Motor City Drum Ensemble at the Forum: Review
Stuffed from a feast of cheap dumplings and equally cheap BYO wine, we descend a flight of stairs. Gauche Chinese paintings adorn the walls as we exit onto Chinatown. On the street we are greeted with another balmy Melbourne night. However, instead of cramming into a sweaty and poorly ventilated club, we are making our way to see Motor City Drum Ensemble at the landmark venue, Forum Melbourne.
A quick watch check upon entrance and I realize that, yet again, I have managed to miss DJ JNETT, one day soon I will manage to catch one of her sets in full. The brief disappointment is quickly squashed as we enter the palatial venue. Normally the roman statues and night sky ceiling complete with fake stars are what draws your attention to the stage at the Forum, however tonight it’s the immersive visual work of John Fish. Their art installations have become a mainstay at Australian festivals and events. Large glowing squares are suspended above a long metallic clothed table. Warm red and purple lights bathe the crowd as Motor City Drum Ensemble enters.
With two hours on his hands, MCDE starts the set with slow jams, but it isn’t long before he has the entire crowd eating out of his hands. MCDE slows it right down midway through his set; at first this feels like a misstep, however my friends around me rejoice in the moment. The two tracks provide sweet (sweat) relief from the onslaught of high intensity boogeying. Before too long the music was pumping at full force again and MCDE is managing to play an entire repertoire of genres with healthy helpings of Jazz, Afro, Soul and, of course, Disco in the fore.
A quick glance at my phone and I could see that my app had not found a single track ID. It’s in this state of confusion that I realise I’m not the only one after the track IDs. Around the dance-floor everyone has a phone in hand; no one is recording videos or taking photos, only audio. Bright house lights shine as MCDE plays well into his allotted finish time with Johnnie Walker & Jacqueline Dee’s cover of Barry White’s ‘Playing Your Game, Baby’ closing the night. This rare and expensive vinyl (ID graciously obtained by fellow Finding Figaro member Liam) shows the lengths MCDE will go to leave the audience guessing. Motor City Drum Ensemble has been on my must-see list for a long time, having finally seen the man work in person, I will never pass up the opportunity again.