Ash Grunwald, Pete Molinari: February 2007

AshThe stylishly laidback underground bunker that is The Living Room was the perfect venue for the seriously cool Ash Grunwald. First up though was a performance from UK artist Pete Molinari, in Australia to promote his debut album ‘Walking Off the Map’. Still suffering from jet lag he warned us that he ‘may fall asleep during this’, but with his raw vocals and emotive delivery it was impossible for the audience to suffer from the same problem.

Performing a comprehensive set which included the heartfelt ‘Love Lies Bleeding’, and the beautifully sorrowful ‘Tomorrow Is A Long Time’, Molinari was an engaging live performer.

Just as the crowd really started to bubble over with energy and barely concealed anticipation, Ash Grunwald took to the stage, instantly spreading a sense of calm throughout the excited mob. With his unmistakable dreadlocks, chilled out surf vibe and commanding yet unaffected presence Grunwald is clearly at ease with performing live, minus the arrogance and ego which is often part of the package. He is also a master at connecting with his audience, conversing with them on a range of topics throughout the night and encouraging them to ‘boogie’ and join in with the vocals. However he didn’t want any half-hearted efforts with the singing, at one point complaining that he couldn’t hear any ‘larynx hurting yet’.

Performing a smattering of tracks from each of his releases, there were no gaps in either musical quality or quantity. His jam packed set included the mellow chilled out bluesy beats of ‘Take the Drop’, the cautionary tale ‘Money’, the howling ‘Smokestack Lightning’, and the languorously paced ‘Just Be Yourself’. As for highlights, it was hard to go past the refreshing beach inspired song, ‘1976 Coaster’, which really got the place buzzing with its intense energy. Another particular crowd favourite was ‘Skywriter’, which is as Grunwald puts it ‘about a crazy guy’. With its darker grittier sound and amazing low range vocals, this song showcases Grunwald’s impressive storytelling talents to full effect.

Given the interactive and relaxed nature of Grunwald’s performance, the night was not solely about music, there was much laughter and conversation. However discussion of the evening had to go to the serious assessment of Grunwald’s shoes from both a stylistic and practical perspective. While he recognised that he had some strong views on the matter he thought it best if he ‘got off this whole shoe politics thing’.

Announcing to a disbelieving crowd that this would be his final song, Grunwald really let loose and rocked out hard to ‘Going Out West’, taking the opportunity to ‘unleash the boom’ a few more times. Making moves to pack up his gear, Grunwald conceded ‘Well I’ve gotta do an encore cause you guys absolutely rock’, before launching into one of his signature tracks ‘Dolphin Song’. This real life tale about being saved from a shark by a pod of dolphins told with humour and in traditional bluesy style, was an entirely fitting end to a very satisfying musical evening.

I originally wrote this article for ‘The Dwarf‘.