Words by Margy Joughin.
I’m early to my first show at iconic Brisbane venue The Triffid to see The Clouds, darlings of the Australian 90’s indie music scene. The Clouds have thankfully reemerged with new music ready to go around the block again. Great news as I love this band! Like a musical pilgrim who finally makes it their destination venue, I enjoy soaking up the experience of feeling The Triffid that I have seen in photos, coming to life. A leafy beer garden adjoins the main room and you can buy a meal. Wow! There’s a genius at work here. I feel like I’ve come home. Well I have, I’m back in my home town, and I proudly shed a tear (and take a selfie) at the Brisband Album honour wall. The locals don’t mind me they’ve probably seen crazy music tourists here before. The beer garden with its access to the subtropical city night sky has stunned me. I’d seen the photos but forgotten about it. It would seem to me that with a typically understated Brisbane method this delightful beer garden becomes a marshalling area, quietly disrobing her unsuspecting visitors of their armour of difference, gently reminding them of what the share in common. With a casual efficiency (and a few drinks) she expertly dissolves anonymous individualism reshaping collective strengths into an emergent tribe, armed and ready to take up the important role of artist appreciation and support. Speaking of the emergent tribe, I’d have to say tonight’s crowd are a happy and rather elegant crew.
After a meal from the in-house food truck, I continue to case the joint and clearly next stop is the main room. Smiling at security I take a sneak peak. The room is smaller than it looks in the photos, those Pub Choir videos make it look huge. The smaller dimensions create a sweet intimacy I had not envisaged. OMG its perfect, its beautiful its an Arthouse! Another drink in the beer garden then its time to head in as the doors are open. Those elegant punters are also crafty and have assumed prime position at the couple of tall tables in the front I had my eye on. Lucky for me I sit next to a nice man who knows his Clouds back catalogue, I am thinking he might come in handy later.
First support is Jodi Phillis singer/guitarist of The Clouds who has a concurrent solo career. The warm and welcoming audience instantly endorses this inspired and efficient choice and assures Phillis they are very much looking forward to her solo set. As a soloist Phillis provides gentle musings with an acoustic guitar, whimsical and reflective. It’s during the solo set the audience receive their first reminder of the angelic purity of Phillis’s voice. But please … don’t be fooled by the sweet tone. This voice packs a punch like a velvet glove, soaring and circling in the divine rafters of The Triffid before delivering her message of healing, life and love. In an intimate performance Phillis confides her 2018 solo recording Becoming is a musical essay on grief. Channelling the loss of two parents within five years into a musical healing process, Phillis found relief and salve in songwriting, production and recording. “But don’ be afraid” Phillis assures us, “Its ok, I am alright, and there will be happy songs” as she invites us to come on her reflective acoustic journey. For me and my new friend, no need to explain, we both relate to the loss of a parent/s and are happy to go on the journey of lightness love and healing. I suspect we weren’t the only ones. And for the record, the songs were fun and loving and light, because like some weird inverse law of metaphysics, when you reflect on grief for long enough, you suddenly find that all your left with is love, light and beauty. The stand out songs of the set were Visions of You, a beautiful and divine tribute to the amazing life lived by Phillis’s Australian camera-man/director Dad, lovingly penned by a heartbroken daughter. I also loved The Change documenting the existential crisis of purpose and identity, for despite the the riches in her life, Phillis finds herself questioning all of the above… Am I bad to wonder if said “crisis” had a hand in getting the big band back on the road as well ..probably.. but that solo set was radiant!
