Musings /// On Cameron Avery and the Art of the Side Gig

Is there such thing as the “art” of a side-gig? In the case of Tame Impala‘s Cameron Avery, I suppose there must be.

Some folks literally have art as their side gig, while even more have multiple side-gigs. But what about musical side-gigs, projects, endeavors, etc.? They’re becoming more and more prevalent, to the point of which they’ve nearly become a necessity.

Sure, some side-gigs are borne out of obligation – overall artist development deals designed to squeeze every ounce of creative juice from a “bankable” entity. Or they’re a product of a particularly fervent creative period from one artist whose primary entity may not be best served by their creative outpouring, so they go solo. Or even still, they’re born out of boredom.

Within the Nashville scene, it can seem as if every gig is a side gig until one gig gets its break (is this the Nashville version of “How much wood could a woodchuck wood?”). Then again, you could probably ascribe such a statement toward most music scenes.

Anyway, what I’m attempting to say (in what is hopefully an intriguing manner) is that side gigs are incredibly pervasive in music, so when one surpasses a main gig, its important to take notice.

One of the more recent – and most notable (at least in my opinion) – catapults off a main gig is that of former POND and Tame Impala touring bassist, Cameron Avery. Coming off the very recent release of his solo debut Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams, the Aussie psych rocker made his way into Nashville by way of the OG Basement.

The album itself is pretty remarkable – though such a descriptor coming from myself may not be the least biased of ascriptions. Anyway, it’s a far cry from the psychedelic tendencies of Avery’s other projects.

Its art pop meets standards, wrapped up in a seedy velour lounge haze. Better yet, Avery looks the part of a purveyor of art pop – tall, dark, and bespoken with peak lapels to boot (because what kind of art popper wears a shawl collar? But I digress…). 9

All in all, the touring bassist for the preeminent psych rock band in the world cleans up quite nicely when it comes to his personal brand of music. If it weren’t for the already familiar back-story of Avery, it would have been easy to assume he was the Australian heir apparent to the Father John Misty throne.

While Avery’s stage presence is akin to FJM’s histrionic antics, he elects (or just is) for a more sultry, debonair persona, devoid of the trademark FJM snark. He looks like the groom who was left at the alter at his own open bar wedding. He looks slightly disheveled, but intensely cool.

Case and point (outside of the peak lapels) came when Avery brought his show support, Chase Cohl, back on stage during his set. The pair performed a duet of “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” (GOAT duet record, by the way) that flirted with saccharine and seductive.

But that’s neither here nor there, as sensuousness does add a modicum of value to a live set, it is not the primary focus (unless it’s a D’Angelo show, or something). In terms of the performance as a whole, Avery managed to keep things light when necessary, all the while turning things on their head when need be.

He spoke with great reverence toward Nashville – “I always cherish time here in Nashville. The musicians here are so good.” Avery’s highly appreciative statement was met with a doubly enthusiastic “fuck yeah!” from one gentleman, which in turn became the ironic theme of the night.

Nevertheless, there’s something to be said with Avery’s comfort with candor and seamless transitions from song to song. Not that it was expected of Avery, but one might be inclined to think that a long time “side man’s” first foray into front man status would have its fair share of awkward pauses or blown songs, but not for Cameron Avery.

Seeing as this is sort of a live show recap melded with a musing look at the side-man-to-solo-artists exceptionalism of Cameron Avery, a blow-by-blow run of the set might be of interest, but not necessarily in this scenario.

What may be of more use is to say that already winsome songs such as “C’est Toi” and “Do You Know Me By Heart?” and “Disposable” sound just as good live as they do on the album. Rather than spend time going through the minutia of which song sounded particularly good in the dark and dingy depths of The Basement, its probably best just to say Ripe Dreams, Pipe Dreams is as good live as it is recorded.

Ultimately, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the guy who plays bass for both POND and Tame Impala would have some exceptional solo music as well. In fact, it should probably be expected, but not necessarily on the plane of which Avery managed to do with his side-gig debut.

Its hard to foresee what direction Cameron Avery the solo artist will run with Cameron Avery the touring Tame Impala still around, but either way, Avery has masterfully set himself up for success in the long run. And that in and of itself is an art.

-Sean

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