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Roarhouse Reviews @ ESPLANADE HOTEL – BASEMENT BAR 27th of May, 2009

Dean Lombard began the night singing softly to a small crowd. 'Simple song' gently eased us into the performances. He followed with lyrics that are like a mantra to a generation who feel like we have been kept in the dark "I don't know…" Dean, a community worker in the Port Philip area, and long time Roarhouse supporter treated his beautiful wooden electric/acoustic blues guitar like a part of his body. He took us on a journey, harmonising please and pain with powerful chords, fully in control of his awesome voice. Finishing with the metaphysical 'Eyes (are) the windows of the soul', his rhymes struck the audience with feelings of kindness and love, harmonica wailing with him on his chest with virtuoso competence.
Sam Robb clown performance (soon to be written by another writer.)

Another repeat performer followed Dean; Initially No, who had put aside her trumpet this week to take up her own acoustic/electric guitar, this time with a gleaming steel resonator. Initially's off-beat rhythm kept us guessing and hanging on every word. Entertaining themes; sci-fi and haunting, conveyed her enjoyment. Relaxed on stage, Initially engaged with the audience with a poetic patter between songs. 'Red Alert, Red Alert' with choppy attack and ironic delivery pleaded "It's really not his fault, no it's really not his fault." Hilariously, Initially can take a love song, apparently sincere, and extend the aching, loving, to wanting to swallow the person and wear them like a second skin, which is really pretty frightening.

Max, the 11 year old son of a Roarhouse volunteer Carla, managed to get in a couple of jokes, before 9pm, when the Espy were about to evict under age visitors. His innocent jokes will get good mileage in coming months, I am sure:
Q: How do you sink a submarine of idiots? A: Knock on the door.
Q: Why did the sultana go to the dance with the raison? A: Because she couldn't find a date.
The halfway point in the line-up was occupied by Craig Smith who supplemented his acoustic guitar with the kazoo. Everyone could identify with the everyday topics of his songs, such as a 'chicken parmagiana pub meal'. Jocular, rhythmic, rolling along songs evokes the scene and says it all with 'YUMMY!' Craig's vocal confidence and variety came across clearly with some harmonica and a song about a car being hit by a tram in Balaclava road. I think it was the modest 'ordinariness' of the content that was so endearing.
Max provided the trinity of humour with:
Waiter, waiter, there's a spider in my bread,
Yes, we put it there to take care of the fly you said was in your soup.

Alice White then provided sophisticated spoken word with humour and a little bit of naughtiness. Her conversational stories took us on journeys to zebra crossings, where the public abuse of a lolly pop man made her wish she was a tattooed thug. Alice sang into being worlds about 'the dust that killed the dinosaurs', seguing neatly into; her family and 5 year olds and model airplanes. Cate Ahrendt mounted the stage with her flute and the duo wove labyrinthine patterns with sound and superb breath control. The room was totally silent as the convoluted sonic problem/solution twitters and haunting flats resolved into soaring phrases. Alice's celebration of everyday joys was rendered with maturity and profundity. The jazzy collaboration was a marriage of old England and our 'new world' - "Neither did you rise up through the floor, nor you did" about meeting her Australian husband.

The night reached a pinnacle with Etoile Marley. Stylish, with a smooth sweet voice, we never lose sight that she is a human being, an embodiment of what the rest of us aspire to. "All of the ways I find to be happy" was exquisitely simple and the high quality sound conveyed the subtly of her talent to the room. Tough themes like jealousy were shown in scenes and straightforward situations - a train station employee never reads the news from grief… Etoile's guitar work was immaculate and the boundary between her and the room dissolved as she seemed not to be singing, but to be being sung by harmony. New to Melbourne she flattered those Melbournians who want to see themselves as denizens of a gritty city, with losable ways. Her playing got dirty with pulpy plucking and despair of salvation. Her finale was an explosion of ecstatic rapture - Etoile's 'Down and Dirty'.
As Marjetka confirmed for us, Etoile has "A sultry, deep, mature, lovely voice."

The final act, a two piece 'band' - Duck's in the mud, were Emy Connors and Jimi Powers. They were good looking and had stage presence beyond their years. Etoile left a smoking crater after her set, so it was with amazement that after a nervy "I believe another way", Emy's voice filled "True Holidays" strongly and then poured out passion against the Sudan/Dafur war in their third song. She closed her eyes and cast catch lines like "Silence is as good as consent, so let's yell" and dragged the audience's ears and hearts up onto the stage with her like flapping flounders by feel. Dreamy "Sensing my sunrise" was followed by a spice girls cover with a unique colloquial interpretation. Emy's open smiling face and unaffected fashion sense won over the room and they ran through Somali rap, lulling "Fly away" and finally "Pirates", got the audience involved.

review by Sam Robb.

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