Alison Avron, Imogen Bel, James Leahy @ The Newsagency, Enmore 20/07/13
Meet Alison Avron. You might have spied her floating around the tiny treasure of a venue, The Newsagency. That’s because it’s her venue. And her house. Saying music was her passion might just be an understatement.
A few months shy of two years old, The Newsagency has already seen the likes of Cosmo Jarvis, Stu Larsen, MKO, Brendan Maclean, NGAIIRE, and so the list trails on. And on this particular Saturday evening it was to host Alison Avron’s very own By Your Side (2013) EP launch.
Arriving mid-way through the first support, James Leahy, we peaked through the thin crack of the sliding door and waited for a break in songs to make our entry. Flashes of Leahy wearing a rainbow poncho and a cute beanie with fluffy ears came in and out of view. Once making our way in we stood at the back of the already crowded space and listened on.
James Leahy built layers of harmony, ukulele and tambourine with loops and impressively sang stories of adoring love and its bitter sting. Still in the midst of his HSC year, Leahy already has two EPs Upon An Origami (2012) and Precious (2013) under his belt. With youthful drive he’s well on his way to developing a distinctive sound.
After people reshuffled and refilled their wine cups, and after a delicious smell and a call came from the back “Who ordered a pizza?” the stage was set for Imogen Bel.
With piano under her fingers she performed an array of her quirky pop songs with great feat. After songs like ‘Fighting the Good Fight’ (a hilarious number about a crazy landlord) she asked for some crowd participation. I have been asked countless times to clap and to sing. Heck, even asked to whistle. But never have I been requested to make wind noises. So with the room blowing and whooshing Bel sang ‘Night Song at Amalfi’, a poem by Sarah Teasdale set to her own atmospheric melody, repeating keys and chords and calls of “Silence below…”
This night was also the launch of Imogen Bel’s debut single ‘Snow Covered Hill’. With Josh Schuberth (who produced the track and also Alison Avron’s EP) on bass and Alison providing some blending and soaring harmonies, the song was gorgeous and Imogen Bel’s high register rang out beautifully. It was a highlight of the set.
While the room buzzed between acts, Alison Avron casually took her seat in front of her Nord keys and suddenly belted straight into the gorgeous ballad ‘Please Stay’. After seeing her last perform as the support for Cosmo Jarvis, I had forgotten just how amazing her voice is live. Controlled and with a huge range, it caught everyone’s ears and eyes completely with the stunning opener.
She lightened the mood next by introducing her band to the stage – Josh Schuberth again picked up his bass, Imogen Bel and Alison’s ‘administrator’ Helen Perris provided sweet BVs and ‘Tubby’ (a large and cuddly stuffed bear) took on beat boxing duties by balancing himself on an old stereo (near Josh and a laptop…) The track ‘Hope’ had a sick hip-hop beats and even sicker harmonies on the bellowing title, “Hope…when you can’t see past what’s keeping you behind…I’ll be right here waiting when you finally fugue it out”.
After a successful Pozible campaign last year, Alison Avron was able to head into the studio to record her second EP By Your Side. The track ‘Imaginary Boyfriend’ (whose name is “Henry”) features on the release and was a real treat to see live. Her poptastic nature and flare for capturing the honest and hilarious aspects of life and love really came to life.
After a delightful and “silly love song” where she sang of her love being like her “favourite wooly jumper”, Avron performed ‘Will You Be My Lover?’ the song which spurred her on to record EP number two. Revealing that she disliked what she originally recorded, Alison fortunately found Josh who helped her re-record the song to give it the flavour and sparkle it needed. The song questioned “Will you be my anchor, the one who keeps me afloat?” with an upbeat hope complete with memorable melodies and boppy BVs.
The slower, heartfelt ‘Dear Love’ captivated us all with beautifully sad lyrics and showed off Alison’s impressive and various timbres. The title track of the EP ‘By Your Side’ began with a bouncy keys hook and was full of wonderfully cute analogies, “If your heart is a house, I think it’s time to renovate. I’m here to break down its walls”. She finished the song, and her set, with a bang and raised her fist to the roof with an air punch and yelled “Goodnight!”
But not one for subtlety, an entertaining Alison Avron called from the hallway, “should I do one more?” and encouraged her own encore. Charging back onto the stage it was clear that she’d been having such a ball and true EP celebration on stage that she wasn’t ready for it to be over just yet. She sang us ‘Happy Stories’, the single from her first EP Wrong Notes & Anecdontes (2011). It’s catchiness and her happiness infected us all and completed the night.
Head to Alison Avron’s bandcamp to get a copy of By Your Side.