Jaron Freeman-Fox and the Opposite of Everything

The Factory Floor, March 24


Jaron res
Jaron Freeman-Fox looks over the musical horizon. Photo supplied.

You could spend an entire weekend at a festival and hear less diverse music than was packed into this night. The combination of the Inuit-influenced Jerry Cans downstairs, then a dash upstairs to catch the last few songs and rampant surrealism of the Residents, then back downstairs for Jaron Freeman-Fox and the Opposite of Everything, was like some weirdly multifarious sonic dream.

The first band I’ve come across from the Canadian Arctic Circle, the Jerry Cans are led by singer/guitarist Andrew Morrison, and featured accordionist Nancy Mike, whose throat singing invoked animal sounds, much as you might hear from didjeridu players.

To then walk in on the zany costumes, oneiric songs and compelling peculiarity of long-time US cult band the Residents was like stumbling into someone else’s hallucination, and being held there, open-mouthed and spellbound.

But then Jaron Freeman-Fox’s band, also from Canada, are a world of dreams and visions all by themselves, given that Freeman-Fox’s influences range from Indian classical music to Canadian Americana, and from jazz-rock to Klezmer, Celtic and a gentler singer-songwriter domain. Talk about opposites. It is as if the Jerry Cans also played the music of Cape Horn.

Freeman-Fox is the band. He plays violin like a knowing child: playfully, impulsively and hyperactively, and yet with an improbable, idiosyncratic virtuosity that has been set alight by his wide-ranging listening and studying. His fiddle swoops and swoons through Indian-spiced glissandi, or settles on a slow, aching figure that could come from the soundtrack to Deadwood. Behind his singing his pizzicato playing is like a finger-picked ukulele, and his singing, itself, is infused with the same knowingness, whether whispered, loud, crooned or seething with humour. Just as he is a troubadour across countless idioms on the fiddle, he is an actor of many roles when he sings.

Around him Sam Teunissen (clarinet), Kelsey McNulty (accordion/keyboard), Alan Mackie (bass) and Steven Foster (drums) realised his sometimes challenging music conviction, but little of his panache.