Review: Methyl Ethel

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Words and images by Dani Brown

Having never seen Perth boys Methyl Ethel play live, and reading that their show at Jive in Adelaide on April 15 was sold out, I expected big things from the trio – and they delivered.
As per every other show on the six-date Australian tour except in Sydney, the crowd was treated to the sounds of Benjamin Witt as the opening act. Although there wasn’t a large audience to appreciate his talents, those few that were experienced his mellow melodies which turned into loud guitar riffs. His use of a loop pedal was creative and unique, giving the sound of almost a full band made by a man, his voice, and his guitar. Distortion featured prominently in a few of Witt’s tracks, giving his experimental/blues/alternative sound almost a grunge edge.
The crowd began to grow as it was introduced to Jaala, a funky little four-piece with a bad-ass female lead singer in Cosima Jaala. With a slow, haunting warm-up track, Cosima and friends Loretta Wilde, Maria Moles, and Nic Lam slightly picked up the pace from Witt. As the floor filled with music lovers and alcoholic beverages, the energy between band and crowd intensified. One guy in a Xavier Rudd and the United Nations shirt had his arm around his mate and bopped along a little off-beat, but like many others, he was having a good time. Cosima, with her high-sitting guitar and Isabella Manfredi-like voice, commanded the stage and room, although her vocals were hard to hear at times due to the combination of a noisy crowd, a soft mic sound, and questionable acoustics.

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In between acts, the sounds of The Weight of Silence and their support acts at their show at next door’s Enigma Bar could be heard if you listened closely enough. Some punters obviously did – or maybe they were just too tipsy to nod along to the right beat of the tunes on the speakers during the interval.
As Methyl Ethel entered the stage, there were a few hoots of excitement from the now-packed dancefloor, but they were premature as the band was simply setting up and sound-checking. Once they finished sound-check the band had 20 minutes up their sleeve before they were scheduled to start, but lead singer and band establisher Jake Webb said to the sound guy, “let’s just start early”, and that’s what they did. The crowd, made up of leather jackets, long hair, and light beer, wasn’t prepared but as soon as the first few notes hit people’s ears, the room was bopping and swaying.

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The only thing missing from the psych-rockers’ set was the saxophone solo in Twilight Driving -“you’ll have to imagine it”, Webb said – and it was obvious that the song is their most popular because only then do the phones come out to record segments or post Snapchats. With Webb’s rough-edged vocals leading the way, songs from their LP Oh Inhumane Spectacle along with some oldies and potentially a couple of newies (or songs this Methyl Ethel fan didn’t recognise) were appreciated and significantly rocked out to by all.

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