The Mountain Goats @ The Corner Hotel 10/05/2011

Photo: Ben Christensen

With songs about dysfunctional relationships, child abuse and a decent sprinkling of biblical references, it would be easy to assume Mountain Goats shows would be a sombre affair. Instead Thursday night’s show at The Corner felt like a massive party dedicated to shouting lyrics back at the stage, great banter and swooning during each song. And I loved every minute of it.

Catherine Traicos and the Starry Night kicked things off, but failed to grab the restless crowd’s attention. Her mellow folk songs were nice but given the anticipation for the headliner’s set, they acted as background music. Despite her efforts to entertain the crowd with her between song banter, it was hard not to think that she would be better in a headlining show.

Opening with In Memory of Satan, the first of many from the upcoming Transcendental Youth album, the Mountain Goats completely captivated the sold-out crowd.

Photo: Ben Christensen

The setlist drew from a number of the band’s 17 albums, with a heavy emphasis on fan favourites The Sunset Tree and Tallahassee.

See America Right saw the former acoustic lo-fi band in full-blown rock mode and Birth of Serpents

A brief solo part of the set was extended at Darnielle’s insistence as the crowd sang along to Jenny, The Colour in You Cheeks and You or Your Memory.

It’s clear that The Mountain Goats have the ability to move people. Between the girl on my left gasping at the start of each song, the tall guy up the front who knew every single lyric, and the countless song requests, to the uninitiated it probably looked like a scene out of Jesus Camp

The band also seemed to be enjoying themselves and by the end of the night it was hard to tell if the audience or John Darnielle was having more fun.

The new tracks Transcendental Youth and The Diaz Bothers were both catchy and incredibly well received, with the former being a piano based ballad that caused maximum swooning up the front.

The final part of the set went well into singalong territory. Love Love Love got a great reaction and This Year went off completely.

The band’s no planned encore policy lead to a conference about how to play Never Quite Free and the most entertaining  tuning I have ever seen (Nobody would probably object if the band chose to release Guitar Explorations part 2).

The band left us with No Children and as we hurled insults at each other it was clear that there was no place anyone in the room would rather be.

Photos are by Ben Christensen. He’s a camera master and has a gig photography blog:


Will Sheff @ The Toff 16/10/11

Okkervil River has always been about Will Sheff. Even on their latest release I Am Very Far, the biggest sound record of their career, the music seems to exist only to frame Sheff’s detailed and often dark lyrics. His solo show at The Toff on Saturday gave fans the chance to hear stripped back versions of the band’s songs and the result was absolutely incredible.

A few people turned up early to watch Jimmy Stewart. Although he may not be household name he has toured relentlessly (he once played 51 gigs in two months). Beginning with a cover of Charlie Chaplin’s Smile, his gravelly voice and songs that boarder the country end of the spectrum were a hit with the growing crowd, who remained silent for the entire set, a rare occurrence for a support band. Despite not being familiar with his work before the gig, I left it as a fan.

Mike Noga had the difficult task of opening for Sheff and like the last time I saw him the set came with its own unique charm in the form of a nasty hangover. He greeted the crowd by asking if anyone else was disappointed with the new Gillian Welsh album before launching into a set of dark indie folk. After three nights of playing drums for The Drones at The Corner he was visibly wrecked at spent most of the time in-between tracks rambling about various topics and telling the crowd how nervous he was because of their silence.

The crowd were silent for a reason though, with everyone paying him the attention of a headline act. The wager to guess all four acts referenced in  Piss On a Butterfly went down well, even though nobody could guess correctly. One of the biggest highlights of the set was Irish murder ballad Eileen, its dark subject matter unexpected after hearing Noga talk about his cats for the last five minutes. Not only did Mike Noga make the wait for Will Sheff bearable, he made it thoroughly enjoyable.

Launching straight into Rider , Will Sheff left little time for formalities. Using little more than an acoustic guitar and harmonica, the acoustic setting allowed for the songs’ strength to really shine through. The clever Plus Ones was a highlight of the set, as was B-side I Guess We Lost which I prefer to some of the tracks that eventually made it onto I Am Very Far.

The best part of acoustic gigs like this one is hearing fan favourites that are rarely played during fell-band sets. Happy Hearts was a surprise inclusion and sounded great despite the lack of Daniel Johnson. Nobody expected to hear The President’s Dead or Red live, the latter causing audible gasps among the audience.

