AU ABROAD

Phatchance and Coptic Soldier + Jon Reichardt + Cogel + Stories For Nothing - Oxford Art Factory (02.07.11)

When one thinks of live hip-hop, the usual picture in their head is that of at least one emcee rapping to the beats dropped by at least one DJ – a format often criticised by those outside of hip-hop. Every so often, a hip-hop act comes along and replaces the DJ with a backing band, not only giving their concert much more musical credibility, but allowing for more creative live interpretations of each of their songs. Noticeable examples of these acts include the legendary The Roots and popular indie-rap icons Gym Class Heroes.

In the scene of Aussie hip-hop, these types of live instrumental hip-hop acts are few and far between, so when Phatchance and Coptic Soldier decided to start experimenting with instrumental interpretations of their fine Aussie hip-hop tracks, national interest in these two emcees skyrocketed and their resulting acoustic EPs were met with more success than they hoped for.

Every leg on their current “Hey Where’s Your DJ” tour has attracted large crowds, no doubt signifying the ever-growing hype surrounding them and possibly placing them as ‘the next big thing’ in not just Australian hip-hop, but Australian music in general.

Their show at Sydney’s Oxford Art Factory marked the end of the conceptual tour and served two purposes: to showcase some of Australia’s brightest up-and-coming acts, and to build upon the momentum Phatchance and Coptic Soldier’s acoustic EPs have sparked before they lock themselves to work on their respective upcoming sophomore LPs.

First act to step up to the stage was the very young Stories for Nothing AKA Sydney rapper K-0ner, who decided to give the band-rap thing a go with an excellent backing outfit, which included a trombone and even a ukulele. Starting off a nice blues-y instrumental, K-0ner introduced us to the first rhymes he ever wrote as he flowed over the well-structured musical backdrop.

His age showed - K-0ner didn’t come across as well as his band, with an awkward flow that seemed more suited to a simple beat than a live jam. He seemed to stumble and fall most of the time as he struggled to pace himself in relation to the music. At the same time however, a lot of potential was shown during the short set with creative concepts like an awkward love-letter recited over a groaning ukulele - though the concept was better than the actual product, even though it wasn’t the disaster it could have been. K-0ner will no doubt improve as time goes by and when he does, he will be a welcome addition to the Aussie hip-hop scene. For an immature set, it was a success, but it was nothing to rave about.

Sydney five-piece pop rockers Cogel were up next, disrupting the hip-hop theme of the night while showcasing their well-rehearsed tunes. While the songs sounded very polished and they harmonised flawlessly, the first half of their set struck me as mediocre, with none of the songs sounding too different from each other.

While the first couple of middle-of-the-road tunes didn’t particularly arouse any feeling at all, the second half of their set went from strength to strength as frontman Nic Cogel’s beautiful vocals soared over the pleasant, inoffensive music. While I was ready to write this band off early in their set, they showed that they deserve all the attention they can get in this oversaturated market of Aussie indie-pop.

Our third support act of the night came in the form of Jon Reichardt, complete with a fantastic backing band who all worked together to make his gorgeous folk numbers come to life. If the name sounds familiar that is because Reichardt is a frequent collaborator with Phatchance and Coptic Soldier, amongst other Aussie hip-hop acts. He is the go-to guy for rappers that are looking for strong, sung hooks (choruses), and unlike other hip-hop hook-makers like Akon or T-Pain, he is actually extremely talented.

Blessed with a powerful voice, Reichardt captured and held the audience in the palm of hands all throughout his set. A 30 minute showcase of his material clearly wasn’t enough for fans, giving him a flattering ovation as he closed with his upcoming single “Story Untold” – though it wasn’t farewell, as Reichardt is a mainstay in Phatchance and Coptic Soldier’s backing band.

While Reichardt remained on stage, the rest of the band joined him to interpret Phatchance’s “I Don’t Know” before the two Aussie emcee’s bounced onto the stage, Chance getting straight into the emotive raps that he is becoming known for. Coptic Soldier acted as a hype man to Chance, accentuating lines for him as hype men always do until it was his turn to step up to the plate and perform his first track of the night – “Why Suffer.” Jon Reichardt was just as much a star as Coptic on this socially conscious track while the band played like a well-oiled machine on the opening tracks.

Phatchance and Coptic Soldier mirrored the energy of the crowd as they jumped all over the stage, obviously enjoying the set as much as us. Playing out as an experienced rap duo, the mic was constantly passed back and forth between the two rappers when their respective songs made appearances. Phatchance surprised with an instrumental version of “Inkstains” – telling us that this was the only time we would hear the track performed that way.

While the stage was damn near packed with around 7 musicians, the set began to show cracks towards the end with “Build It Up.” While the track is one of Chance’s finest, it perhaps sounds better stripped down over an acoustic guitar rather than over a multitude of instruments, something that sounded a bit messy and superfluous at times.

The highlights were no doubt Chance’s closer “Infinity” and the motivational “Mountain of Glass,” as well as Coptic Soldier’s smooth “Liquid Company” and his well-written “Fight for the Fame.” It was on these tracks where the band seemed the tightest (special mention to banjo player Alex Watts, rocking hard on the stringed instrument at the conclusion of the set).

Despite the occasional excessiveness of the band, Phatchance and Coptic Soldier shined all throughout the set as they stayed on track and flowed over the instrumentals flawlessly.

While the end of their “Hey Where’s Your DJ” tour has come and gone, the boys can rest assured that they put on an excellent display of live instrumental Australian hip-hop, something that proves the genre’s worth to any of its detractors.

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You can check out Stories for Nothing's soundcloud here and the facebook page here

Check out Cogel's triple J unearthed page here

Jon Reichardt's facebook page can be found here

Give Phatchance's facebook a visit here

Coptic Soldier's facebook is here