Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Music

Sparkling piano bar just the tonic

11 February 2023

If you’re in need of warmth, laughter and some stirring tunes, Ara Jansen heartily recommends hanging out at Queer Piano Bar.

Queer Piano Bar, Aria Scarlett  
Basement at Liberty Fringe, 10 February 2023 

Sitting in a basement on fold-out chairs, it’s hard to decide if this is an AA meeting or the summoning of congregants to an illicit, late-night gathering. If the latter involves music, drag queens and laughter, we’re in the right place.  

Queer Piano Bar is a wonderfully affectionate and relaxed affair, which makes it easy to laugh and enjoy. What it lacks in slickness it makes up for in warmth, thanks to a collection of distinct and talented personalities.  

The bar’s piano man, Gavin Nicklette, holds the space, proving he’s an accomplished accompanist not afraid to take the spotlight. His gold sequined undies, pink cat ears, fishnets and white crop top finished off with gold Converses set the scene perfectly.    

While playing, Nicklette gloriously reveals his emotions as unmissable feathery white eyelashes constantly flick. He admits being pleased he didn’t cry after singing a slow, aching version of Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful”.  

The tart, witty and flowing chat from drag queen Donna Kebab is a fizzy highlight.

Re-arrangement may well be his superpower because the middle section of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” – which took an upbeat, jazzy-infused turn – is way more interesting and engaging than the original.   

It is joyful to see his honest reactions both to an enthusiastic crowd and the musical guests who join him. Together they offer a bit of everything – laughter, inevitable jokes about sex, who definitely isn’t getting any tonight (apparently all of us) and a collection of gay anthems.  

The tart, witty and flowing chat from drag queen Donna Kebab is a fizzy highlight. Dressed in not a lot of sparkly red and bearing can’t-stop-staring red lips, she’s got a killer voice and legs to match. Her choice of “Origin of Love” is a winding delight.   

Singer and burlesque performer Autumn Daze adds a dash of titillation, while the incredible vocal trilling of Aria Scarlett makes it very clear opera is her world.  

Then there’s Jolie Davis. Like a spectre dressed in flowing black tulle, she offers up a powerful “I’m Going Home” (from The Rocky Horror Picture Show), making it hard to take your eyes off her. Even when her presentation is a tad messy, she’s compelling. Jolie tackles CeCe Peniston’s “Finally” – “the best gay song” – with a rich and sexy abandon while making a few sweary lyrical changes.          

Like Scissor Sister Jake Shears is oft to remark: “Thank god I found you here at the rainbow’s end. Making bad days better with good friends.”  

Queer Piano Bar is the Basement at Liberty Fringe tonight and on 17-18 February 2023 

Pictured top: Queer Piano Bar is a warm and welcoming place to be. Illustration: Paper Wombat

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Author —
Ara Jansen

Ara Jansen is a freelance journalist. Words, bright colour, books, music, art, fountain pens, good conversation, interesting people and languages make her deeply happy. A longtime music journalist and critic, she’s the former music editor of The West Australian. Being in the pool next to the playground is one of her favourite places, ever.

Past Articles

  • Master and apprentices leave you thirsty for more 

    A collaboration between Thirsty Merc’s Rai Thistlethwayte and WAAPA’s contemporary music students showcases creativity and talent. It’s also loads of fun, writes Ara Jansen.

  • Blasko adds a tender touch to Twelfth Night

    Singer-songwriter Sarah Blasko may not seem like an obvious choice of composer for Bell Shakespeare’s retelling of Twelfth Night, but as she tells Ara Jansen, there’s more to this comedy than initially meets the eye.

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