Fraeya (band launch) at Mojos
w/ New Nausea, Racoo Charles, Jonny Burrows, DJ Chipslut
Thursday, June 28, 2018
Two words came to mind when I attended the Fraeya Evans band launch at Mojos Bar on June 28: celebration and respect.
For this unique moment, Fraeya chose to assemble a stellar celebration of local musicians who have guided her journey as a song-smith. The evening became a deeply moving show of respect for the talented performers in our small city.
Local music mingled in the crowd to salute the new and the seasoned players of this town. I scanned the room and found new-folk troubadour Emlyn Johnson nodding his head behind me from the bar. Carla Geneve, the wunderkind singer-songwriter waved a quick hello. Jack Davies rushed past me with a pat on the back, eager to find a spot for each act that performed. The bar was filled with members of the many bands filling in with friends, and with Fraeya, for her debut.
Jonny Burrows (Fox Scully) warmed up the evening with his brand of lo-fi guitar tunes. I turned away from the stage, faced the bar, and closed my eyes to figure out what I was hearing and feeling. Jonny’s songs reminded me of music crafted by every young man who locks himself up in his bedroom to put emotions about love and life into simple, heartfelt melodies. As I listened I could vividly see the frayed pages of the lined notebook Jonny has probably scribbled across to capture his music.
Racoo Charles, backed up by a mega talented line up, continued the festivities. Excuse the name dropping to capture everyone involved in Rachel Hocking’s set that evening: Sean Gorman (Salary); James Dolin and Duncan Strachan (Galloping Foxleys); Thea Woodward (The Tommyhawks); and Alan Holbrook (The Durongs, Salary). What can I say about Rachel that hasn’t already been said? She’s a musician who is completely dedicated to the country and folk genre. Each instrument – Rachel’s long ribbon vocals, the groups smooth harmonies, keys, guitar, woodwinds, and percussion – knows its place within the compositions she has crafted. Rachel really makes such methodical and careful music look effortless when she performs.
Up next: New Nausea. Albert Pritchard recently debut his own full band line-up of superstar musicians at The Bird. I sincerely believe everyone should keep an eye on New Nausea in this current form. Albert’s music is given depth and roundness thanks to Jacob Diamond (Eat Alone); Chris Wright (Methyl Ethyl); and Rhian Todhunter (Calmly). Nestled between songs dripping with happy jangles and good grooves lay a new tune simply titled Flag. The song stood out for its searing, blunt, and ruthless takedown of Australian pride. The angry song highlights the atrocities committed by Australia (the treatment of Indigenous peoples; refugee detention on Manus and Nauru), and the resulting trauma created from those actions. I was stunned by the sharpness of this song. It’s meant to make you feel uncomfortable, and to provoke our understanding of symbolism in this country. I’m still thinking about the song today and the multifaceted challenges of attacking “national pride”. I applaud Albert for his bravery. My wish is that Flag can do more than bark if it seriously wants to challenge the behaviour of our country.
Finally, Fraeya and her band claim the stage for their big debut. This is a nerve-wracking and exciting moment for the upstart musician. She’s entrusted Noah Dillon (Fox Sculley, Oh My Days); Chet Morgan (Figurehead); and Sam Banks Smith (Moth) to ferry her compositions to the next level.
It’s a big deal when you’re starting out, even when you have the support of so many veteran local players in the crowd. The words and themes of Fraeya’s music are her own, but she’s now allowing other people to tinker and toy with the melodies that surround her thoughts.
The difference is remarkable. From her set opener Housewarming, to the closer Where, Fraeya’s set showed that the band is extending her sound. Together they’re playing with rhythms, tones, tempos, and physical energy on stage to expand the experience of her live performance. A full band allows Fraeya to stand out from the saturated playing field of solo singer-songwriters. Don’t get me wrong, I dig solo live performances. However, I do believe experimenting with a band has evolved Fraeya’s music to a new level. It’s also challenged the ways Fraeya may think about writing songs when she can play with so many sounds at once. I’m keen to see how Fraeya will continue to flourish as a musician.
The night came to a close and DJ Chipslut (Maggie Bochat) concluded the night with a fun and funky DJ set to usher the buzzed-up crowd back out into the world.
As I said my goodbyes and stumbled home, I reflected on the fact that many of the supporting acts had come to return the favour. Fraeya, who has been popping up in solo supporting roles all over town for the past six months or so, was being repaid with the gratitude of her mentors. It’s a reminder that local music scenes are strengthened when performers band together.
Photos by Alan Holbrook