Sheff switched to keyboard for a few songs which gave a different take on some of the songs. For Real lost none of its intensity without the full band, while his performance of Your Past Life Was A Blast improved on the studio version by removing all of the noise the plagues the album it comes from.

The biggest highlight of the set for me was A Stone. I discovered Black Sheep Boy as an angsty 16 year old that song in particular sound tracked many of my teenage years. Live it was incredible. Will Sheff has always sung like he is on the verge of a mental breakdown and thanks to the excellent sound of The Toff and the appriciative crowd, it was perfect.

That said, there were a few missteps. Using an iPhone to create a backing for The Valley was out of place, and seemed too much of a contrast to the rest of the set. Anyone else but Sheff would not have been able to pull it off. It was the final song, Our Life Is Not A Move Or Maybe that provided the set’s low point. Having heard some amazing acoustic version floating around the internet, I was particularly excited about hearing it. Instead Will Sheff played it on an electric guitar which didn’t quite mix with the rest of the set. That said, Will Sheff’s average is more than some musicians will achieve in a lifetime.

Overall it was an amazing gig that I am sure I’ll remember for years to come. The combination of the respectful crowd, intimacy of The Toff and the talents of all of the musicians involved made it something truly special.

Glenn Richards @ The Toff 25/08/2011

There is little doubt Glenn Richards is one of this country’s best songwriters. While commercial success may have eluded him (aside from that song) a large crowd gathered at the Toff to watch him play a set of old and new favourites with some help from Drones members Mike Noga and Dan Luscombe.

As someone who is used to seeing Mike Noga behind a drum kit, it was a pleasant surprise to see how competent he is as a solo performer. Walking on with a bourbon and coke in a red wine glass, he dived right into a set of no-nonsense folk. He has the kind of weathered, gravely voice that makes you hang on to his every word and it appeared the mostly silent crowd did just that.

Piss On A Butterfly resulted in a wager with the crowd to guess the musical heroes mentioned in the song but ended up with a few people shouting wildly incorrect guesses, while album opener M’Belle went down a treat.

His set was the first sign of things to come tonight with technical difficulties making their way into the set. Mike’s harmonica rack was all but useless and after fixing it in between songs, he ended up ripping it in half. Luckily Augie March guitarist Adam Donovan stepped in to become a human- harmonica holder.

Glenn Richards and Dan Luscombe looked nervous as they started the set, with Richards commenting on how he was unnerved by the size Melbourne after moving to Hobart. However once they started playing, they seemed more at ease, beginning with Glimjack highlights Apple of My Eye and Paint By Numbers. Glenn Richards was in top vocal form and the crowd were lapping up every minute of the their performance. While he often claimed that they lied about the quality banter in the press release, he did admit to watching Augie March videos on YouTube when he was drunk, leading into a fine rendition of The Cold Acre.

The second half of the set was plagued by technical difficulties. Richards was having trouble tuning which resulted in the crowd losing interest and an awkward impromptu cover of Whitney Huston’s The Greatest Love of All. Luckily things got back on track when the sound teach managed to source a new battery and cable for Richards’ guitar, leading into a run of some of Augie March’s best tracks.Dan Luscombe showed off his ability to play by ear on Lupus which he hadn’t practiced and One Crowded Hour’s appearance in the set was more than welcome. The set finished off with the much requested Sunstroke House and This Train Will Be Taking No Passengers, complete with an appearance from Mike Noga.

While it was let-down by technical issues, the night was a great showcase of some of Australia’s best musicians and song-writers.

Yves Klein Blue, The White Lies- Hifi Bar 30/7/09

One of the many downsides of being under 18 is that the only way you can legally get into gigs is if you go with a parent. So I dragged my mum along to see The White Lies and their support act, Yves Klein Blue. On this particular night, my mother decieded it would be fun to go to one of the souvineer shops on Swanston Street that never close. Getting her out of there was not an easy task, especially because a Sunnyboys song had just come on and luckily we arrived a few minutes before Yves Klein Blue started their set.

As those of you who have been following this blog would know, Yves Klein Blue are one of my favourite Australian bands and I was anxious to see if they would be as good live as they are on record and the good news is: they are. Although most of the crowd(which was huge by the end of the night) were at the bar, a number of Yves Klein Blue fans gathered at the front of the stage to hear their unique blend of indie-pop. Singles Getting Wise and car ad favourite Polka, were very popular with the crowd,  as well some of the standout track form their debut album. They also played a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s Born To Run, which seemed a bit lost on the audience. The whole band lookede like they were having a ball and lead singer Michael Tomlinson thanked the audience at almost every avaliable opportunity.They could really teach The White Lies a thing or two about stage presence.

