words by Mark Wilson

Rocking up 10-minutes late to a gig is never fun (thanks, public transport). It’s bad enough missing out on the first ten minutes of a great set if it’s a larger venue where you can sneak in unnoticed. But if it’s a smaller gig, such as Methyl Ethel’s set at Plan B Small Club in Sydney, then it’s all the more awkward – if those memories of drawing the attention of the whole class as you turn up late to school hold true with any of you, you’d know how we felt turning up as support act Jaala played to a sparse crowd. Luckily, we weren’t the last ones to turn up, and those who arrived later missed most of what Methyl Ethel’s Jake Webb described as “a life-changing experience” from one of Australia’s most promising “best acts around at the moment” (note: I’m slightly paraphrasing here but that was the general sentiment). The band’s mix of overdriven jazz chords, funky progressions, and time signature changes to put the most prolific avant-garde composers to shame, was indeed a show deserving of a tour in its own right. Topped off with the captivating, full-bodied whilst simultaneously narrow and nasally voice of singer Cosima Jaala, the band playfully captured the intrigue and attention of all who came to see.

However, there was no denying Methyl Ethel’s demand amongst the crowd, and almost instantly after Jaala finished, a sea of people appeared from the booths and the outside bar to get their spot for the main act. For such an intimate venue it was hard to believe the crowd was able to fit, yet the band room for the sold-out show managed to find space for all. Opening with a slew of droning, ambient background sounds, filling the room with tension so palpable you could swim through it, Webb’s guitar swiftly proved you could do so; the chorus coming out of the amp was so wet it sounded like the guitar was submerged. Songs like ‘Rogues’ and ‘Shadowboxing’ came in quick succession, and the dreamy, creamy, full-bodied sound coming off the stage swayed the crowds into one dancing mass. The inter-song banter (Webb temporarily forgetting the meaning of the word “corpuscular” and referring to the crowd for an answer) cut through the tangible atmosphere and pulled us back from the lofty heights the music was taking us, to the reality of being in a small room with 200-or-so others.

Fan favourites, ‘Idée Fixe’ brought the disco-funk-pop vibe crashing into the room, while ‘Twilight Driving’ got the crowd singing and dancing along, complete with sax solo like in the original. Closing off with a game of scissors-paper-rock to figure out in which order the 3 remaining slow songs they had should be played, the band’s enigmatic mix of dreamy, atmospheric pop and playful, almost childish banter with the crowd left smiles on all our faces by the end of the show. Perhaps the only drawback of the night was the acoustics of the room, making it particularly hard to distinguish the words being sung, but again this added to the intimate feel of the show being played in their bedroom, and making you feel at home with them.

Rating: ★★★★

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