Live Review: ‘Femme Locale’ feat. Brotherfunk + Inês + Rachael Zella and the Blackbirds – The Camelot Lounge, Sydney (08.08.13)

Femme Locale’s momentum has been increasing at a rapid rate. Not only have there been three showcases in the last four months, but the crowds and artists have both been getting bigger. The most recent touchdown was at The Camelot Lounge, featuring the talent of Rachael Zella and the Blackbirds, Inês and Brotherfunk. As an added bonus, the night was hosted by the hilarious Ms Gigi Fontaine, and it was easily the best showcase yet.

At first, Rachael Zella and the Blackbirds had a purely folk sound, with two out of the six performers playing acoustic guitar. I was preparing myself for the female equivalent of Mumford and Sons, but this arrangement only lasted two songs before Rachael put down her guitar and moved to the piano. The change added a new depth to the musical make-up, and complimented Rachael’s gentle, lilting voice. This was particularly evident on the two songs that followed: “All Those Lies”, and “Epiphany”, the second of which she wrote when she was just sixteen. While these were undoubtedly my favourite songs in her set, I also have to mention the song “Sister”. Dedicated to her sister Tessa May, who was playing acoustic guitar, it was easily the sweetest moment of the night, and the perfect closer to their performance.

From Ms Fontaine’s enthusiastic announcement, we learned that Inês had been born in Portugal, so I was prepared for something different. Inês did not disappoint, beginning her set with a piece that blurred the lines between being acapella song and a spoken word poem. “Hey You” (as it appeared to be titled) was emotive, sassy, and unique — the perfect introduction to her set. Her music could be loosely described as jazzy, soulful, R&B, but in truth there was only a hint of identifiable contemporary influences present. The closest comparison I could think of was the late Amy Winehouse, but Inês seemed to draw more heavily from musical experiments, which made her exciting and unpredictable. The highlight of her set was the final song, “Flakey”. A quirky-yet-biting put-down about an unreliable boy, it made the most of everything on stage: the band, her voice, and the three excellent backup singers who supported her. I recommend checking out the accompanying music video, and then keeping an eye out for any upcoming shows — they’ll sell out fast.

Our headliners for the night were the 7-piece band Brotherfunk, who hail from the Blue Mountains, and brought half a dozen saxophones down with them. I’ll admit to being dubious when I saw the saxophones on stage. Not only am I somebody who usually dislikes the sound of brass; I was genuinely concerned that they would drown out the vocals and other instruments. Much to my delight, I was wrong. Brotherfunk have a knack for finding a balance between the force of their different sounds. I had no difficulty in distinguishing the lead vocals Rachel was belting out, and the other instruments (bass, electric guitar, drums, keys) all had a presence of their own — on occasion, they even had solos. It was these instrumentals that bound their set together so tightly: from the roots-y “Jeremy” to the slow-burning “Deep Feeling”, there was very little time to breathe. But this allowed the band’s energy to cross the barrier between performers and audience effortlessly, and left everyone in the room with a grin on their faces. My advice? Catch this group at the earliest opportunity.

I’ve been a supporter of the Femme Locale showcase since it began, so I’m really happy to see that it’s finally starting to earn itself a reputation. With the next event set for the 4th of October at The 505, I suggest marking the date in your calendar now. You won’t want to miss it.


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