Live Review: Ray Mann Three, The Khanz, Briscoe

26 November 2012 | 12:32 pm | Andrew McDonald

To keep it all in the family from the get-go, ex-Ray Mann Three alumnus Bart Denaro's Briscoe opened the evening's entertainment to a sparse crowd. The six-piece indie rockers strummed through 40 minutes of tracks pulled mainly from their debut album, Friends Ago. The middle of the road, inoffensive pop/rock set was hindered by tech and mic problems throughout, though to Denaro's credit, he sure knew how to coax enthusiasm out of a small group.

The Khanz assumed the stage next and immediately set out to prove that they are the Australian heirs apparent to the MGMT-cum-Animal Collective throne. Cruising into funk mode with a spaced-out danceable cover of Gnarls Barkley's Crazy, the band got the now sizeable crowd moving with ease. The group's own brand of psychedelic synth rock only got stronger as they went on, with pulsing drum samples and ska-style bass lines getting the band into their own dance groove. Frontman Themba Thompson's own jumping about and relaxed banter was eaten up by fans and newcomers alike. The newer material throbbed and rocked hard, which only makes the prospect of the upcoming LP all the more enticing.

After a small delay, Ray Mann walked on stage on his own and meekly told the crowd he wanted to show them how his latest record, Sketches, was made. He said it all started with him just singing to his computer – and he proceeded to do just that. A sexy, ultra-modern urban soul song followed, set entirely to artificial electronica from his laptop. Midway through, the remainder of the Three walked on and picked up the groove as the synth tones died out. It was a gorgeous and powerful way to open a set – not only showing how the songs became what they are, but also letting the audience hear vastly different versions of Mann's music. This became a theme for the set, as the trio ebbed and flowed from funky, drum and bass-driven soul pieces to more guitar-oriented jam efforts, occasionally even reminiscent of Frank Zappa's fusion work.

The audience never quite got down with the enthusiasm Mann was asking for, but it would be hard to fault the Three for their efforts on the night.

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