I’d love to go backstage for a chat with The Necks before their next Brisbane gig. This cult jazz trio famed for improvisation is guesting at the return of Brisbane Powerhouse’s ground-breaking Festival of Other Music, known as OHM, which debuted in 2023 to great acclaim.
Curated by Brisbane Powerhouse arts program director Brad Spolding and celebrated composer Lawrence English, the festival’s 2024 edition promises to captivate audiences with a provocative program of cutting-edge music, boundary-pushing performances and pioneering art.
Audiences can experience a fusion of music, performance and movement at the festival, which will be on at Brisbane Powerhouse, February 28 to April 20.
The program of immersive international and Australian talent will include Yothu Yindi, Michael Rother, Drab Majesty, Boris and works by Kim Gordon, Stephanie Lake, Chunky Move and, among others, The Necks.
Just don’t ask The Necks what they will play, though, because as pianist Chris Abrahams explains, they are not quite sure.
“So, if I came into the dressing room before the show what would you be discussing?” I ask.
“Politics or whatever,” Abrahams says. “We can be talking about the most mundane things and then we just walk on stage and play. It’s not a free for all, but we would never talk about what we are going to play. It’s so complex.”
The Sydney-based trio don’t even know who is going to start the piece, which will, like most of their pieces, last about an hour.
They are unique in the Australian music landscape for their organic, improvised jazz fusion performances.
“We want to get away from the idea of structure,” Abrahams says. “We literally don’t look at each other. We don’t have any signals or anything. We just hit on this way of playing and we go with it.
“We all know how it is going to end, however. Invariably we all kind of finish. Part of our ethos is that we don’t get in the way of the music.”
These improvised music trailblazers are one of Australia’s great cult bands and following a sold-out UK and European tour they are touring nationally through February and March, with a pit stop in Brisbane along the way.
Renowned for creating immersive, hypnotic concert experiences the band features Chris Abrahams on piano and Hammond organ, Lloyd Swanton on bass guitar and double bass and Tony Buck on drums.
They have been together for three decades and no two concerts are ever the same.
The Necks count Brian Eno and Nick Cave among their legions of fans. They have released 21 albums, including the ARIA-nominated soundtrack to the cult Australian film The Boys. Their latest release, Travel, features four 20-minute tracks and has been hailed by critics as one of their finest.
They are exactly the sort of musicians that suit OHM, according to co-curator Lawrence English.
“I think when we talk about a group like The Necks, they are a perfect example of the kinds of work we are looking to showcase within OHM,” English says.
“The Necks sit between a whole range of musical movements, post-jazz, improvisation and experimental music – they hold a special place between all those forms. OHM hopefully shares that sense of pushing at the fringes of music and art. It’s about celebrating that which sits just outside the circle of fire.”
For his part, Chris Abrahams says the group loves playing in Brisbane and they are excited to be returning.
“One of the most important ingredients is our own excitement about what we are playing,” he says. “And when I’m playing with Tony and Lloyd, I become part of the audience.”
Just don’t ask him what he will be playing.
The Necks play the Festival of Other Music, Brisbane Powerhouse, February 29; brisbanpepowerhouse.org
The Necks tour nationally February 12 to March 1; thenecks.com
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