LIVE FROM MEXICO CITY
Words & Images by Alex Cordero
Text & Photo Edits by Corgam
Foro Indie Rocks, March 23 2019
It’s a chill Saturday night in one of Mexico City’s buzzing neighborhoods, Colonia Roma, where a little over 600 people have gathered at an intimate venue to witness the enigmatic new zealander mannequin known as Jonathan Bree, prolific producer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist who has released three solo records plus an extensive discography with his now extinct band The Brunettes. In his current artistic phase, and perhaps as an absolute separation from previous collaborative projects, Bree has chosen to hide behind a faceless character, a macabre yet naive alter-ego, someone who evokes a mannequin on display from a 1960’s men’s clothing store.
“Sleepwalking” his most recent record, is a sonic amalgam of sophisticated pop deliberately thought out and beautifully arranged, a minimalistic approach to melody and guitar playing, complemented by down beat lyricism about love (or the lack of) and the depressive aftermath of unaccomplished promises.
It’s past 11pm and the anticipation in the room is so noticeable you can almost touch it. The Cure’s “Lovesong” and “Pictures of You” resonate, alleviating the long wait, suddenly there’s silence, the lights dim down and a tune fades in. The vibe is slightly somber (reminiscens horror movie scenes where the radio suddenly turns on and the protagonist becomes aware of a figure who watches him). Five sinister figures emerge from the shadows, three of them have male attributes whilst the other two appear to be female, and just like Bree, they all seem to complement the display.
Bree holds a bouquet of flowers which he gently places on the floor. The females stand each by his side, leaving him in the middle. A male takes hold of the drum set, while the other grabs a bass, they both wear vintage looking headphones that merge perfectly with their 60’s fashion. A red light shines upon them as the audience warmly claps, then, in a baritone voice, Jonathan Bree pronounces: “You’re the one that I want” underscored by a drum roll that officially kickstarts the performance.
Blessed among women (like Mexicans often say) they dance a choreography as Bree sings, while in the background, the bassist takes out a cigarette that pretends to light up and smoke. The senses lie but only if you let go you can indeed see the cigarette lit up and the smoke spreading as he exhales.
The theatricality and choreography aspects aren’t the only visual elements used by Jonathan Bree as means to complement his performance, he relies on visual projections as well, a compendium of bizarre footage to be shown exclusively at his shows. It is the sum of these parts what grant access to a dark, nostalgic world, of ephemeral happiness, is it perhaps the world of dreams? Or is it maybe a world where dreams and reality converge?
The setlist is almost full of “Sleepwalking” songs, and indeed the night begins with the eponymous track, followed by “Weird Hardcore” from his sophmore EP “A Little Night Music”. The sensual “Say You Love Me Too” incites dancing with its catchy bass lines, it’s in this track that one of the females joins Bree on vocals. Other highlights were “Boombox Serenade” and “Blur”. The singles “Valentine” and “You’re So Cool” were undoubtedly the sing-alongs.
Avoiding the encore altogether, Bree went through “Roller Disco”, “There Is Sadness” and the very personal “Fuck It”, closing off with “The Primrose Path” one of the most beatiful songs off his first solo record. After that, the mannequins elegantly walked off stage to the classic “Can’t Help Falling In Love” by Elvis Prestley.
Jonathan Bree is certainly a multi-disciplinary artist whose ability to blend in theater, dance, performance, experimental video and music with such cohesiveness makes him an act worth seeing.