Emma Davis, Leroy Lee and Agnee Kain @ Red Rattler, Sydney (29/10/2010)
The Red Rattler is inconspicuously tucked away in the industrialised section of Marrickville. Smack bang under a flight path. The somewhat casually converted factory, is bathed in a red glow, and is a burgeoning “creative playground for performers, musicians, artists, designers, multi-media makers, experimentalists, film-makers, theorists, activists, collective organisers, and local punters”.
The mood of the night was more family BBQ than political rally, for the launch of Emma Davis’s debut album. Ornate winged-back couches with saggy velvet cushions and a handful of booths lined the exposed brick walls. Milk crates sat in clusters around the large dance floor. Festively fake cobwebs clung to the rafters, lit up by the lights of the occasional low flying plane.
The crowd swelled in size after the set by two-piece Agnes Kain. A mixed bag of quirky upbeat folk ditties, interspaced with somewhat languid lyrics inspired by a stint in London. What they lacked in polish they made up for with amusing banter and cheeky bravado.
By then boisterous on brew and excitement of Davis’s impeding performance, the crowded room drowned out the vocals of the following act – Leroy Lee. Slight of frame and softly spoken, Lee’s pared back approach failed to capture the crowd’s attention, despite pleas for quiet.
Unfortunately regaled to background music, it felt like a long wait until Emma Davis stepped on stage. Once she did, a hush quickly settled over the room. Davis smiled sheepishly at her home crowd obviously littered with family and friends. A slew of songs from pop gem Happy Song to All of This had the plastic Halloween skeletons rattling melodically, from the motion of the swaying crowd.
Mark Stevens provided vocal accompaniment and when not playing a solid beat with his double bass, he used a set of wooden blocks to thriftily substitute for them being “too cheap for a drummer”.
Davis’s earnestly sweet vocals transformed The Spice Girl’s Wannabe and Ida Maria’s I Like You so Much Better When You’re Naked, into blissfully folk creations. However in a rather unfolky twist, the crowd chucked scores of undies on stage in response to the Ida Maria cover.A stray t-shirt can in handy later in the set, when it was discovered Davis’s guitar was somehow picking up radio transmission. The t-shirt muffled the radio/guitar when Davis settled herself behind a keyboard to play her newest single Machines.
Though Davis gently prompted people to purchase an album on the way out, after the love-in vibe of the crowd I don’t think she’ll be begging for buyers.