Art of Fighting, Schvendes @ Rosemount Hotel, Perth (13/10/2007)

When goth-pop devotees and purveyors of “post-orchestral torch songs for criminals” Schvendes take the stage, the –  “mount is only about 10 per cent full and there is more attention being devoted to the pool table than the stage. That all changes when the first notes of Tristen Parr ’s cello and Rachael Dease ’s burlesque howl immediately demand your eyes and ears. It isn’t hard to instantly see why they have been frequently been labeled a female version of the Bad Seeds and also why they have four WAMi awards to their name.

The pace to start is slow with tinkling keys and drummer Greg Hosking making his drums purr with soft mallets and you can feel the build up like a thunderstorm rolling in across Gage Roads. A incredibly low bass is emanating mysteriously from somewhere on stage and one immediately assumes it must be a backing track or perhaps a trick from Tara John on Rhodes piano but look a little closer and you will notice Parr gently plucking his cello strings to create bass so low it sounds like a dragon growling. Guitarist Ant Gray also gives his pipes a workout and sounds startlingly similar to Clap Your Hands Say Yeah frontman Alec Ounsworth. After starting slowly, Hosking changes from mallets to sticks and things get moving as they plunge into Repent and Repeat followed by Small Mercies, Sweet Graves and a number of tracks from their Turn Out Your Lights and Twice the Man EPs. Finishing with crowd favourite Twice the Man it is evident why there is not much left to say about the quality of Schvendes that hasn’t already been said. Their originality and passion really are a credit to the Perth music scene.

It was always going to be tough following such a strong opening set, especially when the mood was taken down a notch for the start of Melbourne quartet Art of Fighting. Tonight’s performance was the second-last Australian date on their Mysteries tour. It has been 10 years since Art of Fighting released their debut _The Very Strange Year _EP and the band has gone from strength to strength touring with the likes of Cat Power and Midlake and picking up the 2001 ARIA for Best Alternative Release for debut long player Wires.

Opening with Something New from their aforementioned debut, it was clear that we would be treated to a variety of tracks from all parts of their career. Following with Less Than Instant and old favourite Give Me Tonight, the band had the audience spellbound with bassist Peggy Frew emerging like Dracula’s bride from the shadows after about 10 minutes on stage. Guitarist/keyboardist Miles Browne slipped seamlessly from one instrument to the other and brother Ollie’s voice has reached new heights with its maturity. Unfortunately they did not seem to be able to carry the magic through the middle of the set even when playing recent single Eastbound, as the magic of their recorded sound didn’t seem to translate to live settings as well as hoped.

It took the majestic and beautiful Ride After Ride, voiced by Frew, to drag you back into their world and wonder as good as Browne’s voice is why Frew doesn’t get assigned vocal duties more often. Her frail and tender musings remind of a more delicate Chan Marshall or Bic Runga. Continuing with a mixed selection of tracks from their debut, sophomore effort Second Storey and most recent LP Runaways, the crowd is also treated to some banter between Frew and Ollie, with the ex-lovers goading each other in a manner that suggests that there are still lingering feelings of some sort between the two, even after three years since calling it quits. The set picks up again towards the end with standout tracks Mysteries and Waiting finishing the set strongly. The audience applauds but in a civilised manner before the band returns to the stage to finish with the solid Come Round & Show Me and Just Say I’m Right. Art of Fighting continue to show why they are one of the most respected independent bands in Australia even though at times they sound a little sparse, when they soar, they soar and take everyone along for the ride.