A secluded beach in Pula housed my first encounter with Harvey Sutherland. The sun perched itself above the palm fronds and drink stands lined the shore. It was 8.30 in the evening; a typical summer’s night in Croatia—still hot enough to draw sweat. This was the final of five days in serious festival mode and although one would question my ability to think clearly, the memory of that evening is vivid. Like a post-performance promotional video, I panned the beach and was taken aback by the energy a relatively unknown band were able to generate. This audience who had just subjected themselves to five days of non-stop house and techno was reveling in the disco machinists ‘funk fueled burners’.
It took a fellow British reveler to inform me that those sexy synths I was partying to were the product of three Melbournian musicians. This is now common practice for budding Antipodean contemporaries (such as Hiatus Kaiyote and Jordan Rakei) to have greater success in Europe. The European scene is a diverse and appreciative market for ‘soulful-electronica’. In a selfish way, I had hoped for Harvey and Bermuda to be staging the majority of their shows back home.
So, as the hopeless nostalgic that I am, I gathered a few friends and raced to Mojos Bar for their Expectations Tour, hoping to reclaim my holiday soundtrack. Could Harvey Sutherland (aka Mike Katz) and his band, Bermuda, fly me back to that secluded beach in Croatia?
Literal meaning was brought to the phrase ‘warm up set’ as Perth native, Phil Stroud took the stage. Patrons began the short pilgrimage from the crannies of Mojos as his rich percussive dance set took on a tribal turn. Drawn out exotic rhythms and sharp, seamless changes left us entranced, losing all sense of time.
As Stroud packed away his gear it wasn’t long before the space gave its best sardine impression, readying itself for Harvey and Bermuda. I was able to find an air-pocket close to the bar for the ensuing grooves: just how I like it.
The moment arrived. Harvey made his way to the keys, Tamil Rogeon picked up his electric violin, and Graeme Pogson sat excitedly, sticks at the ready.
They began with one of Harvey’s most notable tracks, ‘Bamboo’, a looping, synth-heavy bopper. The slower tempo of the track was a nice meeting point for band and crowd, and they were able to sway like the palm fronds in Croatia in an endearing exchange.
A great advantage to playing dance music through (slightly more) conventional instruments is the ability to elaborate on the ideas of the original. The arpeggiated melodies, violin solos, and looped cadences took the eager followers on an extended journey much like the director’s cut of a great film.
Harvey and gang began rolling through his back catalogue. The stretched-out interpretations of tracks such as New Paradise and Coast2Coast burst into heavy dance sequences unforeseen by the crowd. The synth pop riffs felt like lyrics as the crowd sang along to the tropical disco sounds—a language of its own.
A dark techno number took us on an “intergalactic interlude” and began the raging crescendo towards the backend of the show. The stage lighting played a pivotal role in singling out Rogeon, the violinist, and he began interacting with the audience through his questionable dance moves. This was Fremantle after all and we took great pride in our similarly suspect flailing, much like what was witnessed on that sunny evening in Pula.
The final track of the evening ‘Priestess’, taken from Harvey’s latest 12” was met with a single high pitch scream (from me) and great appreciation from others. We had slithered our way to the front for this, as everyone opened their arms and lost all care for personal space. The delicate drop of dulcet cords spurred the biggest reaction of the night and an ending of violin and drum solos sent the band and crowd into joyful mayhem. Cue the slow claps. This set could only be finishing one way.
“One. More. Song…
One. More. Song…
One. More. Song.”
Trusted dance music bible, Resident Advisor, rated Harvey as #38 on their list of best live acts in 2016. After Wednesday at Mojo’s I feel that Lonely Planet will need to start rating them as well. Their teleporting rhythms have taken me back to a holiday I never thought I’d be able to remember, let alone revisit.