Scent of Jasmine are playing when I arrive at the Darwin Railway Club for Emma Rowe & The Two Other Guys’ demo launch. I’m a newcomer to Darwin’s music scene, but I’ve been informed that Scent of Jasmine is a stripped back carnation (see what I did there?) of the rowdier Jasmine Revolution. I imagine this to mean Scent of Jasmine is kind of like the Bruce Banner to Jasmine Revolution’s Incredible Hulk? Anyway, even though I’m yet to hear Scent of Jasmine’s alter-ego, I feel like their mostly acoustic set sounds like its doing fine without the extra aggro. The violin and trumpet work well to add an extra poignancy to lead singer/guitarist Alex Moraitis’ songs. If there is such a thing as a line between rhythm and melody in a song, I think Scent of Jasmine’s music would lean more to the latter. Effectively, the presence of those instruments that best express melody – voice, trumpet, violin – really work well together in Scent of Jasmine, embellishing and articulating each song’s tune.
Balladeerin’ beard about town (and recent NT Song of the Yearerer) David Garnham is up next for a solo set. Last time I saw Mr Garnham live, I was – for the usual reasons – not entirely capable of properly appreciating the songwriting ability for which the rest of the Territory was evidently capable of recognising with an award. Tonight is different, and I’m going to start recommending sitting down and shutting up as an excellent way to get most out of any David Garnham gig. The man is able to go beyond stringing two words together – he casts well-woven lyrical nets that catch all manner of stuff (though mainly booze and women). Meanwhile, Sobering Up And Settling Down and my head have entered into an epoxy arrangement, and I’m still banging into doorframes.
The lads calling themselves Room 105 assume their positions as Emma Rowe’s final support, and unleash a very different kind of energy into the room. This band is clearly primed for a popular following. Kind of reminiscent of a less-electro/more dancehall Foals, they are infectious enough to be likeable, energetic enough to be danceable, and good enough technically to remain interesting after the first three songs. That’s the damn pop trifecta, ladies and gents, although if you’re still in two minds about attending their next gig, sometimes, at some angles, the drummer kinda looks like Ryan Gosling (bam!). Also, Room 105’s cover of The Toyes’ Smoke Two Joints gets special mention because they do an excellent rendition of that song’s awesome syncopated riff. Good stuff.
Finally the lady of the hour takes to the stage. Emma Rowe precedes The Two Other Guys in delivering a solo sonic collage of songs, including a skilful – and personally welcome – butchering of Lady Gaga’s Paparazzi. If it wasn’t already clear that Rowe wears the pants in her band, this little prelude to her set establishes that fact – mostly through initiating the crowd to her voice. The Two Other Guys join Rowe and the three of them play a tight and rollicking set, but for me at least, it’s still Rowe’s voice that this outfit hinges on, and her voice that really sets them apart. I struggle to liken Rowe’s vocals to anyone else’s, especially any contemporary female singers who – with the exception of a significant few – seem a little stuck on the saccharine. The closest I could get was the tremendous Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane, who has that similar feminine range/ballsy delivery combo thing going on. Although any similarity with Slick certainly stops there – Rowe’s style seems to locate its roots in those iconic and empowered female singer-songwriters busting out of the 90s with their pissed off poetry and battered guitars: Sinead O’Connor, PJ Harvey and Ani Di Franco. Particular set highlights for me have to be I Don’t Believe In God for its catchy undertow, although the fiery energy of I Live In Paradise is also pretty great.
If tonight was a glass of wine I’d say “Top notch drop, Bobby m’lad!” (Bobby’s the imaginary dude holding the imaginary spit bucket). Or in other words: I walked out of this gig officially introduced to some of the local talent, and pretty excited to get to know it better.