The Drifting + Jordan Leser + Drew Harris & Band + Natasha-Eloise – The Basement (09.08.11)

As a first timer to The Basement, the cold and vacant conditions outside the venue certainly didn’t give me a rousing reception. However, the interior sung a completely different tune, as I was warmly welcomed by a friendly box office attendant, Nicole, who clarified the line-up order for me and ushered me in without delay.

As I pressed on to the main room, it was found to be filled with patrons happily yelling over the top of each other in the presence of comfort food and an array of alcoholic beverages. As it were, the house was packed, the stage was set, a glass of Malibu and Coke sat comfortably nestled in my hand and we were all strapped in and ready to take an undiscovered journey.

At precisely 9pm, the house lights dimmed and MC for the night, Russell Neal, appeared to introduce the first act of the night, Natasha-Eloise.

The 16-year-old kicked off with the feisty, yet vulnerable “Little Dragonflies”, leaving the audience in stunned silence with uniform attentiveness. When she finished the opening song, the crowd gave the Year 11 Newtown Performing Arts student a rapturous applause, much to her delight and disbelief. Though most of her set revealed the ups-and-downs of relationships as a member of youth, a sombre turn was taken when the singer-songwriter paid homage to the ANZACs with “40,000 Soldiers”, played beautifully with a delicate keyboard arrangement.

To finish off on a lighter note, Natasha performed “Crazy Ones”, a tune about quirky and crazy characters, which she admitted to being herself. A refreshing part of her set, which most acts these days don’t usually do, was to engage with the audience. Natasha encouraged the crowd to sing along with her and even demonstrated which parts to sing back, concluding her time on stage as collaborative and casual.

Following the previous performances, the bar was set high for Drew Harris & Band, with the latter featuring another guitarist, a drummer and a saxophone player. The foursome started with “In a Second” as Drew (lead singer/guitarist) floated into soothing vocals while strumming his acoustic guitar. However, the punters became animated over the sporadic saxophone cues that ensued, courtesy of Simon Freidlander.

A peculiar introduction to the song “Wasted” outlined the conflicting issue of Drew’s parents wanting him to be a doctor, but he chose to be a musician instead, giving the audience a quick laugh. However, the song was one of the stand-outs with its deep, mellow and intense flavour, which included a fantastic saxophone accompaniment.

The final song, “A Place Without A Name”, entailed the experience of a trip to South America and being affected by seeing many homeless people in a dark town, suggested by lyrics such as, ‘town painted black.’ As the song progressed, its tempo changed dramatically into an upbeat instrumental finale. Once again, the saxophone took over and eventually blended in at the end. The crowd requested an encore but the MC reminded the audience that they were on a strict schedule.

As Russell introduced the next act, Jordan Leser, we saw a timid young lady (who I might add was immaculately presented) come up to the stage. She established her presence with “Just Like Autumn”, a melody like the sound of cascading waves, or rather, falling leaves. I could not believe what I was hearing vocally. Her distinct, coarse-textured vocals sent me into a trance for most of her set, so much so that I didn’t want to stop and write anything down.

Her instrumental piece, “Japanese Winter,” is based on one of her favourite books, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. The number was temperamental yet luscious and easily one of the highlights. Shortly after, the symbolic nature of red lights shone down as Jordan concluded with “Berlin”. If you get the chance, please do yourself a favour and see her live!

Headliners The Drifting caught my attention as soon as they played a cover of Alanna Cherote’s “Here We Go Again”. I don’t know if it was the vocals or oscillating guitar riffs, but the combination surely worked in the band’s favour and I didn’t want it to end. It also sparked the first taste of synthesisers in an otherwise acoustic sound and the multi-talented band swapped instruments, as the drummer played the synthesisers and lead vocalist/guitarist Simon Paparo switched to drums.

Another notable performance was that of “Tracing Places”, a track about moving to London with hesitation and realising the change was not so bad after all. The return of a psychedelic riff, the build-up and an awesome bass hook were all welcomed to my ears.

All in all, the night was a realisation that trying to make a name for yourself in the music industry is not so straight-forward. These talented musicians showcased their versatility and creative input to supportive guests, including myself, and I wish them all the best of luck as they continue to impress others with their music.

Please note: I have also included some videos from featured artists, Jordan Leser and Natasha-Eloise.