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POW! NEGRO @ Mojos gets 9/10


POW! Negro @ Mojos Bar, Fremantle
w/ Mystic Fortne
Thursday, June 7, 2018

9/10

I started to question what differentiates a good band from a great band and since then I’ve asked myself well, does it move me? Does it arouse SOME kind of emotion? And I honestly believe that’s it. If a musician or band can evoke a strong enough feeling – be it pain, anger, joy, rebellion, empathy, power – that’s the true essence of an artist. And in a very roundabout manner – that’s exactly what POW! Negro made happen at Mojos on Thursday, June 7.

The opening set saw Mystic Fortne getting some trippy rap lines in to warm up. Their sound is what I’d imagine would happen if Drake spent a long time in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. A little bit sad, mostly very chill and weirdly wonky. It’s got a noticeably personable vibe but the dream state can carry you swiftly and unknowingly into a sleep state.

With the long drawn out sounds of reverb magnetizing punters to the stage – it could only mean that it is was time for the headline act, POW! Negro. This super industrialised echo, tainted in red light, set a precursor for a hard driving force that snapped all eyes to the front. After the first song frontman Nelson Mondlane expressed his appreciation for the “strength, resilience and compassion shown throughout the ages” in a movingly sincere acknowledgement of country.

Moving on to Hold My Tongue, the saxophone delivered a smoldering-1940’s-detective-film-noir vibe that perfectly complimented the honeyed vocals of the drummer. Shrouded in a cloud of smoke there was a sexy and mysterious atmosphere as they showed off their variety and range in sound.

Running through a few of their older songs and one called Shoji from an EP they will no longer be releasing, it was so instrumentally intellectual that it had something new and unexpected at every new phrase. It was easy to visualise being trapped in a Dali painting with dripping clocks and the slow ballooning sax feature continuing the warp the time reality.

Hanging over the crowd, Nelson put on a posh accent that reminded me of David Attenborough (although it may not have been the intention) which seemed very apt, because when you listen and dance to POW! Negro there’s something primal that’s awoken in you – whether its an assault from the guitar in Money For Portraits or a shake up from the tight drum line in Racketball – the energy is palpable.

After Flesh off the Bone there was one last monologue from the frontman about “what it means to be a man. Dominance? Treating people unequally?” the rage, the intensity, the emotion was all so real as he continued on to say “We’ve abused women AND we’ve abused ourselves, because of TOXIC masculinity. We have to start talking about it. How are we meant to feel if we can’t offload and speak to one another – talk to our brothers. And ladies who have been affected by this. I’m sorry.” It was something I’ve never heard being spoken about, a topic never brought to the forefront of our minds or the forefront of our social media. Accepting fault but urging for a change. Poignant.

For the final hurrah Mondlane got down into the crowd, and emerged dragging Ziggy Ramo on stage for a real freestyle and jump around – a delightful surprise to say the least. Challenging and intense, the show was a special and original showcase of what was the last time ‘POW! Negro’ (just as the name) will be ablaze.

MIA CAMPBELL-FOULKES

 

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