With all our defences broken down by the beer garden and Phillis’s set, the crowd warmly welcomes Marville to the stage. I have been a little removed from the Brisbane scene so missed the emergence of Marville, but of late the Marville name keeps coming at me from all directions. In the last few weeks I have taken to listening to Marville while I push paper around my desk and I like what I hear, so I am looking forward to the live show.. The bio denotes a “2 piece – Rawr rock and roll” Nice! right up my alley!! Indeed Marville are a two piece comprised of Ash Kerley Guitars / Vocals and Doug Palmer – Drums. The set commenced with Thinking Sense .. No surprises here, they absolutely smash the classic two piece sound – raw guitar and a beast on drums. Doug Palmer is a great drummer and just finished his uni degree on the day of the gig.. Well done Dougy!! and I’m already singing along “did the right thing, for all the wrong reasons” Oh yes haven’t we all!!! I like the accessibility of Ash’s lyrics, she throws the audience a juicy lyrical bone like a good story teller, hooking her listeners so they have to find out what happens in the end. Ash has a big job to do, and she does it extremely well. Big rock star energy, delivering a unique lead vocals with shades of PJ, Jen Cloher, Adalita and Donita Sparks. A range of guitar sound and styles keeps it interesting ensuring a dynamic set. Other songs in the set include 9-iron, Stones, Hay, Fiction, Fickle, Birds Steve and Speak Easy. Of these my other favourite is Fickle.. “Next time, I’m going to choose my friends more wisely” and I’m hooked again, I need to know why?
I’m not kidding my deadline for this article is 4pm and I didn’t meet it. Oh well, rookie error, but I am going to cut the chase here. The punters at the front alerted those of us at the back the band Jodi Phillis, guitar/vocals Tricia Young, vocals/bass, Dave Easton guitar Raph Whittingham drums, are tuning up on stage. The room has definitely filled up and there’s the familiar buzz of excitement when a highly anticipated band is about to start. We don’t wait long until the familiar one strum progression of Hieronymus and the stunning vocals of Phillis and Young brings the set in. They follow up with Bower of Bliss & See You’re Leaving and the crowd is in love. The interplay of two big guitars is huge, the rhythm section locks in, the vocals are twinning.
And so this point is a good as any to highlight the musical capacity of this band. As individual musicians they are supreme players. Apply the whole is bigger than the sum of its parts principle, the song writing finesse, extraordinary artistry, freakish vocals & harmonies and its officially off the scale. My new friend tells me the focal point has always been about the interplay of the Phillis and Young vocals, and who am I to disagree with someone who has a comprehensive knowledge of the back catalogue. There is an intense complexity in this music, the chords, the key changes, the time signatures. The development of the melody, harmonies and counter harmonies is algebraic and difficult to fathom by your average sit around the camp-fire harmoniser. Its definitely in the mathrock zone, and overwhelming that it can be written in the first place let alone performed live. Easton’s guitar wanders around every song effortlessly linking, emphasising, building, humouring, bridging, chugging, enhancing, dancing, soloing.
The set continues, my friend helps out where he can. There are some old obscurities .. I forgive myself for not knowing these .. There are some new tunes .. I forgive myself for not knowing these as well. . but as a recent convert to Mabel’s Bookshop from 2017 EP ‘Zaffre’ I’m relieved to hear a familiar feel good tune and i am impelled to volunteer a day a week at a not-for-profit. Hopefully it will be as fun as this legendary bookshop.
There is no sign that any of The Clouds KPI’s are in decline, in fact tonight you get the distinct feeling The Clouds are feeling refreshed and have big band energy to burn off. Certainly if you listen to the lyrics of new single Check Us Out penned and initially demoed by Young, there is a suggestion the band received ‘advice’ that it may not be in their best interest to “get the band back together”. Oh dear! Sounds like this ‘informed’ opinion may have put a little bee in their bonnet !! The wall of sound is intense. The interplay of the Easton & Phillis guitars, the precision of Young’s tasteful and melodic bass lines, Whittingham’s drums, and the incredible vocals singing hit after hit is pure joy for this crowd. Not to mention the relaxed and witty banter peppering the performance creating a playfulness between the band and the fans who are known for their loyalty.
Speaking of the audience .. on the homeward stretch ..about the point when the band played the cosmic House of the Sun from Zaffre. and moved into Anthem, Soul Eater, Say It (how we manifested back in the day before Oprah discovered the Secret), Immorta, they started to elegantly unravel. Couples who’d been holding hands with partners quietly singing and swaying, transformed into loud singers and interpretative dancers, wedding vows were renewed and for the first time everyone suddenly noticed they were part of a tribe and communed together with the band as the encore came and went way too quickly. They finished with Cloud Factory and the merchandise is flying out the door. One song they didn’t play was 4 pm, maybe that’s why I missed my 4 pm deadline.
The Clouds ‘3 2 1’ Tour continues on Saturday June 22 in Melbourne. Get your tickets from the link via the event page HERE.