Club concert – 28 May, by Lorcan Bolster
Trouble In The Kitchen are a young, Melbourne based, traditional Irish Music band and a damn fine band they are. Over here in NZ on their first overseas tour they are Ado Barker on fiddle, Ben Stevenson on flute, Caroline Frawley the only Irish born member – on button accordion, Joe Ferguson on bouzouki and Kate Burke on guitar.
Ado and Ben are the soul of the group and have been playing together for over 10 years. Both terrific players, they had the effortless synchronicity of long nights of practise. Caroline a new addition had only taken to trad music seriously since coming to Australia but proved wonderfully dextrous on the box. Joe Ferguson’s mighty percussive bouzouki was an inspiration though-out the night as well he has a lovely left hand, as you’d say.
Kate Burke was the star performer in my eyes. Not just marvellous driving rhythmic accompaniment when the band was in full helter-skelter mode but also, when she played along to her songs, her finger picking style was light and delightful. She was all over the stage, playing pretty much every instrument that strayed close to her – guitar, bouzouki, concertina, button accordion and fiddle. The two self-penned songs showed a strong lyrical style and pinned her politics solidly on the red side of the fence.
Indeed, politics was a thread that ran through the evening. TITK nailed their colours firmly to the socialist mast and showed a healthy disdain for the Howard government songs like Ewan McColl’s Four Pence a Day and the Burke penned song describing 300,000 marchers in Sydney in support of Aboriginal rights were introduced with swipes at Howard and his party. Ah yes, the songs. Everyone and his trad-loving dog knows that the words most dreaded at a trad concert are “and now for a song”. And although my heart did sink a bit when these inevitable words were uttered, I do admit that the songs added rather then subtracted from the night. The aforementioned ‘Four Pence’ was a great version the band adding four-part harmony to their box of tricks; Ado’s voice excelling again on The Lock-Keeper. Kate provided a lovely version of the great standard Flash Company and her other composition Sarah Island had a lovely modern-traditional feel.
But TITK are predominantly tune merchants and when they got going, you had to hold on with two hands. Sets generally started with the bouzouki and guitar in tandem laying down a great rhythmic platform for the flute, fiddle and box to play off. And great sets they were. The arrangements were innovative and the tune changes were slick and seamless. Don’t you just love the lift a good tune change gives to a set? The evening was full of them. The between song patter was mostly the Ben and Ado show natural, easy and funny in front of the microphone, they bounced the evening along in fine fashion. But there was seriousness behind the banter and both had a deep love and regard for Australian Irish music and the people and tunes that had come before them.
It’s not often that the folk club gets such a talented, energetic, enthusiastic, funny, good-looking, upbeat Aussie band; if you weren’t there, then where the bloody hell were you!?