Autumn Gray @ The Toff in Town, Melbourne (22/01/2011)
As band monikers go, Autumn Gray is a pretty appropriate one. Not that this set of 7 likely lads is old by any means, but in a world populated by Justin Bieber and Operator Please, it’s fair to say these Melburnians have seen a few summers go by. And, while their liting, worldly music isn’t exactly dark, there’s a shade more drama in this single launch at The Toff than one might expect from a band who cite their peers as Augie March and The Decembrists. Half of them are even wearing brown for goodness sake!
Rounding out the thematic experience is the music, obviously, and appropriately enough Autumn Gray craft heartfelt melodies that conjure images of withered trees and floating leaves buffeted by oft turbulent but always affable winds. To achieve this effect AG utilize an array of instruments; countless guitars joined onstage by sets of keys, numerous percussive elements and even a mandolin lending an occasional medieval tone to proceedings. Best of all though, is the sporadically but gloriously wielded trumpet that adds an ear-pricking latin flavour to certain numbers, recalling the triumphant pomp of Calexico.
It’s perhaps unfortunate that the trumpet makes an appearance so early in proceedings but disappears for the mid-section of the gig, as it’s absence leaves the brass-less songs somewhat bereft of drama by comparison. Pleasing enough as the band’s wintry repertoire is, there’s no denying that at times a certain lack of pace, or variety therein, leaves the performance a touch flat. Even the introduction of Kelly Lane on violin to create a more expansive, jazzy sound fails to build on the promising opening few numbers. As such, during slower numbers the rumbles of conversation from a notoriously inattentive Toff crowd approach something more thunderous. Gladly however, the boys on the stage have enough experience to maintain their presence in the room, quieting a detractor (albeit a friendly one) with the line, ‘it’s pistols at dawn or naught, sir’, … deftly navigates the potential landmines set by the venue.
Leading a venerable return to form at the pointy end of the gig, a jazzed up version of Radiohead’s Talk Show Host reawakens the jack-in-the-box would-be body popping breakdancer who cut a lone figure on the dancefloor early on. That blends into their best original work, the tempestuous new single Love Handles hails the return of their miniature brass section to the stage and instantly Autumn Gray are an infinitely more watchable and exciting band. The final number, which should be, but probably isn’t called ‘Woahohohohohoh,’ is worthy of the genuine dancefest it receives and demonstrates that, despite losing their way through just too many of the less vital numbers midset, with the correct mix of instruments and energy onstage, Autumn Gray do possess the potential to make something much more enjoyable.