Ben Sherman Big British Sound (2011) – The Corner Hotel, 11th of May

After getting called out to save the local village from a wild raccoon that was on a rampage, a little flustered, I managed to paddle my canoe down Swan Street on a wet and wild Wednesday night to the Corner Hotel, to catch this year’s edition of the Ben Sherman Big British Sound gig. Starting up in 2009, this gig showcases young independent bands, with each ensemble playing a cover or two by a British artist. Hitting the bill this year were four bands receiving a lot of recent hype – Owl Eyes, Boy In A Box, Ball Park Music, and Strange Talk.As saving the village from the afore mentioned raccoon took a little more time than expected, the first half of the Owl Eyes set will remain a figment of my imagination, however this illusion definitely errs on the side of dream rather than nightmare. Singer Brooke Adamo was hitting her straps, producing some velvety vocals with a tight knit band to back it up. Adamo, who can be recognized in the broader music community for her recent feature on Illy’s single ‘It Can Wait’, definitely had the stage presence of an artist that could go a long way, not to mention a captivating voice and melodies to match. Single ‘1+1’ was a hit with the crowd, and the feeling that Owl Eyes could be exploding onto the wider music scene very soon was tangible around the room. While many of the crowd turned to retail therapy to fill the intermission, Boy In A Box was eagerly setting up for part two of the Ben Sherman gig. The very recognizable ‘American Child’ had them racing out of the blocks, and after being smattered across several radio stations, the crowd quickly pricked up their ears and switched back into audience mode. The difference between small local bands and popular natioal acts is often the ability to write infectious songs, and lead singer Tij Priddle sure has built himself an anthem with this one. It was delivered to the crowd with gusto, as with the entire set, however the quality of the vocals stood between a good and great performance. Several times during the opening half of the set the harmonies, or lack of, created by Priddle and his backing singer would reduce one to ‘squinting’ with their ears, however towards the end they managed to find the same wavelength. ‘Electric Love’ was well delivered, as was ‘Glitter, Gold, Ruin’, and what Priddle lacked in vocal performance he definitely made up for in effort. Ball Park Music (BPM) rode in on the wave of energy injected by Box In A Box; the troupe of six launched into their set with ‘Rich People Are Stupid’, and no one was going anywhere. Everything about lead singer Sam Cromack screamed at the senses, and with those trademark pelvic thrusts perhaps inspired by Elvis Presley morphing into a praying mantis, there was hardly a member of the crowd who wasn’t sporting a cheeky grin. With their second EP Conquer The Town, Easy As Cake spawning ‘Rich People Are Stupid’, ‘21’, ‘iFly’ and ‘All My Friends Are Gone’, the audience wasn’t shy to sing along. Surprisingly, possibly the best number of all was ‘All I Want Is You’ – a sweet but sincere love song that left that warm giddy feeling, proving that this band has more depth than the quirky lyrics that they’re known for. And not forgetting the theme of the night – British covers – Cromack belted out a rendition of The Kinks’ ‘You Really Got Me’, easily the crowd pleaser of the night. The final act to find the stage was Melbourne band Strangetalk, who have also been getting a lot of airplay recently. However despite their recent touring, Strange Talk failed to captivate the crowd. While there wasn’t a total lack of effort on the band’s part, the vibe wasn’t making it from the stage to the crowd. Songs like ‘Climbing Walls’ and ‘Eskimo Boy’ weren’t as catching when played live – their attempt to create the fashionable hypnotic pop synth sound missed the mark, with the melodies and vocals sounding somewhat like a remixed 90’s boy band. New material ‘Your Sexualness’ came off slightly grittier than the other tracks, thankfully steering away from the cheesy feel. Lead singer Stephen Docker did managed to excite the crowd with a cover of the Eurhythmics ‘Sweet Dreams’, perhaps the highlight of Strangetalk’s set. Besides the fact that Australia has a deep pool of fresh new talent to explore, one certainty to come from the night is that a well performed cover is something every band should have in their arsenal. – Dannika Bonser

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