It's a strange air that fills the Judith Wright Centre. Candlelit tables scatter across the floor; audiences sprawl casually over a seating embankment. It's a curious blend of stately and roughshod.
Moonet In Air's opening performance seems custom-fit for such an ambience – their austere work as eerily raw as it is quietly beautiful. The hush that descends upon the room when Jaime Trevaskis coaxes melody from a bowed saw is a testament to the local ensemble's knack for captivating an audience. Unfortunately, an early performance slot means their work is only caught by a scant handful of attendees.
Fortunately, The Jeremy Neale Five play to a fuller room. There's something undeniably world class about the titular Neale – an effortless, unpretentious cool that runs through both his loose, ramshackle songwriting and his almost inadvertently charismatic performances. Still, he's frustratingly far from fully developing his talents. Tonight's performance ultimately becomes just another torrent of near-identical surf/garage/indie-rock songs and indecipherable vocals – with only the occasional hint of greatness to suggest the prolific young musician will eventually deliver on his innate potential.
Performing to a much larger crowd, Edward Guglielmino & The Show nevertheless recall that same haunted vibe of the night's opening – an eerie swill of elegance and chaos. Beginning with a series of ballads both gorgeous in construction and expert in delivery, Guglielmino's set is initially heartbreaking in its beauty. Opener Mothers is warm and inspiring; Lion In Your Bed is cold and devastating. The rich harmonies of the latter, in particular, showcase how savvy Guglielmino has been in assembling his band The Show (augmented tonight by Skinny Jean mainman Shem Allen).
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As Guglielmino dives into his performance fully, proceedings grow less precise – the night shifting from elegance to chaos. In-between song banter grows into awkward rambling; feedback and distortion dart in and out of the set. More aggressive songs like The Rhythm Of Life and You'll Be The Death Of Me bring a brattish insanity to the venue. When Guglielmino leads his band through a rambling, semi-improvised rendition of Lou Reed's Walk On The Wild Side, it concludes the band's set in spectacularly bizarre fashion.
At times, it's frustrating. At others, beautiful. Most frequently, it's surreal. Give Guglielmino this much, though – it's never dull.