If Yves Klein Blue were the high-on-red-cordial younger brother, The White Lies would be the mopey 16 year old who has just discovered poetry and Joy Division. From the moment they began their set, they looked they would rather be somewhere else. They looked as though they had no interest in connecting with the audience and only seemed interested in their induvidual parts. It may sound petty, but if I’m going to fork out(although I didn’t in this case) to see a band, I at least want to pretend they’re enjoying themselves.

Musically, these guys sound very similar to Interpol or The Editiors and their influences are extremely obvious. They did sound good live and Harry McVeigh’s vocals were especially impressive. They played most of the songs from their album, with the expection of Nothing To Give. Towards the end of their set they played some slower stuff and an average cover of Portisheads The Rip which lost the crowds interest. Things picked up again when they played their final song Death which had the whole hifi bar in a frenzy.

I really do hope they were having a bad night because they have the potential to be quite entertaining. I guess we’ll just have to wait for the next time they come here.

Also, me and my mum got our photo taken and put up on the venue’s website. It seems bit odd considering we’re a mother daughter combination, but cool nevertheless. Thanks to Mr Cho for saving it for me!

Me and Mum at The White Lies

Georgia Fields, Tim McMillan, Yelka @ The Wesley Anne 27/06/09

There are two types of  live acoustic music: there is the boring, lifeless kind that sound like it has been taken straight from the CD and then there is the entertaining kind that is either emotional or delivered in a way that sucks the audience in. Luckily all of the bands that performed on Saturday night fit into the latter catagory.

This gig was organised to help Yelka raise funds to record her debut album, and if tonight is anything to go by, it will definatly be one worth buying.

I missed out on the first support act but arrived just in time to catch the beginning of Georgia Fields‘ set. This was my first time seeing her live and apperently she usually performs with a band. Her music is a little on the quirky side and her lyrics were often witty. She mixed up her set by switching from guitar to keyboard to ukele. She is definently worth checking out.

It isn’t often that you get to witness someting truley orginal. When Tim McMillian introduced his band as “The Renagades of Goblincore” we knew we were in for a treat.  Joined by a dummer and a bass player he played amazing metal style guitar on an acoustic guitar and would often interrupt instrumentals by shouting in what sounded like German. Occaisonally he would also join the bass player for some mournful sounding singing.  this may sound bizzare on paper, and to an extent it was, his set was one of the most entertaing I’ve seen in quite some time. In between songs she would share hilarious stories (I won’t give anything away) and would often begin songs with instrumental covers of pop songs befor launching into some kind of crazy guitar jam. I highly recommend seeing them live if you can.

The final performer tonight was Yelka and her small band. Despite her young age, Yelka makes music that can be both touching and at times, humorous. She has an amazing voice and I wouldn’t be suprised if she ends of sharing the stage with the likes of Clare Bowditch in the near future. She played a mix of old and new material and even threw in a song about one of her bandmate’s habit of getting parking fines. Her set was cut short because of time restrctions, however it didn’t stop it being a great show.

Also, the people standing outside the door listening should be ashamed of themselves. Would it kill you to support the bands and pay $12?

Tim McMillan and Yelka are playing a show at the Northcote Social Club on the 19th of July, I hightly reccomend going.

Little Red, Hi-fi Bar 09/04/09

After lining up for what felt like forever and getting to witness the Melbourne Zombie Shuffle I only mangaged to catch the last few songs from the Fearless Vampire Killers.  They play rock music similar to 67 Special or perhaps Jet before everybody started hating them. I would really like to see a proper set from these guys because from what I saw, they seem to put on a show.

I don’t know where to begin with the Ground Componants. Imagine if the lead singer of The Eddy Current Supression Ring joined madness. That pretty much sums it up. I coldn’t quite decide if it was absolutley brilliant or absolutley terrible. At the end of the set I was beginning to lean towards the latter.

This was Little Red‘s first underage Melbourne show and I think even they were suprised at the number of people who turned up. Seeing a Little Red show is probably the closest you can get to seeing The Beatles in their Cavern Club days without buliding a time machine. They played their way through an awesome set of sixties inspired pop and the crowd loved every minute of it. While they weren’t as well recived as thier older stuff  the new songs are sounding really good and it looks like the next album will be a good one. And I didn’t object to a couple of the bandmembers taking their shirts off…

Also, I can’t write about Little Red without mention their smiling drummer. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a happier muscian.

Little Red-It’s Alright.mp3