Ennis Tola at The Espy, Melbourne – Gig review and show photos

September 11, 2010

Ennis Tola at The Esplanade Hotel, Melbourne, 9 September 2010 - photo by Michael Bowser, Music Vice

The Gig: Ennis Tola with Lan Party, Mandek Penha and Three Phase
Where: The Espy, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
When: 9 September 2010
In One Word: Eclectic

It’s a Thursday night at The Esplanade Hotel (affectionately known as “The Espy” in these parts), and while it’s hardly packed, it’s a decent enough crowd all things considered.  First band on is called Three Phase, a band relatively new to the live music scene if their general lack of stage presence and sometimes sloppy performance is anything to go by.  Having said that, there’s some definite potential here, and with a few more gigs and rehearsals under their belts they could certainly be a contender in the post-Muse style (genre?) of music they choose to dabble in (“prog-metal lite”, perhaps?)…suffice it to say, I’ve suffered far worse bands than this in my time.  Just remember, boys:  Practice makes perfect, an’ all that lark…

I’ve written an awful lot about Mandek Penha of late, and have an interview with their enigmatic lunatic of a leader in the works as I type these words, so I’ll keep it brief and just say that they’re fucking brilliant – and perhaps just a wee bit creepy – so if you’re not afraid of music and stage presence as challenging as it is weird, you could do oh-so-much worse.  Just don’t go joining their crazy-arsed cult whatever you do, ’cause Mr. Mandek himself is apparently quite the disciplinarian (I sure as shit wouldn’t want him as MY “Father”)!

Two bands down, two to go.  Whew!  I’ll certainly give Lan Party one thing:  Trying to pin down any readily identifiable influences – every “hack” reviewer’s comfy crutch, goshdarnit! – is no easy task.  Sure there’s a vague base of the “heavier” side of contemporary funky shit, a la Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rage Against The Machine, but once you factor in the frequently “schizophrenic” song structures and underlying musical eclecticism, things get a tad muddier to define.  Unfortunately, said eclecticism and schizophrenia takes on its own over-familiarity, and dare I say even predictability after a spell, leaving the band feeling a tad repetitive by the end in spite of their best efforts to the contrary.  I fail to even notice which song of their (somewhat over-long) set is the single they’re supposedly here to launch tonight.  There’s no denying that there’s talent and musicianship aplenty here though, and their sound is ultimately “their own” – an achievement as rare as hen’s balls in this day and age.

The same can’t quite be said of headlining act Ennis Tola – their debt to Jeff Martin and his Tea Party all too obvious – but fuck me if they ain’t a great-sounding band just the same, both on record and, I can now safely attest, in the live arena.  The inclusion of a band member who plays more “exotic”/non-“rock” instruments such as flute and koto (look it up) does no harm whatsoever in this regard, but in all fairness this is a band full of very accomplished musicians.  Their stage show offers no visual frills whatsoever – you couldn’t find a more bland-looking bunch if you tried – but man, they do SOUND good.  Well worth a look…or rather, listen!  Just close your eyes and allow the music to transport you some place far away…

…Then catch a cab home afterwards, since the trams stopped running a full half-hour ago.  Bloody Thursday nights:  Gotta love ’em. Le sigh…

© Michael Bowser, Music Vice

Pictures of Ennis Tola and Mandek Penha at The Espy:

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