Thursday, July 31, 2014
We meet at a culvert between a carpark and a police station and get namechecked, stamped and directed while a cellist plays by lantern light. Cross the street, ushered up a stairwell that resonates with classical strings. There’s a violinist at the top, who acknowledges us with a nod as we pass by. More ushers, directing us ‘to the left and past the violinist.’ Intriguing.
Down deep passageways and out into what was once a department store shop floor. A sound system pumps alt-blues. Sparkly letters announce The Hidden Sound while mastermind Jarrad Seng has his photo taken with Fremantle Mayor Brad Pettit.
Fuck knows what’s going on.
Anticipation. There appears to be free bread and cheese platters by the makeshift bar (offering very reasonably priced beverages). Urban rustic – it’s gonna be a thing, hipsters. Drinks acquired. Anticipation.
A slight man approaches a table and starts to sing. And then beatbox. He has a looper and an FX unit. Eventually, the room is filled with pure vox-looped music that plays with melody, rap and drama.
It is perhaps the nature of an event where no one knows what’s happening – and especially what might happen next – that no one’s quite sure what to do or what level of engagement is appropriate.
He announces his name, Sam Perry, and explains his set-up. He’s an expressive performer, who uses his non-mic hand to express whatever sound he’s currently adding to the layers, whether it’s D ‘n’ B basslines or faux-operatic layers that end up sounding like synth pads.
In a relatively short period of time, Perry drew the audience in from across the venue’s huge empty space, creating one of the smallest-ever versions of Perth’s infamous ‘semi-circle of death’.
Perry bows out after just three or four tracks, while his looped voice continues to play in the background. “There might be something on later, who knows?”
What follows isn’t an intermission so much as building anticipation and uncertainty. Just as it risks becoming uncomfortable, we are ushered into a beautifully lit but intimate space.We have gone from being an uncertain group in a large empty space to a crowd in an ad-hoc super-lounge.
And we still don’t know what’s going on.
Jarrad Seng takes the stage and thanks everyone involved in putting together this night of mystery and wonder. A lot of people have put in time and effort. And then he announces the night’s headliner-with-no-name. Kate Miller-Heidke.
KMH is in town for a full band performance at the Astor the next night, but The Hidden Sound offers a stripped back arrangement of just KMH, acoustic guitar maestro Kier Nuttall and a violinist/vocalist.
She is amazing, playing highlighted tracks from her new album O Vertigo! and reaching right back with an absolutely cracking version of Words from her first full length LP Little Eve (2007), which she noted had provoked the following talk-back radio comment: “If I ever have to hear that song again, I’m going to scratch my own bowels out with a stick.”
The three musicians play about 10 songs to a rapt audience, glad to be there. This is a mystery night that has paid dividends. Don’t be afraid of the next one. Just go.