Saturday, January 4, 2014

Have A Little Sympathy

L-R: Ray Smith, Istvan Nemeth, Julian Barnett, John Appleby
So what did I do on my first full day in Melbourne? I spent much of it uploading video clips to my YouTube page.

I admit that it may not seem like the most exciting thing to do on a house sitting vacation, but I was ‘taking care of business’, so to speak. During the afternoon and evening of December 1, 2013, I filmed the Sympathy Orchestra, one of many great local Adelaide bands during their regular gig at the Whitmore Hotel. As a long time fan of the group, I filmed the complete performance, and promised to edit and upload the tunes to my page at YouTube. This process is now complete, and you can watch and listen to what I consider to be one of Australia’s best rock ensembles.

For me, what make the Sympathy Orchestra so unique is that they perform instrumental arrangements only. There are no lyrics to get in the way of the instrumentation, and no ego driven lead singer prancing about front and centre stage, trying to draw the audience’s attention to himself exclusively. Julian Barnett is the principal composer, although each member of the quartet add their own contribution and stamp to every tune. Some of these tunes are relatively short at around five minutes in length, while others power on for more than ten minutes. Some build slowly to gigantic crescendo’s, while other maintain slow, thoughtful rhythms throughout.

Julian Barnett is one of those guitarists that play with his whole body. One of the best examples of this is when the band is roaring towards the end of the tune, Flex ‘Em. Julian is in constant motion as he alternatively thrashes his guitar or bends multiple strings in order to wring every last note out of them. His face contorts with effort and emotion, while his feet rise and fall in a dance that tries to stay grounded while at the same time wanting to break free from the floor he is standing on. I also love to watch drummer John Appleby working his kit like a man possessed. Watch the brief smiles and quick glances he throws towards Julian Barnett as he plys his drum sticks from the eight minute mark in this great instrumental piece. Take a look at Flex ‘em now.


Julian Barnett has been leading the group for many years, and I consider him to be one of the best guitarists in Adelaide. Heck, he is one of the best guitarists in Australia, and I’m sure he can hold his own with some of the best guitarists in the world. The other members of Sympathy Orchestra are no slouches on their chosen instruments either. John Appleby (drums/percussion), Istvan Nemeth (bass guitars), and Ray Smith on keyboards, have been playing together with Julian Barnett for many years, and the easy camaraderie the group displays on and off the stage is a pleasure to see.

The Sympathy Orchestra don’t venture far from their Adelaide roots, so sadly fans outside of South Australia do not have too many opportunities to see the group live. For that reason, it has been a pleasure for me to have had the chance to film the group and turn the resulting footage into a collection of clips that hopefully will help introduce the band far outside the confines of Adelaide, and South Australia.

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