Music review: High Tea in Sydney
Marking High Tea’s sixth year, the not-for-profit organisation teamed up with Common Electric’s places+spaces for a special show. The first of a ten-part series kicked off with the Australian/German artist Phia and local group The Maple Trail.
Set in the Glebe Town Hall, the upstairs venue was blacked out and the set draped in fairy lights. Scatter cushions were dispersed liberally across the parquetry floor, with a trestle table in the corner housing tea cups and tea pots. Reminiscent of a St Vincent’s crockery section lovingly given a second chance in life, no two cups were the same. The relaxed setting was ideal for the night’s first performer Phia (pictured, top), who took to the floor with follow musician and producer Josh Teicher.
Using a loop pedal and Kalimba, Phia structured an intricate layering of melodies with semi acoustic accompaniment creating an oriental and ethereal backdrop to her delicate voice, which constantly verged on the explosive.
Interspersed with commentary about her early life studying jazz piano before discovering the kalimba and ditching 15 years of piano lessons much to the dismay of her parents, Phia introduced the audience to ‘Red Bicycles’ a song she wrote in Richmond, Melbourne about the excitement and trepidation of doing something new.
Ending with her new track ‘Do You Ever’ the xylophone sound of the Kalimba was imbued with loops of claps and backing vocals to her own voice, showcasing her impressive ability to create simple yet technically challenging soundscapes.
After a short intermission and just enough time to have a second cuppa, The Maple Trail took to the stage.
A mellow introduction and distinctly alt-folk, country flavour complete with pedal steel guitar, Aidan Roberts mused that ‘The Dinosaur Hunters’ was inspired by the braking trucks along Moore Park road sounding like a T-Rex roaring.
It would be safe to say that there was a tip of the hat to Paul Kelly as we listened to localised tales of sorrow from the album Cable Mount Warning before exchanging electric for acoustic guitar and bass for double bass played by Nick Mclean in his first live performance with The Maple Trail. Something You Said favourite Caitlin Park joined the team to play a new tune ‘Anchor’, a flighty and soft finger-picking Devendra Banhart sound with the gentlest addition of backing vocals. Another new track ‘Sundial’ started with galloping drums and echoes of slide guitar as Aidan shifted into Ben Salter/Elliot Smith territory.
A few swaggers and kicks saw Aidan delve into a guitar solo that he immersed himself in and took the audience along with him on a sonic trip that received a rapturous round of applause from the tea-sipping collective. Slowing the pace again, the Bill Callahan spoken vocal styling brought out a dreamy sound that made you want to reach for a piece of straw, chew on its earthy ends, don a 10 gallon hat and take a stroll through the meadows with Aidan and his band of merry men.
Be sure to catch the next edition to the High Tea series. Venue spaces and intimate settings such as these are like gold dust in a city where shows are so regimented and tightly controlled that the sound of tea cups being accidentally knocked whilst tip-toeing through the crowd is something you are unlikely to hear at any other gig.
We’ll be posting a full photo album from the night on Facebook later, so follow us to check them out.
Review and pictures by Courtney Dabb.