Buried Horses + The Spoils Trio + Brian Hooper Band at The Tote (19.02.2011)

Brian Henry Hooper has spent the past 25 years establishing a name for himself at the forefront of the Australian music scene. He’s played with Kim Salmon and The Surrealists and Beasts of Bourbon and even collaborated with the dark lord himself – Nick Cave. These days Hooper fronts his own band, who are aptly titled Brian Hooper Band. The man may be in the lower echelons of rock royalty, but I didn’t enjoy his set at all. The main reasons being that Hooper wasn’t an engaging or charismatic front man and his music wasn’t strong enough to hold its own without any showmanship involved in the performance. He is a talented guitarist, but my own personal aversion to acoustic bluesy easy listening tunes coupled with the bands lack of presence and energy made the experience a dull one for me.

Next up were The Spoils Trio. Having seen them in action with the full band and greatly enjoying it, I was curious to know what their music sounds like when it’s stripped bare. The answer is they are nowhere near as engaging as a three piece. The glorious thing about The Spoils is their eclectic instrumentation and brooding arrangements, but in spite of missing the big band sound, Sean Simmons and Bronwyn Henderson’s lovely vocal interplay managed to preserve the innate beauty of the melodies and the dark atmosphere of their urban balladry which is the core of The Spoils unique sound. Highlights of their set included sweet versions of “Love Betray Me” and “The Crook, The Cloak & The Maiden”, and Simmons pulling out the musical saw for their final track “Happiness”.

Buried Horses

There is something about Buried Horses that is unsettling, disturbing and yet infinitely enjoyable. They have a menacing sound that is bleak and foreboding and play with a fierce intensity that rips right through you. Front man Mark Berry staggered around the stage and delivered an impassioned performance. His vocal style, which is best described as hedonistic primal screams, is perfectly suited to the bands post-punk, grungy sound. The five piece are all skilled musician’s, in particular Eric Moore is a sensational drummer and I never tire of seeing him play. Their set was a powerful affair and one I hope to experience again in the near future.