Descending into the underground of the Hi Fi on this Saturday meant escaping some pretty dismal weather outside, but also the inevitable treat of some good tunes arriving just in time to see El Moth and their reggae roots sounds (think of bands like Groundation, maybe even just a hint of The Cat Empire at times).
Relaxed and chilled grooves with a sublime vocal tone impress immediately. Live, some of the tracks break out into extended jams, but the builds and arrangements make it all worthwhile. Routine Life offered some island inspired reggae and Cold Faces worked a treat, an infectiously catchy tune.
Due props were given to Bob Marley too with a cover of ‘Get Up Stand Up’ and everything cemented that there was well and truly a party in the works.
Expectations were already being raised after overhearing someone speak of how brilliant the Melbourne Ska Orchestra was live, all while waiting patiently to experience it ourselves.
Stumbling on stage with the array of instruments and equipment on stage would have been awkward to say the least. Far more fitting was the opening of the stage door to reveal Nicky Bomba, megaphone in hand with a trail of the other members of the Melbourne Ska Orchestra in tow, in procession across the floor to the sounds of Katoomba. With everyone in place, rhythms kicked in to accompany all the brassy sounds.
No verbal request was necessary – a simple hand gesture and the crowd knew it was their turn for a little call and response. It was all about the fun and relaxed vibes from these seasoned pros making everything seem effortless and simple with Time For This Monkey, not to mention celebrating the piccolo and macchiato drinkers in Lygon Street Meltdown and a little melodrama for When Dean Went to Mexico.
The Best Things in Life Are Free continued the appearance of smiles and joy around the venue, but it wouldn’t have been the Get Smart Tour without Get Smart. Yep, the theme from the TV show – ever so fitting not just for a live band but also for the ska influences infused throughout, adding more cool than Maxwell Smart ever could.
In case there weren’t enough people on stage, the MSO was joined by Rebecca Ari on vocals for a few numbers, including a cover of ‘My Boy Lollipop’ before Paradiso featured some very cool steel drumming.
But amongst all this versatility, the magic of Nicky Bomba as the band’s leader was mesmerising, with command over both the band and the crowd and an infectiously cheerful spirit. With a mini drum set up brought to the front of the stage (almost ready to topple over), the skill set expanded to show some incredible rhythms that I’d only seen tucked away at the back of the stage during his stint with the John Butler Trio.
Getting on stage was just as difficult as getting off, making a traditional finale impossible so everyone played along – the band pretended to meander off stage, the crowd pleaded for more and the band were ‘called’ back on stage in the logistically accommodating encore.
Leaving with smiles all round and perhaps with a new friend or two after taking up the offer to cuddle someone nearby during the show, there was probably more than one person ready to sing the praises of the MSO that night.