Oof, Chris Cornell. I think that one hit everyone a little bit. My own mother, ABBA fan through and through, recalls the ‘Black Hole Sun’ video clip with a cringe – a bit too weird for her tastes. But proof, perhaps, of what the Crow Jones’ smartly attired bassist, Martin Gonzalez, said to me as Small Batch Audio set up behind us on Babushka’s hardwood stage; Cornell’s work had transcended the alternative sphere, and had truly made a mark on culture. Appropriate, then, the playlist chosen for the night was all Soundgarden and Audioslave. I had heard more CC in two days than I had for years before. In death, there is life.
If one were to stretch their imagination, they could apply the same duality to The Space Between’s debut EP, Swansongs. The name is not accidental, the intimate and powerful quartet having all but agreed to call it a day after this release and launch, saving of course the most insistent of circumstances. The Babushka stage on a rainy Friday night held host to the event, simultaneously joyous and melancholy, a first birthday and a funeral all at once. Joining them were the folk stylings of Small Batch Audio and Mossy Fogg, FLOSSY’s harmonious grunge and the bewitching alt-country ritual that is Crow Jones.
Small Batch Audio delivered a performance self-billed as less noisy than their usual fare, the nominally rock-duo but for tonight acoustic guitar and brushed kit combo toned it down with an acoustic guitar instead of an electric one. Being no less deficient in powerful, heartfelt vocals from brother Matt, the music was held down by the tight rhythm work of brother Sam. The pair were followed by the trio Mossy Fogg, the acoustic guitar and tight drum work theme continued, embellished with the spider-fingered and supremely melodic bass work of James Vinciullo. Turin Robinson’s voice moves between a reedy and nasal delivery to a full blown Tom Waits-with-a-throat-infection gargle, imbuing the songs with a roadworn character well suited to the grimy room and the flat Emu Export that I swigged away nonetheless.
FLOSSY force the scummy and the angelic together whether they want to or not. The sublime harmonies of sisters Sinead and Lauren O’Hara almost make you forget about the assault of fuzz tone that back it up, intertwining guitar lines like broken glass run through a Boss DS1 while Steve D’Angelo kept the affair reigned in on drums. Female-fronted bands may get a reputation for being softer than their male counterparts but FLOSSY prove the reputation is entirely unwarranted, working the PA for all it was worth while maintaining a certain beauty to their jagged grunge.
The dimmed lights and lanterns ‘cross the front of stage signalled that the otherworldly experience that is the Crow Jones were due to start, a troupe that had forged a name delivering an experience where others merely offered a show. Jones’ vocals blended beautifully with mesmerising presence of the Naiad Choir, the six-piece summoning the windblown expanse of a sunburnt desert plain while we sat in a darkened upstairs bar in rainy Leederville. For a moment, I forgot where I was; anything outside the doors was irrelevant.
Maegan Johnson lightly brushed the opening chords to “Slow Burn” and The Space Between began the closing set of the night, the first notes of the final show launching the debut and penultimate release of a highly unlikely endeavour. All four members have played in other ventures before, each one offering a masterclass in excellent musicianship; the rollicking groove of ‘Heroin’ showing drummer Aaron Azariah and bassist Zane Bullock’s chops, while the dramatic ‘Skin’ showed off guitarist Scott Tevilspek’s vocal chops in a soaring duet. Closing with the atmospheric ‘Phoenix’, The Space Between left us wondering, and myself certainly hoping, that they would rise like the titular bird from the flames when the time is right – the pedigree of their songwriting and power of their performance is that captivating.
The realities of writing and performing live music mean that it is not always an easy or simple thing to do. The pressure to create, practice and perform those songs means that often the very best work happens far away from the public eye. Such could be said of The Space Between; their union thankfully delivering the incredible Swansongs EP before, it seems, anyone had the chance to experience them. But if art were predictable or formulaic, then it wouldn’t be art. Good things come and go, great things even more so. But as a welcome to the world as well as a final goodbye, it is hard to fault the performance given by The Space Between and all the other bands on the bill. The tragedy it seemed is that, like Chris Cornell, all we’ll have now are the memories.