Pirate, A Lonely Crowd, Captain Kickarse and the Awesomes & Three Wise Monkeys, Lansdowne Hotel – 10/09/2011

Since its renovation earlier in the year, the Lansdowne has again become a pleasant place to experience live music. Free entry and an open plan makes it a good place to hang out and check out varied line-ups like tonight’s – curated by the Bird’s Robe Collective, promoters of prog and other underground sounds. It was as good a showcase of the unusual as one could hope to see on a Saturday night.

Opening fusion-prog trio Three Wise Monkeys were tonight without superstar drummer Liam Chandler, but delivered a fun, brief set. Guitarist Brad Kypo took honours for flash this time, with a groovy little shred and some interesting tones.

Next on, Captain Kickarse and the Awesomes continued their trend of never playing the same set twice – they began with an improvised blues jam that took a while to warm up, but once bassist Hugh had taken two stage dives (including an incredible forward flip), bringing monitors and mic stands with him, they began to find their groove. Kicking into a number of tunes from their early days, they rounded out the set with Sounds Like Ocean, ending with a burst of noise whereupon Hugh unstrapped his bass and began belting it into his amplifier – snapping the neck and splintering his amp into fragments all across the stage! Wow. As if their music wasn’t enough – it was a truly jaw-dropping performance. Let’s hope some footage ends up on YoutTube soon.

Melbourne’s A Lonely Crowd take their cues from Dream Theater by way of Dillinger Escape Plan and No Doubt. Odd as that may sound, it worked – female singer Xen used her voice more as an instrument than lyrically, with an impressive range. The band was tight and swapped instruments more than once to show their versatility. They won over the notoriously fickle Sydney crowd with ease and in their more whimsical moments, recalled oddball popsters Shanghai (whose members could be seen enjoying themselves in the audience). The band obviously enjoyed themselves and showed great appreciation to be part of the line-up.

Finally, launching their latest single (and celebrating the release of debut album Left Of Mind) – PIRATE took to the stage. This interesting sax-led quartet has now added vocals to their mix, with frontman Joel Woolfe putting his mic through a variety of effects, synths and vocoder to add even more eclecticism to their sets, alongside his exciting effects-laden horn playing. The band as always showcase extremely impressive musicianship – and tonight they schooled us all. The set was brilliant – weaving complex polyrhythms and melding jazz, funk and extreme tech prog influences all in one, without missing a beat. Drummer Tim Adderley was the star of the show – holding down the fort with a monster groove whilst subverting the beat at every opportunity, whether in odd time signatures or not. His sense of feel was most apparent in the drum showcase during Phantom Diapason – the interplay with bassist Norvill and guitarist Abey was superb, before ending not with a flurry of arms around the kit, but rather a fadeout. Tasteful and exhilarating to watch, Pirate are masters of their domain – and tonight they were on fire.

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