After two nights of hectic, hectic folk music, I was looking forward to the slower storytelling ways of Spiro and their support Bush Gothic – and I wasn’t disappointed.
Bush Gothic are one entity split between three bodies, that’s the only way it can be described. With a much more intimate audience and the sound engineer working absolute magic, each element of Bush Gothic combined like a storytelling musical Captain Planet. Singer Jenny Thomas has a voice a little reminiscent of Katie Noonan, and the way she put emotion into each lyric she sung tugged at every heartstring. Every song told a story, as good folk does, and the band knew the songs well, explaining their history and origins. All were odes of Australia, haunting songs about children from Castlemaine and the story behind Botany Bay, that made me feel a little more connected to Australia’s history. Each member sung, but the vocals of bass player Dan Whitten had my mouth dropping open, swinging from soothing low to incredibly high clear notes with absolute ease – I’m definitely dropping into the next BG gig around Melbourne town!
On Australian soil for their first tour, Spiro came onto stage and were beautifully vulnerable immediately, with the perfect amount of deprecation about the state of folk music in their native southern England – leading to the necessary pinching of northern tunes instead, along with some songs consisting of ‘strangeness from [their] heads’.
Pre Spiro, I was feeling a little sleepy as the lullabying of the support worked its magic on me. But as the intense fiddling and mandolin-ing began, I was suddenly very awake again. I love when bands ‘duel’ each other across the stage. Some people think it’s corny, but they’re wrong. Spiro’s constant chopping and changing of teams and challengers (as much as you can chop and change in a quartet) made me endlessly happy.
Jane Harbour was pulling some wonderfully Tyra Banks-esque poses as she pulled equally dramatic notes out of her violin, and it added to the entertainment value.
The highlight for me was the title track of their new album, a beautiful song called ‘Welcome Joy Welcome Sorrow’ based on a John Keats poem. I struggle to emotionally connect with instrumental music sometimes, but something about Spiro managed to connect itself right to my heart, and it was a little bit magical.