Experimental music is a term introduced by composer John Cage in 1955. According to Cage’s definition, “an experimental action is one the outcome of which is not foreseen” and he was specifically interested in completed works that performed an unpredictable action.
The Bird’s Robe Collective is a group of like-minded musicians and artists aiming to bring promote progressive and experimental music on Sydney’s live scene and they did just that in perhaps their most successful show to date, featuring plenty of undpredictable action.
The lineup featured noise-rock band Forenzics, psych-prog bands Pirate and Captain Kickarse and the Awesomes and the last ever show (due to departing drummer Evan McGregor) of Squat Club.
Forenzics opened with a solid half hour of ambience and noise, which surprisingly, was not abrasive. Chameleonic drummer Evan McGregor (of Squat Club/Captains/Shirlow fame) complemented his bandmates excellently with strong dynamics and enough randomness to live up John Cage’s expectation.
Pirate followed with a powerful and deep sound, part Mars Volta, part something else entirely. Entirely instrumental, they shifted between a myriad of time changes and complex groove patterns driven largely by the drummer. Props to their saxophonist who experimented with an array of effects pedals to match the power of the rhythm section. I missed the names of their songs but one of the best moments was the band kicking into an up tempo feel with a mind-boggling complex guitar line and some neat cowbell work. Lacking a bit of focus overall, but good stuff.
Captain Kickarse and the Awesomes followed with some new material, beginning with a driving groove-buster of a track that got several young ladies dancing. Drummer Alex O’Toole was a flurry of arms and pushed his bandmates into a frenzy of psychedelic jamming. They finished up with an 18-minute adventure into psychedelic ambience with super FLORENCE jam’s Laurence Rosier Staines contributing a reading of some literary work. I guess you had to be there.
Headliners Squat Club finally took to stage to a full room that seemingly included a who’s who of the local progressive scene (this reviewer spotted members of Shirlow, super FLORENCE jam, Captains, Clayton Segalov of the Brain Studios, Underlapper and more). The band were in fine form and despite being their last show, put in possibly their best ever performance. Tim Brown, Josh Head, Josh Ahearn and Evan McGregor played with passion and conviction not normally associated with such technicality and it was a pleasure to view the culmination of their time as a band, having seen their early exploratory shows. Dynamic, effects-driven passages were built and layered to become heavy, riff-laden grooves and segued into mind-boggling technical hits. Squat Club had the crowd hanging on every moment and rabidly appreciative of their work. In the final moments of the set, Evan McGregor kept the last passage drawn out as long as possible, allowing the band and crowd alike to savour the climax of one of the most exciting new bands to have emerged on Sydney’s prog scene – and what may well have been the last live experience of Squat Club for many. Concluding the set to deserved applause, the band graciously thanked their friends, family and fans and the Bird’s Robe Collective for their ongoing support. There are plans for an eagerly awaited album release this year and footage from their live shows should be made available online soon.
To the reviewer’s surprise, there was another act to follow, allowing Squat Club the leisure of enjoying a drink with their friends. The mysterious Mike and the Magic Tones entered, looking very much like the mighty super FLORENCE jam. A secret show? Indeed, sFj had taken time out from the recording studio for a short set in support of friends Squat Club. Playing a short set, they featured favourites Ghetto Project Fabulous, Dream and MOGAR which drew the prog fans and girls alike back inside for a final celebration of an excellent night.
Overall, one of the most consistently engaging Bird’s Robe shows to date, with quality jamming, experimentation and technicality – John Cage would be proud.