Manning Bar 14/10/11
Playing to a sparsely populated room, Donny Benet belted out frankly ridiculous guitar and synth solos, in a set which could have been the soundtrack to an 80s straight-to-video thriller. It was a bit awesome in a tongue-firmly-in-cheek, Har Mar Superstar kind of way.
By the time Kimya Dawson and Aesop Rock had finished their opening song, Manning Bar had filled up, and the unlikely duo set about delivering tracks from their as-yet-unreleased collaborative album. The combination of Dawson's gentle thumb-strummed folk and Aesop Rock's rapid vernacular was interesting, unusual and, happily, worked excellently. After a couple of tunes, Rock left Dawson to it. Songs from Alphabutt provoked audience participation and stuff from her new record, Thunder Thighs, sounded particularly strong. Of course, she was charming and funny between songs – her mid-set daydream about starting a Phil Collins tribute band with Donny Benet was especially fun – but the best thing about Dawson is her honesty and her worldly philosophies. She talked of how she has been 13 years sober and how it's okay to lean on people if life is shitty, while Walk Like Thunder was an incredibly moving tale of life and death which saw Rock return to the stage. At ten-minutes in length, it was truly stunning in its raw emotion and certainly the highlight of the night.
Changing the tone and the tempo, Dawson made way for Aesop Rock who, together with MC Rob Sonic and DJ Big Wiz, had the room jumping with to some hectic hip-hop sounds. With Sonic seemingly intent on people putting their arms in the air all the time, Big Wiz dropped beats and scratched the hell out of the ones and twos as Rock belted through his lengthy back-catalogue. There were songs from Rock and Sonic's group, Hail Mary Mallon, such as the fun Breakdance Beach and The Poconos, while Catacomb Kids went down a storm. Dawson rejoined Rock on stage to close the show with a bit of rapping herself on Please Don't Tap On The Glass, Bats and None Shall Pass.
It was a rare joy to see two such different artists sharing a stage and creating an evening of such eclecticism. Equally intelligent, fun, emotive and entertaining, Kimya Dawson and Aesop Rock provide a weird and wonderful combination.
Review by Bobby Townsend. It first appeared in Sydney's Drum Media.