took away the discomfort as they played an ideal set for a lazy summer afternoon. I was amazed by the complex textures and layers that the group were able to coalesce into each song.
The greatest strength of the performance was the way each instrument was brought together as part of the whole composition, in a manner quite similar to Clare Quinn’s band. MW;VL did not hold back on experimenting with the various (and seemingly infinite) combination of tones that can be created with a bass, slide guitar, banjo, piano, synth, violin and drums. The slide guitar was instrumental (I’m already ashamed of that pun) in driving that beautiful spacious sound.
Front-man Rohin Power was able to strike up a genuine rapport with the audience with his improv banter. He was understandably a little nervous (it was one of their first gigs), but only in talking and certainly not in playing. His tone and arpeggios were a wise choice and his strong voice soared in the tent.
Despite the airiness, the solid bass line underneath kept it all together. Other elements seemed a little forced at times – the arrangements were well written, but sometimes there was too much happening with the melodies. This was most noticeable with the violin, which was like that one child who just wants to fit in. You know, the one with all the potential.
That being said, each track was a emotional journey worthy of Hans Zimmer. The massive sound didn’t just hit straight away, but built up slowly into crescendos – a truly engaging musical and lyrical soliloquy.
I visited The Good Ship in the evening to check on Daz Gray and John Meyer’s ragtag collection of doomed souls. It was the first of two sets, and the flamboyant, overly dressed posse were arranged in a sprawling line at the front of the Wunderbar stage – right outside the Queensland Performing Arts Centre.
Musician Geoff Wilson was weaving through the audience when I arrived, bombastically banging the beat out on a lagerphone. Which, as I later discovered was made of beer bottle caps discarded from band practice sessions. So much energy was filling the space, and the (mostly older) crowd clearly adored the theatrics. The stage costumes were eccentric but made for a wonderfully cohesive show. I suppose you can’t claim knowledge of the Seven Seas without looking the part.
All the performers have the most varied range of musical abilities I’ve ever seen in one band. At one point, mandolins appeared on the stage, with multi-talented Geoff delicately strumming notes like a Shakespearean bard. Kat Ogilvie was her own world, happily creasing and expanding her accordion, whilst other band members weaved in and around each other in true enjoyment. There were elements of folk (think The Pogues with more ADHD) and country, but they were cleverly disguised under a thin cloak of pop.
One thing the group makes crystal clear is that The Good Ship is “a very bad ship”. As it turns out a production had just finished at QPAC, and people were pouring into the back of the audience. So impeccable was the timing that they descended into Wunderbar to hear rock singer John Meyer wailing about whores. Such is the life of a pirate rock star.
Both Mad Warrior; Violent Leader and The Good Ship are must-see bands. Both have a hefty number of players and instruments, but each uses that flexibility in very different, unique ways. I hope you’ll get yourself to what’s left of Brisbane Festival – there’s something new to see and you’ll probably enjoy it!