Ernest Ellis @ The NSC 16/07/10

Photo: Jack Crane

When it’s a ridiculously cold Melbourne night you really only have two options for entertainment: snuggle under a doona or head to your favourite live music venue to catch one of Australia’s most promising bands. The crowd that gathered at the Northcote Social Club to see Ernest Ellis in their first Melbourne headline show certainly made the right decision.

The choice to have the headline act start after 11pm was a puzzling one and left Goodnight Owl playing to an almost empty room for the first half of their set. This didn’t seem to deter them however, as they serenaded the growing crowd with their brand of lush indie pop. Beginning with an impressive remix of Seekae’s Void, it showed how the band have come a long way since the release of their debut EP last year, with the most notable difference being drummer Eric Moore who breathes new life into some of the older tracks. Unfortunately he had to leave halfway through Goodnight Owl’s set, resulting in the slower songs being played last, making the set seem a little unbalanced. The electronic glitches from the single Maps and Compasses worked surprisingly well in a live setting and would delight any fan of the Postal Service. The band’s final song was Red Wolf, about singer Eddie Alexander’s dog that died last year. While it was a bit of a depressing note to end their set on it showcased Alexander’s great falsetto. Judging by the number of EPs that flew off the merch stand, there is no doubt the band earned themselves some new fans.

Gosteleradio features members from Plug-In City and TTT who are obviously very competent musicians however it became very clear that many members of the audience were bored during their set, with many fiddling with their phones or sitting on the floor.  Their psychedelic folk tinged rock seemed to fall flat and many of the subtler moments of their music were lost in the live setting, which often left them sounding like little more than an Oasis tribute band. At times it felt like they were playing one long continuous song. There were signs of what they can really do shining through, such as their use of looping and their single Guillotine but overall it was a disappointing set. Here’s hoping it was just an off night, because given the right setting, they have the potential to be amazing.

After a short wait, the members of Ernest Ellis emerged on stage, to the delight of the crowd. On their stunning debut album Hunting their songs boarder on the atmospheric folk-rock side of things, however from the moment the band launch into Want For Anything it becomes clear that tonight will be all about showcasing their indie-rock side. Ellis’ voice in often hiding under reverb on record, but live it is a completely different beast, ranging from falsetto to pained screams. This is most obvious in Pulse that saw him transition from calm to completely insane in under four minutes. The pulsing bass from Ben Morgan was definitely a highlight, as was the steady percussion from Mat Gardner. After telling us that he left his acoustic guitar back home, he performed a solo version of Valley Song on electric guitar, which left the entire room silent, hanging on his every work. Morgan joined in for backing vocals, making it something truly special.

Dancing is not something you would expect to see at an Ernest Ellis show, but it’s exactly what happened during Taking Shapes and it didn’t stop until the very end of the set. Triple J favourite Heading for the Cold was a hit with the crowd and saw the majority of people clapping along. It sounded even better with a full live band behind the vocals and was a much faster version than what we are used to hearing. Loveless lost some of its restrained charm in the live setting, but the crowd didn’t seem to care. Ellis told the crowd that there would be no encore but invited everyone up on stage at the end of the set, before launching into Bad Blood which saw the band rocking almost as much as the crowd, however nobody took up the offer of a stage invasion.

Ernest Ellis have carved quite a name for themselves in the Australian music scene and it’s easy to see why. Their live show is both entertaining and moving and despite many missing the last tram home, the crowd would be more than happy to have them back in Melbourne.


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