Eskimo Joe are “really glad the East Brunswick Club exists’’ – and so is everyone that made it there on Friday night, expecting simply an ‘acoustic show’. First to take the stage was west coast girl Felicity Groom, who quickly wooed the crowd with her haunting voice and autoharp. Groom’s voice, reminiscent of Florence Welch crossed with the darker vibe of Nick Cave, lived up to her building reputation of producing dark-sounding folk music. Accompanied by ‘super band’ The Black Black Smoke, the tone of vocal brilliance was set early on.
Myles Mayo continued to warm the crowd, and after recently releasing his self titled debut album, he and band The Slippery Gypsies harmonised beautifully to produce a consistent set of music that was effortlessly absorbed by the ears. At times low-fi, at times quirky, Mayo’s set erred on the upbeat side of relaxed, further building the atmosphere.
Finally, with the audience now tightly milling around the stage, Eskimo Joe kicked the set off with ‘New York’, a perfect forecast of the vocal perfection and percussive excellence to come. Lead singer Kavyen Temperley’s voice walked the tightrope of powerful and raw, but barely was there a note was missed despite him constantly pushing the boundaries. Band mates Stuart McLeod on guitar and Joel Quartermain on the drums were also faultless throughout the night.
Although the night originated as an ‘acoustic set’, the band ‘’bought the pedals anyway’’, and like a bunch of teenagers who simply couldn’t resist, ‘Miami Sound Machine’ was the only purely acoustic song of the night. Throughout the set was also a strong piano undercurrent, creating the rippling foundation for almost every song; pretty impressive for a stand-in man on the keys who learned the whole set in just five hours. Numbers such as ‘Sarah’ and ‘Foreign Land’ had particularly intense piano-driven melodies, showcasing the depth of musicianship this band has built, and being testament to how much Eskimo Joe has grown from the quirky origins of the pop-punk sound of debut EP Sweater.
But a truly great performance needs more than amazing musical talent and execution, and in this case it was the banter between band and crowd after a brain fade by Temperley that really set the EBC on fire. As the opening chords of ‘Every Time’ were launching, Temperley was struggling to get the lyrics off the ground, finally stopping the band and asking the audience if anyone know the words. First there was a sing along; when that didn’t work, a dedicated punter threw her phone up to the lead singer, who to everyone’s amusement proceeded to broadcast a recording of the song through the microphone around the room – Temperley soon found for himself that the show was back on.
As the final notes of encore song ‘To The Sea’ rang around the room, no one needed words to sing the praises of Eskimo Joe; the sea of giddy smiles around the room were voice enough. Expect big things from their fifth album Ghosts Of The Past, out in August.
– Dannika Bonser