Friday, 13 December 2013

Gig Review - Animaux

Live @ Northcote Social Club (05/12/2013)
Supported by Tully On Tully
Words by Lou Endicott
Pics by Mish Graham

The support band for the night was Tully on Tully. I hadn’t heard this band before so settled in open ears to see what they had to offer.

The keys and drums and dynamic bass set the tone for this set like a jumbo plane roaring ready for lift off. The groove that Tully and Tully created was a strong rock sound with a folky edge. When lead singer Natalie Foster took to the microphone with energy and a confident stage presence I was won over. In fact even if you weren’t a fan of the music (I was), Foster’s dancing throughout the whole set and her obvious enjoyment of performing was infectious. Her voice was smooth and rounded yet held the necessary power to carry the rock feel. The first song also featured some beautiful male/female harmonies.

Before the second song Natalie invited the audience (who were somewhat a little shy to begin with) to step closer to the stage. I love when a performer recognises that a barrier needs to be broken down and help the audience to relax and enjoy themselves. It puts the artists and the crowd at ease immediately. So of course I stepped right up. This song incorporated shaker and tambourine - which of course gave Natalie another tool to dance with. At this point the crowd started to move to the infectious groove. I may have spotted a few  air-tambourine players in the crowd at this point…. Stop looking at me! I was playing the air-shaker!

The third song was perhaps my favourite in the set with a gorgeous soaring guitar break, hot rhythm and the sustained warmth of the keys. I wrote in my notes “like an eagle over a meadow”. So, all metaphors aside, the effect of the music obviously put me in a happy place. Speaking of which, it was in this song that I became fascinated with the facial expressions of the drummer Frank Lees. His enjoyment of creating the rhythm was so apparent that I couldn’t help but beam along with him.
Tully on Tully are a tight and energetic musical outfit. They obviously love what they do and do it well. They respect the rhythm yet are playful within it – adding percussive instruments as well as electronic drum pads. They enjoy creating upbeat, fast and uplifting songs. And the blending of male and female vocal energy really makes for the perfect balance. I look forward to hearing more from these guys and see them play live again.

It was when the red velvet curtain closed that I suspected I was standing in a room of happy fans. For those who have never been to The Northcote Social Club, it’s common practice for the curtain to be closed before the headliner act comes on. I love this ritual. It adds an element of suspense and ceremony to a gig, and also gives the performers a chance to have a reveal. Venue traditions aside, the surge of the crowd around myself and my friend was suddenly obvious. I should add that after Tully on Tully we both had sat down on the carpet to reflect on what we saw. But five minutes before Animaux took the stage the excitement and build in the crowd was palpable. And we were the only ones still sitting. And so we jumped to our feet to absorb the growing atmosphere.
We weren’t disappointed with the reveal. The curtain opened and we were met with sexy sassy brass, soaring powerful male vocals and a killer rhythm section. The crowd was immediately bouncing. I turned around to see the sea of faces behind me. I couldn’t see one face that wasn’t smiling.
So who are Animaux?

Well to start with let’s put it this way:

Animaux make happy music. And they make a lot of people happy. And they look like a happy bunch of people. And they are happy to share their skills and happy sound with you and anyone else.
Did I mention I was feeling happy at this point?

The water tight rhythm, fast, energetic and dexterous keys, the blend of male and female vocals, bouncing bass and festival feel of the brass make Animaux a band that must be seen live to understand the happy party that they create.

What I loved most about this gig experience was standing in a crowd of adoring fans. It became apparent almost immediately that Animaux have an almost cult-like following. During the second song which I think was called “You Don’t Know Me” the guy I was standing next to was jumping up and down screaming out “Yeh!” with such joy that I ended up copying his jump moves. This fan, who for the sake of this review let’s call Horatio (because I don’t know anyone of that name) just got more and more excited throughout the whole set. Horatio wasn’t the only one though. The room was filled with other Horatio’s who clearly adored this band.

It was after this energetic and catchy song that vocalist/saxophonist Alex Lahey told the crowd that although Animaux have released EPs before, October marked the release of their first independent recording: “Vale Street”. This band has been very busy it seems. And I am always amazed at how bands with so many members manage to set time aside that suits everyone to actually create their own record.

The next song “Paradise” had an oom-pah gypsy swing beat blended with what I would describe as vocal gymnastics. I couldn’t help but be reminded of The Cat Empire and their fresh take on blending brass, rap and swing with the lingering flavour and feel of ska. Add a dash of cabaret-esque female vocals and Animaux join The Cat Empire’s party with a sound equally as strong and yet still uniquely their own.

Next up was a song that contained these lyrics: “I feel like shit now. I’m so excited I just can’t sleep”. Although I was unfamiliar with this song, the crowd sang along to it like an indie anthem. When the “ooooooh ooooohhhhh” vocal section of the chorus hit, the crowd oohed along like a pack of werewolves. My fan friend Horatio I should mention here was perhaps the loudest wolf in the pack. He was so into it that the friend that I took along kept looking me sideways and giggling - not at him per say – but just giggling with the joy that was saturating the room.

Perhaps a highlight of the set for me was the song Alaska (which is the first track off the Vale St EP). I had listened to this song several times earlier in the day and was hooked with it’s emotional journey and beautiful lyrics. This track is more of a subdued song - though more hopeful than sombre. The beautiful voice of Alex shone through in all of the songs Animaux created but “Alaska” got to show her vocal versatility with a more sensitive and heart felt delivery. This song also has a great build toward the end as Alex sings “I won’t go back home. I won’t go back home…” Again, Horatio joined in here of course.

Another highlight of the set included the use of a cow bell. Which I must admit is oddly one of my favourite instruments. It appears that I found a community of other cowbell lovers in the audience so perhaps I am not as odd as I had thought. If you can get a crowd clapping along to a cowbell you know that they are in the palm of your hands.

I love seeing bands add in a cover song with a new treatment and I was happy to see Animaux do this this with a cover of an Oukast song. And I must say I like Animaux’s version much better. Hip Hop really has never been a sound I resonate with. The song “Roses” has some lyrics that I never really thought were that funny until I heard a room of people sing along to them: “I know you like to think your shit don’t stink but lean a little bit closer see that roses really smell like poo-oo-oo….” Good times. Yes. Singing about poo.

The evening finished with an encore of two songs – which at the Northcote Social Club is not normally a usual occurrence.

To quote my own notes scrawled on the night:

“Animaux remind me of what live music should be about. Energy. Skill. Passion. Joy. Communion”.
If you get a chance, see this band live – and be prepared to dance.

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