‘Its own sort of mutant’: This Saturday, Spoonbill brings the wonder of Rainbow and Burning Man to Bunjil Place

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‘Its own sort of mutant’: This Saturday, Spoonbill brings the wonder of Rainbow and Burning Man to Bunjil Place

Fans of Spoonbill might recall his mainstage set at Rainbow Serpent Festival a few years back, where a massive ornithological motif was present, evolving before their eyes as each track progressed, culminating in a very visual finale to the performance.

“It was a giant, novelty-sized spoonbill, made of different components but basically plywood and spray-painted,” Spoonbill, aka Jim Moynihan, recalls from his home studio in St Andrews of the bird built in honour of his namesake.

“Each different component of the giant puppet came out throughout the set. Then at the end, it was all assembled and came out in the last track as a sort of steampunk puppet made out of different components.”

A part of Spoonbill’s theatrical ensemble was artist and designer Callan Morgan. Friends and collaborators, Moynihan recalls when they were debriefing about that gig they started dreaming up new ideas for what to do next: “let’s make an animatronic insect”.

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This weekend, serendipity has seem to it that both Spoonbill, and that animatronic insect, will be on the same line-up. Heading to Narre Warren this Saturday night, with a set list brimming with new tracks from his forthcoming album, Spoonbill is headlining the Summer Sounds event at Bunjil Place. A one-night-only event that brings together live music and visually spectacular installations, Summer Sounds is happening on Saturday 25 February.

Happening for the sixth year on the Bunjil Place Plaza, Summer Sounds is a one-night-only evening of soulful, funky, upbeat live music from highly acclaimed local and international artists – and a massive entomological installation.

Moynihan, who in addition to being a contemporary electronic music star and in-demand producer, also has industrial designer on his resume. Tinkering around with Morgan, who is the founder of Pelican Studios, specialists in large-scale public art and interactive installations, the idea for the insect was soon real.

“It slowly evolved and took on its own personality,” Moynihan says of UKI, which is short for Utility Kinetic Insect. “It became its own sort of mutant-vehicle-stage with its own incorporated sound system”.

UKI has an exposed metal exoskeleton and moving wings with LED arrays, which are programmed to be synchronised to the music. Built on a 4WD base, UKI also has the ability to roam about the place so can function as a mobile DJ platform.

While Spoonbill “did my fair share of gigs on it” UKI has since gone to tour across Australia and overseas, including large-scale events such as White Night and Burning Man.

Although Summer Sounds re-unites them in a geographical context, Moynihan will be performing the headline gig with the Spoonbill ensemble, his live electronic four-piece outfit. Moynihan, as to be expected, will be on the electronics, and is joined by guitarist Eden Altman, violinist Kylie Morrigan and Mal Webb on trombone and slide trumpet.

Moynihan says he started a band with Altman, back when they were 13 years old, and the other two musicians are also long-time collaborators, regularly performing live and also recording together.

“I think it works well having those more traditional instruments amongst a lot of modern sounds, I like that juxtaposition; and I think it gives it a nice humanist, expressive feeling as well,” he says of how it all comes together live.

“His music is epic, and we have much to learn from his constant experimentation with music genres and fusion with electronic sounds. It will be great to experience his set,” says Katherine Gailer.

Together with Sebastian Barahona, on guitars, beats, synths and vocals, lead singer and tambora player Gailer are Amaru Tribe. Known for a genre they’ve developed called “Cumbia Oceanica”, they combine traditional music from Latin America with contemporary electronic sounds.

“Amaru Tribe is our ground to explore and develop our musical influences both individually and collaboratively. We are passionate about global popular music, culture, and its amazing history together with a special love for the music from where we grew up which is Colombia, Chile and Australia,” explains Gailer.

“Our traditional Latin American side includes a mixture of post and prehispanic styles such as Cumbia, Andean music and African-Latin American music. We combine these genres with contemporary techniques with the aid of synthesisers, electronic and digital instruments in order to create revamped arrangements and beats that can appeal to new audiences and to the present-day dance culture,” she says.

Their highly energetic live shows “aim to create fire with the audience” and has seen them score three nominations at the  Music Victoria Awards for Best Multicultural Act (2019, 2020, 2021).

Like Spoonbill, Amaru Tribe are also performing at Summer Sounds for the first time this weekend. “We’re looking forward to experiencing the beautiful Bunjil Place, as well as connect with a new community in our performance,” she says.

Joining them on the line-up are Franjapan, a group of five high school bandmates who draw on guitar-centric pop rock influences, delivering catchy hooks and tongue-in-cheek banter on stage.

There’s also DJ Muiscaya, a Colombian DJ inspired by the aboriginals from the central highlands called Muiscas or Chibchas, one of the biggest tribes from South America.

Although the pandemic stopped live performance, it didn’t stop music being created and for Spoonbill fans especially, they’ll be pleased to know Moynihan has been hunkered down in his studio working on a new full-length album. He’s soon heading back to the US to pick up on the extensive touring that got put on hold, so the Summer Sounds show is not only a chance to get a first listen of some of his new tracks, but a chance to catch him live while you can.

Summer Sounds will take over Bunjil Place on February 25. Find out more by heading here.

This article was made in partnership with City of Casey.