Mount Eerie performed at AGNSW’s Volume Festival on Thursday, 5th October. Joseph Earp reviews.
Somewhere in the bowels of the Art Gallery of NSW, Phil Elverum was playing a gong. The musician, known for his work under the Mount Eerie and The Microphones monikers, opened a packed evening of the Volume festival with pure experimentation, creating a knotted sequence of drones that echoed through the Gallery’s already fabled Tank, a vast, industrial space.
Mount Eerie delivers an unusual if not exactly arresting performance for AGNSW’s Volume fest
It was an unusual if not exactly arresting set, with Elverum walking back and forth, fiddling with his gong, while the same extended note wandered around the space with its hands behind its back.
Meanwhile, upstairs, Black Belt Eagle Scout looped a guitar, crafting songs that were striking in their minimalism. Frequently the musician repeated the same phrase over and over again, breaking the words into pure, beautiful phonetics. At one point, she told the audience that her departed grandfather was with her now, standing in his old sweater at the back of the room.
For their part, the audience were so hushed as to feel almost not present – a kind of awkward, awed stillness that continued into the evening’s final section, as Elverum and Black Belt Eagle Scout combined forces.
Perhaps it was due to the venue, but it didn’t feel like a gig exactly, even as it hit this last set – and that was for better and for worse. There was an ambition on display that is unusual for live music events in this country, a desire to push audience members further, bypass their expectations. But sometimes – particularly given the calibre of the musicians’ talent – one doesn’t want to be pushed. Sometimes, one likes to hear songs.