Live Review: Chester Brix, Ben Whiting and Amistat live at the Toff
It was a chilly Thursday evening, but one which offered a great opportunity to see some of the best of what Melbourne has to offer in the local original music scene. A tempting lineup with a number of names and faces that are no strangers to Melting Pot’s own events – Amistat, Ben Whiting and Chester Brix – and they did not disappoint.
Twin brother outfit Amistat were first up with a short set of 30 minutes. They relayed Ben Whiting’s friendly jibe – “What are you going to do in 30 minutes? One song and 25 minutes of talking shit?” – but despite their lack of time, they managed to deliver everything you could want in an opening act … and more.
Most recently I have seen Amistat’s Jan and Josef Prasil busking as a duo at the Queen Victoria markets with the exquisite execution of their harmonies causing crowds to stop and be drawn into their well-crafted songs. For this show, it was a real treat to have Julian (?) on cello and Ryan Oliver (of Oliver’s Army) on keys (and a bit of drums) who added further depth and emotion to what was already a lush and moving sound. There was good banter between songs and when you have artists like Amistat that are good at what they do and are clearly enjoying themselves, it spreads a great vibe around the room.
Some highlights were the slow build and balancing of delicate harmonies over the instrumental percussion in their song “Vada” with, the impromptu cover of Toto’s Africa (or at least a few rousing renditions of the chorus) complete with three part harmonies and their driving closing song – a new one – I think called “The Coward” which is definitely worth checking out.
Next up was Ben Whiting (and his band) and immediately you could feel you were witnessing an experienced band that is like a well oiled machine that knows how to make all the moving parts work together (with soul). This was evident from their distinctive sound, the instrumentation, how they transition between the songs and seeming ease with which they achieved this. In addition to Ben, the talented band is made up of Billy Donaldson on Bass, Victor Salamanca on Drums and Alex Burkov on Violin and Guitars.
Ben and his band performed a number of songs from the recent Private Island EP as well as earlier material. For me, it was interesting hearing the full band arrangements having grown familiar with acoustic or stripped back versions of the songs. This was evident from the first song “Walls” with a strong almost reggae feel that I could see working particularly well on the festival circuit. Ben’s voice sat beautifully above the band and I liked how they used the violin and Ben’s harmonica – they both had their own time to shine but doubled up when they needed more emphasis.
The highlights for the set were “Above the Clouds” – which Ben suggested belonged on an 80s heartbreak mixtape cassette and Dirty Hands which has been a favourite of mine since hearing him play it in the round in 2015.
Now it was time for the main event – although people were happy to sit back and enjoy Amistat and Ben Whiting, a good portion went straight to the front as Chester Brix started up their first track “Pirouette”. It was a great track to start on as a powerful statement to the room but still giving vocalist/ guitarist Jayden Reid plenty of room to show off his voice and command the stage.
Their second track followed the order of their EP with “8am” which had a strong laid back groove that reminded me of the Kooks. They then welcomed their friend and producer Robin Waters up on stage to play some keys for “Around the World” which added some colour and texture to their sound. The next tune was a “Boogie Tune” as drummer Danny Finkelstein put it. The chords and feel reminded me of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky – but it was definitely a catchy one that got the crowd involved.
Some other highlights included a surprise cover of “Ain’t no sunshine” which went down a treat with the crowd and the arrangement gave all the band members a chance to shine. I was hoping they might have encouraged a crowd singalong (the crowd was willing) but maybe that would have seemed a bit self-indulgent for one of their first shows. Danny Finkelstein and Davy Simony (on drums and bass respectively) are a very handy backline and provided the crowd with a heap on infectious energy throughout the show. Finishing with “Leather Boots” and post encore new song “Memories”, Chester Brix showed plenty of talent, presence and energy and I will be interested to see another show once their EP has had some more exposure. You can listen / vote for Chester Brix on Unearthed here
The views expressed in this article are the views of the author and not necessarily the views of Melting Pot.
Author DetailsLiam Dixon
Liam is the founder and director of Melting Pot. Once a regular performer at Melting Pot events as the writer / frontman for local band Creatures of Karma, these days Liam works as a commercial lawyer by day. When hes not busy doing lawyer stuff or with Melting Pot, Liam loves to write, play and record his own music and see the odd gig around town.