LIVE: The Bedroom Philosopher, live at Transit Bar, Canberra (28-08-11)

Like an elephant running rampant through a tennis court, The Bedroom Philosopher demands your attention – because, like that image he’s quite funny, but also because you just aren’t sure what the hell is going to happen next.

Walking into the room with a guitar, he provided some dramatic music for two guys playing pool (incidentally the guy missed his shot). He then began snapping his fingers and strumming along, before pulling a shaker out of his mouth. Then pulling a party whistle out of his mouth, he proceeded to play it as well. It set the mood for a set filled with the sorts of antics most artists either look down upon, or are too scared to try themselves, and that’s really what sets him apart as both a comedian and a musician.

What’s particularly astounding is Justin Heazlewood’s unique brand of absurdist humour. In terms of jokes, anything goes, and any number of toes are guaranteed to be trodden on. Belconnen Labor Club, University of Canberra, and the crowd’s attempts at clapping along were all on the agenda for the night, and it was great to see everyone take it in good humour.

It was unfortunate that I failed to pick up a lot of what he was singing, and the lyrical talent I know he has failed to translate on the night. Maybe it was my position off to the side, but it felt like a lot of it was mumbled. Fortunately when you go to see The Bedroom Philosopher, you get a great deal more in a gig.

His mash-up of hits “I’m So Post Modern” and “Northcote (So Hungover)” was particularly well done, as was his impromptu rant and song aimed at the guy sitting with his back to him. When said bar patron decided to join Mr Heazlewood on stage I did worry a little, but it turned out he just wanted to stand up there with him. There may have been a hug involved, I can’t quite remember.

When it all boils down to it, The Bedroom Philosopher is both quick-witted and insightful, and as catchy as his songs are, what puts him above similar artists is how amusing and unpredictable his performance is. The sort of rare self-deprecating humour in his act is something that can only be off-set by the reading of a touching poem about depression on a packet of Cheerios (which he also offered to the audience).

The Bedroom Philosopher is not only mesmerising, but in a way that other acts most definitely are not. Without pushing his point, you can take what you want from his art – but no matter how you see it, you’ll definitely be entertained.

LIVE: Joelistics, live at Transit Bar, Canberra (18-08-11)

Joelistics began his set talking to a room of seated people, but within 10 minutes it was a completely different story. The Melbournian artist opened with a didactic spoken-word rap – no beats, no music – called “I Am By Virtue”, and it was then that everyone in the room knew it was going to be a special gig. Not only because of his clear verses, or the confidence he displayed as he took to the stage, but because of the content covered and the meaning behind his rhymes. Joelistics is an artist who not only thinks, but makes his audience think too, and it was warming to see the small crowd at Transit Bar recognise and appreciate such a rare performer.

Rhythmically his flow was nothing short of the mark, and it was with practiced hands that he took the mic and filled the small room with his thoughts. “Glorious Feeling” and “Days”, from Joelistics latest release Voyager, lit the room up with excitement, but that’s not to say the rest of his set didn’t either. We were lucky enough to be treated to an old TZU track, and a cover of a cover – Joelistics covering TZU’s cover of You Am I’s “Heavy Heart”. To see Joel Ma bring out an acoustic guitar and sing to us all in such an intimate setting not only displayed his broad musical talent, but changed the pace of his set. It threw things around a bit, and often that can be a good thing.

It would be unfair to say Joelistics sounded like his recordings – he sounded better. Even standing right next to the speaker, it sounded brilliant in the tiny bar, which can be attributed to Ishu, who not only filled a support slot but played the role of sound guy as well. The improvisation from Joelistics and DJ Soup added an extra element of anticipation that soaked into the audience. After bringing out some special items for the set, no one really knew what to expect, but our patience was rewarded by what I’m fairly certain was some truly inspiring freestyling.

It was warming to see Joelistics standing on the edge of the stage, smiling out at the few people who had turned out to see him play. His performance cemented him as one of the most talented hip-hop artists we have. Clear verses, strong rhythms, and a deserved confidence with the mic: Joelistics gave us not only a strong performance, but something to think about as we left Transit to brave Canberra’s cold.

LIVE: Guineafowl, live at Transit Bar, Canberra (03-03-11)

[Couldn’t get a photo I took on the night off my iPhone – it was playing up. So I’m using this press shot instead. It’s probably much cooler anyway.]

On Thursday night, after much adventuring (I found Canberra’s Casino!), I found my way to Transit Bar with the help of my iPhone and some kind bouncers. Walking down some stairs, I handed over $12 to the nice lady at the door – Guineafowl would be more than worth it, I thought. I was right.

I met a friend there, and we then proceeded to make our way into the crowd. We weren’t up the very front, but the stage was small, and from past experience I think the sound would have been better where we were anyway. It wasn’t crowded in an uncomfortable way, but it was nicely packed. There was a solid reception for the band on the third last stop of their tour, and rightly so! Although not incredibly well known in the independent scene (yet!), Guineafowl have begun to earn their metaphorical indie chops with national airplay on triple j and by getting nominations for 2 SMAC Awards. The SMAC Awards are run by FBi Radio in recognition of Sydney’s artists and cultural events, and Guineafowl took out Best Sydney Song for “In Our Circles”!

At about 10.30 the band hit the stage, and they burst through about nine songs over the night. Which is quite a respectable effort for a band launching their debut EP (Hello Anxiety), which only has five tracks itself. Some of the newer unrecorded material sounds absolutely brilliant, especially the song they closed with (can’t remember it’s name unfortunately). It was good to see some of the initially unenthusiastic watchers participate in “Botanist”, the penultimate song in the set, because hand-clapping has never sounded so good – or felt so fun. “In Our Circles” sounded great, and all throughout the night the band were jumping up and down without sacrificing any musicianship (a skill some bands are lacking in). Unfortunately Sam (lead vocals) broke a couple of guitar strings during the first song, but the band recovered – in fact I don’t think they faltered at all – and it was as if nothing had happened.

The band played a solid set, and I think they’ll have definitely won some new fans over. Keep an eye out – if Guineafowl tour near you, rush out and see them.

All in all it was a great night. We got to chat with a few of the band members, and they were really nice. I picked up their EP and a t-shirt, so look out for a review in the near future (of the EP obviously, but the shirt is quite nice too).

If you’re quick you can grab “In Our Circles” for free here!