Review: RBMA Road To Weekender

Red Bull Music Academy recently unleashed a plethora of great events in Sydney for the RBMA Weekender. In the lead up to these events, we were lucky enough to be invited along to their ‘Road To Weekender’ sideshows. Nick Saw and Tom Salzano made it down to events featuring Peven Everett, Carl Craig & Midori Takada. Below are some points that the boys took away whilst ‘on the road’.

 

The Recital Centre sounds Fu***ing Amazing.

Photo: Curtis Bucciol

Please excuse the cursing. However for some reason swearing whilst talking about a very cultured and proper venue was just too enticing. Listening to music at the Recital Centre was unlike anything we’ve ever experienced. Carl Craig’s and his synthesiser Ensemble played in the Elizabeth Murdoch hall, a beautiful, contemporary auditorium lined with Plywood Panels of Australian Hoop Pine timber. The auditorium seated 1000 people, creating an appropriately intimate atmosphere. Craig’s show comprised an array of synthesisers, a drum machine, and a grand piano. This result was an awe-inspiring fusion of electronic and (synthesised) acoustic sound. The Ensembles interpretation of Desire was a sonic standout. This version included the original tracks gritty break beat, which formed a stark contrast with the tracks synthesized wind and string instruments. The bass response was especially exceptional, filling every inch of the room with rich, mesmerizing sound. Even though Midori Takada’s performance was completely different each note in the multiple overlapping melodies from her marimba sounded just as sharp and pleasantly piercing as anything in Carl Craig’s performance. The wooden design of The Recital Centre proving it literally is built to make anything good sound even better.

Peven is still very sour about the whole ‘Gabriel’ thing.

Photo: Curtis Bucciol

Peven Everett’s technically amazing and emotionally charged performance at Max Watt’s finished on a somewhat predictable note with him choosing to play ‘Gabriel’ as his final track. Although what the audience would not have predicted is that the prelude to him playing the song would be an extended rant from Everett about how Roy Davis Jr supposedly stole the demo tape from him and released it without his permission. Whilst you have to feel bad for anyone who that happens to I feel he harped on about something that happened 20 years ago a little too much. For me, his sound and songs preach a level of care and love for each other. Whilst that is what I saw around me before this moment it was a slightly negative note to leave it on. Regardless ‘Gabriel’ went absolutely off and the song remains the foundation of Peven’s career and the reason he is here twenty years later on the other side of the world still making people happy.

 

Carl Craig’s life lives through his music.

Photo: Curtis Bucciol

In between each song, Craig would grab the microphone and insightfully explain each of his tracks influence’s in a cool, calm and affable tone synonymous with a great number of Detroit musicians. He explained to his gleeful audience that a range of his tracks, including At Les, Rushed and Microlovr were inspired by day to day occurrences he observed from his apartment in the early 90s. This included looking across the Detroit River to Canada, watching on as arsonists set fire to warehouses and observing police helicopters search for wrongdoers in the darkness. The Synthesiser Ensembles version of At Les played simultaneously with a long segment of Martin Luther Kings I Had A Dream speech. As the speech was drowned out by a series of bellowing snare drum hits and a boisterous trumpet melody, the track reminded me of that scene To Kill a Mockingbird where Atticus leaves the courtroom, glum and defeated. Or maybe that scene in Reservoir Dogs where Mr. Pink blasts his way out of the heist and flees form the police? I’m not sure, but each of these scenes are reflections of criminality and carnage, similar to the scenes Carl Craig told us he was inspired by.

 

Ambient compositions can be really intense.

Photo: Curtis Bucciol

Whilst I prepared myself in the most chilled state possible and readied myself for a somewhat meditative experience Midori Takada’s performance turned out to be far from the relaxed session I expected. Every single movement she made, word she spoke or instrument she struck were done with such a level of precision that I was very intensely fixated. Like I am talking million dollar question fixated, the last seconds of overtime fixated, so far on the edge of my seat I may as well have been peering over an Olympic diving board. Whilst on the marimba’s I think at one point she was using seven mallets at once. Overlaying multiple melodies that whilst very enchanting and relaxing were equally just as vigorous. The whole experience musically is very hard to put to words, however, I know for sure I did not expect from a minimalist ambient composer to experience such a range of emotional connections to the performance. The only way I can sort of describe it is that I went in expecting a soundtrack to a yoga class in the park and I got an extreme cranked up Bikram session instead. It challenged and tested me but I am glad it did and am better off for it.

 

J’NETT is Melbourne’s musical equivalent to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Photo: Curtis Bucciol

Yeah look I’ll admit the above analogy is a stretch and doesn’t make entire sense. However, JNETT is a local icon and absolute Melbourne royalty – that is for sure. Her warmup set for Peven Everett also proved that by gosh she can certainly set up a musical bridge for punters. Whether that bridge she laid out is more physical in the sense that she moved people to the front and got them dancing. Or whether it was more how she smoothly transferred listeners from the low slung RnB of Silent Jay x Jace XL to the high energy soulful house of Peven Everett – I don’t really know. It’s something that I wrote in my notes on the night when I was a bit drunk and it still seems kinda fitting. Big ups J’NETT, as always.