The Holidays, Ernest Ellis, The Honey Month @ The Cubbyhole, Brisbane June 4, 2010 [Live Review]

Review: Stephen Goodwin

The Holidays   Winter has arrived. In name if not entirely in earnest. Tonight, though, The Holidays are doing their utmost to defy the chill in the air, raising both temperature and spirits with a strong showing of their summery party tunes.

But first.

The sad wheeze of a piano accordion. Hollow-sounding drums. A twanging ukulele refrain working against a soft acoustic guitar. And the quavery tenor of Thomas Kulich

It’s local folk outfit The Honey Month attempting to steal the evening’s plaudits with their beautifully broken folk-rock.

Melancholic shanties are played with paradoxical briskness. Propulsive toms and snares bestir the listeners’ feet, even as their boxy deadness combines with the desperate poignancy of Kulich’s accordion to concoct a febrile air that wrings the heart dry. A reflection of our inner conflict, the five musicians pitch themselves and their instruments against the music with a youthful exuberance that belies the extremity they sonically convey.

It’s so all-consuming that it’s a palpable shock and when they pull up after just five or six songs.

Sydneysider Ernest Ellis brings a similar brisk tempo to the stage, but he and his band trod a more musically familiar path of guitar, bass, keys and drums.

Yet, for all the endeavour, the band never quite achieves lift off. Repeatedly, the bass and drums set up a rhythmic tension. Ellis, all closed eyes, croons away, and his guitar shimmers and echoes with a pretty, U2-styled edge. But there’s never a release — and this lack makes for an unfulfilling experience. Sadly, a hand-clapped number that fails to rouse punters from their torpor pretty much sums Ellis’s evening.

Never was a band more aptly named than The Holidays. From go to woah they effortlessly produce hook after musical hook that evokes Caribbean beaches, good times and far-too-many tequila sunrises.

The effusive charm of Simon Jones’ falsetto vocals plays against the tribal rhythms of drummer Andrew Kerridge and his bongo-wielding offsider David Zucker while a funky guitar-keys front-end completes an irresistible party vibe.

All of which explains the knot of fans slowly grooving before the stage.

Best of all, deft guitar solos add just enough rock grunt to avoid them turning into a Lionel Ritchie caricature.

Jones’ voice fares less well on a brace of slower, darker tunes. But when he and the band ululate their way through brand-new single Moonlight Hours, one’s feet become convinced that even Ritchie would be only happy to dance to this mob — all night long.