You can’t walk into a Xylouris White gig and not not walk out a little different.
They tap into something primal, spiritual? – they blow away the modern skins of the body and leave you with just your ancient bones.
Through them we get to connect to our distant past. A reflex. It’s not music from someplace but music from everyplace. It’s music that reminds us that, despite our differences, inside, in this way, we are all the same.
Xylouris White came to play for us in the Monster Salon and Dining rooms on Saturday 11 March.
Xylouris White are George Xylouris and Jim White. Together their music is one of conversation and shared authorship. George is a Cretan singer and lute player – an instrument with a history of more than 3000 years that crosses borders like few others do. He sings in a deep baritone that vibrates through your core. Jim White is part of Melbourne’s enormously and long loved instrumental rock trio ‘Dirty Three’. He moves like a deep sea animal gliding from soldier's beats to ferocious to soft delicate sounds.
But first, we ate. Monster kitchen and bar chef Sean McConnell made us dinner based on things he had eaten on a recent trip to Athens. We served each other from small plates of fava beans, chicory and calamari. Pan-fried haloumi with tiny slivers of okra. Baked eggplant with Labna. Fish bones piled up on our plates as we ate sardines and small red fish in barbounaki style. We drank Ouzo and wine from Kelafonia, Thessaloniki and the Peloponnese.
Then came the music. The corked walls, terrazzo floors and low-hung perforated panelled wooden roof created a resonant sound that you couldn't escape from. There is no stage in there, so it felt like they were playing to us in our own family room.
Xylouris White played for two hours straight, treating us to two traditional syrtos that made the Greeks amongst us that night go a little wild. They twisted back and forth between an unstoppable barrage of power and gooey, transcendental melody. The final two songs had us all on our feet. The sounds they were making together seemed impossible. We were overcome.
Ευχαριστώ. Please come back soon.
Written by Dan Honey and Stéph Donse. Images shot by Will Neill. Song, 'Forging' by Xylouris White from their 'Black Peak' album.