Are you listening?

«Vibe is more important than sound», I heard one of the musicians saying to another. Both of these musicians were on the bill tonight, each playing with a different band. The second musician did not respond to the comment. Not because she had nothing to say but because the first musician just did not stop talking. There are people like that: they don’t stop talking. I wonder if they try and they just can’t. Or if they just don’t want to stop. Do they care if the other person –or anyone else for the matter– is listening?

Well, I was listening and this kid kept going:

«The sound here is not that good…»

I didn’t stay and listen to the end of the monologue. I had to finish setting up the speakers and amps for the first band to start their show.

This was the second time that The Birthday Project opened at the Mojo Record Bar. Now more confident, the band’s songs were setting the vibes for a great night. Their characteristic acid sense of humor, mixed with catchy bass riffs, funky beats and minimalistic guitar accents, strategic use of harmonics and classy palm muting reminded me of the Whitest Boy Alive.

«Can anybody hear me?», sang Jacinta Yolanda Martínez, as if she was trapped somewhere. Well, I was listening and enjoying the nice contrast between the quiet and the more explosive sections of the music.

Then followed a rock and roll cover of a song called Somebody’s Talking.
That somebody, I thought, could well have been that guy that had not shut up since he got there.
I am looking at you, kid.

After that, they played their new single. And Jacinta could not help laughing with someone from the audience when she noticed that they were singing along. By this time, we had a full house at the Mojo.

«Last song is called Get Out, but stay for the last act». I enjoy her sense of humour. And I guess the rest of the people too, since no one left as she sang the chorus:

«Out, get out, get out of my mind!»

A big applause they got instead. The audience clearly did not want to see The Birthday Project gone either. The band eventually left but the music will stay inside people’s minds, no doubt.

While Cosmic Rodeo were preparing to begin their set, I noticed a few friends from other bands came along:

– There he was, Love Ernving (from Run June! and IKYK) having a drink,
– Tim Khadnevich (from Timm Thaler) with her wife, also having a drink each,
– and all the guys from Foxlore having a great time, and also having drinks!

What a good crew came to listen to other bands playing.
We were in good company.

Straight in, without any presentation, Cosmic Rodeo’s set began with a very mysterious intro-guitar-piece. I could smell something was burning. But I didn’t know where it was coming from. I didn’t know what it was. The song started.

I listened to Patrick Skinner’s guitar trying to figure out which guitarist was he reminding me of. As it happens sometimes, the world stopped for a second to allow its sense to come through as the white left handed Stratocaster asked me with a sliding voice:

Are you experienced? 

When Jos, the main vocalist, announced the name of the second song, That Voice in Your Head,  I began to feel nervous. Jos dropped his drink to the floor, almost on top of his pedals.
«Oh, shit», he said.
Something was definitely burning now.

Brian, bass player from Argentina, looked at me as if he also knew that something strange was going on. He was playing a solid bass and doing some cool harmonies and backing vocals. Cynical is a song with a great bass riff. I would love to go to Argentina. I would also love to be able to do harmonies. I have tried, and failed.
I once planned a trip to Argentina, and ended up here, in Australia.

If you like The War on Drugs you will enjoy this band, specially when Patrick takes the microphone for that one song in the middle of the set. With the most emotional voice and one of the greatest slide guitars I have heard in Sydney, this was my favourite moment of the night.

After that song, Jos got the microphone back and I swear I could hear him singing the following lines:

Hey, there, are you listening to me?
Hey, babe, now you are listening to me.

This was just a bit too much of a coincidence.

Trying to figure out a logical explanation, I found five possibilities:

1. Either I was not really listening or
2. I was inside someone else’s head or
3. someone else was inside my head.

Possibilities 4 and 5 fall out of the logical explanation quest, but I am happy to discuss them with you next time I see you at the Mojo.

At some point, Jos swapped his Epiphone guitar for his own white Strat that was waiting for him at the back of the stage.

White. Left. White. Right.
Why? Left. Why? Right.

Brian’s bass was also white. At that moment, the stage was a very bright space to be looking at.
So I closed my eyes.
And that’s how I knew I was being followed, not by someone but by something. All these voices and questions coming from everywhere. I started singing for myself:

Your inside is out
Your outside is in

All these white guitars and lyrics questioning me. I was listening! I was listening! I was losing my brains!

Who rescued me from that madness was Ben, the drummer, the karma police: that snare of his must have done pretty damn awful things on its previous life because, oh boy, was it being punished!

Coming back to reality, I noticed Ben was chewing gum. I also noticed that my breath stank of garlic. I wish I had some gum, like Ben. But I had none. So I chewed on my tongue. You have to be practical sometimes. «This one is for people that travel on public transport», said Jos before the last song of the set, Sweet.

«Sweet», I thought.
«Bravo», yelled someone from the audience.

I was sweating. I had to take a toilet break. Scar Tissue was coming through the speakers. For a moment, the song took me back to my high school years in Mexico. I flushed the toilet.

From Colombia, Luciana Valentina played a beautiful intro on her piano. And when the rest of the band joined in, everyone at the Mojo turned upside down.

Your outside is in
Your inside is out

Jazz.
Blues.
Reggae.
Samba.
Piano.
Ukulele.
French singing.
Dancing.
Rapping.

There’s an interesting portrait, kid.

A very professional band. These musicians were on another level. Such a solid band. The four of them. Together. You can tell they have worked. And they know how to play together.
Together is the key word here. Connected. Do you feel them, kid? The vibes?

Luciana almost did not need a microphone when she sang the words «ARE YOU LISTENING?» with her amazing and powerful voice. Of course, I was listening and so was everyone else! Not only listening, but standing and dancing. Not me, I don’t dance, but the audience was.

Are you listening? I was not surprised anymore. I was flowing. Sometimes you had to let yourself go, be practical.

Now, of course, as it had to be: some reggae vibes! I had to laugh.
«Grass is always greener at the other side», someone said.
Inside my head, something was still burning. But this was a beautiful fire: I was hearing everything, I was feeling everything.

Luciana introduced her band and asked the audience to sing along the chorus melody for her next song. The place was packed, the voices could hardly fit. Perfect time for samba music. The barman celebrated with the approval ritual: three big hits to the ceiling cymbal (an instrument that can only be found at the Mojo Bar) and a shot of mezcal for the sound guy.

Back at her keyboard, Luciana gave us a preview of her new single, Insane.
The Gibson guitar sounded like an orchestra. People were amazed, Luciana was dancing all around, we were all on ecstasy. If you were there, you know what I am talking about.

«They sound amazing», said someone sitting next to me.

Vibe and sound it’s the same thing. And at the Mojo, we’ve got plenty of it, kid.
Are you listening?

Photos by Abel Ibáñez G.

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