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RTRFM’S A MOMENT IN TIME – WA Museum, Friday, June 3, 2016

RTRFM'sAMomentInTimeWA Museum
Friday, June 3, 2016

A Night At The Museum.

What a truly grand occasion. The old Western Australian Museum was sent out in style with a celebration for the ages on the first night of the WA Day Long Weekend. The resounding feeling after this gig was – what an amazing venue! And what a pity more such events could not be held there. The Museum and its surrounding area are undergoing some serious redevelopments, with its precious contents moved, until 2020 when the New Museum is scheduled to open.

The WA Museum and RTRFM teamed up to pen a musical love letter to the museum, with a diverse plethora of local talent taking over the entire building.

As you entered the large, open concrete and glass foyer, you were greeted with smooth, live, jazz sounds. The Perth Jazz Society curated the evening’s entertainment, including the Kate Pass Kohesia Ensemble and Sarah Ramsey​ Trio who provided appropriately laidback, slinky grooves all night.

Off to the side the Museum’s Dampier Gallery hosted an interactive storytelling room, and the Discovery Room featured an absinthe bar and Silent Disco.

The main event was a separately ticketed affair upstairs in the grand
Hackett Hall – a spectacular, vast room with a multi-level balcony – featuring the Perth Symphony Orchestra playing alongside an all-star band of local musicians and vocalists performing heartfelt cover versions of some of our state’s most iconic songs by some of our greatest musical exports.

The night commenced with a Welcome to Country from Barry McGuire who acknowledged the indigenous people of the land and sang a brief tribute accompanied by traditional clapsticks which rang out through the cavernous hall.

It was a mixed crowd, with the night attracting music lovers and museum lovers of all ages – the orchestra drawing some more mature punters who secured their positions up front early, with some of the younger, more hip crowd happy to hang back and sink a few beers. One thing however some of the youngsters could learn from their elders, is the dying art of ‘how to shut the fuck up’ during a gig. Given the grandness of the occasion and subtle beauty of some of the quiet orchestral passages, it was surprising to see/hear some people insisting to loudly talk throughout the performance.

Up front, conducting the 20-piece orchestra, Maestra Jessica Gethin had a tight handle on things, bringing to life the arrangements written by some talented young WAAPA graduates – and what a great job they had done. The selection of songs was interesting and diverse and the orchestral backing breathed new life into old classics.

A certified classic in the annals of WA songwriting, The Stems’ At First Sight was given a wonderful reworking, with Rachael Dease of Schvendes fame on vocals.

Jebediah’s Harpoon was rendered into something more beautiful by the big band and Odette Mercy, whose big voice filled the room. Timothy Nelson took on Tame Impala’s Elephant, belting out the vocals, as the big orchestral sound fattened up the chugging rhythm.

The talented Mei Saraswati took the stage to perform a couple lesser known tracks that were two of the highlights – Felicity Groom’s Higher, Higher, Taller, Taller sounded higher and taller than ever before, utterly majestic in fact, and really suited Mei’s delicate wavering voice. She also unexpectedly covered Perth shoegaze band Mile End’s superb and underrated track Rumblefish, which was again really lifted by the strings.

Rachael Dease was joined by the sharply dressed David Craft for a sombre take on The Drones’ Shark Fin Blues. Dease then did a great job tackling Abbe May’s Karmageddon, her voice well-suited, before Craft returned to sing The Panics’ Don’t Fight It.

Odette Mercy returned for a pleasantly surprising version of globally successful 80s Perth act Eurogliders’ hit Heaven (Must Be There) which was a joyously exuberant finale.

Mercy and Nelson thanked the orchestra and the museum for making such a special night possible, as the orchestra stood and took a bow. Then as an encore Nelson performed one of his own songs, giving us his best Bee Gees impression on Mary Lou, with the big strings giving it a massive disco vibe.

In quite a juxtaposition, next up in the great hall was Meg Travers playing the Trautonium; a legendary German synthesizer from the ’20s that was used to score Hitchcock’s The Birds. Archivist and historian Travers built this one herself and it was the first time one had been played in WA, and also the first time one had been played by a woman.

Positioned high up above the crowd on the mezzanine level, Travers manipulated the amazing instrument, generating other-worldly sounds. Adding to the spooky vibe, she was accompanied by a couple mysterious, dark figures in trenchcoats who looked a bit like Uncle Fester, and were muttering unintelligible old German poetry.

Downstairs, the Discovery Centre hosted The Gallery of Glorious Sounds – a curious collection of exotic and extraordinary instruments curated by RTRFM’s own Dr Adam Trainer along with Artifactory in conjunction with the Western Australian New Music Archive (WANMA). The instruments on display were even broken out later on for an impromptu jam session.

The nearby Absinthe Makes The Heart Grow Fonder bar and Silent Disco proved to be a winning combination, with different RTRFM Program DJs facing off in battle. The room was bathed in green lighting, adding to the vibe enhanced by the green fairy.

The Siamese Dream team of Jess Yuen and Shannon Jenkins were mixing up some classic 90s tunes that had a lot of people switching over to the blue channel and dancing up a storm, while the Bass Check boys busted out some heavier beats on the red channel. A whole heap of fun. The only issue was, the disco proved so popular there weren’t enough headphones to go around, leaving a lot of envious punters waiting and watching on sans-headphones, as the crowd danced around in their own private world.

Meanwhile upstairs in the big hall, Soukouss Internationale entertained with their energetic afro-beat grooves, before it was left to The Kill Devil Hills to finish off proceedings. A great band, with a uniquely Australian, dark country, doom blues sound, that is somewhat akin to Nick Cave.

Their slow, swinging dirge music alternates between acoustic balladry, with violin, keyboards and menacing, precise picking; building to explosive climaxes of distorted layers of guitar, with Brendan Humphries howling vocals.

The veterans’ gigs are a bit rare these days so it makes them even more special, and this was a special one indeed. Sounding amazing in the big hall, the ‘Hills were a perfect choice to finish the night celebrating WA music.

It was just a shame not more people stuck around to see them. It seems a fair portion of the older crowd stayed for the orchestra show and then took off. Packed out earlier in the night, Hackett Hall was barely half full by the time the ‘Hills took the stage – but those not in attendance, it was their loss, as the band put on a stellar performance, cementing their reputation as one of our state’s finest, playing tracks old and new, featuring cuts from their brand new fourth album In On Under Near Water.

ALFRED GORMAN