A Bit of the Phoenix

Sometimes Monday nights are just not a good time to study, and Q&A promises to be less hilarious than it usually is. In such circumstances, the only thing to do is pop down to the Phoenix to catch a Bootleg session. It’s something of a Canberra institution and one that is well worth exploring. Just make sure you wear shoes comfortable enough to stand in as it can be quite crowded. On the 6th, the Phoenix played host to a Melbourne band (comprised of Canberra deserters) by the name of Kingston Crown. Local group Lavers (there’s no ‘The’ … we checked) also popped in at the end.

Coming on well into the evening, Kingston Crown brought a funky, soulful vibe to the stage with a well-balanced mix of covers and originals. Kenny Berthelot’s Stevie Wonder-inspired vocals were a particular strength and the band managed to maintain a refreshing sense of variety throughout the set. Lead guitarist Craig Kemp, nicely matched by drummer Rick Berry, demonstrated fantastic versatility in a couple of solos which also featured his waist-length mane. The biggest disappointment was probably the couple of inaudible solos from the keyboard. That aside, the sound was generally well done with a relatively good balance between the vocals and instruments. The whole effect may have been slightly too loud but it was certainly not unpleasant. They even managed to get the crowd involved and it was quite difficult to see the stage from the back of the pub due to the waving arms.

Phoenix regulars Lavers followed up with a slightly more relaxed feel. Originally a duo comprised of brothers Dominic and Sebastian Lavers, they have recently added drummer Matt Barnes and bassist Chris Law to the group. Unfortunately, this comes across on stage and the band as a whole lacks cohesion. Indeed, it sometimes seems as if the band is working in two different styles. Dominic Laver’s vocals have a lovely lightness to them, particularly in the upper register, and the way in which he deals with the high passages evokes a gentler alternative-folk feel. Perhaps unfortunately, the rest of the band, particularly Barnes, seem to want to explore the heavier potential in the songs and develop more of a rock feel. In places where the vocals drop out and the instrumentals can cut lose, the result is highly enjoyable. When they try and create a build underneath the vocal line, the intensity in the instrumentals isn’t matched and it is slightly unsatisfactory.

Despite these issues, both performances were thoroughly enjoyable and that Monday night was an example of the bootlegs at their best – wild, entertaining and musically engaging. And when they’re good, they’re worth seeing.