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The Second Hand Salmon @ The Phoenix Event Review

It was 9pm on a balmy Canberra evening when a clientele of carelessly dressed 20-somethings filled the homely living room of The Phoenix bar, eagerly awaiting The Second Hand Salmon to take the stage.  Spread about on the mismatched furniture, patrons were in for a delight as opening act, Josh Veneris took to the stage and played a clever string of acoustic ballads. The young guitarist looked right at home, slouched over his instrument with yearning vocals echoing throughout the intimate Phoenix cavern. His endearing rendition of Muscles’ hit song; ‘Ice Cream’, worth particular mention, was the clear favourite amongst the crowd.

Veneris was always going to be a hard act to follow, leaving the stage to a chorus of support and demands for an encore. But left to face the task was the newly formed, Steinbeck-inspired, ‘Canary Row’, playing in their first real gig at The Phoenix.

“We are Canary Row. Welcome to our show!” announced bassist Dave ‘Chopsticks’ McCarthy, earning a round of laughter from the now slightly inebriated audience.  Following this introduction was an almost ‘Stonefield-esque’ set, the combination of vocalist Ellie Thurston’s croon and the bands choice of heavy bass resembling that of the 2010 Triple J Unearthed winners’ style. The set was littered with quirky original material that piqued the interest of many throughout the audience. However, a tribute to indie rock band ‘The Black Keys’ in a cover of ‘Howlin’ For You’ was the standout. It provided a fantastic showcase of Thurston’s vocal range and the band’s instrumental talent.

“It was great to get up on The Phoenix stage; this place is really supportive of new Canberra music and is also a great place to get dirty. Hopefully we got pretty dirty and hopefully they will have us back,” McCarthy later remarked.

As Canary Row packed up their instruments, the patrons rose and hurried towards the bar, passing beneath the iconic Phoenix St sign in their stead. Strewn across the second hand tables, amber filled glasses glinted in the low warm light. Famous for its Bootleg Sessions (a celebration of live and local talent), The Phoenix Bar’s warm and welcoming atmosphere isn’t just displayed for all to see… It embraces you like your quirky hippy Aunty, wrapping its eccentric arms around you, pulling you inside its odd living room for a “special” cuppa’ tea. It is easy to forget that one is sitting in a bar when surveying your surroundings: classical novels lie along mantelpieces, board games are stacked haphazardly upon shelves, lopsided paintings adorn the walls and for some reason… A drum hangs from the ceiling fan?

Looking right at home amongst this strange atmosphere was Jack Billmann, frontman and guitarist for The Second Hand Salmon. Taking to the stage, Jack welcomed the audience as though they were old friends; his fast-talking, enthusiastic manner infectious, his sheer joy in performing obvious. They began their set with a ‘Bad Boys’ mash up, briefly altering the atmosphere and upping the ante. The set continued as a genre-hopping rollercoaster confronted the audience: an eclectic mixture of blues, reggae, roots and rock. The headliners were an utter delight and the standout for this set was once again a cover, this time of ‘Lonely Boy’ by (yet again) The Black Keys. My pen couldn’t scratch its way across my beer soaked notepad fast enough. The performance was electric; Billmann’s clear enthusiasm bouncing off both his fellow band mates and the audience. Of their original material, ‘The Eagle’ was an example of fantastic songwriting, displaying Billmann’s superb use of the guitar and his younger brother’s drum talents.

“This year will hopefully be the big break for the Salmon,” newly appointed manager of the band, Anneliese Nappa, declared following the conclusion of the set. “We’ve been getting in touch with every suitable nearby venue possible – with a new EP out we’re hoping to catch the attention of local punters.”

Creating their own roots-infused surf-vibe niche amongst the more predictable indie outfits that are over populating local bars and airwaves, the humble three man show embody the true DIY spirit of up and coming music. As well as providing an exceptional showcase of local talent, the night proved that The Second Hand Salmon are a local band to keep a close eye on.

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