I never want to go to prison, however, being fenced in in with two stellar bands is a fine way to experience it. The concert at Fremantle Prison was a far cry from the cloying, depressing atmosphere that I assume permeates operational jails, a venue that was both picturesque and eerie. The acoustics were lush, allowing the sound to carry far from the madding crowd.
To get the audience warmed up like a prisoner in an exercise yard, we had All Our Exes Live in Texas, a sure winner for ‘best band name I’ve ever heard’. The four-piece set of sultry sirens lured the audience with their charms, each voice presenting a distinct styling. If you split Martha Wainwright into four people, this is what you would get. As the sun set, their sombre expressions matched the dour tones of their music, the addition of accordion giving an oddly romantic tone to the affair. Bounanotte, bella. In keeping with the jail motif, the band kicked things off with Boundary Road, a moody piece that sidled hefty shackles on the audience, as the ladies crooned “What if I want to be the one to fall apart/Once in a while”.
The banter was top notch, the women speaking of how they made a woefully short-lived prison playlist to accompany the trip, their humour resonating well with the crowd. Overall, All Our Exes provided a relaxed start to the evening.
The stage was lit only by soft purple and blue backlights, smoke wafting outwards, the wind cutting like a knife. Suddenly, silhouettes of Boy and Bear took to the stage, exploding into view to blast into Limit of Love. Professing drumbeats like jungle rhythms alongside laid back, fluid guitar jams, the artful vocals of lead singer David Hosking struck an achingly sorrowful chord. It was a great taste of what was to come, as the band proceeded to slip into a steady groove.
Surprisingly, bassist David Symes and drummer Tim Hart briefly switched places, the latter trading drums for banjo during a cover of Crowded House’s Fall at Your Feet. This was undeniably the highlight; rather than being a straight-played cover, the band added their own flair, going so far as to invite All Our Exes on stage to provide backing vocals. Just Dumb provided a melancholy moment of reflection away from the shredding guitars and frenzied drumming. Here, Hosking’s vocal work shined, as he sung “Maybe I’m right/Maybe I’m wrong/Or maybe I’m just dumb”. Here, Boy and Bear manage to perfectly encapsulate the feeling of helplessness with winding guitar licks and light drumming. The collusion of the bandmates was best shown in A Thousand Faces, lead guitarist Killian Gavin inserting cheeky, stilted stabs as the song ramped up to a fever pitch. The keyboards packed a psychedelic punch, momentarily toning down the chaos before a bombastic climax.
Boy and Bear provided a chilled end to the week, their warm, layered tones well-suited to Fremantle prison. By the same token, All Our Exes were an intriguing quartet of unorthodox instrumentation.
Although it ended 45 minutes early for reasons unknown, I still feel I got my money’s worth. Both bands displayed intense synergy, which bled into the audience to create an infectious, thriving atmosphere both dispelled the cold and left you with a warm, satisfying feeling inside.