[LIVE REVIEW] John Garcia @ Cherry Bar, Melbourne 20/04/2018

As with any gig held at the Melbourne’s own Cherry Bar, the intimacy of the venue creates such an exciting atmosphere. From whatever your vantage point, you will feel up close and personal. Almost  like it is your own private show. And tonight was no exception.

There are not too many artists who can start a band while still in high school, and still be rocking 29 years later, but John Garcia is most definitely one of them.  Having started Kyuss with Brant Bjork and Josh Homme in 1989, and moving onto Slo Burn, Unida, Hermano, Aqua de Annique and also Kyuss Lives! (who after a lawsuit changed their name to Vista Chino), John’s career has been a long and successful one.

Complimenting his own extensive career, John has worked on many collaborations , being a testament to how highly regarded an artist he is.

Bringing his first ever acoustic tour to Australia, John, accompanied by the exceptionally talented Ehren Groban,  is set to bring an array of tunes across his expansive career, in a relaxed up close and personal show.

Opening the show tonight was Geelong band Smoke Witch. The two piece instrumental outfit, consisting of Sam and Karl, are far more than you would expect from a two piece. Having been playing together for about two years, and having known each other much longer than that, it was a real honour for these two to support JG, as they are both big fans of Kyuss.

Having guitar run through a loop station to produce a range of sounds, and some super energetic beats on drums, these two played some really amazing music. Being right in that stoner, sludgey style, with heap of fuzz, the boys played through a setlist of 8 songs. Amongst them were Death Lord, Dune, Anthem and Cycle Cowards. If that style is what you like I certainly would recommend picking up their EP, out on their label Desert Highways, and be sure to see them if they play a gig near you.

Once the stage was cleared, and was being prepared for John and Ehren ,  it was more akin to the set of a tv chat show with a couch, coffee table, pot plants and an ice bucket laden with an array of drinks. It was surely setting up to make it feel nice and relaxed and personal.

With a nice subtle entry, the crowd gave a warm round of applause as both John and Ehren took their places.  Starting off with acknowledging the wall to wall sold out crowd, and explaining that between battling traffic due to Coachella and a gruelling 16 hr flight, that he was very glad to be performing in this intimate environment just for us.

It was so refreshing that there was no pompous  and gloating introductions, talking about the extensive career of the man we had come to see. He quite humbly just took pride of place on his stool, and prepared to deliver us a set of fantastic tunes, performed in a beautiful acoustic setting.

Opening up with some of his solo tracks, Chicken Delight and Don’t Even Think About It, we were immediately introduced to that familiar voice but with a far more soulful vibe to it.

Talking to the crowd about how different songs  are chosen for their ability to be translated into an acoustic version, it gave us regular folk a glimpse into the thought processes behind pulling a show like this together. This led into the most amazing version of the Kyuss song Gardenia that I have heard. It was simply sublime and took on a whole new depth.

Followed on by Jim’s Whiskers and the another Kyuss track in El Rodeo, as well as the Hermano song Kentucky. There was plenty of crowd banter as the gravity of how privileged we actually all were to be witness to such an intimate and open conversation and performance. It really felt so very personal.

Another solo song with Boulevard and then a crowd favourite with yet another Kyuss song in Space Cadet.

My Everything was next, and it was a song I really took to as did many of the audience. It seemed to get John quite emotional, as he slipped off stage for a short break while Ehren took us on a musical journey with a 7 minute instrumental track that was quite mesmerising.

Upon John’s return to the stage, he was a little more composed, and was ready to deliver the final three songs to us, being the Kyuss classics Green Machine and Whitewater.

Closing out the night with the song Kylie, it was an equally humble John who thanked the crowd for coming out to the show. Ensuring he thanked the remarkable Ehren , he then exited the stage, and slipped away into the night with the only fanfare being the rousing round of applause that the crowd were giving.

Given that prior to the evening I had only known John Garcia as the voice of Kyuss,  I cannot express enough what a fantastic evening of acoustic and vocal brilliance this was. It showed a whole other side to his vocal ability that is all too often lost in fully electric productions.

And seeing as Australia has been a favourite place of his, I am sure that we will be on the map for a return. And if that happens I will certainly be waiting anxiously for a spot up front to soak on the sheer brilliance that is John Garcia.

Review Contributed by Jodi Maree

Photos by Shane Henderson