Gig Review: The Red Paintings @ The Espy
Photographs by Jordan Pegley
If you have not heard of The Red Paintings yet, do yourself a favour and intensely Google that shizz. We do not think you’ll be disappointed when you find that the five piece, originally from Geelong, relocated to Brisbane and then dabbled with living in LA, have just returned to the motherland after a massive US tour supporting Mindless Self Indulgence.
For a band that takes inspiration from aesthetic pleasures and more specifically front man Trash McSweeney’s synesthesia affliction (he sees colours when listening to music), it should come as no surprise that The Red Paintings worked wonders in The Espy’s Gershwin room last weekend, as part of their ‘You’re Not One Of Them’ tour.
Supported by Solkyri and Melbourne based dark cabaret rockers Rouge Foncè, it was unfortunate that when it was time for The Red Paintings to take to the stage the crowd was such that the Espy’s Gershwin Room offered a little too much breathing space.
Although it is worthy to note that Rouge Foncè were the stand out support with their song ‘The Carousel’ forming the perfect segue into The Red Paintings set. With soulful vocals tainted with what sounds like carnal knowledge and possessing an alternative glam which experiences an emotional breakdown, Rouge Foncè might just be one to watch.
Hidden behind black curtains stand the night’s two human canvasses. The only thing that is visible are the eerie LED lights glowing in the obscure moonfaced style masks and a vague silhouettes of the two topless canvasses. Their skin has been painted a matt black and each wears only black boyleg briefs, the two sway jolting with the music like one would imagine a cyborg that needs a good oiling would.
For all intents and purposes, the two human canvasses acted true to form and emulated something that is very far from human. The only giveaway and identifying feature is a tuft of blonde hair on one, but otherwise they were completely anonymous and otherworldly.
With the sample playing, the audience is immediately transported into The Red Painting’s creative vision of Donnie Darko-esque world that is about to end, with the added touch of Frank the rabbit’s dialogue being sampled. The five took to the stage looking like they went backpacking through the 1800s. Or perhaps time and space. They seem like the kind of people who are not particularly bothered about the limits of physics, only the limits of imagination.
Fully dressed in what can best be described as bespoke nomadic multiculturalists’ costumes, The Red Paintings took to the stage about 40 minutes after their scheduled time – not that we were counting. Or judging really, we’re sure that bringing back the mantle and looking that good in a kimono is a time consuming task.
Regardless of the wait, and equipped with Alix Kol on violin and cellist Emma Baker, adding a whole orchestral aspect to a live show that you do not usually see outside classical recitals. The set list dusted off ‘The Fall Of Rome’ from the 2004 album Your Tears Are Warning Signs showing that they can cater to both new and old fans.
A psychotropic introduction supplied by the strings and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland references really gave off the feeling of what we imagine snorting rainbows would feel like. Needless to say, the audience was definitely under the influence.
Flying through ‘It Is As It Was’ at a maniacal tempo and brilliantly executed timing, it very clear that this is a well disciplined group to be so sharp. It was no wonder that they do have a dedicated following, some of whom, as McSweeney explained, have followed them around the world, leading them to run into regulars at a Prague show.
McSweeney admitted to the audience that he has no idea how to tune guitars before breaking into Silverchair’s animal activism anthem ‘Spawn Again’ grungy riff. Veraciously strumming away, we think it’s fair to say this can be excused as he sure can hold a tune, if not inspire others to take an interest in animal rights. (Although this Vulture was quite impervious to that idea, dressed in a leather skirt and shoes).
It should be no surprise that with all the effort behind a live show, McSweeney does not shy away from some form of meaningful dialogue with the crowd. Offering much more than the typical ‘Melbourne is the best city in Australia’ (which goes without saying), McSweeney discussed the making of their new record, especially why it took so long: “my heart’s in it, I promise you”.
‘You’re Not One Of Them’ allowed them to show off what is best referred to as military precision, with a special kudos going out to the drummer Andy Davis with an Aladdin Sane-like painted face and for some killer kicks and coordination, making hitting stuff into an art-form.
At one stage, McSweeney halted the performance because things were getting a bit wild in the front. It was not an audience – it was a community and also one of McSweeney’s family members was at risk of getting injured by an over-excited patron.
The Red Paintings stormed home with ‘The Revolution is Never Coming’, a song that naturally has a strong linear progression and powerful choral crescendo.
This is a band that deserves more. More recognition, more fans, more album sales, more airplay.For the amount of imaginative input and obvious creative thoroughness, The Red Paintings are exceptional entertainment. The difference between the show and the CD is you get so much more out of the live performance. The Red Paintings are multifaceted, ingenious and above all they are a creative force the catchall termed alternative local and overcrowded scene mostly lacks.